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A Double-Fried Defense of the Fried Chicken Chain

How to stop worrying and love Bonchon.


Bay Area food obsessives tend to scoff at chain restaurants, with their questionable sourcing and their unabashed appeal to the masses. But if we’re being honest, how many Bay Area establishments serve southern-style fried chicken that’s as reliably enjoyable as Popeyes? And, to come straight to the point, how many of our local eateries serve Korean-style fried chicken that rivals the double-fried chicken wings of the South Korean chain Bonchon, which has dozens of franchises in the United States, mostly in Southern California and on the East Coast, and recently opened its first outlet in Berkeley?

At this point, you’ve probably had some version of this sticky-glazed fried chicken, which some American publications have dubbed “the other KFC.” But the difference is in the particulars: The calling card of the Korean style is a thin, delicate crust, which is achieved by frying the chicken in two stages. At least in San Francisco and the East Bay, no one gets the crust thinner or crispier than Bonchon does. And whether you opt for the chili-laced spicy chicken or the sweet soy-garlic variety—or, better yet, an order split half and half—the sauce won’t come off in clumps or pool at the bottom of the plate. No grease. No glop. Just chicken wings you can’t stop eating—and thoroughly convincing proof that chains aren’t always bad. 2050 Berkeley Way (At Shattuck Ave.), Berkeley, 510-647-3714


Originally published in the March issue of San Francisco 

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