LYNNWOOD — It may not be as famous as Bonchon — yet — but that just means you won’t have to wait in a long line for Korean fried chicken.
BBQ Chicken started in 1995 and became popular in the U.S. after the South Korean chain opened its flagship restaurant in New York City in 2017. (Bonchon’s origin story is eerily similar.) But before Bonchon hit Seattle, BBQ Chicken was serving up what American’s have nicknamed “the other KFC” in Lynnwood.
If you’re curious about this “KFC,” and don’t have the patience for long lines, go to BBQ Chicken in the H Mart food court for Korean wings.
The franchise’s name may get lost in translation here. BBQ isn’t slang for “barbecue” — it’s an acronym for “best of the best quality.”
The chicken is made fresh, never from frozen, and is fried twice in extra-virgin olive oil to make it crispier and less greasy. Marinated wings and drums are seasoned with spices, sugar and salt before and after it is fried. After frying, the chicken is brushed with a Korean-style sauce.
I invited my friend and former Beacon Publishing coworker Brian Soergel to have lunch there with me on a recent Friday afternoon. Neither of us had been to the H Mart building before. It’s a Snohomish County version of Seattle’s Asian supermarket, Uwajimaya.
A very friendly and knowledgeable Alexander Kim was at the BBQ Chicken counter to take our orders. (It’s only after asking him about Korean fried chicken and sides that I found out he is manager of the restaurant.)
Kim recommended that Brian and I order the two bestsellers: the BBQ secret sauce and the honey garlic chicken platters for $12.99 each. We also ordered a platter of the signature golden olive chicken ($11.99) because it looked the most like country-fried chicken.
Other Korean flavors on the menu include spicy sauce, hot pepper sauce and soy garlic. Not all flavors are available for the whole chickens, which are $23.99 for fried chicken and $24.99 for sauced chicken.
About that patience of yours: You won’t need it for a long line, but you will be waiting for about 15 minutes for your meal. This is because your chicken isn’t sitting under a warmer. The chicken is cooked to order — hand cut, battered and seasoned, fried, seasoned and fried again, then sauced.
The wait is worth it: I’m now a fan of Korean fried chicken. Our platter was made with all white, juicy, tender chicken.
If you order the signature chicken platter, be sure to dip it in the sweet chili sauce provided. It’s like Korean fried chicken for beginners.
Brian liked the honey garlic chicken best, while my favorite was the BBQ secret sauce chicken.
Brian noticed that the BBQ secret sauce has a slight spice to it that builds as you eat — but he said it’s not too spicy, even for him.
“Spicy foods — it doesn’t like me,” he said. “But this is manageable. It’s not flaming hot, need-to-drink-a-quart-of-milk spicy.”
When we dined there not too long ago, each platter was served with a side of coleslaw, potato salad, garlic bread, french fries and pickled Korean radish. But the menu has since been revamped and the coleslaw, garlic bread and french fries are no longer available. If you still want potato salad, you can order it as an extra side for 49 cents.
Now each platter features more “K-Food”: dduk bokki (rice cakes) and a fried cheese ball. The aforementioned pickled radish stayed on the menu because it is often served with Korean fried chicken.
With the new sides, BBQ Chicken also introduced two new flavors of chicken: ma-la hut (very spicy sauce) and sir fried (onion and garlic sauce), which is sprinkled with Dutch crunch bread crumbs to give it extra crunch.
“I have a feeling the new spicy chicken will be a new favorite because it’s very spicy,” Kim said.
He said the owner of the Lynnwood BBQ Chicken franchise is Jae Song, the former president of H Mart.
Kim told me that BBQ Chicken chain stores are popping up all over America — and that there are 4,000 and counting worldwide: “I heard about the other location in LA, and they have one in Vancouver, B.C., and Tukwila, and will open one in Federal Way.”
If you go
BBQ Chicken, inside the H Mart building, is at 3301 184th St. SW, Suite 220, Lynnwood. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. A phone number and Facebook page will be available soon.