Much has been written about Bon Chon, the first Korean fried chicken chain in the states that made Americans put down their KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) for a different KFC (Korean Fried Chicken).
However, two of the Bon Chon franchises in New York, one off of 32nd Street and one in Flushing, have pulled a Palin and gone rogue. The two restaurant-bars are now calling themselves "Mad for Chicken." Considering the former K-Town Bon Chon was my go-to wings and beer spot, the news was a bit unsettling. So a few days ago, I decided I needed some wings to settle my nerves.
When I got to Mad for Chicken, everything from the industrial bar design down to the menu looked unchanged, except the logos. It seemed safe enough, so I ordered my usual: a large order of Wings ($22.95), half soy-garlic and half spicy (half and half is only an option with the large order), and Dduk Boki with Cheese ($11.95).
Like before, the chicken takes thirty to forty minutes to prepare. So I started on the Dduk Boki, rice cakes in a red pepper sauce with fish cakes (odeng) and cheese (American and mozarella). I know everyone finds cheese a bit weird on Korean food, but you can also order the ddukboki without the cheese for a dollar less. Me, I like cheese on ddukboki. It's Korean fast food, so I leave my cheese snobbery at the door. Also, when the ddukboki is really spicy, the cheese rounds out the sharp notes and makes the sauce creamier.
The Ddukboki at Mad For Chicken, however, tasted different. The sauce was too sweet, there were more fish cakes than rice cakes, and the American cheese singles were barely melted on top—the shape was still apparent—as opposed to melted beforehand and drizzled. The cheese not looking appetizing, I didn't mind so much, but the sweetness of the sauce and the fact that there wasn't enough rice cakes in the ddukboki was just wrong. I wanted ddukboki, not odengboki.
About twenty to thirty minutes later, when the ddokboki first arrived, the wings finally made an appearance. At first glace it looked the same, but I noticed, along with the chicken and cubes of pickled radish, the wings now come with carrot sticks, celery sticks, and a small container of mysterious white sauce that tasted like a cross between blue cheese and ranch dressing. According to the waitress, it was blue cheese, but whatever it is, toss it out. These aren't buffalo wings, no blue cheese should be necessary.
After one bite, it was confirmed. Both the soy-garlic and the spicy are as delicious as ever without any white sauce. The wings had a crisp lightly glazed shell, sticky but almost greaseless to the touch, with moist innards that were steaming hot. The wait is annoying, but the pay-off is freshly fried wings. (If you didn't know, the chicken at Bon Chon and Mad for Chicken is fried twice so the fat is rendered off the skin and the wings are extra crunchy.)
As for the sauces, soy-garlic tasted exactly like the original, but I thought the spicy was a tad hotter than previous. There was more of a detectable gochujang (red pepper paste) taste in the glaze. Not a bad thing, unless you found the heat level just bearable in the past.
The drink menu, for the most part, hasn't changed much. I usually like Blue Moon because it's a light citrusy beer that goes well with fried foods. However, if you want Killian's on tap, Mad for Chicken now has a flashy DayGlo beer dispenser, if you order a minimum of two liters, that supposedly keeps your beer cold for two hours. Personally, I don't feel my beer has to be bubbling away to a techno beat, but the dispenser does provide a certain amount of entertainment. Check out their 28 second video on their website. It's just too much.
Mad beer dispenser and overly sweet odengboki aside, I'll be back to Mad for Chicken. Sadly for Bon Chon, the name "ain't no thang" if the wing recipe is the same.
Mad for Chicken
314 5th Ave, 2nd Floor, New York NY 10001 (b/n 31st & 32nd Street; map) 212-221-2222