Starting May 14, Korean street food pop-up Seoul Chikin begins taking over the kitchen at Piedmont Heights pub and music venue Smith’s Olde Bar on Fridays serving Korean fried chicken wings and tornado potatoes.
The regular menu for the pop-up includes dumplings, bar snacks, and Korean fried chicken wings or nuggets tossed in either sweet and spicy soy sauce or spicy and tangy gochujang.
Stephanie Watson founded Seoul Chikin eight years ago while living in Washington, D.C., before moving to Atlanta, where she revived the pop-up in 2019. Spending part of her childhood in South Korea, Watson says she has fond memories of the street food culture in Seoul and cooking food for family gatherings. The star of the menu for Seoul Chikin is her mother’s Korean fried chicken recipe, which inspired Watson to found the pop-up nearly a decade ago.
“Every time we had a guest over, my umma [mother in Korean] would have a dish of her Korean fried chicken wings ready,” Watson says. “This is a recipe that’s been passed down through my family, it’s double-fried with a sweet and spicy homestyle sauce perfected by her [mother]. Her KFC wings were always a hit at gatherings and constantly requested for potlucks and parties.”
Alongside Korean fried chicken on the menu for Smith’s Olde Bar, Watson will also serve her mother’s beef, pork, and tofu mandu (dumplings) and other street foods like the spiral fried potato on a stick tornado potato and rabokki — a spicy rice cake and ramen noodle combination. She hopes to add more days at the bar in the future and continue expanding the menu for the pop-up there, which could eventually include brunch on the weekends.
The goal is to one day find a permanent space to open Seoul Chikin as a restaurant in Atlanta. But after a tumultuous year, Watson is just happy to be back serving her food and popping up regularly again at restaurants and breweries around town.
“Korean food is a very emotional and nostalgic experience for me, and I love that I can tell my story through my food and help create memories for others,” she says. “This is a dream in the pop-up world, as Fridays are hard to come by. We are also grateful to be joining Smith’s Olde Bar in the revitalization of their space as more events are booking and vaccinations increase.”
Watson recently took part in a food-driven fundraiser with 16 other Asian women chefs, restaurant owners, and pop-up purveyors, following the March 16 murders of eight people — six of them women of Asian descent — at three spa businesses in Cherokee County and Atlanta.
Two more fundraisers by the group are in the works for May benefiting the Atlanta chapter of nonprofit organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Watson is also planning a fundraising pop-up at Sweet Auburn BBQ in Poncey-Highland, owned by Anita Hsu and Howard Hsu.
“Being half-Asian has its own challenges, including dealing with constant micro-aggressions on both sides of my ethnicity and often being dismissed as an Asian,” says Watson. “I’ve struggled with coming to terms with my identity and feeling like my story wasn’t enough for my brand.”
“I’m fortunate to be surrounded by many supportive friends that help me realize that I have my own unique experiences to tell, and that I’m in a position to uplift Asian women and speak out against xenophobia, racism and hate to both sides.”
Seoul Chikin at Smith’s Olde Bar:
Double-fried wings or nuggets served with Korean radish pickles
Signature — sweet and spicy soy
Yangnyeom — spicy and tangy gochujang, crushed peanuts
Umma’s Mandu — beef, pork, tofu, glass noodle, cabbage handmade dumplings
Rabokki — pan-fried rice cakes, ramen noodles, cabbage, gochujang-garlic, scallions
Tornado Potato — spiralized fries on a stick, garlic parmesan, spicy ketchup
Fridays at Smith’s Olde Bar beginning May 14. Follow on Instagram for updates and other pop-up locations around Atlanta. Takeout available.