If you mix authentic Korean cuisine with traditional Texas barbecue and sprinkle on a ton of creativity from BBQ Pitmaster and owner Robert Austin Cho, then you’ve got yourself Kimchi Smoke! I stopped by his new location in Westwood on Wednesday (the day before grand opening week kicked off) and was blown away by the unique food combinations oozing with flavor.
Clearly I’ve been sleeping (and eating) under a rock for the past few years, because Robert’s distinctive dishes are widely known in the food truck circuit, receiving praise from media outlets like ABC News, Thrillist, NJ.com and of course, the loyal customers who continue to come back for more. Due to his success and desire to expand, the popular chef decided to move from his original Bergenfield location to a bigger space in Bergen County.
Some of the restaurant’s most talked about meals include his signature Austin Cho 1.0 (chopped brisket, fatboy BCS, kimchi, remoulade and scallions on a roll), the life changing Chonut (brisket, fatboy bcs, smoked kimchi, cheese, bacon and scallions on a glazed donut, as well as, Not Cho Mama Chili (famous smokey chili topped with cheese and scallions over rice).
A little intimidated by the size and contents of the Chonut, my order consisted of a few lighter items. I began with the chili, which featured the perfect blend of spices and ingredients to make your mouth water. I then followed that with a healthy serving of the Bad As Texas Brisket, made tender and juicy just for my pleasure and a side order of cornbread (a new addition to their menu), because who eats southern cooking without it right? There’s only one word to describe my experience: delicious.
Everything is very personalized, which makes dining at this restaurant even more fun. If you haven’t already noticed, Robert has incorporated his name in a lot of the options on the menu. The story behind how Kimchi Smoke got its name is also a personal one:
“I’m Korean and kimchi is a big part of our culture,” Robert said. “I ate it all the time growing up. It’s basically cabbage with different seasonings. Since I love BBQ, but wasn’t completely satisfied with what was being offered to me, I decided to start something of my own. So the name brings them both together.”
I just so happened to be sitting next to one of the restaurant’s most loyal customers, Mike Pescatore, who encouraged me to eat more than I thought my tummy could handle and I have no regrets. What started off as small talk, quickly turned into whole-hearted laughter and nostalgic stories about past visits he had at Kimchi Smoke’s Bergenfield location before it closed in September. He’s a big fan of the signature sandwich, as well as, the Korean KTown Dog, Redneck Tacos and Cholander Fries.
To say I enjoyed myself here would be an understatement! Robert, who’s constantly thinking of fresh ways to create funky foods, has officially earned himself a new faithful customer and I’m hoping one day I’ll be brave enough to try the mysterious goodness trapped inside the Chonut.
Looking to satisfy your taste buds at Kimchi Smoke in Westwood? Swing by the new location during their grand opening week between November 16 – November 19 and you won’t regret it!