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A table of guests enjoy various Korean fried chicken dishes from Chimmelier with a variety of fun dipping sauces and sides.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

7 favorite spots for Korean fried chicken in Koreatown

I can distinctly remember stumbling into the Kyochon in Koreatown in 2008, a little drunk and very hungry. I was with friends from graduate school and we’d just finished losing our voices at a nearby karaoke lounge.

When I placed an order for 35 wings, our group of six guffawed loudly. Who was going to finish all that chicken?

It was the first time I’d dined at a restaurant specializing in Korean chicken wings. We were instantly addicted to the delicate, ultra-crunchy coating and the sweet and salty soy glaze. We finished the 35 chicken wings with speed and fervor. Then we ordered 16 more.

It was around this time that the fried chicken craze in Koreatown started. The boom was partially fueled by chains like the new Kyochon, which had arrived a year prior from Gumi, Korea. I like to think that depictions of chimeak (the specific pairing of fried chicken and beer) in Korean TV shows, like the soap opera “My Love From the Star,” also had something to do with the collective obsession. The beautiful protagonist in the series has an affinity for chimeak and an alien love interest from another planet.

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Now, nearly every shopping center in the area has at least one business devoted to fried chicken and a handful of others serving fried chicken in one form or another. Here’s a short list of favorites.

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The anchovy and shishito pepper wings from Louders for the Korean Fried Chicken POI.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Louders

Koreatown Korean $
Think of this strip-mall spot as an all-in-one Korean restaurant where you’ll find the greatest hits from the entirety of Koreatown on one menu. In the mood for Cajun seafood? What about pasta or ramen? Soup, tacos and kimchi pancakes? Yes. And if there were an actual award for wildest, most innovative fried chicken flavors, Louders would be the frontrunner. Some wings are coated in honey nut butter. Others feature a Vietnamese chile butter glaze. But my favorites of the more than a dozen wing options have to be the garlic cheese and the shishito peppers with baby anchovies. The first is garlic cheese bread in chicken wing form, with melted cheese and garlic sauce covering the entire surface of the wings. The latter is coated in a light, sticky soy glaze with chopped shishito peppers and dozens of baby anchovies for pops of salt and a wallop of umami. The chicken underneath the various sauces is first-rate, with a crisp, craggy coating that remains crunchy under your topping of choice.
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The boneless cheesling from BBQ Chicken for the Korean Fried Chicken POI.
(Jenn Harris /L os Angeles Times)

bb.Q Chicken

Downtown L.A. Korean $
I’ve probably ordered takeout chicken wings from bb.Q chicken more than any other chain. Its wings are consistently excellent, capable of surviving a short car ride, and the locations are abundant. Many chains offer a variety of wings coated in cheese powder or “white snow,” but it’s often more sweet than cheesy. I want my cheese chicken seasoned like cheddar popcorn, with a savory, real cheese flavor I can lick off my fingers. The Cheesling chicken at bb.Q chicken is blanketed in a yellow powder made from both mascarpone cheese and cheddar. It’s cheesy in a way that’s reminiscent of puffed cheeseballs and satisfies on the same snack level. Order your wings boneless for a ratio of chicken to crunchy coating that’s about half and half.
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The Director's Cut from Gol Tong for the Korean Fried Chicken POI.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Gol Tong Chicken

Koreatown Korean $$
Diners frequent Gol Tong Chicken as much for the experience of interacting with owner Kil Chae Jeong as they do for the actual food. For years, the former karaoke lounge operator, film director and owner of numerous chicken shops in Korea has run a one-man-band operation out of a small strip mall in Koreatown. The Director’s Cut could be seen as the epitome of his life’s work as a director and restaurateur, with an impressive-bordering-on-chaotic plate of chicken that weighs about 10 pounds. Boneless chicken thigh pieces are piled into a mountain of three flavors with soy garlic, chili chicken and classic fried. The irregular pieces are extra rich and crispy with a light golden coating that never feels heavy. Scattered over the chicken are chunks of pineapple, blueberries, raspberries, sliced tomato, avocado, red bell pepper, red onion and jalape?o. It shouldn’t work, but it does. The chile chicken sits under a thick sweet glaze that never quite penetrates the armor of fried coating. The soy garlic is wetter and more savory, with enough sauce to repurpose for the rest of the chicken. Alternating bites of chicken with fruit starts to make sense at about bite three. By bite five you can’t think of eating fried chicken any other way.
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The original half fried chicken from Witch's Chicken for the Korean Fried Chicken POI.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Witch's Chicken

Harvard Heights Korean $
Some of the best food in Koreatown can be found in the corner of a market or in an underground food court below a mall. So I’ve never thought to question Witch’s Chicken’s location in the Galleria Market on West Olympic, or the fact that it’s named for a broomstick-flying character in a pointy hat with no apparent relation to the theme of fried poultry. It’s one of the numerous fried chicken restaurants offering whole birds in addition to wings. This is where Witch’s really shines, with a whole chopped fried bird sheathed in a crunchy coating with scattered cloves of fried garlic. The chicken is juicy enough to actually drip when you take a bite. It’s good on its own but made infinitely better with the addition of the shop’s pink chile sauce. It immediately hits you with a fresh chile flavor, a smack of garlic and toasted sesame seeds.
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The butter soy wings from Papa's Chicken for the Korean Fried Chicken POI.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Papa's Chicken

Koreatown Korean $
With all the fried chicken restaurants in Koreatown, you may have missed Papa’s Chicken. The tiny storefront doesn’t open until noon and the parking lot situation in the strip mall is anxiety-inducing at the highest level. I first learned of this place through Mike Pak, who runs the Koreatown Instagram account and has become an unofficial spokesperson for the neighborhood. If he’s recommending something, it’s more than likely good. Papa’s features a short menu of rice-flour-coated chicken wings. You can get them plain, spicy or doused in soy sauce, soy and honey or soy and butter. The soy butter is the current favorite, with mostly flats varnished in a soy sauce and butter fa?ade as thin and brittle as a sheet of glass. There’s a satisfying crack with each bite and an umami-intensive richness from the butter in the glaze.
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Galbi soy garlic bone-in chicken wings and the K-Tenders with the OMG signature dry rub on them from Chimmelier.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Chimmelier

Westside Korean $
Chimmelier takes the prize for best soy garlic wings. It’s a flavor you’ll find on most Korean chicken menus, with the particular combination of soy and garlic being as prevalent as salt and vinegar in your market chip aisle. All of the wings at Chimmelier are prized for a rugged exterior with a supernal crunch. The breading technique results in intricate, numerous nooks and crannies. But the real strength of the soy garlic wings comes from the balance of the sauce. It’s a thin glaze that’s salty, garlicky and just a tad sweet. This is also one of the few places making reliable tenders. The OMFG spicy dry rubbed tenders are like Nashville hot tenders but via Seoul. They’re blanketed in a spice mix that tastes like it incorporates the chile power of both cayenne pepper and gochugaru.
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The Korean BBQ wings from Rice Chicken for the Korean Fried Chicken POI.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Rice Chicken

Koreatown Korean $
Rice Chicken is not a restaurant serving Hainan chicken and rice, though you can order kimchi rice or plain steamed rice as a side if you wish. Rice Chicken specializes in fried chicken in a rice flour batter. The most popular flavor, and the one your server will push above all others, is the one called Korean BBQ. “You know, like Korean barbecue marinade,” is how it was advertised. The wings are heavily coated in a sticky glaze that pools underneath the chicken. It’s just shy of being too sweet and hot with black pepper. What saves the chicken from turning into a gloppy mess under the sauce is the light rice flour batter. There are countless nuggets of batter that stick to the corners and pockets of skin, creating extra-crunchy bites. The reference to a Korean barbecue marinade never quite clicks, but it doesn’t matter. A sign on the back wall reads, “We proudly use gluten-free rice flour to make our chicken healthier and crunchier.” I’m not sure the FDA would necessarily agree with the first part of that statement, but if it makes you feel better after finishing a dozen wings, so be it.
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