First Bite: Crisp

Michael Nagrant / 01.22.08

As the window on this Lakeview storefront says, “The Bird is the Word”. Though this mod storefront serves a wide spectrum of Americanized Korean favorites from Buddha bowls (aka BiBimBop) to Korean burritos (aka ssam) to deep fried fish, it’s the chicken that matters.

The Seoul Sensation burrito filled with mild marinated thin strips of bulgogi and a bland smattering of corn, onion and rice makes you pine for mediocre greasy Taco Burrito King burritos.

The veg in the buddha bowls, mushrooms, spinach, and zucchini have a sweet sour zing that alone would be good as top panchan (side dishes) at a regular Korean BBQ spot. Still the bowl which also includes rice and red pepper paste is missing the comforting runny fried egg and the crispy bits of fried rice you’d find on bibimbop that’s been sizzling in a dolsot or traditional stone bowl.

The fried chicken though is a shot of redemption and makes you almost forget all transgressions. Until now, my hands down favorite fried chicken in the city has been the Kai Thawt at Spoon Thai in Lincoln Square. The Seoul Sassy version at Crisp featuring crispy mahogany colored skin lacquered with a soy glaze and dotted with a smattering of ginger, garlic, and assorted spices knocks the spinach out of Popeye’s, and most definitely gives the Thai version at Spoon a run.

But as I said, it ALMOST makes you forget transgressions. The place has only been opened a few days and owner Doug Funke, a former money manager from Morgan Stanley, was running around like a deep fried chicken with his head cut off. Orders were backed up, items came from the kitchen haphazardly and silverware and napkins were hard to come by. The neon green dining room accented by dark wood trimmed mirrors and deep cherry picnic tables was freezing, and the soda refrigerator kept the Coke and bottled water slightly cool at best.

Despite the opening week jitters, Funke, was gracious, handing out free deep fried potstickers filled with steak and blue cheese with a Teriyaki style dipping sauce and joked that his partner Jae Lee “got fired from his families hot dog stand in Ravenswood so they had to open this chicken joint.” Funke and Lee should take a page from Potbelly and Chipotle, dump everything but the chicken and sides, and keep it simple and focused, and Lee won’t have to worry about getting fired ever again.

Crisp is located at 2940 N. Broadway, 877-693-8653.