Kimski, the restaurant attached to iconic South Side slashie Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar, is taking an extended vacation. From November through the end of March, Kimski will slumber as five month-long pop-ups will fill the void left by the absence of chef Won Kim’s Korean and Polish food.
Kimski opened in 2016 in Bridgeport, providing customers of one of Chicago’s most beloved bars with a menu of bulgogi-stuffed pierogi, fried rice with a mashup of sauerkraut and kimchi. The fare is inspired by the Korean and Polish roots of the Marszewski family; they’re also behind Marz Community Brewing.
Kim says he needed a break — the last few years dealing with the pandemic were tough. He’s not leaving the restaurant, he’ll still be around for support. Kim says the time away from Kimski will allow him to recharge and explore other opportunities. For example, last week he collaborated with chef Bo Fowler for a special dinner at Bixi Beer in Logan Square. Kim is also a DJ and artist.
“I’ll still be doing random things — pop-up and dinners — here and there,” Kim says. “I’m mostly just taking a break and doing art stuff. It was a very long summer and last winter was just miserable. I just want to give the neighborhood a bit more options for dinner in the winter.”
The restaurant was already a pop-up destination, allowing chefs with little experience to build their confidence, brand, and cooking skills. Thattu’s Margaret Pak and Vinod Kalathil honed their talents popping up at Kimski before they opened inside Politan Row food row — the couple is opening their South Indian restaurant next year in Avondale.
Using that template, Kim says he can offer budding cooks a residency to give them a taste of owning and running a restaurant. Prepping for a one-day pop-up isn’t enough time to determine a new career path, Kim says. The residency will help chefs figure out labor and food costs while not worrying about overhead. It’s an indie version of a food hall that attracts food stall operators with the promise of support and fewer financial risks. It can also help chefs figure out how to build a social media presence, something wide-eyed chefs often neglect when determining their restaurant’s success.
Kim knows the chefs involved in all five residencies. Some have already popped up at Kimski and share the same ethos of bringing something different to Bridgeport. They’re not household names, but Kim is excited to give them the stage.
“And I’ll be around to make sure they clean up properly,” he says.
For those who will miss Kimski and its Ko-Po fare, Kim vows they’ll return by the time baseball and patio season returns in 2023: “I want to maybe start a different kind of menu,” he says. “This will be a good opportunity to shake things up when it comes to our staples.”
Read the pop-up lineup below.
November: Ryan Cofrancesco is one of Kimski’s line cooks. He cooked for Kimski’s Community Kitchen and Canteen — a pandemic program that offered free meals to anyone in need (the program recently ended after a grant dried up) — is leading off. Cofrancesco is working on a name and branding for his offerings, but Kim says he’ll serve elevated bar food including “experimental burger-type things.”
December: Heffer BBQ has popped up at breweries with its boutique-style smoked meats including St. Louis-style spare ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and more. Kim praises their creativity, calling them “pros across the board.”
January: January is a popular month for reducing meat and alcohol intake, and that’s where Herbivore comes in. Chef Max Musto offers vegan versions of Italian beef, quesabirria, and more.
February: Mezze Table produces massive platters of Greek favorites full of dips and spreads, pita, and meats. There are bowls, gyros, lamb, and more. The platters are great for groups and special events.
March: Closing out the program is Donna Muehlfelder. Muehlfelder will be cooking Filipino food. She has plenty of time to figure out the menu by March.