On a recent Thursday night in White Center, a line of hungry patrons waiting for some of the best Korean fried chicken in the city snaked out the door at Bok a Bok Fried Chicken (1521 S.W. 98th St., 693-2493). Inside, the small space has a fast-food feel. We ordered at a window and then took a seat in the dining area, which includes a number of two-tops and a long wooden banquette with seats. There we took in the decor, which consists solely of the restaurant’s minimalist chicken logo, and waited for our bounty to arrive on a bright-red tray.
Bok a Bok, which opened in June, pairs sinfully good thighs, wings, and drumsticks with equally tantalizing sides that include kimchi mac and cheese, sweet-potato tater tots, and biscuits with spiced honey. It also serves chicken sandwiches, a rice bowl, and a variety of beverages including sake slushies (flavors like passion fruit and strawberry pack a mean punch for $8) and bottled sake for one.
The chicken itself is flaky, fried to a light golden hue, and not terribly greasy. Bite into the crispy skin and the juicy, flavorful meat is evidence of the quality of the sustainably raised chickens the restaurant buys. The chicken parts themselves are exceptionally large—I could have sworn that one thigh was actually two, somehow engineered together. The wings also are plump and meaty. The chicken is salted minimally, which makes sense given the dynamite dipping sauces.
There are four, for $.50 a pop (four-chili hot sauce, sesame soy garlic, bok a bok ranch, and Korean BBQ), and I advise you try them all. The Korean BBQ sauce is essentially a traditional gochujang, a condiment made from chilies, rice, and fermented soybeans. It’s not too spicy, but has an earthy pungency from the soybeans. I preferred the four-chili hot sauce, which isn’t prohibitively spicy, but nuanced, with a consistency that reminded me of a slightly creamy tomato soup. The bok a bok ranch is also incredible, a Korean-spiced update of one of the most American of sauces.
As for sides, the kimchi mac and cheese really does have generous pieces of the spicy cabbage strewn throughout. My only complaint was the rather watery cheese. The biscuit was exceptionally flaky (and the spiced honey tasted like maple syrup and cinnamon with, I believe, a hint of Chinese five spice). You could heat that stuff and drink it.
Four chicken sandwiches are on the menu; and again, the large chicken thigh sprawls out from between two soft hamburger-style buns. I went with the #4, “Yuzu Green Chile Chicken,” because it sounded the most interesting, with charred Korean green chilies, dill pickles, pea sprouts, and yuzu aioli. I was really hoping for a more pronounced citrus profile from the yuzu; I think I detected a note of it in one bite. It tasted more or less like mayo, unfortunately, and the chilies too were understated. It’s a damn fine chicken sandwich, just not as exciting as it sounds. Next time I’ll go with the Korean BBQ version.
The best part of this visit: Our huge meal for two—one thigh, four wings, a chicken sandwich, mac and cheese, a biscuit, and a sake slushy—came to a mere $25. And we left with a lunch’s worth of leftovers.