We’re getting a new Korean fried chicken restaurant and pub – here are details
Mija Chang stood at the entrance of her new restaurant, BB.Q Olive Chicken in Lakewood two weeks ago. Construction dust was everywhere.
“It’s been a lot of work, but there’s still so much more to do,” she said, describing the year-long process to open the Korean fried chicken that is sure to become a must-visit destination in the middle of Lakewood’s Korean dining district. For any Korean food fan – this writer included – Korean fried chicken is the most coveted experience for group eating, as is tabletop Korean barbecue (when we can all gather again and enjoy such a thing). Lakewood is the go-to place in the region for both.
When BB.Q Olive Chicken opens, it’ll bring with it a handsome interior that duplicates the comfortable and stylish restaurants of the farflung Korean fried chicken chain with locations from Los Angeles to New York City to Seoul. BBQ is not short for barbecue. It stands for “best of the best quality.”
BB.Q Olive Chicken derives its name from the olive oil blend used to fry the chicken that’s battered and served in a myriad of Korean flavors – from sweet-and-crunchy to sticky-spicy fried chicken with a heavy chaser of garlic.
All that chicken has one thing in common: Crunchy exterior, juicy interior. That’s because of a specific oil blend. A staff member at the Federal Way location explained they use a blend of around 70 percent olive oil mixed with a 30-percent blend of secondary oils that increase the smoke point for olive oil, which can begin to smoke at a fairly moderate temperature. It’s that olive oil that delivers such a delicious crunch, he said.
The Federal Way BB.Q Olive Chicken just opened a few months ago. Several other BB.Q Olive Chicken locations have opened in Washington in recent months. More are on the way.
The Lakewood location will be the first – and only, so far – in Pierce County.
THE SISTERS BEHIND THE BUSINESS
As Mija Chang ticked off a list of the heavy-duty modifications they’ve made to the space – including installing a new giant grease interceptor and enormous walk-in cooler that will hold kegs for a dozen different beers – her sister and business partner Mi Young Kang was nearby, finishing up a conversation with their contractor.
This is a first restaurant for the sisters, but they own a convenience store in Gig Harbor. They love fried chicken, especially Popeye’s.
When they stumbled on the BB.Q Olive Chicken location in Los Angeles on a vacation, they both wanted to find a way to open their own.
The dining room is still in flux, but it’s easy to see how handsome it will be when completed. The wood-wrapped bar is anchored in place and topped with glossy granite. The tap handles gleamed behind it. Construction dust covered the four-top tables that fill in the family-friendly dining section in the middle of the restaurant.
The restaurant has been a complete gut-and-remodel of the former New World nightclub. There’s still quite a bit of work and permit hoops to jump through, but they’re hoping for a summer opening.
NEXT DOOR TO H-MART
The sisters said they specifically picked the location next door to H-Mart, the Korean grocery store, because of its high-traffic location. One door down is the excellent sushi restaurant Kyoto. Across the parking lot is Palace BBQ, the Korean barbecue restaurant.
That shopping center is right in the middle of the Korean dining district that also is home to Chung Ki Wa, Ho Soon Yi, Cho Dang Tofu, Gangnam BBQ, Cham Garden, Paldo World, BooHan Market, Asian Market and a handful of other must-visit Korean food-based businesses.
The BB.Q Olive Chicken dining room will seat about 70 with the main dining area open for family seating and a bar with a dozen seats for diners older than 21. They’ll have a dozen beers on tap with Hite as a standard offering, plus domestics and imports. They’ll also do soju service.
They intend to open daily for lunch and dinner with weekend nights open late for the bar crowd. It’ll be a very family-friendly destination by day, Chang said.
KOREAN FRIED CHICKEN IN LAKEWOOD
With the recent closures of Song Song and MoMo Hof, there’s been a sudden shortage of Korean fried chicken in Lakewood. Kko Kko Place, two miles south of H-Mart, is the only Korean fried chicken pub I think that is left in a market that has continually shrunk and expanded with Korean fried chicken offerings over the last 10 years (only old timers like me will remember the old Chicky Pub at Paldo World that closed a decade ago).
If you’ve never had Korean fried chicken, think of it as a Korean export-import.
It’s a fast food dish exported from America to Seoul, made over with Korean flavors and spicing, and then imported back to the United States as bar food.
There are Korean fried chicken restaurants from Lakewood to Los Angeles to New York City and plenty around Western Washington.
Cookbook author Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee told me years ago that the Korean fried chicken can be salty or spicy, but it’s always crispy due to the double-fry cooking technique used by many Korean fried chicken operators. “You completely fry it, then dry it out, then use cornstarch instead of flour (in the breading) so you get the crispness.” The second trip into the deep flyer seals that signature crunch, she said.
Of course, there are other ways to get the chicken fried golden brown and crunchy. At BB.Q Olive Chicken, it’s the signature oil blend. The restaurant chain also hand breads all its chicken that’s always fresh, never frozen.
THE MENU AT BB.Q OLIVE CHICKEN
Korean Fried Chicken is a universal dish that goes down perfectly with a frosty mug of Korean beer like Hite.
Chang said the menu is still being determined for the upcoming Lakewood location, but that the sisters have an enormous menu to select from and they’ll also listen to customers to gauge the local favorites.
They’ll learn the recipes and techniques for making the fried chicken and other menu items in an in-person training program on site at their Lakewood restaurant before it opens.
The typical signature dishes at BB.Q Olive Chicken include golden original chicken, which comes with a southern-style breading that’s mildly sweet and exquisitely seasoned.
The hot spicy chicken is served with a defcon-level 11 spicing that is the real deal for heat seekers (I definitely got the meat sweats).
The secret spicy chicken is just as tangy and sticky as the hot spicy chicken recipe, but the spicy fire is subdued and the sweetness notched up a tad.
I dug into all three styles at the newly opened Federal Way location and was impressed by the 10-napkin experience. Tip: The bucket on the table is filled with wet-naps. You’ll need 42 of them.
Freebie offerings came in the form of ramekins filled with sweet, pungent pickled daikon radish and complimentary baskets of popcorn. Dinner was accompanied by a basket filled with a fried appetizer that’s something like Korean fried cheese curds with a chewy, elastic exterior and rich, gooey interior. I dug happily into a basket of thick-cut fries cooked golden brown that went down perfectly with a cold pitcher of Hite.
I can’t wait until we get to eat all of that in Lakewood. Check back here for updates. I’ll keep you posted.
BB.Q OLIVE CHICKEN
Where: 8722 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood
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