Play With Your Food

Hey Kiddo Is the Fun New Kid on the Block in Berkeley

Article by Allyson Reedy

Photography by Poppy & Co. by Kelsey Huffer

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

With a name like Hey Kiddo, you know the restaurant is going to be fun. With the team behind The Wolf’s Tailor, Bruto, and Basta running the show, you also know it’s going to be pretty darn tasty.

Hey Kiddo lives up to its quirky name, from a menu that includes everything from Korean fried chicken to caviar to bucatini, to a secret bar in the back (OK Yeah), to its unconventional third-floor perch above Tennyson Street. This isn’t a quiet restaurant—not literally or figuratively—and that’s kind of the point. Hey Kiddo doesn’t care about conventional restaurant expectations; it’s there to give you the kind of bold, brash food and drink they want to make. Which also, you know, tastes really, really good.

The menu will change with the season, but in early spring it featured a dry-aged carpaccio of buttery, shaved meat atop an umami-rific brie for just a touch of funkiness; a wagyu short rib in a sweet apple pear soy glaze that was so tender it sliced like the finest steak; grilled trumpet mushrooms with a bitter melon ponzu spike; and off the specials menu, a super savory okonomiyaki, or a Japanese “pancake” of wheat flour, cabbage, scallions, and duck, topped with waving bonito flakes. The okonomiyaki was large and filling, an excellent starter if it’s available. 

Other favorites included the bucatini with fermented black bean sauce. (How often do you see that combo?) The hand-made noodles pack in-your-face levels of flavor—in the best possible way—and are loaded up with crunchy peanuts and a zing of cilantro. 

The most whimsical dish is probably the shaken rice—inspired by collaborating chef Deuki Hong’s mother’s childhood lunches. Her mom would carefully pack her lunchbox with sticky rice, only for her to jostle it around in her backpack and open up a mess come lunch. Hey Kiddo’s version first arrives at your table in a pristine gold box with artfully placed pork belly, cured egg yolk, and whatever is left over from other dishes. (They’re all about reducing food waste here and using everything they’ve got in clever ways.) But then the server closes the box and gives it a vigorous shake, resulting in a beautifully delicious mess.

Drinks are also unexpected and fun, like the popular Fantômas, a tangy, turquoise mix of vodka, golden russet apple cider, white wine, lemon and egg white, and the Tragic Kingdom, a kicky blend of tequila, fennel liqueur, jalapeño, muskmelon, coconut and lime. 

For such a loud concept, the space itself is fairly understated, probably to better emphasize the food, drink, and overall lively experience. Tables, chairs and décor are sleek and minimalist, and everything comes together around the open centerpiece kitchen. 

You may have noticed that I haven’t defined what type of restaurant Hey Kiddo is in terms of the cuisine it serves. That’s because this spot is themed more around quirk and play than any specific region or technique. And creating a restaurant based around quirk and play rather than geographic inspiration? Well, that’s just plain fun. 

Hey Kiddo: 4337 Tennyson St., #300, Denver; 720.778.2977; hk-oy.com 

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