Last Friday I was invited out to bb.q Chicken in Niles to try out some of their famous Korean Fried chicken. bb.q has actually been on my list of foods to try ever since K-Coop moved into the neighborhood and we fell in love with it, so when bb.q reached out and wanted me to come in for a tasting, I jumped at the chance.
They were even gracious enough to let me bring my wife and brother in-law along to try out the menu. Which is great, because I’m usually a pretty picky eater, so having other people out there to throw out their opinions helps a lot.
Located in the same strip mall that our friends’ parents used to run a Filipino restaurant in (now called Kawayan), bb.q is the definition of “don’t judge a book by its cover”. The strip mall it’s located in at 9106 W. Golf Road may have a less than stellar façade, but the interior of the restaurant looks amazing… and the food was just as good.
The restaurant itself opens up to a good size dining room with tables lining the walls towards the back with a bar located to the right as you walk in the door. Apparently Koreans love to eat their fried chicken with a beer, so you’ll definitely find some great Korean beers, as well as American beers, here.
As we walked in the doors we were greeted by the owner/manager Tommy, who was absolutely incredible. He’s extremely knowledgeable on all of the food items and was quick to answer all of the questions we had.
I had no idea that bb.q Chicken is the largest dining company in Korea and has been serving up incredible fried chicken there for almost 30 years. The bb.q chicken brand was brought over to the United States about 10 years ago and began expanding in to the Chicagoland area about 2 years ago. There are currently around 7 locations in the Chicagoland area, with a few more set to open soon. Tommy and his team are working on the grand opening for the Schaumburg location which opens up on September 12th. So if you’re further west than Niles, be sure to keep an eye out for that new location opening soon!
But enough about the restaurant itself, lets talk about the food!
Korean Fried Chicken – bb.q Chicken
bb.q actually doesn’t stand for bar-b-que, it actually stands for “Best of the Best Quality” Chicken, which I did not know. Around here you just assume that anything called bbq is somehow related to bar-b-que. And in fact, Tommy informed us that the chicken itself is actually fried in olive oil, as opposed to places that use other oils for frying. This makes the chicken a little healthier and gives it a unique flavor… but most of that unique flavor comes from the Korean seasoning and spices that are used on the chicken itself as well as in the sauces.
Before we even walked in the door, I knew that I wanted to try the Galbi (Korean BBQ) flavored wings, but also knew that we had to try a few different sauces in order to get the full experience.
We ended up trying four different sauces, three of which we chose and one that Tommy recommended we try. I think we got a good variety of sweet, spicy, and unique sauce options to form a good opinion of the food here.
Under most circumstances I try to avoid garlic. It’s not because I don’t like garlic, it’s absolutely delicious, but over the years I’ve found that too much garlic causes me to have some IBS flare-ups, so I try to avoid it as much as possible. But in the case of bb.q and their Honey Garlic wings, I had to make an exception.
I’m sure most Korean fried chicken sauces (and chicken wing sauces in general) have garlic in them, but these honey garlic wings truly live up to their name.
These super crispy wings are slathered in a soy honey sauce that is infused with noticeable chunks of garlic. I’m willing to be that you can smell these wings from at least 4 tables over if you’re in the restaurant.
At first the garlic smell seemed a little overpowering, but with that first bite I was instantly sold. These wings were well worth any issues I may experience later due to my faulty stomach, and my brother in-law agreed with me.
Unfortunately for my wife, our daughter’s school called right as we were getting ready to eat and said she wasn’t feeling well and someone needed to come pick her up… so my wife had to wait until I got home with the leftovers in order to try them. But she agreed that the Honey Garlic wings were incredible.
The next wings we tried were the Galbi sauce. This sauce is a light sweet and savory sauce mixed with green onions and garnished with sesame seeds.
This one was my favorite of the bunch.
The sauce was just the right amount of sweet and savory. Less sweet than the honey garlic without the garlic taste, but packed with flavor of its own. I’m a huge fan of Korean BBQ, especially Korean BBQ short ribs, so these wings were right up my alley…. and they definitely don’t skimp on the sauce per wing. I really wish I was better at using chopsticks since that seemed to be the proper method for eating these… I went through way too many napkins before Tommy came over and offered us gloves!
The third sauce we tried was the Gang-Jeong. This sauce is a soy derived sauce with hints of cinnamon, garnised with chilis. It was listed as “one pepper” on the hotness scale on the menu (hottest going up to three peppers I believe), so we figured it would have a little heat, but not a ton…
I’m not sure if my heat scale is just totally off or if Koreans handle heat differently, but these were definitely hotter than both me and my brother in-law were expecting.
They were packed with flavor, but just a touch too much heat for me, so I had to bow out from trying anymore of these. But if you’re into spicy foods this sauce may be right up your alley.
This last sauce that we tried was the wild card sauce that Tommy ordered for us… and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that we were all skeptical of this flavor when we saw it on the menu.
The cheesling sauce is basically a chicken wing with powdered mixed cheese sprinkled on it… weird right? But let me tell you, this one surprised us.
It still didn’t edge out the Galbi or the Honey Garlic flavors, but I was really impressed by how good this one was. And after devouring 3-4 of them, my brother in-law was definitely sold on the cheesling. I’m pretty sure he dubbed it his favorite at the end of the tasting.
It’s definitely a unique taste, and maybe even a little bit of an acquired taste, but it doesn’t take long to realize why people love this one.
If you’re looking for something different, something that’s unique to bb.q, then I would highly suggest ordering up the Cheesling flavor wings.
We did not try any of the other food offerings at bb.q chicken, but if you’re looking for something other than fried chicken they also offer Ddeok-Bokki and Kimchi Fried Rice.
How Does bb.q Chicken Compare to K-Coop?
The truth is, they are both delicious in their own ways… based on the sauce flavors that I’ve tried.
I probably prefer the Soy Honey sauce at K-Coop over the Honey Garlic sauce at bb.q Chicken, but that’s only because I try to avoid garlic… in terms of taste though, if you are a fan of garlic, you’re going to love the Honey Garlic sauce. The Cheesling sauce/rub from bb.q chicken doesn’t even have a comparison sauce at K-Coop, so that’s a win right there.
The spicy sauces that we tried at both K-Coop and bb.q Chicken seemed to be a bit spicier at bb.q, so take that as you will.
I really feel like bb.q Chicken is Korean Fried Chicken that use the exact same sauces that they use in Korea (which I know it is, because Tommy told us so), whereas I feel like K-Coop is more Korean-inspired. The sauces definitely use spices and flavors typically found in Korean dishes, but it’s got a more Americanized feel to it… I mean, you can order a cheeseburger at K-Coop and you can’t do that at bb.q Chicken.
So I think you’ve got to try out both places and form your own opinion on them. They both have their pros and cons, but the food at both places is absolutely delicious and I’m all for this new Korean Fried Chicken trend that’s been moving in to the Chicagoland area.