October 8, 2021 | OPINION | By Hank Bedingfield | Photo by Claire Bogart
Seeped in the runoff of post-capitalist despair and the empty-handed promise of the American Dream lies Angry Chicken, a recently opened restaurant serving Korean fried chicken in a shared property with Juicy 88 Hotdog — serving those who need fruit smoothies and Korean street food under one roof.
Korean fried chicken is differentiated from the rest of the fried chicken world by its thin, film-like crust, smaller size, and hand-brushed saucing. This Korean chicken, however, fell more to the ranks of the American KFC, and was just as disappointing.
For days leading up to my visit I was bombarded with propaganda in the local Facebook group “COS Foodies” touting the wonders of Angry Chicken. The group, typified by restaurants like Texas Roadhouse being linked to Shakespearean bastardizations like “mouthgasm,” let me down once again and I’ve since sworn to disregard the suggestions of that Arby’s-eating, Applebee’s-adoring crowd — though, admittedly, we share some common loves.
Arrival at Angry Chicken is accompanied by the gut feeling that you’re making a huge mistake. It’s sandwiched between a massage parlor that encourages imaginings of a nefarious side-hustle, and a dingy 7/11.
Walking in and realizing that most of the restaurant’s business is take-out hit me with the second regrettable realization that I was a fool and I had made a mistake. The prospect of a dine-in customer (me) visibly shook the staff, a motley crew one quack away from being tossed in a coop themselves, resigned to cluck in circles as a simple penance.
After some bumbling by the staff, I was disgruntledly shuffled to a booth with less than ample cushioning and laid my hands on a sticky table that would soon hold soap-spotted plates and unclean silverware.
In a bizarre and uncomfortable exchange, drink orders were taken from one waiter and food orders by another. I later heard them bickering in an exchange that was far too loud and socially undistanced, leaving me feeling like the last chicken wing between two oversized men.
I want every restaurant to succeed, but the obvious pains of a newly-opened restaurant in a time when staffing and training are issues one and two for restaurant owners made for an uncomfortable first impression.
Next, our waiter, who may have won the gig over a game of rock-paper-scissors, brought out two small dishes filled with unidentifiable food items, defined only by their pungent vinegar scent, since the server slapped them down and scurried off without explanation. I tried one bite of the mysterious offering and regretted it instantly as I felt like a middle-aged suburban mom after a fad-driven shot of apple cider vinegar — although my experience wasn’t quite as voluntary.
The menu is filled with various iterations of fried chicken, bone in or out, and sold by the half chicken or the whole chicken. From there, customers can choose a particular sauce, which would be hand-brushed on in an ideal world, and a side sauce for an extra charge. The back of the menu is covered in corn dogs and fried goods of all kinds with accompanying pictures.
Don’t try to order a street food offering with your chicken, or a smoothie if you’ve got freakish taste, or the waiter will sternly suggest you walk up to the takeout counter, in the same building, and place the order separately, yourself.
A whole chicken, just under $25, half covered amply in sweet and sour sauce and half bare, per my order, isn’t as bad as the ambiance and service would suggest. The sauced half, consisting of a drumstick, wing, breast and thigh, delivers a tangy heat that gets halfway to richness but could use more flavor. The unsauced chicken of the same cuts, which I dipped in honey garlic sauce and “angry sauce,” won out with juicy meat and thin, crunchy skin.
The sauces contained in laughable containers, better suited for mice than men, fell short at nearly every mark. The honey garlic promised what it advertised flavor-wise, though at a viscosity so minimal and watery that it could not dream to match the hefty demands of fried chicken.
The angry sauce, while decently thick and molasses-like, failed when it came to flavor. I’d read reviews that claimed this sauce brought heat. I wanted my sinuses cleared and a sweaty forehead that only good spice can bring.
Instead, I got the same flavor you’d find in a grocery-aisle hot and sour sauce, and redoubled distrust in Angry Chicken’s army of Facebook advocates. The sauces, in a measly one-ounce quantity, go for a dollar. Next time I’ll be saving my pennies for parking change.
The whole meal is a greasy affair, as I believe any family-style fried chicken feast should devolve into, but this experience left me feeling odd and unsatisfied. I’d been robbed of a finger-licking experience and those who know, know those don’t come around as often as we’d hope.
The uncanny experience of Angry Chicken leaves a scratch unitched and a day of doubt and questioning. Without the guaranteed satisfaction of fried chicken, America’s most storied comfort food, is there any reliable fix?
The all-American strip mall failed me once again and what should have been an afternoon of sweet thoughts and full-bellied serenity became a redoubled bout with existential dread. Visit Angry Chicken on anybody’s recommendation but mine.