Chicken Hunt: A survey of KC’s Korean fried chicken scene

Photography by Joshua Haines.

Korean chicken is one of those things that, like pizza or barbecue, means different things to different people. It’s consistently battered and fried, but that batter is sometimes especially thin, other times extra thick and crunchy. Sometimes KFC—the clever name given by many American aficionados—is tempura-battered. Cornstarch is common, too. Potato starch, sometimes.

But when it comes to the sauces, all bets are off. There are dozens of different flavors—in one Overland Park shopping plaza alone. I spent a week trying a half-dozen Korean fried chicken spots around KC, mostly in Johnson County. The first place I’d send anyone looking to try this style of fried chicken is 135th and Metcalf, where you have two of the better options.

CM Chicken (6601 W. 135th St. A21, Overland Park) is one of two massive Korean chicken spots in the area. It’s part of a bicoastal chain that was founded in Korea a decade ago and came stateside in 2017. CM Chicken’s breading is on the thick side, which is all the better for soaking up the spicy (but not super hot) gochujang chili sauce or tangy lemon and wasabi sauce. CM Chicken is near Scheels and has a massive dining room with a bar, making it a good spot for a lively night out with a big group.

The same plaza has the Korean hot pot spot K Pot and a location of Bibibop,  the chain that’s been called the Chipotle of Korean food and is, in fact, owned by Chipotle. It’s also home to my favorite Korean chicken in the area, which is at a sushi spot that has recently rebranded to emphasize the trending chicken. That’s the eccentrically named Prime Sushi & BBQ Korean Chicken (13611 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park) which has a dozen flavors and a medium-thick fried shell that walks the razor’s edge between crunchy and sopped up with sauce. This batch had more dark meat than most I encountered, which meant it was juicier. The classic Korean galbi sauce is sweet and spicy, with a hint of smoke and a dusting of sesame seeds that amp up the umami. It’s served with a little tin cup of pickled radish to freshen the palate between bites.

Photography by Joshua Haines.

Any serious chicken hunt will inevitably take you up Metcalf to 92 Chicken (10326 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park), another dedicated Korean chicken spot. Like many others on this list, your smallest option is a $15 serving that’s a full meal. The Instagrammable special chicken dishes with shaved vegetables are showstoppers, but the spicy garlic chicken is solid, though my experience suffered from slow and disorganized service.

Most of those picks are strips, but if you’re looking for wings in the Korean style, you can find them at two spots in KCMO: Chingu (4117 Pennsylvania Ave., KCMO) and Kobi-Q (1531 Grand Blvd., KCMO). The waitress at Chingu in Westport claimed their wings have been described as “better than the Peanut” by customers, and while this is patently ridiculous, they are very good. The best part, though, was that we got a selection of banchan (see page 64), with pickled veggies to freshen things up. Kobi Q’s sweet garlic glaze was the tastiest sauce I found—sweet but with some depth of flavor.

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