BonChon Chicken

Sometime last year my wife started talking about this chicken place that she found out about with her sister. “It’s so good! You have to come with us! We can’t get enough of this chicken!” over and over again she’d tell me, every time she’d go out with her sister it was the same deal, “This chicken is the greatest!”

bonchon_chicken

And it was annoying, seeing my wife and my sister-in-law this happy, over chicken. Watching them talk about their experience at this restaurant, I’d think to myself, I don’t ever get to that level of joy about anything in life, let alone fried chicken, and so I sank my heels in deep, determined not to let myself try the chicken, lest I start to believe that maybe this type of happiness might be real.

I was afraid, deep down, that I’d buy into whatever hype they’d bought into, and then after trying the chicken, I’d be naturally disappointed. I’d come back home with a stomach full of grease and I’d wonder, am I fully here? Is there something wrong with me, preventing me from enjoying what everyone else seems to be genuinely in love with?

Just let them get it out of their system, I figured, they’ll eat it to the point where they get sick of it and then we can all get back to our miserable, regular lives as usual. But the chicken fever, it wasn’t running its course. If anything, their love for this chicken place was growing deeper, stronger in intensity.

And try as I might to make them keep their chicken business to themselves, it got to the point where their occasional, “Rob, you really should try this chicken place,” snowballed into a daily, “Rob! I order you to try this chicken! Rob! I’m serious!” But like I said, I had already made up my mind. For better or for worse, I’m a stubborn guy, a real asshole, and so this went on for weeks, me, just trying to go about my life, attempting ever more unsuccessfully to evade this fried chicken propaganda.

One day I was getting off from work and my wife was like, “I’m getting off from work too. Let’s meet up and grab a bite to eat.” In a lapse of judgment, I agreed. She told me where we’d meet, but failed to mention the place. I showed up a little earlier than she did only to find that I’d been duped.

There it was, BonChon Chicken. I can’t believe I didn’t see it coming. It’s like, I don’t think my wife had eaten anything else besides BonChon Chicken for the past month, and here I was being guided to a restaurant of her choosing. Of course it was going to be BonChon Chicken. Had I really missed such an obvious trap? Or had a part of me started to cave? Somewhere from behind my active consciousness, was my brain maybe starting to at least wonder if any part of this hysteria might not in fact be true?

Reluctantly, I went inside and sat down at a table. BonChon? What kind of a place is this, Korean? I like Korean food, but I’ve never really made any sort of connection between kimchi and fried chicken. And that’s what the menu was all about. Legs, thighs, kimchi, scallion pancakes. Whatever, I was hungry and this place actually seemed pretty cool, that aroma wafting through the air …

Snap out of it Rob, I tried to ground myself back into my skeptical mind, let’s have a bite first, at least. I ordered the scallion pancake, some kimchi, and some assorted legs and thighs, some of them spicy, some of them garlic and soy sauce. “Ha!” I said to my wife after placing the order, “That’s not a fried chicken flavor!” But I just sounded like an idiot.

And I can admit that now, because as soon as I took that first bite, everything changed. I did a complete mental one-eighty. This was the best fried chicken I had ever had in my life. I’m not like a fried chicken connoisseur or anything, but I’ve eaten it elsewhere, I’ve made it in my own kitchen with varying degrees of success. Whatever, it’s fried chicken.

But BonChon is fried fucking chicken. It’s like, I have no idea how they do what they do with legs and thighs. Somehow the chicken winds up coming out of their kitchen almost too perfect in appearance. If you asked a professional artist to render the ideal fried chicken leg, he wouldn’t even come close to what BonChon is able to achieve.

The chicken skin is somehow not only fried to crispy perfection, but it balloons out slightly, absorbing whatever flavor it’s seasoned with, becoming one with the skin, and expanding just enough past the meat to where your first bite, it’s like crunchy skin, pause, then juicy meat. You know what I’m saying? When you have your standard fried chicken, the skin always kind of slides around on top of the meat, so when you start to dig in, you wind up swallowing most of it during those first two or three bites. But BonChon skin, it’s like its own entity, it’s almost structurally apart from the rest of the meat, ensuring that eat bite of chicken has at least a little bit of delicious, chewy, almost candy-like skin.

I’m a total convert. I wound up polishing off eight pieces on my first time. And every time my wife brings home a box, or I wind up sneaking away for more, I can’t help but finish every last morsel of meat from each bone. It’s almost crazy how good this chicken is. I like to brag about how much I can eat and all of the different foods that I’ve had, but BonChon is levels ahead of anywhere near where I’ve been before. I see that plate of chicken and it’s like I black out, like I get possessed by something inside, something primal, and the next thing I know I’m staring in disbelief at all of the bones that I’ve made short work of.

Go to BonChon Chicken. It’s a chain. There are several locations in New York. It’s usually crowded, so be prepared to wait. I hope this thing takes off and puts all other fried chicken places out of business. I hope that someday there is a BonChon on every corner. Hey President of South Korea, maybe it almost seems like too easy of a solution, but if all else fails with the whole North Korea stalemate, you might as well try some BonChon diplomacy. Fly them some chicken. Watch the Kim regime dissolve as they beg for more. It could happen, I really think it might work.

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