Country of origin: South Korea
Locations worldwide: Over 100 in China, Japan, South Korea, the US and Vietnam
NYC locations: One, in Flushing
Just like CheoGaJip, South Korean Kyedong Chicken also just one New York City shop in Flushing. Unlike CheoGaJip, there are no unusual pizzas on premises. Instead, this fried chicken specialist gives second billing to another animal altogether: the pig. Pig's feet, pork belly and blood sausage round out many of the combo meals.
Because the poultry is cooked on demand and can take a full thirty minutes to appear, you know you're guaranteed a hot, fresh batch. This a la minute preparation also means you should consider calling in an order ahead of time if you plan to pick up chicken to go--the jam-packed seating area, barely bigger than a vestibule, isn't conducive to passing time.
Hot wings and drumsticks are double-fried and lightly coated, as you've come to expect from the best Korean fried chicken. Kyedong's crackly, delicate style with a light dusting of chile powder strikes a balance between the sticky sweetness of CheoGaJip and the pure fieriness of Kyochon. At first glance, I didn't think the golden pieces were spiced at all because they were missing the lacquered, orange glow I'm used to seeing.
Chicken is definitely the reason to visit Kyedong, but it would be a shame to ignore the porcine delights that are cut and packaged up at a carving station right near the entrance. An order of pork belly fills an entire Styrofoam container with thin, overlapping slices of fatty meat.
Soondae, Korean blood sausage, isn't nearly as hefty as it looks. Springy, gingery and lightened with rice and noodles, the sienna tubes aren't as rich and dense as morcilla. As long as they didn't think about the origins of the sausage's dark shade, the offal-averse could easily tackle soondae as a gateway to more challenging organ meat.
The accompaniments are where it gets fun. The pork parts are served with leaves of red-tipped lettuce, so that you can bundle everything up ssam-style. Spruce up the crunchy wraps with slices of jalapeno and garlic, kimchi radish, dabs of gochujang, the fermented soybean chile paste, saeujeot, a funkier condiment made with salted shrimp no bigger than a pinkie nail, or the white mystery powder—the grains resemble MSG more than salt despite the no MSG promise made on a sign out front—dotted with ground chile and sesame seeds.
While the Northern Boulevard location is the only dedicated restaurant, Kyedong also appears to be affiliated with Hanover Café. The Korean deli sold the brand's fried chicken before their St. Mark's branch closed, it's still on the menu at their spot in the Financial District, and it's even part of the World's Fare Market at Citi Field. Shake Shack may have been the chain whose arrival garnered the most press, but being able to watch The Mets, spicy Korean wing in hand, is also a very New York experience.
About the author: Krista Garcia is a freelance writer and librarian (who does not work with books). Being obsessed with chain restaurants and Southeast Asian food, she would have no problem eating laska in Elmhurst and P.F. Chang's crab rangoon in New Jersey on the same day. She blogs at Goodies First.