Two Korean imports are playing chicken on Northern Boulevard. Fried chicken, that is. Chicken is the specialty of Bon Chon and Cheogajip, chain outlets that have gone head to head since spring in Flushing’s sprawling Korean section. It’s a chicken explosion, observes lisa antinore, whose bird of choice is the non-fried, deeply comforting date- and rice-stuffed chicken in broth at nearby Han Sol Nutrition Center.
Bon Chon and Cheogajip both sell only leg and wing pieces, always cooked to order. (At 15 to 30 minutes or more per batch, this is not fast food–many customers order ahead by phone to avoid waiting around.) Both offer a choice of flavors, including spicy versions that pack respectable heat, and both are on the pricey side, at $11 to $17 per order. Both do a lively takeout trade and also have comfortable, casual dining rooms for eating in.
There’s a clear difference in style, between the two. Cheogajip coats its chicken in sweeter, stickier sauce, and its four flavors include one with herbs. Bon Chon’s meat is drier and chewier than its rival’s, but not unpleasantly so. They offer just two flavors–soy-garlic and spicy–and a choice of thighs and wings or “Royal Drumsticks.” Manhattan chicken lovers will soon be able to sample Bon Chon’s bird closer to home–the chain plans to open a shop on 38th Street, a few blocks north of Koreatown.
Not far from the dueling chains, there’s delicious Korean-style fried chicken served two ways at Mani Mani, a hopping “hof,” or pub, whose youngish crowd soaks up pitchers of overpriced beer to a nonstop soundtrack of Korean pop-rap. The first option is fried chicken smothered in smoky, woodsy sauce; the other option is chicken in lusty hot sauce, which seems almost plain by comparison, reports Polecat. Avoid the rest of the long menu of noodles, sushi and other indifferent chow.
In Manhattan’s Koreatown, Baden Baden remains a destination for its signature Baden chicken, cooked to order. It’s first roasted, then briefly fried, a process that unfortunately tends to dry out the white meat. Still, it’s quite tasty and terrific with drinks, which is how it usually goes down at this popular watering hole. It’s cooked with onion, carrot, bell pepper, and whole garlic cloves, and served with lightly pickled radish, a perfect accompaniment.
Bon Chon Chicken [Flushing]
157-18 Northern Blvd., between 157th and 158th Sts., Flushing, Queens
Bon Chon Chicken [Bergen County]
553 Main St., near Jones Rd., Fort Lee, NJ
Bon Chon Chicken [Garment District]
to open at … 240 W. 38th St., between 7th and 8th Aves., Manhattan
Cheogajip Chicken [Flushing]
160-24A Northern Blvd., at 161st St., Flushing, Queens
Han Sol Nutrition Center [Flushing]
160-26 Northern Blvd., between 160th and 161st Sts., Flushing, Queens
Mani Mani [Flushing]
163-24 Northern Blvd., between 163rd and 164th Sts., Flushing, Queens
Baden Baden New York, a.k.a. Forte [Herald Square]
28 W. 32nd St., 2nd floor, between Broadway and 5th Ave., Manhattan
Baden Baden [Bergen County]
329 Bergen Blvd., between Central and Palisades Blvds., Palisades Park, NJ