Bon Chon Chicken (Midtown West) | 325 5th Ave. (bet 32nd & 33rd Sts.) | 212.686.8282 |

WTH?! IS THERE really a new fried chicken chain that is going to impress us New Yorkers so much that it may challenge our lifelong co-dependency on KFC? And from Korea no less?!

Yes, I was a skeptic too. How could a fried chicken chain from the other side of the globe ever compete here in the states, much less the South and, yes, NYC. But throughout my recreational research this last several months, I kept reading about a very popular fried chicken chain from Korea called Bon Chon Chicken that was started popping up around Manhattan only a year or so ago and was getting rave reviews from trusted periodicals as the New York Times, TimeOut New York, Esquire (who named it the best fried chicken in the country!), and GQ, as well as being voted "best wings in the city" by television station PIX(11).

So after the food website/blog fanfare of their most recent opening on 33rd and 5th this past week, I fortuitously waited until Sunday to take the quick 6 train trip downtown and try it out. The store front was hard to miss even though it was shaded from sunlit by some unfortunate scaffolding, and the poster of GQ's highest accollade of their goods even warned the KFC Colonel himself.

Walking into a boxy space that belies most fast food chain's décors, I appreciated the thought that went into its modern yet lo-fi esthetic, with Edison light bulbs for sconces and walls planked with wood from the Brooklyn Bridge, That was countered with a seemingly floating bar (with more than a few beer options), and walls broadcasting MTV-style music videos and the Yankee game from several projectors, one, BTW, even having the nerve to show a KFC commercial.

No just a "wing" place, you can order wings or drumsticks or both (which I did) with either of their signature soy sauce-garlic glazes—sweet or spicy—or both (which I did), and the special comes with a drink and a side, one being a kimchee coleslaw that most won my fancy.

The wings are slowly fried to order, and after reading about other customers' longish waits during the work week, my order came out PDQ.

Shall I say it...? OMG! This was unlike any other fried chicken experience I've ever had, and I mean that in the best way. A pleasant surprise compared to a visit at a previous Korean fried chicken place opening (the disappointing KyoChon Chicken, located on the corner of the same block), this chicken is wonderful beyond the novelty of its preparation.

The chicken's best (of many) features is the extreme crispiness of its skin, so crispy that customers three tables away could hear my every bite. The slow-frying process gives the skin an almost "chicken cracklin" quality (think very thin crispy pork skin), and coupled with the chicken meat—moist from being encased in its candy-like shell—and the glazes—both rich, deep, intense and perfectly seasoned—became a festival of flavors and texture inside my mouth. The kimchee coleslaw as well was perfectly bright, bold, crisp, vinegary, and spicy.

If Bon Chon keeps branching out, I will have to make the K in KFC stand for Korea instead of Kentucky. And that might happen, especially if owner Simon Lee, who I met, decides to open one up on the Upper East Side. (Oh, please, please, please, please!)

That way, with my former favorite neighborhood fried chicken places, Popeye's and Chicken Stop, now gone, deciding where to satisfy my local fried chicken jones would be as easy as ABC.

Bun Apple Tea!


Bon Chon Chicken on Urbanspoon

Bon Chon Chicken (Midtown West) | 325 5th Ave. (bet 32nd & 33rd Sts.) | 212.686.8282 |