Before I set foot in the BBQ Chicken that just opened near Serious Eats world headquarters, I was as confused as anyone. A Korean company called BBQ Chicken with 3,500 locations in 37 countries was opening a fried chicken joint in New York?
Well, it turns out that BBQ stands for "Best of the Best Quality Chicken." Now you know, and after you finish reading this post, you will know something else: Based on my initial foray, BBQ Chicken serves some mighty fine fried chicken. All those millions of folks in 37 countries eating at BBQ's 3,500 locations, like Elvis fans, can't be wrong. They have been eating better quick service restaurant (QSR) fried chicken than we have.
And, if the company realizes its goal of opening 50,000 locations worldwide by 2020, I'd imagine that BBQ Chicken will be available nationwide here in the U.S. and that even more Serious Eaters will be able to try it and see if they agree with me. (McDonald's, by comparison, has a little more than 30,000 locations worldwide.)
I ordered an eight-piece BBQ Olive Chicken—Original recipe ($17.95). It comes with four biscuits (which were mysteriously missing from the bag) and two large sides.
BBQ Chicken's differentiating factor is that it fries its chicken in olive oil. I must admit I have never heard of anyone doing that before. But after my first bite, I believe Popeye's and Kentucky Fried Chicken should at the very least add one olive-oilfried chicken item to their menus.
BBQ's chicken was absolutely delicious. Its exterior crust is crisp, crunchy, greaseless, and has just enough peppery bite. It's not a smooth, lacquered crust, like Gus' World Famous Fried Chicken in Memphis, but it sure is good. We had only dark meat—thighs and drumsticks, and the flesh was perfectly cooked, moist, and toothsome.
The side dishes were a skip. The mac and cheese was straight outta Kraft, and the spicy creamed corn was an interesting if not particularly satisfying novelty. Next time, I will make sure my biscuits are actually in the bag. The missing biscuits were in keeping with the general level of chaos and disorganization that is currently part of the BBQ Chicken experience. But what's a little chaos for chicken this good?
Address: 232 Seventh Avenue (b/n 23rd and 24th streets), New York NY 10011 [map]