Kimchi Smoke: It’s Not Fusion, It’s Innovation!

There is one type of food in this world that makes this Blue Collar Foodie squee like a fangirl meeting Justin Bieber. This particular cuisine epitomizes the Blue Collar Foodie movement and if I could, I would nominate this delicious gastronomical cooking method as the one, true, American Fare. I am of course talking about the meaty, saucy, smoky, and absolutely intoxicating art of Barbecue.

Kimchi Smoke

[Disclaimer]

–The following article is written by a food lover that does not discriminate! I am an equal opportunity foodie and I will not tolerate hate mail from the fascist barbecue Nazis that troll the internets. I love all types of Barbecue, even the ones spelled BBQ. Smoked, Grilled, Charred, Texas, Carolina, Kansas City, or Memphis. I don’t care about the method or the region, they are all invited to my belly and I love them all the same. –

[Disclaimer]

The North East may not be known for its amazing Barbecue, but that does not stop our region from attempting to copy, mimic, and impersonate the wonderfulness that is the BBQ subculture. Now, I agree that imitation is the best form of flattery, but I also yearn for originality and creativity. So, even though I thoroughly enjoy visiting my favorite barbecue spots, i.e. Dinosaur BBQ, Bourbon BBQ, and Hot Rods, I feel obligated to inform you about a joint that is attempting to innovate rather than imitate.

This relatively new restaurant should already be on every foodie’s radar, considering the owner Rob Cho, has been tirelessly showing off his culinary prowess from the back of food truck for quite some time. However, following food trucks can be an exhausting endeavor and we don’t live in a land of perpetual 75 degrees and sunny weather, #FULosAngeles, so the fact that KIMCHI SMOKE now has a brick and mortar is amazeballs.

Kimchi Smoke Logo

That is right, Kimchi Smoke, the award winning barbecue masterminds behind the Chonut, a smoked brisket sandwich with bacon, cheese, and smoked kimchi on a freaking glazed donut, has finally found a home in Bergen County. Their new address is 49 W.Church St. Bergenfield, NJ and you should enter that into your GPS right now and drive your ass there immediately.

Oh… You’re still here? I hope you are not reading this in the car.  Looking at food porn and driving is the leading cause of car accidents in foodies ages 18-35. If you are in the car heading to Kimchi Smoke, put the phone down, you will see the awesomeness in person soon enough and you can Instagram the hell out of it. However, if you still need some convincing, keep reading.

Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads.

Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

I recently visited Kimchi Smoke during their soft opening period and considering I have chased their food truck around more than once, I knew I was in for a treat. Kat and I placed an order for pick-up, there is very limited seating, which consisted of the Korean Redneck Tacos, the Austin Cho, two ¼ racks of the Championship Ribs, and of course a freaking-fracking CHONUT!!!

Our food was prepared and packaged quickly and by the time we arrived it was ready to go. The drive home was excruciating. The wondrous smells that wafted from the bag and filled the cockpit of my ride were taunting me. As the drive progressed I found myself driving faster and faster, trying to get home so I could sink my teeth into all the awesome sauce that is Kimchi Smoke.  I would have gave my left pinky toe to be in Mario Cart, armed with unlimited red turtle shells, so I could remove the army of people on Rt. 4 obeying the traffic laws, with no remorse.

Finally we pulled into our driveway and rushed inside with the goods. For just a second I hated all of you! I realized in that moment, I had to take photos of everything we ordered before we stuffed it in our waiting food holes. However, my hatred diminished rather quickly, and I took the requisite shots.  You’re welcome America! We then began our epic feast, starting with the Red Neck Tacos.

Tacos 2.0

Taco flavored kisses never tasted so good!

The Redneck Tacos consist of 2 tacos chock full of Smoked Pork Shoulder topped with Fatboy Sauce, Korean Slaw or Kimchi all wrapped in a 6″ Flour Tortilla. The regular price for this item is $10, but I recommend upgrading to the Smoked Brisket for a $2 supplement so you can experience euphoria, one beefy bite after another. The brisket is just the right amount of tender and delivers an immense smoky flavor that pairs perfectly with the crunchy and umami laden kimchi. The Fatboy sauce packs a punch without destroying your palate, thus allowing you to thoroughly enjoy each lovely morsel of taco goodness.

♫♪♫Austin Cho you taste so good!♫♪♫

♫♪♫Austin Cho you taste so good!♫♪♫

Next up was The Austin Cho, a Smoked Brisket sandwich topped with Fatboy Sauce and Smoked Kimchi. According to Kimchi Smoke’s website this is their most popular sandwich and it is easy to see why. Kimchi Smoke’s Brisket is the LeBron James of smoked meats, it is not only the best there is, it makes every other thing around it better. The smoked kimchi and Fatboy Sauce may not be the star of this show, but their presence is felt, and even better, tasted throughout the experience. Even the lowly scallion, which on most sandwiches is merely a garnish, is lifted to another level by this magical meat.

I love Ribs. Riby, Ribs, Ribs. Here it goes down, down into my belly...

I love Ribs. Riby, Ribs, Ribs. Here it goes down, down into my belly…

Brisket may be the most difficult meat to smoke (TWSS), but the holy grail of the BBQ world, is the one and only pork rib. Before you send me hate mail, read the disclaimer above once more and in the immortal words of Aaron Rodgers  R-E-L-A-X. Ribs exemplify barbecue in a way that no other meat can. There is something primal and oddly satisfying about eating a hunk of smoky goodness off a charred bone. The flavor, the feeling, the lack of utensils embody what BBQ is all about, and each and every time I sink my teeth into any kind of rib, I fall in love with Barbecue all over again. What I am trying to say is, if brisket is Lebron, then ribs are John Cusack holding a boom box over his head.

Kimchi Smoke’s Championship Ribs are covered with Karis Dust, hickory smoked to perfection for 4-6 hours, and then slathered with Fatboy glaze. They have just the right texture, meaning they are bite off the bone, not fall off the bone, and the flavor…Ohhhh the flavor. I could write poetry about these ribs. Come to think of it, I will. Roses are red, Violets are blue, Flowers aren’t ribs, MMM Ribs Woo Hoo!

Brisket and Bacon and Donuts oh my. Brisket and Bacon and Donuts oh my. Brisket and Bacon and Donuts oh my.

Brisket and Bacon and Donuts oh my. Brisket and Bacon and Donuts oh my. Brisket and Bacon and Donuts oh my.

Once we licked all the rib sauce off our digits, we set our sights on our dessert, the Chonut. The aforementioned, pièce de résistance, is a must try for Kimchi Smoke virgins. To reiterate, this magnificent beast, is a Smoked Brisket sandwich topped with Smoked Kimchi, Cheese and Bacon all resting on a glorious glazed Donut! Before I had this sandwich, I was skeptical, but now that I have tasted it, if it ceases to exist a small piece of my soul with die with it.

You hear that Rob, don’t kill a piece of my soul, keep rocking the Chonut. Furthermore, you as readers of this blog should go forth to Kimchi Smoke to not only experience some of the best barbecue in the Tri-state area, but to save what little soul I have left.  I assure you, you will not be disappointed!

One Visit To Empanada Mania Will Make You An Empanada Maniac!

Living as a foodie is very similar to walking through life as a perpetually pregnant lady, we are always hungry, we constantly have cravings for strange food at all hours of the night, and unless our desires are met we are not fun to be around. Living as a foodie’s significant other is in turn comparable to being the partner of an expecting mother when these oddly specific and damn near impossible requests come out of left field. So, this past weekend when Kat did not get any empanadas at a certain Food Truck Mash-Up, I sensed the storm approaching and devised a proactive plan to conquer the impending category 5 foodie tornado that was about to rain fire and brimstone upon my house.

My strategy was simple and sound. I figured the googles knows everything, except for what the hell Korri Sabatini’s freaking infuriating forehead tattoo means, so I consulted my favorite online resource to find Bergen County’s best Empanada’s.   Upon researching this topic I found that most people whom answered this question on Yahoo answers or other forums designed to help wandering internet souls such as myself, enjoyed rubbing in the fact that the best place to get Empanadas in Bergen County was at their grandmother’s house.   Well smart asses, my Abuela does not specialize in Empanada’s she specializes in Matzo Ball Soup, so your answer does me no damn good and deserves the thumbs down rating I gave it. After I sorted through all the responses that were trying to make me visit their elderly family members in order to satisfy Kat’s craving for a fried stuffed pocket of awesome, I stumbled upon Empanada Mania, located at 62 S Washington Avenue,   Bergenfield, New Jersey, 07621.

Empanda Mania

The interwebs informed me that Empanada Mania was voted Best New Restaurant in 2013 by 201 Magazine and almost every review that I read stated that they were serving the best Empanadas in the county as well. Trusting my fellow Bergenites and internet gastronauts, I informed Kat that her craving would be quenched thanks to Empanada Mania. Since I was in disaster mode, I was unable to sense that I too, caught the empanada bug when we were turned away from the food truck with empty stomachs, and I soon realized that if the Empanadas at Empanada Mania did not meet or exceed our expectations, the ride home would be akin to traveling with two pregnant women, ready to pop, on a 100 degree day, with no air conditioning. Needless to say no one wants that at all.

When we arrived at Empanada Mania we were greeted as soon as we walked in the door with a smile and a genuine welcome from the owner’s father. This family orientated business approach honestly makes my soul smile, and it helped even more that this gentleman was kind, helpful, and made us chuckle on numerous occasions while we were at this establishment.   This kind of service and mindset is what is missing from all the chain restaurants that are unfortunately pushing the mom and pop shops out with every flavorless catchy named appetizer that is sold.

Empanada Mania Menu

Empanada Mania has a rotating menu of at least six empanadas a day, which in turn creates a daily menu that is ever changing. On the day that we decided to give Emapanda Mania a whirl, they were offering the following varieties Beef, Buffalo Chicken, Pizza, Chicken Quesadilla, Spinach and Feta, Two Cheese, and Cheese Burger.  Kat and I were trying to be conservative, and since we were only eating lunch, we ordered five of the seven that were on the menu. We decided to order a beef for the traditionalist is us, a buffalo chicken to kick it up a notch, a Pizza because if not Kat’s father would disown her, a Chicken Quesadilla because I am a cheeseaholic, and a Spinach and Feta in a vain attempt to healthy.

After ordering, we once again began to speak with the front house manager of Empanada Mania and soon enough the proprietor of the shop, Mr. Galo Grijalva, came out to greet us. He introduced himself, and we spoke for a few minutes about the business and his future plans to climb aboard the food truck band wagon and use his mobile munchie maker as a promotion device and a as a way to give back to the County. After mere minutes of speaking to him, I could tell right away that this man was truly passionate about not only his Empanadas but his business as well, which only got me more excited about the food that I was about to chew on.

Empanda Mania Platter

When the food arrived at our table, Kat and I were so elated that our Empanada feast was about to begin that we could barely contain ourselves, none the less wait for these fresh fried morsels to cool down, but alas we are smarter than your average Hot Pocket eater.   I took the first deep fried purse of holding out of the basket and divided it into two pieces thus allowing the heat to escape quicker and permitting us to see what type of empanada we were about to ingest.

Spinach Empanada

Our first victim was the Spinach and Feta Empanada, and as I was cutting it, I already knew that it was going to be remarkable. The crust was the perfect consistency as I could feel the flawless crunch and flakiness under my knife as I pressed down firmly. After I broke through the outer layer, my plastic cutlery flew through the moist savory filling faster than A-Rod can deny any and all allegations of wrong doing.   Our first bite instantly converted us to Empanada Maniacs, and there was no turning back. The Spinach was seasoned expertly and the ratio of feta to greens was spot on.

Buffalo Chicken Empanada

Next up was the Buffalo Chicken Empanada. As soon as I saw this inventive and whimsical item on the menu, I knew I had to try it. I was very pleased that it was among the empanadas that we chose to sample.   The expressive flavor of the filling combined excellently with the crunchy texture of the shell to create a wonderful marriage in my mouth.

Pizza Empanada

The Pizza filled empanada was next on the chopping block, and we were not disappointed yet again. The quality of the cheese as well as the quantity was not unnoticed by this foodie.   The addition of just the right amount of marinara sauce only added to the charm of this vegetarian friendly empanada.

Chicken Empanada

The Chicken Quesadilla empanada fell just as its brethren did; one fantastic bite at a time. As Kat and I finished off this fanciful fowl, we were saddened that we only had one more of these miraculous pleasure stuffed indulgences left to consume.

Forkin' Empanada

Fortunately Kat and I saved what was in our opinion the best for last, the straight up, traditional Beef Empanada. I was surprised that I, an aficionado of all things strange and odd in the culinary world, would find myself choosing the seemingly “boring” beef empanada as the winner of our little taste test, but this deep fried mighty meat package was anything but boring. The seasoning was impeccable and created a fresh and crisp palatableness that was simply insurmountable.

As we looked down at our empty basket, the realization sank in that we were all out of these amazing delicacies, but then a smile come over my face. This Joker-esque smirk was followed by me returning to the counter and ordering two more Empanadas before even discussing it with Kat. We ordered one more beef, because it was that kind of good, and I also ordered a Cheese Burger. The Beef was saved for last because we were well aware of its foodgasmic powers. As we ate the Cheese Burger Empanada, I began to comprehend that it was not just one of their Empanadas that are noteworthy, but it is all of them. Every last empanada that we ate on our first of many outings to this eatery was simply divine. They all have their merits, and I could literally eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next month and still come back for more.

Empanada Mania Sauce

Empanada Mania also offers a homemade hot sauce to pair with their tasty treats. The house manager informed us that he came up with the recipe for this phenomenal sauce while he was still in his mother’s belly, and I believe it.   This prodigious sauce was the ideal companion to the already sublime taste of these Empanadas. As Kat and I ate each of them, we tried them without sauce first, which caused us to swoon, but after adding some of the sauce we fell in love. Since this sauce is homemade it may be somewhat spicy for the average consumer, so it is recommended that you taste the sauce first before slathering it on.

Empanada Mania Closeup

If reading this article about the outstanding things Empanada Mania is doing with fried dough does not make you wish that you could beam down to Bergenfield immediately and try their culinary delights, than maybe this will. Galo, The Empanada Master, recently added a new addition to his cooking staff, Ms. Emma Scher from Ridgewood, N.J., who recently competed on the Teen episode of the Food Network Show, Chopped. Mr. Grijalva has agreed to show Ms. Scher the business end of working in a restaurant, in order to give back to the community that has helped him realize his dream. During our visit to Empanada Mania, we had the pleasure to meet Emma, and after our short conversation, Kat and I could see she is destined for greatness in the epicurean world.

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