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Mega-Popular Korean Chicken Chain Opens First U.S. Location in Koreatown

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At Hong Chun Cheon, it’s all about dakgalbi, a Korean-style spicy stir-fried chicken

A cast iron pan filled with chicken and cheese on a round table Hong Chun Cheon [Official Photo]

A spicy chicken restaurant with hundreds of locations in South Korea has expanded to the U.S. for the first time.

Since Monday in K-Town, Hong Chun Cheon has been serving its specialty: dakgalbi, a Korean-style spicy stir-fried chicken. Hong Chun Cheon’s version comes in a variety of heat levels and with an optional — but very popular — sash of molten mozzarella cheese. The location is the 2 West 32nd Street on the 2nd Floor, in the former K-Town BBQ space.

Group KFF, the parent company of that previous tenant, decided it was time to try something new, says Hong Chun Cheon general manager KR Kim. Also the force behind Korean barbecue spot Jongro BBQ, Group KFF is busy plotting an ambitious Midtown food hall of Korean spots, to be called K-Food Gallery.

“There’s too much barbecue. You want a variety of dishes from Korea,” says Kim — and spicy food is hot globally among a younger generation, he argues.

Hong Chun Cheon’s dakgalbi ($20) feeds about two customers per order, with spiciness levels ranging from what Kim qualifies as a five to a ten out of ten. Every order ends with a finale of cheese fried rice: When customers have polished off their chicken, servers add sesame oil, dried seaweed, rice, and more cheese to to the oversized, cast iron pans, tossing and frying over induction tables.

Aside from chicken, seafood spinoff options are available, and additional toppings, like dumplings, noodles, and rice cakes, can be added, too. The whole opening menu is below, including beer and soju to drink.

Named for Chuncheon, dakgalbi’s city of origin (the word “hong” just means spicy), Hong Chun Cheon was founded in the ’60s in Chuncheon, dakgalbi’s city of origin (the word hong means spicy), and is well-known in Korea, though less so beyond, with just one new franchise location in Tokyo.

“We’ve known this brand a long time, and [it’s] the most popular,” says Kim, who asked the brand to expand to the U.S. even though they had no exiting plans to do so. Later, the group sent a chef to train at the restaurants in Korea, who is now recreating Hong Chun Cheon’s dishes with local ingredients.

In New York, Korean chains like fried chicken spot Pelicana have arrived with a splash: Its first local outpost opened in K-Town last year, though at least one other location, in Fort Green, has already closed. But for many, their arrival is cause for concern: In K-Town, where prime real estate has attracted international attention and pushed commercial rents higher, some worry that chain restaurants could swallow the area whole, pushing out mom-and-pop-shops.

Hong Chun Cheon is open for lunch Monday to Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with dinner seven days a week from 5 p.m. to midnight, with no reservations.

Hong Chun Cheon

2 West 32nd Street, 2nd Floor, New York, New York

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