One shot. Most dishes I encounter during my food explorations get one chance to make an impression before they're captured in my notebook and churned into words. Dallas is filled with interesting restaurants and has too many menus with too many dishes for me to give mediocre plates a second chance.
Most often when I'm writing a review, I'll try a dish a second time for one of two reasons. The first is that a dish is exceptionally good, and I want to be sure this culinary masterpiece wasn't just a one-time fluke. The second reason is the dish is so bad, I hope — deeply and sincerely — that it was a fluke. Maybe a cook called in sick that morning and an ingredient wasn't prepped properly, or maybe somebody's dog died and they're too weepy to cook. Either way, I want to be sure the dish is truly a bomb before I unleash a string of expletives to describe it.
Twofers are exceedingly rare (I probably encounter a handful a year while reviewing Dallas' restaurants), but my white whale is a dish that I order three times or more — dishes I consume for no other reason than a ravenous craving. The dishes that compel me beyond reason aren't always exemplary in every way, but they speak to me in a way that feels pure and honest. The delicious dishes that draw me again and again usually say as much about my own personal weakness as their makers' culinary achievement, but they're still worth noting.
Multiple locations, 2023 Greenville Ave., No. 130, 469-941-4297, bbbop.com, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, $$
Fried chicken $13
Kimchi fries $7
Kimchi bop $9.95
It should also be noted that most of them emerge from a bath in the deep fryer.
bbbop's fried chicken is one of those fabled dishes. The fast-casual restaurant, now with two locations (a third is on the way), offers a wide range of Korean-inspired dishes, but the chicken was the one that sneaked up from the depths to consume me. bbbop offers rice bowls loosely based on bibimbop and plates you'll typically see at Korean barbecue restaurants, such as short rib kalbi. But the dish I ordered every time I walked through the door was the fried chicken. I had a problem.
The menu at bbbop lists two fried chicken dishes. Wings are available in a number of different sauces from ginger and soy to the mouth-numbing Seoul fire. They're coated in a paper-thin layer of crisp skin, similar to the Korean fried chicken that was once available at the now-defunct Bonchon, and they're good if you've picked a sauce that speaks to you.
The "Not Your Mama's Fried Chicken" is a completely different animal. Picture the heavy, craggy breading you find on typical Southern fried chicken. Now picture a lighter, less greasy version with less heft and guilt. Now turn the crunch knob to 11 and smother the whole mess in a sweet, sticky chili sauce. The sweet and salty notes are balanced by small dishes of sides called banchan. During my visit, pickled daikon and kimchi were offered, but the banchan change with the seasons. The combination harpoons every other dish on the menu.
Co-owner Sandy Bussey guards the recipe as though she were a Kentucky colonel. She mentions a wet batter and a brine, but clams up when hit with more questions. The only way you'll get to try this chicken is if it comes out of one of the bbbop fryers.
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Good news for Dallasites: You'll have more opportunities to sticky your fingers with Bussey's fried bird. Joined by husband Greg and brother Steven Shin, Bussey plans to continue expanding bbbop. While an original location in Carrollton was closed and turned into a commissary, the two on Greenville Avenue do brisk business. Early this fall, a third location will open in Oak Cliff near the corner of Davis and Tyler streets, and at 3,500 square feet, it will be the biggest bbbop yet.
Of course, other food is available at each of these restaurants, if you can keep your chicken demons in check. Rice bowls are offered via a setup that resembles Chipotle's build-your-own-burrito system. Vegetables, tofu and other embellishments staged in a case at the front counter go into a bowl that's sent back to the kitchen to be prepared. The results often lean toward sweet, but are satisfying — especially when you break open the yolk of the fried egg that accompanies most bowls and infuse everything with that golden goo.
If you have friends in tow (or like beers that come in Super Big Gulp sizes), pick up a bottle of Hite beer and a few glasses. The ice-cold suds are the perfect foil to salty, fatty snacks such as mandu (potstickers), egg rolls filled with potatoes like samosas and kimchi fries that will take up a lot of space that could otherwise be reserved for fried chicken (go with the half order). The light blond freezer-fries would be better if they were cut onsite, or at least fried until they had some real color, but barbecued pork, spicy mayo and kimchi go a long way as potato ambassadors — especially when beer is available in half-gallons. A hoppy Coedo Kyara is among other beers on draft that are particularly good with the spicy, fatty food on the menu.
And by spicy, fatty food, I mean chicken. I'm comforted that another location will open this year, and I'll have another reason to visit bbbop again. Bussey says the next location will offer a massive patio and televisions for those who want to nibble on banchan and settle in to drink beer. She says it will have an expanded menu, too, but I wonder if I'll even notice. An order of fried chicken contains half a bird cleaved into five pieces, which is more than enough to make the rest of the menu look like steamed broccoli.