You might hear someone call Crisp “KFC,” but not for its likeness to the colonel and his chain of fast-food joints. No, Crisp’s Korean-fried chicken is a whole new breed of fried food, a breed that has kept customers flocking to this Lakeview eatery since its opening in 2008.
Unlike Southern-style fried chicken, Korean recipes forgo the thick buttermilk batter for an ultra-thin flour coating and two-step frying process, first to render out most of the fat, and then again to give it a perfectly crisp, grease-free skin. The result: An eggshell-thin crust blanketed over unbelievably juicy and tender meat.
Childhood pals and owners, Doug Funke and Jae Lee, dress Crisp’s half and whole-sized Korean-fried birds four ways. Plain Jane delivers the chicken in its pure and simple form, while their signature Seoul Sassy—marked “Korean mother approved” on the menu— has savory undertones of ginger, soy, and garlic.
We personally love the Crisp Barbecue for its sweet and smoky flavor with a subtle kick, but customers up for more heat can sweat to the tune of Bud’s Buffalo—a mild, spicy, or “suicidal” sauce borrowed from Budacki’s Drive-In (which is not-so-coincidentally owned by Lee’s family).
Getting a half or whole chicken is a sweet deal for couples or families, but Crisp caters to singletons too with boneless tenders and jumbo wings. And the term jumbo is not lip-service, either. Served in fives and tens, it’s more than enough food for dinner and left-overs.
Aside from determining what to order, the tricky part about Crisp is sometimes finding a place to sit. Within the lime-green and wood-paneled walls lie three or four mammoth wooden tables and benches, each perfect for eight or so strangers to kick back and share a communal roll of paper towels and few squirt-bottles of extra sauce.
Yet, despite the lunchroom set-up and a sprinkling of extra stools along the window, seats can and will go quickly, especially during rush periods. Thankfully, this order-at-the-counter joint happily arranges for both take-out and delivery.
Since its 2008 opening, Crisp has made quite the impression on the Chicago dining scene, including rave reviews from the likes of The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, and even Food Network star Rachel Ray. Though most of the critics are crazy for the chicken, the kitchen also churns out signature sandwiches and “Buddha Bowls” filled with fresh Korean vegetable, rice, and a choice of chicken, tofu, or homemade bulgolgi (Korean-style beef).
Crisp is located at 2940 N. Broadway in Chicago. They’re open every day from 11:30 a.m.- 9 p.m.