Between 4 and 5 o'clock in the afternoon is a magic hour inside Hicksville's House of Heros — when tuna sandwiches and turkey wraps disappear and give way to Korean-style barbecue tacos and cider-brined pulled-pork sandwiches topped with apple-poppy seed coleslaw and grilled pineapple.
Those are a few of the core dishes at Joe's Scratch Kitchen, a five-day-a-week evening pop-up run by chef Joe Bae inside his family's Hicksville deli, House of Heros. "A lot of customers were complaining to [my family] that they close too early," said Bae, 29. (House of Heros shutters at 4 p.m.) "I thought I could run my own kitchen during those hours."
Bae opened Joe's Scratch Kitchen in early September, and takes the "scratch" part of the name literally: He brines chicken thighs in lemon for his version of a fried-chicken sandwich (topped with chipotle aioli, melted Jack cheddar and barbecue pickles); makes garlic aioli for his burger (also topped with American cheese and caramelized onions); and presses tortillas for the Korean-style chicken tacos, filled with meat that has been marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil. "My food isn't fancy at all, but well-cared for in terms of flavor," Bae said. He creates four entrees and a couple of specials each evening — offered starting at 5 p.m.— and prices start at $9.
Bae's parents, who were born in South Korea, have long been in the food business; his dad once made sushi inside a now-defunct Farmingdale deli. The younger Bae began studying culinary arts at the Wilson Tech BOCES in Dix Hills when still in high school, and later attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. During his time there, one of his externships was at Morimoto in Philadelphia, working the tempura station. "It was one of the harder jobs I've had in my life, but they pretty much told me how to cook well," Bae said.
Bae later spent three years in Buffalo working at the tapas restaurant Toro before returning downstate; he worked at the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club on Centre Island and a few other places before returning to help his family at House of Heros, which they own. Bae's lean student days informed his current ideas about cooking. "When I was working at Morimoto, I made $9 an hour and couldn't even afford to eat any of the food I was prepping on my days off. I thought that was sad," Bae said. "I always thought you should be able to get tasty food without paying an exorbitant amount for it."
Bae was working on plans for a food truck, but when those plans fell through, Joe's Scratch Kitchen was born. . Tuesday to Saturday, closing at 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. There are only a couple of tables inside House of Heros, so most of the food is to go.
Joe's Scratch Kitchen, inside House of Heros, 8 Bloomingdale Rd., Hicksville. 516-939-6670