We attended a good amount of festivals over the summer, but one that I was really looking forward to was the chicken and beer festival (chimac). The Daegu Chimac Festival is still relatively new — only a couple years old — but is probably one of the most popular festivals here in Daegu.
“Chimac” (also known as chi-mc or chimaek) is a Konglish word that combines the English word “chicken” with the Korean word for beer (maekju). As someone who loves word play, code-mixing, and pidgins you would think that I would have clued into the definition of “chimac” a long time ago. There was a restaurant near our house in VA called “Chi-MC” and for the longest time we either thought it was “Chi M. C.” or “Chi-mack” as in McDonalds, as in reference to fast food style chicken. DUH. All this time I had been stuffing Korean chicken down my piehole and I had no clue.
There are several famous food streets or alleys in Deagu including Dakdongjip (chicken gizzard) Alley. As the popularity of fried chicken gizzards grew, so did fried chicken. Fried chicken dishes are a type of anju, or Korean food that is served with alcohol. Koreans are pretty big on their food-alcohol pairings: seafood and soju, makgeolli and traditional Korean comfort food, and fried chicken with beer.
We drove to Duryu Park right around the time the festival opened, found street parking, and walked to the tent-filled stadium. Most of the bigger fried chicken chain restaurants had booths here.In addition to chicken, some tents sold chicken-themed souvenirs while others were crowded with people watching drill-team style dance troops. There were a lot of tents where you could spin a wheel to win a prize which seems to be a big thing in Korea. People stood in line forever for a chance to spin a wheel of fortune or grab a ping pong ball from an air chute just so that they could claim a crummy prize. At least from what we saw they were pretty lame prizes, but then I guess we’ll never know as we we too hungry to stand in a line that had nothing to do with food.
The more recognizable chicken restaurant chains like Kyochon, Mom’s Touch, and Bon Chon were located in the stadium, but since we already knew what chicken from those restaurants tasted like, we circled the stadium until we found a small chicken tent with a restaurant name we did not recognize.We were first in line to place our order. The moment we did people swarmed around us and hastily formed a line to order chicken. I don’t know if it is just coincidence, but every time we go to a festival and get something to eat, usually at a food stand that doesn’t have a line, a lot of Koreans walking by will stop, stare at what we are eating, and then get in line behind us. Maybe we look as if we are really enjoying our food? It has happened enough times that we have joked we should start a business where restaurants pay us to eat at their restaurant in a very visible place to drum up business.
Also, this little doggie was hiding under the chicken sauce table, hoping for a scrap or two.
Once we received our chicken platter (approx $6) we found a seat in the grassy stadium and sat down to eat and listen to some music on the main stage.
This chicken was prepared a little bit differently than other Korean fried chicken we have tried. The chicken was fried whole, shredded by hand, topped with a freshly made sauce of our choosing, and served with a side of coleslaw salad and sweet pickled radishes. I convinced Sly to opt for the original sauce since Korean spicy can get a bit extreme for my taste buds. After eating it I’m pretty sure we could have probably gone for the extra spicy, but I was still happy with our choice.
To complete our meal: two ice cold cans of Cass. Nothing fancy, kind of like a Korean Bud Light.After we finished eating we debated if we should get seconds or if we should sit a while and listen to the hip hop bands (it was hip hop night) playing on the main stage. I seemed to remember that there were more festival areas outside of the stadium so we set off to explore.
Outside of the stadium we found even more vendors, though these were more mom and pop style street vendors instead of the chain restaurants found inside the stadium.
We also found a second, smaller stage, this time with hip hop dance performances, as well as a small alley selling craft beers.
While contemplating which craft beer vendor to sample a very friendly guy dressed in a strange Howdy Doody-like outfit approached us and asked us to sit down and have a drink. We had our eye on another vendor’s beer a couple booths down but couldn’t resist his friendliness.We plopped down in plastic chairs and gave the server our order: two craft Weizens on tap.
The idea of craft beer is still a relatively new one in Korea, but as one would imagine it has grown increasingly popular in a country that a) loves new things, b)loves to drink and c)loves to pair food with alcohol.Our beers were refreshingly delicious — not too heavy and perfect for sipping on a hot summer evening while sitting in a makeshift beer garden.
The entertainment on the other hand… Let’s just say it was an A for effort.
After drinks we continued walking until we found a street of chicken, fried chicken, and beer lanterns. There were even more vendors here selling light sticks and battery operated glowing toys. Off to the side there was a huge inflatable pool where kids could get inside small boats and drive around the pool.
We continued past the chicken floats and through a “cool zone” where we were sprayed with cold mist until we reached a huge grassy hill that faced a large open air stage.
There weren’t any shows playing on stage that night yet the entire grass area was filled with families, couples, and children lounging on picnic blankets and folding mats, eating chicken.
Off the main vendor road we caught glimpses of street performances, old men playing cards and drinking makgeolli, and even more bright umbrellas, glowing with light, selling pretty much anything you could imagine.
I’m glad I didn’t see any chicken fighting (one of the advertised ‘events’) –that would have made me pretty sad.
I loved this display of delivery bikes with lit up signage/food trunks. Each bike represented a different fried chicken restaurant. The bikes were lined up all in a row and stretched from one end of the street to the other. It was a pretty impressive and fascinating display of all the chicken restaurant options that could be found in Daegu.
We were tempted to stay a little longer to watch some of the hip hop performers (we found out later that Cheetah, one of the few Korean rappers I have heard of from watching Unpretty Rapstar, played that night) but we were full from beer and didn’t want to keep drinking and eating until we felt sick, which is what we normally do at events like these. Instead Grandma and Grandpa called it an early night == it was a weeknight after all — and ate some fruit for dessert at home.
Maybe next year we’ll go on EDM night..
DETAILS // Daegu CHIMAC (CHICKEN + BEER) FESTIVAL / 대구치맥페스티벌
DAEGU CHIMAC (CHICKEN + BEER) FESTIVAL // LOCATION: Duryu Park — in the stadium and surrounding areas // COST: Free to enter. About $5-10 for a plate of chicken (cheaper vendors are outside the stadium) and about $2-3 for beer. Most places are cash only // DESCRIPTION: Occurs for about 5 days around end of July. Chicken and beer festival with themed nights of entertainment (hip hop night, EDM night, etc). The biggest attraction is obviously the food. Larger chain restaurants can be found within the stadium, while outside of the stadium we found craft beers and even more vendors selling chicken. In addition to chicken and beer there are smaller stage and street performances, games, kid activities, photo zones, etc. You can also find non-chicken food here as well. The festival was a lot larger than I was expecting and seemed to spread throughout the park and continue through Dakdongjip (chicken gizzard) Alley. // FACILITIES: ATMs and bathroom trailers on site. Very limited on-site and street parking — get there early if you plan to drive. // GOOD FOR: All ages. Despite all the booze, like most Korean festivals it’s pretty family friendly // VERDICT: I don’t know how much of a bucket list item this festival is, but it was a nice-sized festival with a good amount to do, see, and eat. I heard some people complain that it was ‘boring’ or ‘just ok,’ which I think has less to do with the festival and more to do with the people attending. If you live in or close to Daegu, I would definitely go. Otherwise, there are (were) a bunch of overlapping festivals/volleyball tournaments/shows that occurred at the same time in the same location that may also be worth checking out if in the area from out of town. // TIP: bring a picnic blanket or folding mat.