Well, the chicken part is pretty self-explanatory: They serve chicken. The “meck” is shortened slang for the Korean word for beer, maekju. According to at least one Korean eater, there are popular pubs in Korea that serve chicken and beer, and nothing else. Thus, the straightforward name for Koreans in the know.
When you see the menu, though, you’ll see much more than just chicken and beer. The owners said they needed to have a more expanded menu to appeal to the Hawaii market. If this were in Korea, they could get away with just two things, but Hawaii people demand variety.
The shell of the restaurant hasn’t changed much since it was Red House, then Sanji. There are fun (and sometimes crude) chicken art and references all over the place, which makes for good conversation and Instagrams. In addition to table service, you can opt to sit at the bar, but tables give the best view of the K-pop videos they play all night on the big screen.
At this writing, the menu is in the process of changing, but not by much. Some items will be more expensive, others will be cheaper, and they will be adding more appetizers. They’ll also be removing the yaki nigiri (grilled rice) from the menu, so I didn’t bother to order that one.
When I went to Million Pocha, I reacted with a bit of sticker shock when I saw the prices on the menu, and Chick & Meck is no different. These plates of chicken wings do look super expensive. But, like Million Pocha, the place is made for groups that share food, so at the end of the night when you divvy up the bill, you’ll be full and your share won’t seem like a lot of money. I guess the cheap beer helps to balance that out.
The fried chicken (above) and the house special chicken (below) are my favorites. I know, that sounds so plain, but these are good, solid choices and they go well with the dipping sauces. The meat is moist, and the batter is seasoned to perfection. The plain fried chicken is nicely crunchy and not too bready, and it stays crunchy until the end of dinner, so you don’t have to worry about rushing to eat everything right away.
Remember Chicken Alice? The house special fried chicken tastes like that, with shoyu and other spices in the batter. This isn’t crunchy like the plain fried chicken, but it still has a nice crisp on the edges. I like to eat these as is, but the wings are all served with a honey mustard and a ranch dipping sauce, and that works, too.
People have been raving about the “pok pok” Vietnamese-style chicken, but it wasn’t my favorite at all. Don’t order it thinking it will be like Pig & The Lady; it’s not as spicy and uses more fish sauce. But these definitely have more character than the first two. They just weren’t for me.
New on the menu: a combo plate with fried chicken and barbecue chicken. Judging from the looks, I thought the barbecue wings would be spicy, but they were more sweet-sour. So keep that in mind if you order it.
The beer here is cheap: $4 for draft, $4 to $5 for bottles, $5 to $9 for craft draft (Golden Road Wolf Among Weeds?), and $7 to $14 for craft bottles. I don’t drink beer, so opted instead for a bottle of cocktail soju, which ranges from $15 to $18. The more popular flavors, like strawberry, will be $18, and they’re quite worth it. This one tasted like bon dance shave ice — dangerously good and too easy to drink.
The sesame leaf pancake stuffed with pork is unique and very tasty, but it’s more like a meat jun (or jeon, as they spell it here). The sesame leaf — which is actually shiso — really lends an added layer of flavor, kind of basil-y, to this jun. The meat is very tender, as well.
I wasn’t a big fan of the meatball with vegetable jun, but at the time I had this, they were still in soft open mode, so they may be tweaking the recipe. I understand that they had someone come in to retrain the kitchen and the waitstaff, so this may be a whole different dish if I go again this week.
Everyone has their own style of kim chee pancake, and at Chick & Meck, it’s not too doughy and maybe a little more eggy. It’s crispy on the edges, but not as crispy as Million Pocha, if I can use that as a comparison. It’s also chock full of veggies, which is nice.
Their meat jun — I mean, jeon — is definitely a winner. It’s super tender, and has a good, strong salty-sweet marinade. It’s so tender that you can keep eating it and not notice that you’ve eaten half the plate without even thinking.
Overall, Chick & Meck is worth a look. Most people will recoil initially at the prices, but remember, once you split the bill, it won’t be bad at all. The food is solid, with every dish offering good flavors and sometimes, additionally good textures. I should also give a shout out to the servers, who were all enthusiastic and professional — as a former waitress, I love when servers do a good job.
P.S. Don’t worry about the napkins, they give you a packet of wet naps with your dinner.
Chick & Meck
835 Keeaumoku St.