Health

The New KFC: Korean Fried Chicken Takes America by Storm

Korean fried chicken at Bonchon (Arnold Gatilao/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)
Korean fried chicken at Bonchon (Arnold Gatilao/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Larry Olmstead, USA TODAY

 
(USA Today) — The scene: Buffalo makes a pretty good claim to having invented the chicken wing as we know it, but nowhere is the poultry appendage as madly popular as in South Korea, where several large chains specialize in a uniquely Korean-style fried wing. A couple have gotten so big they’ve come across the Pacific, most dramatically Bonchon, an exploding concept that only launched in South Korea in 2002, emigrated to New Jersey four years later, and now has nearly 40 U.S. locations, plus about a hundred more across Asia and the Middle East. You can get your Bonchon fix in nine states plus the District of Columbia, especially in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and California, with Missouri and Ohio thrown in for good measure.

Bonchon is in the not-so-fast casual category and a bit unique, with a feel like Chipotle or Moe’s but featuring both a takeout counter and full sit-down waiter service. All the food is made to order, so it’s not speedy, even to go, but they do a big business in large wing platters which can be ordered in advance. It has a sleek, modern interior with stark wooden tables and chrome chairs with black leather pads. Presentation is surprisingly stylish, with fries served in a paper cone and the traditional Korean dish of bimimbap in a large, sizzling, attractive hot stone bowl. It also has a much larger menu than just chicken, and is really a Korean restaurant specializing in wings. Unlike most other eateries in this style, many Bonchon locations have bars and serve beer on draft and in bottles.

 

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