A Serial By: Lex J Mendez
I only used to work at Kimski once a week and have like 5,000 stories from it. Maybe it’s just because I’m a wack job but in all honesty that’s one of the most unique places on the Lord’s green earth. I laughed, I cried, and I drank copious amounts of bourbon there.
Kimski was the vision of E.Marley and Chef Won Kim. It was an extension of the legendary Maria’s Packaged Goods which was a place I passed by multiple times growing up on the Southside including the first time I ate a Meatball Sandwich with my Grandma Faye at one of Chicago’s first Subway sandwich franchises on 31st and Halsted.
Kimski brought a Chicago born cuisine of Polish and Korean food to a vast and competitive Culinary Scene in the summer of 16′. One word Krauchi. Yes Krauchi. The wimiscial combination of Sauerkraut and Kimchi. Both probiotics I didn’t learn to appreciate until my late 20s.
There was just some sort of magic only the Southside of Chicago can birth about Kimski.
I honestly can say nobody really fucked with the culinary game out south until Kimski rattled some titties. Maybe I’m being biased but no I really can’t remember a time before Kimski when shit was Poppin how it is now out south. Like don’t get me wrong there was great food all the time but it was kinda just cookie cutter delicious shit we had. Tacos, Beefs, Pierogi’s, Hot Dogs, Cakes. Kimski stepped up and became the working class hero the Southside needed and deserved. It stepped out of the Box took a selfie and made a rap song about said selfie.
Flashback to 2003 when I first met Won when I was an aspiring all city graffiti writer and he himself was already one of the graffiti overlords of Chicago, I met him a second time when I was an aspiring trap lord and took the 8 Halsted bus to deliver him an 8th of weed somewhere around 2008. The third time was a charm when he invited me to stage at Kimski on a Friday night. That day I learned I had no idea how to professionally cook an egg. I also learned that Mushroom stock is not mushrooms it’s a liquid derived from slow cooking mushrooms with other delicious ingredients over the course of several hours, which I threw down the sink thinking that mushroom stock was the actual mushrooms and not the broth. Why Won Kim didn’t fire me at that moment was beyond me. I think it gave the other cooks a sense of pride to know someone sucked more than everyone else so I was kinda kept around as a mascot/ moral support.
Kimski was dope because they shared tips with everyone. Which should be a standard in restaurants if you ask me. Give everyone fair wages and share tips so you don’t make this weak ass goths vs jocks mentality between front and back of house. There’s a little goth and a little jock in everyone, share the fucking tips.
But I’m not here to write about this communist tip sharing ode to teamwork. No I’m here to write about some tales from Bridgeport.
I top 3’d the situation so you don’t have to skim over the times when I puked in the alley pre shift or almost got fired because I traded an egg sandwich for a shot of bourbon. So here they are…
#3: E Marley’s whimsical Tiki Bar Kareoke night.
This shit was lit. At the. Time I was dating a woman who for the sake of legality we will call Coogi K. Won saw me bring Coogi K to a pop up of his prior to the Kareoke engagement, and asked myself and the universe how beautiful women were attracted to me, my answer was a long and solid “duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh, I no know boss” Coogi K was about 6ft tall Long Blonde Hair and a smile that Barbazon commercials were molded after. She was a financial advisor in downtown Chicago, and I think she liked me because I didn’t really know what fuck was going on when she would talk about work. She came to meet me at Kimski after one of my yolo Sunday night shifts with my birthday present. The gift was a pair of hi top Vans that matched hers that she was wearing at the moment, and she of course had me put them on. I walked into Kimski with her on Kareoke night (Hosted by E. Marley) and instantly wanted to ascend to another planet when the cooks, Drug dealers, and servers all pointed out we had on his and hers vans. I took a double shot of whiskey and sang awfully, I think it was Louie Loui e or something along those lines of a song where the original singer sounded like a drunk fuck stick to begin with. But then an angel appeared in the form of E. Marley. And he sang, he sang and he sang great, and the whole world forgot that I existed and my shitty matching Vans shoes with my then girlfriend. He dominated the boards and did about 7 jams in a row that I think would rival Bill Murray if you put them on a head to head. Coogi K soon asked if I wanted to leave and I said no I wanna sing one more. And when I went to sign up, E. Marley looked me in the eyes and said, dude i don’t think that’s a good idea get yourself some water, and he was right. Me and Coogi K didn’t last, but the legend of that Kareoke night will continue on forever.
#2 I just cooked these grits in some Gucci Flip Flops
I planned on quitting that day, but Won Kim knew how to instill the fear of God in his cooks. One time I called off and he went to all my party spots to make sure I didn’t lie and go party. I actually felt loved because of that.
But I had planned on not going ever again at that brunch but got my ass up and went. In a pair of Gucci Flip Flops. They were my at the time trap lord Roommates, and I didnt necessarily tell him I was taking his Gucci Flip Flops, but I did. And I showed up to cook brunch for the masses in them. One of Wons employees who was only interested in men was like you cant cook in those…and I looked him in the eyes and said “you just mad cuz I just fucked yo bitch in some Gucci flip flops” as I did humping motions into the atmosphere. He then disgruntled walked away and told on me to the Sous Chef who came in on his day off Drunker then ever and said get off the line and wash these fucking dishes. There was about 6 dishes in that pit, and I agreed, yes Chef I will wash these dishes. But please inform that man who told on me that I just fucked his bitch in some Gucci Flip Flops. The day went on. Brunch was served. We made it to 4pm. And I lived a day on the line in some Gucci Flip Flops.
#1 the 3 man Royal Rumble
I had prob slugged about 5 tall boys along side my ace Tudi, we were the reckless Sunday brunch and dinner cooks. I was def third string, I think Tudi was put on with me as punishment because he would call off alot. I’m not sure what really happened that day but copious amounts of drugs and alcohol were in my system and his. Our sous chef Tone B had his day off that day but would always come hang and he had just copped a BMW with his Sous Chef raise since Kimski was making waves in the game. We got off our shifts and we drank. We drank and we drank. I think the superbowl was on. So we all go outside and sous chef Tone B tells me he will give me a ride home.A miracle of god occured in tudis normally unforgiving heart where he decides Tone B Is too drunk to drive (mainly because he refused to give Tudi a ride home) I start yelling he’s fine to drive it’s his new car let him drive, Tudi says fuck u ur a lazy piece of shit and just want a ride home. Next thing u know we’re all brawling in front of Kimski. Tudi man handled us. And then disgruntled walked away saying I hope u both die. We both drove back in the new bmw and me trying to prove points said u don’t gotta drive me home man I’ll go home with u and make sure ur safe. I honestly did just want the rid ehome and piece of shit Tudi was right about me being a piece of shit that just wanted a ride, but God forbid I make myself look like a piece of shit that we all knew I was. We got like 500lbs of McDonald’s and took a bunch of selfies with his shotguns that night. In the Am we called Tudi and we laughed about it all. Because hey, that’s showbiz baby