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Fried chicken, Korean-style: Everett restaurant earns rave reviews for gourmet comfort food

Chef Diane Kim pivoted to gourmet comfort food during the pandemic with her casual eatery Sweet Radish. #k5evening

EVERETT, Wash. — If the search for perfect fried chicken takes you to Snohomish County, your destination may be a small restaurant tucked in the back corner of an Everett shopping center.

Sweet Radish makes mouthwatering wings, thighs, chicken strips, and sandwiches, wrapped in the kind of sleek packaging you’d expect from a successful national chain.

But it’s independently owned by the chef, Diane Kim — who cooks from a place of nostalgia.

“When I was young in Korea, there wasn’t pizza or McDonald’s,” she said. “We always hoped, ‘I wish my dad will bring fried chicken tonight!’”

Now a mother of two herself, Kim’s recipes are elevated versions of happy memories.

Credit: Kim Holcomb
Chef Diane Kim owns and operates the small restaurant, using her childhood in Korea as inspiration for the fried chicken and beef bulgogi menu items.

Sweet Radish (named for an essential ingredient in traditional Korean fried chicken sandwiches — pickled radish) offers gourmet comfort food in a casual setting.

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Each piece of chicken is fresh and hand-battered, and almost every sauce is scratch-made. One of particular note tops the “Hotlapeno” sandwich.

"Seoul hot sauce is made with Carolina Reaper pepper mash and Korean chili paste," Kim said.

Credit: Kim Holcomb
The menu includes fried chicken wings, thighs and sandwiches, bulgogi burgers, and waffle fries, and sides like cole slaw and fried Brussels sprouts.

If you prefer red meat, the bulgogi burger features thin slices of steak pressed together while cooking. A decadent secret menu item is the plate of bulgogi waffle fries topped with melted cheese.

Whatever customers choose, Kim and her staff will prepare it with precision. She doesn’t serve “fast food,” because executing a simple menu is one of the hardest things.

“Since everyone knows fried chicken, it's easy to be criticized. So every day we tell ourselves, ‘Okay, we have to do it perfectly. We have to do it right,’” she said. "When things are simple, you have to be more creative. The limitations force you to be more creative.”

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Kim’s creativity extends to the logo — she cooked that up, too. Her first career was in graphic design, marketing for restaurants while daydreaming about opening her own. Then, she read Chef Thomas Keller’s cookbook.

"His standards are so high, I was so inspired," Kim said. "So I decided to follow my dream!"

One culinary school degree later,  she opened a popular restaurant called 9 Delicacies. When the pandemic hit and supplies became more costly, she wanted to something everyone loves for reasonable prices.

Fried chicken just made sense.

As to how it tastes? She has hundreds of 5-star reviews on Yelp.

But her favorite comment came from a customer in person.

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"This is the most delicious chicken sandwich on this whole planet,” she recalled, laughing. "Cooking brings people joy and I love it when there's good energy around the table, and I'm passionate about the creativity."

Sweet Radish is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. It’s located at 520 128th St. S.W. in Everett.

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