You could say 2016 was the year of fried chicken – crisp, tender and full fried chicken food frenzy, considering the number of fried-chicken focused eateries that have recently opened.
Northern Chicken is one of the newest kids on the fried chicken block. Chef and owners Andrew Cowan and Matt Phillips opened their doors back in November. The pair says they joked around about starting a fried chicken place for six years.
“We both love fried chicken. From KFC memories with grandma to celebrating family birthdays, the fried chicken love runs deep. It’s a good budget meal and many people have a big attraction to it,” says Cowan.
The pair creates nearly everything from scratch and are on the line cooking and tasting their fried creations.
On average, Northern Chicken goes through 100 to 110 Alberta-raised chickens a day. What sets them apart from other places? They cook their birds low and slow. This ensures the meat stays moist and their seasoning blend doesn’t burn. Cook time is about 15 to 20 minutes a batch.
“Both of us wanted to stay traditional. We are big fans of southern food culture and wanted to keep it that way. We didn’t want to change things too much because other places like that already exist,” adds Phillips.
Just off Whyte Avenue, there’s Seoul Fried Chicken. Chef Jake Lee is cooking up chicken in a way inspired by his Korean family heritage. Approaching its one-year anniversary, Seoul focuses on a less meat-to-bone ratio in butchery.
“When it comes to chicken, the standard cut is nine pieces, but we do 20 pieces. This quickens the brining process and helps cover more surface area of the chicken,” says Lee. “It also gives us an edge on faster service with a cook time of about five minutes.”
Lee says fried chicken is his guilty pleasure, and he likes to try it at other restaurants whenever he has the chance.
And his employees also can’t get enough of fried chicken. The staff alone eat 60 birds a month.
“Here we are doing things differently. We are fusion with traditional roots. Fried chicken is huge in Korea and I wanted to create my own version,” says Lee.
Then there’s the old favourites like Coco Fried Chicken. You can order regular fried chicken or Korean by adding its signature sweet and spicy sauce.
“When we opened in 2013, we realized there was not many locally owned fried chicken locations and we wanted to capitalize on that. There’s well over 300 fried chicken locations in Korea, but they all taste a bit different. I used my dad’s recipe and modified to make my version,” says owner Alex Kim.
Kim says he considers Coco’s to be fusion and it’s working just fine for business. He plans to open two more locations in Edmonton this year.
The American chain, Popeye’s, also opened up shop in south Edmonton. You can also get your chicken fix at Have Mercy for some fried chicken and doughnuts, on the late-night menu at North 53 and at the Northern Vietnamese restaurant, Ong, in St. Albert, which is serving up Hanoi-style fried chicken.
This article appears in the May 2017 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.