Though Harold’s Chicken Shack epitomizes Chicago fried chicken, a small fast-food Korean restaurant in Lakeview has wings that are making Chicagoans question their allegiances. Featured in a variety of magazines and shows including Rachael Ray, Serious Eats and Time Out Chicago, Crisp offers fast service, a casual atmosphere and a variety of menu items showcasing traditional Korean food with American twists.
The restaurant itself is tiny and casual with light green walls, covered in chalkboards listing midweek specials and a food display case complete with plastic versions of the restaurant’s dishes. For seating, Crisp provides three communal picnic tables and a short counter with tall stools, all of which fill up fast during meal times. The restaurant is food-court style, letting customers order at the register before fetching their food and sitting down.
The most popular dish at Crisp is, of course, the Korean fried chicken. The portions can be ordered as a half or whole chicken, but wings and “chicken tender style” servings are also available. The real treat though, is the variety of sauces. In addition to a “plain” version for fried chicken purists, the restaurant flavors its cuisine with BBQ, buffalo or soy-based sauces for more adventurous palates. Indecisive customers can even orders two different sauces, which is what the friendly staff recommends for first-time diners.
Another of Crisp’s featured menu items is its Buddha Bowl, an adaptation of traditional Korean bibimbap. The bowls came in three sizes – Baby Buddha, original Bad Boy Buddha, and Big Boy Buddha – featuring four, eight or 12 different types of marinated vegetables topped with a fried egg over white rice. The tables are lined with squeeze bottles of “Buddha sauce,” Crisp’s version of the chili pepper paste served with bibimbap. For an additional $1.50, diners can add marinated chicken, beef or tofu to their bowls. Korean burritos, meat-based bowls and chicken sandwiches round out the rest of its menu.
Ready in about fifteen minutes, the fried chicken arrived hot and drenched in sauce, preceded by its smoky, mouth-watering fragrance. Half of the order came with “Seoul Sassy,” a sweet twist on soy-sauce topped with chopped green scallions; the other half came in “Crisp BBQ,” a Korean-American fusion sprinkled with sesame seeds. The skin was thin, crispy and devoid of excessive oil, while the chicken inside was juicy and well-seasoned. Both sauces added a bold punch of flavor, and the spicy kick of the BBQ filled out the sugary glaze of the Seoul sauce.
The Original Bad Boy Buddha Bowl featured a generous portion of rice lined with neatly separated mounds of marinated vegetables, including corn, cucumber, pickled radish, sweet bean sprouts and shredded carrots. The variety added a diverse mix of sweet with salty, sour with creamy and crunchy with soft. The thin wedges of cucumber were especially refreshing, with a bite of vinegar to balance out its innate sweetness, and the shreds of pickled Korean radish added a salty pop to the rice. Overall, the light, freshness of the bowl complemented the heavier sauces on the fried chicken, but it would no doubt be a satisfying meal for vegetarians on its own.
Crisp is yet another brilliant restaurant that graces the Lakeview/Lincoln Park area. Though it’s a bit far from Hyde Park, the restaurant is easily accessible from the Loop and only about a twenty minute walk from the Lincoln Park Zoo. The informal, BYOB atmosphere is great for big groups, and the diverse menu items accommodate vegetarians and omnivores alike. For a satisfying answer to wing-cravings that won’t incite heart attacks or for filling vegetarian entrees that leap beyond fancy salads, pay a visit to Crisp.
Adress: 2940 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657
Hours of Operation: Mon.-Sun. 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.