[First Impression] Gangnam Chicken

Located just off Main Street on Catalpa.

Located Just off Main Street on Catalpa.

Gangnam Chicken is truly difficult to categorize. On the one hand, you have a menu focused on Korean fried chicken, fried rice, and bibimbap. On the other, you have pasta carbonara, kimchi lasagna, and kimchi fries. The menu is a mindfuck. There’s Korean, Italian, Korean-American, and Korean-Italian. Why? Maria’s Royal Oak inhabited this location previously, so maybe there’s a hope of nabbing a couple folks looking for Italian? Whatever the reason, this probably isn’t the place for pesto.

The main complaint (according to Yelp and Facebook) with Gangnam is speed. Service is slow, but for as slow as it may be, it’s also very friendly. Consider that the owner is also the host and is also the server and is also the chef and also the busguy. Yes, there was only one all encompassing employee, so of course it’s going to be slow. His friendliness and great dining companions made the wait hardly noticeable. It should be noted, however, that we were the only customers during our time, Had the restaurant been half full, I have no idea what would’ve happened to the wait time.

The wait reminded me of another ethnic restaurant just up Main Street (Livernois) from Gangnam – El Guanaco. El Guanaco, a Salvadoran restaurant, serves excellent pupusas, empanadas, and other traditional fare but the wait is always long. They’re making everything by hand, so it’s fine and definitely worth waiting.

The menu needs to be revamped and refocused to chicken & Korean only. Don’t bother with the Italian portion. The decor is bland and kind of fast casual-ish. There’s a karaoke setup, too.

For a first visit, Gangnam Chicken impressed me with food & friendliness. The fact is they’re not going to stay in business doing such limited covers. Their location is less than desirable and that makes word of mouth all the more important. However, the struggle here is timing. As more people stop in to try Korean fried chicken – and everyone should – waiting time becomes longer, people become impatient, and the focus leaves the food and we end up talking about slow service. Slow awful service is one thing, but it’s fairly evident that the folks behind this place are busting ass to make it work.

When there’s a bit of extra time in the day, swing by Gangnam Chicken, eat some fried chicken, & go home happy.

While not specifically on the menu, the chef was excited to make bibimbap, a quintessential Korean dish

While not specifically on the menu, the chef was excited to make bibimbap, a quintessential Korean dish

Soy garlic wings: impressively crunchy with a  juicy interior

Soy garlic wings: impressively crunchy with a juicy interior

A unique experience, kimchi fries are definitely Korean meets American

A unique experience, kimchi fries are definitely Korean meets American

All photos: Joe Hakim – iPhone 5

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