Kid Hit Menu Items: KyoChon chicken emporium brings out the worst type of hypocrite in us. While we’re not a boneless-battered-and-fried-chicken-strip household, I generally try not to order nuggets and stuff when we’re out. (Mac n’ cheese, however, is another story.) We’re guilty of engaging in foodist high horse shenanigans; generally avoiding fast food, dragging our kids to farmers’ markets, steering them away from the Lunchables, etc. But when it comes to KyoChon Korean chicken, which appears to be too busy to build a proper website, we’re unabashed die-hard fans. Boxes of Salsal chicken strips – 10 pieces in a medium size; just enough for the boys’ dinner and maybe some lunch – are a triumph of recipe engineering and packaging design. Sometimes our oldest will nibble on a honey wing or two. I used to skip the dipping sauces, but he’s has a recent deepening relationship with ranch dressing. I try to make my own from scratch; it’s NOT the same, I’m told.
Adult Perks: The Korea-based chain is mostly known for its wings, less for the strips. It’s not about fancy trappings or special beverages here on 6th Street a couple blocks east of Western. If you want beer to complement the spicy signature wings, you’ll have to take packages home in glossy white bags.
Pros: If I say I’m not going to have a salsal strip, for health reasons and because of the faint, mysterious green pepper flavor, I’m totally lying. When I feel obligated to eat something green to go with them, I’ll get a side of the mayo, sesame seed, and raisin-laced broccoli salad, and maybe some pickled radish. KyoChon has its system fairly streamlined and the menu is super simple, so orders called in ahead of time are usually waiting. Except for the large order I placed last fall for our son’s birthday party, which wasn’t ready at the specified time. But in the end, the kids had both Brooklyn Bagels and KyoChon breadcrumb and puffed rice-encased chicken spears to feast on, so all was right in the world. Speaking of trying to do right: KyoChon apparently uses antibiotic, hormone-free chicken, but I should still research that claim.
Cons: While the Manhattan location pulls out all the stops to make a splash at the corner 5th and 32nd Street at the edge of that city’s Koreatown, the central L.A. outpost is fairly tame. No high tech design tricks or spiraling staircases, just a clean, simple interior with some modern practical plastic chairs, and pagers to alert you when the order is done. We had one ridiculously slow service experience in the Manhattan restaurant; I assume they worked out those kinks because a near-half-hour wait is the absolute death knell of any Midtown food business. As for the other SoCal KyoChons, I have no idea what those are like. A couple of the mall locations have closed, sadly.
Changing Station: No.
High Chairs: No, if you need a more comfortable set-up, hover around the one built-in cushy banquette to nab one of those seats.
Parking and Access: KyoChon on 6th fills the corner storefront of a block-long strip mall. And like the other high turnover, hot spot developments, parking has become inadequate. So that’s why the once-bizarre phenomenon of Koreatown strip mall valet is something we’ve all learned to get used to. During the off hours the attendants let you park on your own.
Other Tidbits: We can all agree on KyoChon in our family, but what about when I want something else to go with the meal? Like dumplings, for example? It took seeing Anthony Bourdain’s insightful and not-at-all-cliché Parts Unknown show in which he tours K-Town with locally raised creative heroes Roy Choi and David Choe to finally get me to a well-known restaurant just directly south of KyoChon that 100% takes care of this issue. However cliche and not local insider-y at all of an impulse, when we finished watching the episode at around 9:45 on a weeknight, I checked to see if Myung In Dumplings was still open, thinking I’d run down and pick up a couple orders. It was closed.
Alright, who was I kidding — I was already in my PJs and ready for bed. The alternative version of myself who lives in the downtown Arts District and drives a biodiesel converted Mercedes 230 CE coupe from the early 80’s would do that.
Anyway, I went to the bare bones dumpling shop on Olympic, not too far from where my parents live, for lunch the next day. The lady at the counter skeptically laughed when my friend and I ordered two types of comically puffy steamed buns that are the size of small car tires (or at least as big ones you’d find attached to a very large toy truck), a plate of pan fried pork dumplings, and a steamer basket dotted with Myung In’s version of overstuffed pork and shrimp shumai style ones. All just for us. Plus they give you banchan here. “Oh, but we’re taking the leftovers to coworkers and family members,” we assured her. Her response didn’t change all that much. Truth is, I saw at least four other types of dishes of varying dumpling skin thickness, fillings and shapes I want to try, but that will wait for later. (Sorry, All Family, our previous go-to- Korean dumpling spot on Crenshaw.) My youngest might have thought the cultural crossover shumai I brought home were the “soup ducklings” he already knows, but he was happy to destroy whatever I put in front of him. So from now on, KyoChon might be a two-stop deal: chicken for the boys, dumplings/ducklings for the rest of us. One more useful fact: In case I ever do want to follow through on my late night K-Town snack impulses, KyoChon keeps good company with the many other after hours shops in the neighborhood. It’s open until 3 a.m.
3833 W. 6th Street, Koreatown (between Serrano and Hobart), and multiple locations
Cuisine: Korean, Chicken
Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 3 a.m., daily
MYUNG IN DUMPLINGS
3109 W. Olympic Blvd. (between Harvard and Kingsley)
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 8 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.; Sunday 9:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.