Reviews

First Taste: Bap and Chicken in Chandler

The Bap and Chicken menu makes it easy to build your own bibimbap bowl. But don't sleep on an order of chicken drummies or the Buffalo Brie sandwich.
The Bap and Chicken menu makes it easy to build your own bibimbap bowl. But don't sleep on an order of chicken drummies or the Buffalo Brie sandwich. Allison Trebacz
Fried chicken is everywhere these days and the competition is fierce, so savvy purveyors must stay on top of their game in order to stand out. Bap and Chicken, a popular Korean fried chicken eatery out of St. Paul, Minnesota, recently opened in the former Habit Burger Grill on the corner of Ray and 54th Street in west Chandler, offering "Korean + American Flavors to Fill Your Seoul."
click to enlarge At Bap and Chicken, the house fried rice boasts vegetables and huge chunks of fried chicken, all topped with an over-easy egg. - ALLISON TREBACZ
At Bap and Chicken, the house fried rice boasts vegetables and huge chunks of fried chicken, all topped with an over-easy egg.
Allison Trebacz

John Gleason is the founder and owner of Bap and Chicken. He was adopted from Korea and grew up in Minnesota's Twin Cities. He went to school for marketing and management, but always had a deep passion for food and its stories.

"I've been cooking ever since I was a little child," says Gleason. "I would cook eggs to order for my family. So early on, you know, the connection of life experiences and food and beverage always went together.  Whether it's celebrations, birthdays, weddings, friends, get-togethers or just, you know, whatever — even sad occasions, like funerals. Everything centered around food and beverage." That passion for food, coupled with his Korean and American identities, all came together at Bap and Chicken. Gleason opened the Chandler location in early November.

click to enlarge The interior of Bap and Chicken is bright and clean. Orders are placed at the counter, leaving plenty of room for Monday night karaoke. - ALLISON TREBACZ
The interior of Bap and Chicken is bright and clean. Orders are placed at the counter, leaving plenty of room for Monday night karaoke.
Allison Trebacz

"I really wanted to provide a great place for employees in the team to work," says Gleason. "But then the second part provides a great place for guests to come and enjoy those life experiences." This is only the second Bap and Chicken location, and while the landscape of Chandler might differ from that of St. Paul, the concept has so far been well received.

The menu is pretty straightforward, and the experience is best described as fast-casual. Orders are placed at the counter and then brought to the table or bagged up for to-go orders as soon as the food is ready. The menu is generally broken down into bibimbap bowls, stir-fried rice, sandwiches, snacks, and the flagship Korean fried chicken.

The chicken is twice-fried tempura-battered chicken that is perfection right out of the fryer. Whether you opt for a set of drumsticks ($12) or get your bird on a bibimbap bowl ($12) or mixed into the house fried rice ($13), you should taste it immediately, even when it's a little too hot. Rest assured, your takeout order will still be great by the time you get it home, but the post-fry experience is sublime. The bird is crunchy on the outside and moist in the middle, with a nicely seasoned batter that layers just a little extra heat.


click to enlarge The Bap and Chicken Bowl is a bibimbap bowl with Korean fried chicken, housemade kimchi, radish, bok choy and a poached egg, served with a side of gochujang. - ALLISON TREBACZ
The Bap and Chicken Bowl is a bibimbap bowl with Korean fried chicken, housemade kimchi, radish, bok choy and a poached egg, served with a side of gochujang.
Allison Trebacz

Bibimbap bowls are the scratch kitchen's other mainstay. The name combines the Korean words bibim, which refers to the mixed ingredients, and bap, which means rice. At Bap and Chicken, you can either make your own bowl or choose from bowls built around a selected protein (vegan and pescatarian options are also available).

Building your own bowl ($12) has four steps. First is a choice of base (white rice, greens, or quinoa). Next is the protein selection, which includes a variety of options, including jackfruit, salmon, fried tofu, and, of course, Korean fried chicken. After that, you choose your vegetables and finish with a sauce.

There are nine sauce options, including sesame soy, kimchi crèma, and "Dragon" (if your quest for heat is not easily satisfied). But Gleason always recommends the gochujang; often called "Korean ketchup," it's a fermented chili paste that's alternately sweet and a little bit spicy. At Bap and Chicken, all sauces are made from scratch, and some are available to buy by the jar. The gochujang is the most popular (and takes air-fried vegetables to another level).

If you prefer your carbs in the form of a bun instead of rice, there are several sandwiches here that should satisfy. First, of course, is an O.G Chicken sandwich ($11), followed by a Kimchi Double Cheese Burger ($12) and a Buffalo Brie sandwich ($12), which includes the flagship fried chicken. As the name implies, it's also topped with the house buffalo sauce and an indulgent chunk of Brie that's blowtorched until it's melting down the sides of the sandwich.

After all that, if your meal feels like it's missing a little something, for an extra $25, Bap and Chicken will add gold leaf to any item of your choosing. That's Gangnam Style, baby.
click to enlarge The Bap and Chicken menu makes it easy to build your own bibimbap bowl. But don't sleep on an order of chicken drummies or the Buffalo Brie sandwich. - ALLISON TREBACZ
The Bap and Chicken menu makes it easy to build your own bibimbap bowl. But don't sleep on an order of chicken drummies or the Buffalo Brie sandwich.
Allison Trebacz
Monday is karaoke night at Bap and Chicken (starting at 5 p.m.), and on Tuesdays, kids eat free (two kids per adult). Thursday nights are reserved for Korean corn dogs, or "k-DOGGs."

Korean corn dogs are unlike American county fair corn dogs. In fact, a Korean corn dog can be whatever it wants to be, from being stuffed with rice cakes, cheese, or kimchi, to being finished with different seasonings and sauces — the combinations are endless. Currently, Bap and Chicken's weekly corn dog is a hot beef sausage and mozzarella bomb bathed in a corn batter and deep-fried. Orders open at 4 p.m. on Thursdays only.

"I'm Korean and American, so I have a very unique background, and, you know, everyone has their own stories," says Gleason. "Food and drink are more delicious when we combine all these stories and backgrounds through sharing [and] conversation. That's really what makes life great, and that's the goal of [Bap and Chicken]: to brighten people's days and make their lives — whether of our employees or our neighbors — more enjoyable and fun."

As for the future, Gleason doesn't have any immediate expansion plans, but he does expect that Bap and Chicken will have its liquor license soon, after which the restaurant will start serving beer and wine.

Bap and Chicken
960 North 54th Street, Chandler
Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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