Asian Food

Investigating the Hidden Mysteries of Korean Fire Chicken

Grillin' at Dancen.
Grillin’ at Dancen. Photo: Matt Zatkoff

LTHforum can be exasperating on a daily basis but on a macro level, several times a year, at least, something pops out that breaks entirely new territory and reveals a side of our food scene we didn’t know we didn’t know about. Exhibit A: this post by Matt Zatkoff (who posts as “Laikom”) on the Korean bar-grilled chicken scene. It started with a distant memory of something like “chicken bulgogi” (which, since bulgogi is beef, was sort of like saying “chicken pot roast”) at a long-gone 24-hour Korean joint. On a visit to check out a Korean bar, Zatkoff spotted something called buldak— and that was it.

He offers reports on the buldak, or Korean fire chicken (which can mean that it’s grilled or that it’s spicy as hell) at three different bars, each offering a vaguely surreal combo of disco-karaoke flavor and spicy meat. The best proves to be a dive bar on Lincoln called Dancen:

Smallest of the bunch, with more of a dive bar layout than the others. It has arcade game shaped tables (think pong) made of brushed metal which made it a bit uncomfortable to get snug up to the table.

The food however really blew me away here. In my opinion, clearly the better of the 3 buldaks that we tried. All dark meat cut off the bone and grilled right on the bar by the bartender. We tried a whole array of grilled skewered meats, which were good. The one dish that really surprised me was the cod roe soup. Typically this soup doesn’t excite me but the broth in this was bright and clean, and the cod roe was soft and savory, not grainy or mealy as it typically is. Some people who were with us who didn’t even want to try it (since they don’t like it typically), but they loved it and ended up eating more! If you go here get that soup and buldak and you will not be disappointed.

Korean bars and restaurants can be among the hardest to suss out, because they tend to be discreet from the outside and offer little of the conventional welcome or visual clues to passersby. But as Zatkoff demonstrates, you never know what treasures may lurk inside.

Korean Bars, specifically, Buldak a.k.a. Korean fire chicken [LTHForum]

Investigating the Hidden Mysteries of Korean Fire Chicken