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Korean Fried Chicken Joints in NYC


Melissa Hom
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A Fried Drumstick A Day, Keeps the Cardiologist Paid.

DAY ONE:

First up - let's talk about Kyochon, paired with pictures of course.

156-50 Northern Blvd

New York, NY 10301

Soft, dewy pictures of fried chicken don't accurately portray the salivating carnage that ensues when the bucket is in front of my fang-bearing family and friends. So that's why some of these are intentionally harsh with hot-spots (areas of the photo that register as completely white/bright, or "hot" as the lingo goes),

The second I set up the shot, it was clear. Drumsticks are incredibly phallic.

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I could hear the (consistent) staff of Korean men snickering. And it's pretty funny. The boner's got a pretty meaty, glistening head, and the shaft extends itself appropriately to two diverging rounded ends - oh you mean like BALLS? Yes, precisely.

Though I'd like to make a comment about the plurality of ballS. Not all men have two. I've yet to hear about someone with three - but I know a guy with one. No, I don't "know" visually nor ...gropingly, but he told me so. So without outing him, I asked my sister (who's a nurse) what the medical terminology was for it.

"Hmm...," she said deep set in thought. "A uniball."*

Like the pen.

Now necessity may beget creativity, but boredom and idle time may beget senseless, brash humor. Like, if I had more time, some ranch sauce, and one of those free NYC Subway condoms on hand, I could make wonderfully grotesque images. Or make jokes about chicken fingers, and what it might mean to be chicken-fingered. I could do a lot of psychological damage to you readers and make chicken quite unappetizing. Unless you know, sex and chicken is your thing. Luckily, I’ve got other things to do.

* not factually-based you dimwits.

Ridiculously healthy sides to accompany your heart-attack meal.

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More to come!

Edited by Melissa Hom (log)

stay tasty.

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DAY TWO

More glorious Korean chicken-scratchlings popping up in New York. They’re rampant. Like the greasy zits I have from eating at every single one of them. It’s the cycle of lipids...in your food.. on your face.. in your food. Yeah, I’m sexy like that...wait til you see my thighs.

Let's hit ‘em up with one of the first highly publicized chicken places (which is really more of a pub that happened to have fried chicken) via Peter Meehan’s New York Times' write up (09/2006 - http://events.nytimes.com/2006/09/20/dinin...ws/20unde.html) on Restaurant Forte Baden Baden (pronounced 'bod-en as any Korean speaker will correct). Every listings site says it’s in Murray Hill. There’s an obscure half block alley in Flushing called Murray Street, and near it, a Murray Place, but where the hell is Murray Hill in Manhattan you ask? It’s K-town, kids, koreatown.

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Most happy hours, weekends and nights have this place completely packed, but I was there at midnight on a Tuesday, where there was a local with an out-of-towner friend – both Korean, both in finance. The manager and wait staff are well-meaning and nice, usually. If not, it’s probably the language barrier. Just so you know, the waitstaff are decked in military outfits - not too gimmicky, so that you feel like you're in North Korea, but enough to notice...and to distinguish who works there, according to the manager.

The chicken’s like yo’ mamas. That is, if you had an oversized wok, canola oil, and light flouring and spicing of a whole, fried chicken. Then chopped.

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One drum, glory. One drum, before I go, One drum to leave behiiiiind. Find, one drum, one last refrain, glory, from the pretty boy front man, who wasted opportunity...

Yeah, it was a long night, so I ...wasted the opportunity to eat all the chicken because I didn't want to lug it with my gear back to the office at 2am, and then on the train back at 4am, to have soggy, fried chicken at 7am before I went back to work. It pained me. And that's why I wake up and cry at four in the morning. In fact, the other day on the subway, I saw a newborn crying after being breastfed, and when the mother cooed at the dear child asking, "what's wrong baby?" I swore, it spat out milk and said "chicken!"

Edited by Melissa Hom (log)

stay tasty.

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DAY THREE

A Drumstick A Day, Keeps the Cardiologist Paid

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A native Korean speaker pointed out that BonChon a pretty stupid name, because "bon chon" is the generic word for chicken in Korean, so in his words, it's called "chicken chicken." Eh, the name doesn't bother me all that much. Perhaps I'll open up a chicken store one day and call it Pollo Chicken just to spite him.

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Bon Chon scored earlier this year with <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/07/dining/07fried.html" target="_new">Julia Moskin's NYT Dining cover feature</a> on Korean Fried Chicken (KFC). With one location in Bayside (45-37 Bell Blvd, Queens) and one in Murray Hill/K-town, the food is the same, but the decor is completely different. Their 5th ave location (314 5th Ave, 2nd Floor) is, of course, is dimly lit with a modern industrial feel (look for the random iron objects bolted onto the tables). Moderately loud with clubby, techno music, I suppose it was fitting that twice I was victimized by drunks. I hear that this place is an ex-lounge/club, and management hasn't changed it.

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Bon Chon was my first KFC experience, so I favored them until I tried other brands. Their drumsticks are meaty, which I actually feel might be a disadvantage because the skin-meat ratio is off. The true Korean bird - or bon chon - distinguished itself from American fried chicken based on ingredients as much as technique. As most people will vouch for, the chickens in Asia are tiny - about half the size - compared to the drugged up, factory-farmed (ahem, Perdue..) American-raised chickens. Not to mention, they're typically fresher and more flavorful. Bon Chon's got the crust right though - appealing color, thin, airy, and oh so crispy without much slip-and-slide with grease or sauce when picking it up. It's an excellent introduction to the KFC culture, but there are soy-garlic drumsticks out there that are more loyal to their description. You know, drumsticks that might taste like soy or garlic. I'd just call these... sweet. Their spicy/hot ones are good too, but rather painful to eat. Have lots of ice cold beer on hand.

In my professional chicken eating advice (HOMgirl, Chicken Eating M.D.), I'd say about 5 fl. oz per bite. I stand by my advice for recovering alcoholics too, by the way. I'm always looking after humanity's best interest.

The restaurant is located on the second floor, and the elevator is perpetually "out of order" according to an obscured, hidden sign. The elevator is in fact, fine. They just choose not to offer customers the convenience. But the walk-up is easy, and might burn 1/2000000th of the calories you're about to consume.

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Service the luck of the draw, and management makes no effort to make your dining experience any luckier.

Edited by Melissa Hom (log)

stay tasty.

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DAY FOUR

Kyedong

150-54 Northern Blvd.,

Queens, NY 11354

nr. 150th Pl

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The place is small and narrow, but comfortable. Most of its business is delivery and pick-up, and on an interesting note, Kyedong is named after a city in North Korea.... hmm.. food for thought....hmm..yummy food to possibly support communists...money trafficking through fried chicken. It's ingenious! (I mean the establishment no offense, nor am I accusing them of being communists. I'm just being my usual, idiotic self. They were quite nice).

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Of all the KFC's, Kyedong puts the most effort in presentation - in house or to go. With nifty skillets paired with a wooden pot holder and flat (sit-in) or a stylish to-go box with a fitted soda slot, it's the next best thing to your Tumi bag.

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Attractively fried, it's more golden than the others, hence less fried, or at least at a lower temperature. Which may be their downfall because the chicken was noticeably greasier. Still good and meaty, but greasy. Minced garlic pieces were spotted which was GREAT. Finally, soy-garlic drumsticks in which I can taste the soy and at least see the garlic.

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Note the smoother crust, still thin and crispy, but not blistered like the others...which is what a lot of hot hot oil does to skin...chicken skin AND human skin. So leave this to the pro's. And tip well.

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Edited by Melissa Hom (log)

stay tasty.

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DAY FIVE

It truly takes a woman of my caliber (aka, a fatass) with arteries of Robo-cop to reach Day 5 of fried chicken consumption. Give the chickens a sabbath, willya?! Nah.

Located at 71-22 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights in Queens, it is just a 3 block (shady) walk from the major metro depot that is 74th & Broadway - primarily due to construction.

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In my fine opinion, if you're gonna be gimmicky, go all out. Yeah, alien chickens aren't the tastiest idea, but if everything is alien/UFO themed, I say the servers should at least dress up as aliens. Or astronauts. But dammit, if they're just normal humans in orange T-shirts, I'm not feeling the galatical vibe. UNLESS, there are unidentified flying chicken caged in a chamber for display with genome charts and gauges for ogling.... then the servers would be certified scientists. That is key. But then people might feel bad that they're eating fuzzy baby chicks that have been dyed green.

Yep, hire me to design your next business plan! I'm a magician - I can make millions disappear. Try me.

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The inside. Very un-alien. Trekkies would be so disappointed. You can't do mind melds over fried chicken without fake, styrofoam asteroids or green fog. Totally not a star-trek convention friendly. In fact, for alien thrill seekers, this place blows. It was made for the humans.

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Well, until you get the chicken...

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Good balance between crispiness and meat with reliable flavor. $16.99 for a large mix-up of drumsticks, drummettes, and wings, plus the daikon radishes and a drink of choice. UFC owner Young Jin is your average youngish Korean-American (no pun intended... well, initially). Fluent and friendly. Extra points if you spot the bible verse plaques and crosses. Christian aliens...resistance is futile...

Sweet potato fries.

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Always refreshing, cold, and sharp.

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Venture downstairs for some alien-bathroom loving. I was thinking of taking a marker and filling in the gap between the male and female so that they're holding hands. That way, that door is clearly marked for...

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Edited by Melissa Hom (log)

stay tasty.

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(kathryn, you're too sweet. Thanks. And you outed me!)

DAY SIX:

Bon Bon Chicken is a mystery. Upon ordering chicken, it was placed into a Bon CHON bag. "We're different" my vendor told me. "I don't know if you go to their website, but we have more stuff than they do. They sell only chicken wings and drums, but we have strips, salmon, shrimp, rice bowls - it's completely different."

bonbon2bh9.jpg...at least they have their own boxes.

I heard whispers that Bonbon and BonChon were once the same company, but when questioned, they get rather defensive. "In a month or so, we're going to get our own bags," he said. But that's what another cashier had told me a month ago on a previous visit.

So how did Bonbon come to possess BonChon's bags?

"I wouldn't know" he said.

"Is there someone I can speak to who might?" I pressed on.

"No." <br><br>Hmm.. I might have to investigate this.

Is Bon Bon a rogue BonChon franchise that went sour?

Does Bon Bon order from Bonchon's bag manufacturer to cut costs?

Does BonChon know it has not only a copy cat, but an impersonator who uses their bags?

What color are my socks today?

dun dun DUN! Who knows... meanwhile, they're chicken is up to par and predictably delicious ($18.95 for a large), however, their shrimp rice bowls and salmon are a joke. Stick with the fried stuff. Oh, the combo comes with the radishes as well, but as a bonus that marks Bon Bon different is the fact that they offer free rice or a bun.

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I opted for the bun, which is not prepared in-house. It's the nice plain, squishy roll you'd get at Korean/Chinese bakeries for 60 cents.

Check out the mystery yourself at 98 Chambers street. Don't eat there though, the ambiance is negative. Like its anglo-chicken cousin, it has the same cheap, depressing aura of Kentucky Fried Chicken or Taco Bell places. It's stark because most of their business is delivery for the financial district.

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Talk about non-interactive and human devoid. See the square on the left behind the counter? That's where your order pops out of.

This is the most non-Asian of the KFCs with no Asian employees, writing, or hint of Asian influence or ingredients. Which goes back to the mystery... who owns and operates Bon Bon and where does it come from?

Edited by Melissa Hom (log)

stay tasty.

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DAY SEVEN

It is done - last one fellas, at least until new places pop up and I find the courage (and money) to pick up another drumstick.

This non-descript joint is titled the amazingly unique, "BBQ Chicken." I think Chicken & Beer would've been a better official title,

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Now, BBQ Chicken's gimmick is the fact that they only deep fry with extra virgin olive oil, making it healthier than conventional fried chicken. It is not the same small bonchon chicken or un-breaded fried crust like the rest of these places. In fact, the drumsticks here are hefty with a slightly pale, wheat hue. I consider its crumb flaky and attractive, but from memory, its color is a wee bit sickly compared to regular chicken. I'd contribute that to the olive oil, since fine extra virgin olive oil is green - which is the opposite of the color spectrum for the delicious red hue.

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Now to taste. Out of all others, hands down, this one was absolutely, the juiciest, softest chicken meat. It could be battered and fried to perfection. I mean, cold and two days old, the meat was still slick and juicy and the perfect consistency.

The crust, however, is more time sensitive. I say, sit down and eat it at the restaurant, because it does not last nearly as long as the other crispy, thin-crusted fried chickens. However, I can't lie, it tastes weird. Extra virgin olive oil is a pretty strong, intensely flavored oil (in terms of oil), often used in minimal amounts, like drizzling, salad dressings, or light sautees. To DEEP FRY something in a vat of it is like using mayo as a base for soup. It's a little overboard.

So the taste is amusing at first. Olive oil does add an interesting twist. Then, once you get past the idea of olive flavored chicken, you begin to realize how absolutely underseasoned and bland the chicken is. I don't remember a hint of salt or spice. As you continue, as delicious as the meat is, I started peeling off the skin because the olive oil flavor starts to get nauseating.

It's a shame to dismiss this because the texture is so promising. However, the store is only a few weeks old, and perhaps they'll consider offering alternatives. It may be just as nauseating, but I wouldn't mind trying chicken deep-fried in grapeseed oil, or coconut oil (I'm killin' myself here!), or cashew oil, etc. Very expensive oils, but an interesting experiment nonetheless.

All in all, recommended, but with severe reservations.

Located on 6th ave at 23rd St.

Fin! Comment away.

stay tasty.

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Really wonderful write up and great photos..

I was under the impression that Restaurant Forte Baden Baden took chicken that had been prepared Rotisserie Style and then deep fried it.. It might be my favorite of the bunch with UFC being torwards the bottom..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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I tried Forte Baden Baden when it was first written about by Meehan.... I'm no stranger to K-town, and drinking, and drinking in K-town, but for some reason I had never tried it. I'd also been to 3rd Floor Cafe many times, but apparently never to the KFC right below it...

This pictorial makes me hungry and makes me want to try it again, but honestly, I'm a little confused by the KFC craze... I just didn't see the big deal about it. It was very lightly seasoned/floured fried chicken. I'd almost rather have Popeye's because of the crust.. Am I the only one?

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I tried Forte Baden Baden when it was first written about by Meehan.... I'm no stranger to K-town, and drinking, and drinking in K-town, but for some reason I had never tried it. I'd also been to 3rd Floor Cafe many times, but apparently never to the KFC right below it...

This pictorial makes me hungry and makes me want to try it again, but honestly, I'm a little confused by the KFC craze... I just didn't see the big deal about it. It was very lightly seasoned/floured fried chicken. I'd almost rather have Popeye's because of the crust.. Am I the only one?

Korean food, lightly seasoned? It looks good, but I usually have Korean food because I want spicy, robust-tasting stuff. Unless I stop off at Mandoo Bar and have the vegetable mandoo soup.

Melissa, I love your reports! You never did show us your thighs, though; it was pretty much all drumsticks, wasn't it? :wink:

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Melissa - I live in a tiny town here in Korea. We have BBQ chicken here and hubby likes their chicken. I think it is just so-so. Now Kyochon chicken is a different story. Kyochon chicken rocks! I can sit down and eat a boxfull (ok, to tell the truth more than a boxfull). The coating is light, crispy and garlicky. Hmmm... my favorite. My sons prefer it too.

I told my hubby that when we move back to the US, that we should move to New York. LOL :biggrin:

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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Melissa - I live in a tiny town here in Korea. We have BBQ chicken here and hubby likes their chicken. I think it is just so-so. Now Kyochon chicken is a different story. Kyochon chicken rocks! I can sit down and eat a boxfull (ok, to tell the truth more than a boxfull). The coating is light, crispy and garlicky. Hmmm... my favorite. My sons prefer it too.

I told my hubby that when we move back to the US,  that we should move to New York. LOL :biggrin:

I hear these kinds of chicken places are at the end of every corner store in Korea, at least in the cities. Any truth in that? Kyochon's actually THE first company to brand and standardize the korean-style production of fried chicken in the early 90s. They gave me their company press packet, and their earnings and expansion is rather successful. They plan on world domination. I'm serious. The press kit has pictures of the shimmering, glossy word, "KYOCHON" dramatically floating over the expanse of the Pacific Ocean - kind of like Phoenix in X-Men. Forget world domination, Phoenix and Kyochon want to own the universe.

If and when you and the fam visit this lovely city, drop me a line and the next drumstick's on me. Good ol' New York hospitality.

stay tasty.

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Which ones did you like best overall?  I can't quite tell from your reviews.  Did any stand out as being really fantastic?

Yeah, everyone would like a chart with ratings to summarize these chicken establishments, but I can't bring myself to do it, firstly and most importantly because I'm lazy. Secondly, as snarky as I am, at heart, I'm a food-lovah and a food-encourager, not much of a food critic. Or as a professor once told me, "I don't provide answers, I provide thought." Or was that what my boyfriend said when I asked if he was sleeping around. I don't remember. Same difference. haha.

In all seriousness, there's plenty of outlets and guides for quick answers, yes/no's, etc. But I'm.. just not doing that this time.

There's been a lot of reviewing on blogs, and pretty prominently rounded up by NYMag (http://nymag.com/restaurants/cheapeats/2007/34998/) and MetroMix (http://newyork.metromix.com/restaurants/article/new-york-s-best/242452/content). Toot. Yup, that's me blowing my horn. Sorry - but they funded the experience. But back to the point - I disagree with both/all of them.

Thirdly, I can't say I'm fair - if there is a such thing as justice in any human being. I did not eat at each of these establishments simultaneously or back to back, which would make comparisons instantaneous and differences more apparent.

But if you'd like me to be blithely bias, here're some notes:

1. Never eat inside BonBon - unless you're about to commit suicide. Still, I'd take it to go and eat it at the ledge of the Brooklyn Bridge. It's a short walk. That place is so depressing that even picking-up orders are a stretch. In fact, BonBon should just become a korean-fried chicken Automat or vending machine and get rid of any semblance a storefront or interaction.

2. BonChon's highly recommended for a clubby ambiance and good chicken and beer. Bring friends (a korean-speaking one will get you better service, but English or pointing gets you by just fine), high-heels, shopping bags, and small-talk. Great food, standard liquor, questionable service. Asshole manager.

3. UFC/Kyochon are definitely reliably good. Not much pizazz, but I like low-key, good places. Can't go wrong, and they're more accessible. I like Kyochon because I like garlic. And I like UFC ... because I like aliens? Ok, not really, but they make good chicken and supposedly have evolved the Kyochon method of chicken prep. We're looking and tasting UFC: The Next Generation... Cue music please.

4. BBQ Chicken is interesting, mostly because I'm forgiving. This one confuses me a lot. I toss at turn at night over this establishment. Meat.. is so juicy...crust is so textured.. but why is it extra olive oily??? WHY is it not seasoned??

5. I don't think Forte Baden Baden should be in this KFC category. They just happen to be a Korean sports bar...serving fried chicken. A nice, lively spot nonetheless - except when you're me and there at midnight on a Wednesday. Then it's pretty dead. Nice manager.

That's all from the top of my head. I'm thinking of doing a massive ramen round-up next. And by thinking, I really mean that I'm trying not to think about it, because it sounds like a headache.

Edited by Melissa Hom (log)

stay tasty.

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Which ones did you like best overall?  I can't quite tell from your reviews.  Did any stand out as being really fantastic?

Yeah, everyone would like a chart with ratings to summarize these chicken establishments, but I can't bring myself to do it, firstly and most importantly because I'm lazy. Secondly, as snarky as I am, at heart, I'm a food-lovah and a food-encourager, not much of a food critic. Or as a professor once told me, "I don't provide answers, I provide thought." Or was that what my boyfriend said when I asked if he was sleeping around. I don't remember. Same difference. haha.

In all seriousness, there's plenty of outlets and guides for quick answers, yes/no's, etc. But I'm.. just not doing that this time.

There's been a lot of reviewing on blogs, and pretty prominently rounded up by NYMag (http://nymag.com/restaurants/cheapeats/2007/34998/) and MetroMix (http://newyork.metromix.com/restaurants/article/new-york-s-best/242452/content). Toot. Yup, that's me blowing my horn. Sorry - but they funded the experience. But back to the point - I disagree with both/all of them.

Thirdly, I can't say I'm fair - if there is a such thing as justice in any human being. I did not eat at each of these establishments simultaneously or back to back, which would make comparisons instantaneous and differences more apparent.

But if you'd like me to be blithely bias, here're some notes:

1. Never eat inside BonBon - unless you're about to commit suicide. Still, I'd take it to go and eat it at the ledge of the Brooklyn Bridge. It's a short walk. That place is so depressing that even picking-up orders are a stretch. In fact, BonBon should just become a korean-fried chicken Automat or vending machine and get rid of any semblance a storefront or interaction.

2. BonChon's highly recommended for a clubby ambiance and good chicken and beer. Bring friends (a korean-speaking one will get you better service, but English or pointing gets you by just fine), high-heels, shopping bags, and small-talk. Great food, standard liquor, questionable service. Asshole manager.

3. UFC/Kyochon are definitely reliably good. Not much pizazz, but I like low-key, good places. Can't go wrong, and they're more accessible. I like Kyochon because I like garlic. And I like UFC ... because I like aliens? Ok, not really, but they make good chicken and supposedly have evolved the Kyochon method of chicken prep. We're looking and tasting UFC: The Next Generation... Cue music please.

4. BBQ Chicken is interesting, mostly because I'm forgiving. This one confuses me a lot. I toss at turn at night over this establishment. Meat.. is so juicy...crust is so textured.. but why is it extra olive oily??? WHY is it not seasoned??

5. I don't think Forte Baden Baden should be in this KFC category. They just happen to be a Korean sports bar...serving fried chicken. A nice, lively spot nonetheless - except when you're me and there at midnight on a Wednesday. Then it's pretty dead. Nice manager.

That's all from the top of my head. I'm thinking of doing a massive ramen round-up next. And by thinking, I really mean that I'm trying not to think about it, because it sounds like a headache.

So instead of asking for critiques and/or a full ranking, would you tell us which two you thought had the best chicken (regardless of atmosphere)?

And for those who care and live in the 'hood (Tribeca/Financial), the solution for point #1 above is that BonBon delivers. You never have to see the place.

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Kyochon takes the cake. And BonChon swipes the icing. Some feel deceived, but I personally love the air pocket between the skin and chicken meat that both the establishments achieve. Those precious millimeters of distance are the breath of the drumstick/wing to me - strongly aromatic and bonding both the method of a good steam and a good deep-fry.

You've squeezed my indecisiveness out of me, happy?

stay tasty.

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