Crack the box open and a glow falls over your face like John Travolta opening the briefcase in Pulp Fiction.
Inside that box was a layer of boneless chicken in a red glaze the colour of burning coals: the Haek Buldak.
In my quest to find the finest fried chicken in the Tri-Cities, I was on my way back from Chicko Chicken on Austin Avenue across the street from that gigantic new Safeway.
For $41 (including tip) my family picked up three half-orders of chicken (with pickled radish) and a soft drink. Service was fast and friendly. The portions were generous enough to leave us with leftovers. But was it the finest fried chicken in the Tri-Cities?
So far, yes.
- Crunch factor: 8.5
- F. Scott Fitzgerald tender-is-the-night level: 8.0
Their Original has a crunch that sounds like a shifting snowpack. The Yangyeom, with its sweet and soy sauce notes, is the best. The Haek Buldak is more clear-your-sinuses hot and less we-need-to-call-the-fire-department spicy.
The batter to chicken ratio is honest (nothing worse than biting into what you thought was chicken and finding nothing inside but a void of empty space and disappointment).
It’s not going to change everything you thought you knew about fried chicken, but Chicko is hot, crunchy and, as far as we can taste, the best in town.
No. 2: GoGo Chicken
Versus the Volcano: Glen Drive eatery has hottest chicken in town
Eager to see if Chicko could be topped, we headed to Glen Drive in Coquitlam and picked up a sampler of GoGo Chicken’s Korean Fried Chicken.
For $100 (including tip) we grabbed a half-and-half order of Bone-In Original KFC and Bone-In Spicy KFC with Vegetable Spring Rolls and Cabbage Slaw on the side. (We had plenty of leftovers.) We also grabbed a full order of Boneless Volcano KFC. We’ll come back to the Volcano.
The smell in the car was almost pull-over-to-the-side-of-the-road good. But how good was the food?
The Bone-In Original KFC was nice and its spicier brother was probably the best thing on the table.
- Crunch factor: 7.5
- Elvis Presley love-me-tender scale: 7.5
The Cabbage Slaw was excellent, fresh and crisp and flavourful and the perfect antidote to the Volcano.
From the first tangy scent, the takeout container seems unworthy of the Volcano chicken. The Volcano is a spicy blast more properly stored in a metal briefcase that the clerk handcuffs to your wrist upon payment.
I had three bites, sat very still, and exhaled. My breath rolled across the living room like Santa Ana winds sending waves of heat across southern California. I could only watch, hoping my breath wouldn’t singe the curtains, and then eat more chicken.
Fried chicken ranking: Ultimately, GoGo is a worthy challenger but Chicko Chicken remains our Tri-Cities chicken champion . . . at least for now.
No. 3: bb.q Chicken
New chicken place has something for everyone but idiot who neglected to check allergy notice
Sweet and hot and a little cheesy – newly-opened bb.q Chicken in Port Moody has something for almost everyone.
Located at 221 Ioco Road near the IGA, the licensed sit-down restaurant looks like a great spot to have a pint and watch the game. Friendly servers had my order packed up right when they said they would.
The order: Cheesling Chicken (featuring mascarpone and cheddar), Golden Fried Chicken, Secret Sauced Chicken and Hot Spicy Chicken. The bill was $80 (including tip) and we had lots of leftovers.
The portions were generous. The Hot Spicy turned faces so red I thought traffic was going to stop outside our kitchen.
- Crunch factor: 7.5 (the Golden Fried and Secret Sauced crackled, the other two less so)
- Otis Redding try-a-little-Tenderness scale: 8.5
The chicken was well-cooked and seasoned. The flavour combinations were unusual and, speaking as objectively as possible, very good. Maybe even great.
Speaking subjectively, I did not like this chicken. My family disagreed with me but the chicken; well, the chicken really disagreed with me.
Without going into detail or describing the exact timbre of my moaning, I will tell you that, had the chicken and I been married, any court in the land would’ve ruled irreconcilable differences. It was a disagreement worthy of Vidal vs. Buckley or Texas vs. Decency.
I suspect I had an allergic reaction. In my haste to bring my devoted readers all the latest chicken-related info, I didn’t notice the allergy notice. Also, I was hungry.
After the fact (why is it always after the fact?) I noticed the bb.q Chicken website features a warning that their food “may contain” milk, eggs, wheat, soybean, gluten, peanuts and tree nuts. Usually, that “may contain” is like when your boss says the company “may bring back Christmas bonuses.” Usually, but evidently not always.
So, go to bb.q Chicken. Enjoy yourself. It’s for everyone. Just not the idiot who didn’t check the allergy notice.