Imagine thick-cut french fries. Not the skinny pieces of potato you get from McDonald’s, but real, tangible cuts of potato. Now imagine them with cheese. And kimchi. Throw on some Korean beef bulgogi, sesame seeds, sauce and cilantro and you have yourself Kimchi Fries, or as I like to call them, perfection.
Jae Kim first introduced Kimchi Fries to Austin in 2010 with his Korean-Mexican fusion food truck Chi’lantro BBQ. The name is a play on the words “kimchi” and “cilantro” and has been a local favorite ever since. After being mobile for so long, it was about time for a brick and mortar location.
During their soft opening, lines went out the door and food sold out hours before closing. Luckily, I was able to to check it out (3 times if we’re being specific). Upon entering, the décor and lighting are bright and refreshing for a city usually filled with traditional Southern detailing. Although Chi’Lantro has counter service, the servers are not only super helpful, but also extremely friendly.
The K-Pops with Gangnam sauce and the spicy ranch dip are the best (and only) chicken wing “pops” I have ever had. They’re slightly sweet and a tad spicy. With five pops for $6, you can’t go wrong. There is also a honey butter sauce option for fans of Whataburger’s HBCB.
Let us not forget the Fried Kimchi Rice Balls. Not as good as the K-Pops, but definitely on my list of things to get every time I go here. If kimchi is normally too strong for you, don’t worry; it adds just enough flavor and texture, but not enough for you to cringe.
If you want tacos, do not get the spicy chicken tacos. You know how good food should be a party in your mouth? This wasn’t a party…it was like that party Asher tried to throw in HTGAWM, but only one person showed up, so it ended up being awkward. Stick with the bulgogi tacos and you’ll be golden.
The Kimchi Fries, as usual, did not disappoint. They’re perfect every time I get them, whether it’s at the restaurant or the food truck. Both locations have very similar menus, but the brick and mortar has more to offer in terms of sides and dessert.
Speaking of dessert…I highly recommend their one and only dessert: the Bunchi. Get it? It’s green tea ice cream sandwiched between a sweet bun (imagine a beignet) and covered in a sweet, sugary sauce. It was heavenly, and the balance between sweet and salty was on point.
I would highly recommend Chi’lantro to anyone looking to experience something that is uniquely Austin. Tip: visit either before or after peak lunch/dinner times to get a table.
Location: 1509 South Lamar Boulevard Austin, TX 78704
Hours of operation: Sun-Thur: 10:30am-10pm, Fri-Sat: 10:30am-12am