(Now open at its new location: 2815 Brentwood Road, Raleigh!)
Sometimes people use the phrase “one-trick pony” to describe a person or situation in a less than positive fashion. But in my eyes, if you do that one trick REALLY well, who cares? Well I recently visited Soo Cafe out on Hillsborough Street for one thing, Korean fried chicken. I’ve been chasing down Korean fried chicken for AGES, it’s been my foodie white whale. I visit NYC pretty frequently and would always ask for it but for some reason, never made it over. So imagine my excitement when I’m reading some online reviews and realize that Korean fried chicken has hit the Triangle.
Soo Cafe sits in a little plaza next to Sadlack’s Heroes and Buddha Belly, thankfully they’ve got a small parking lot out front. But it is an odd lot with two small entrances at either end and a narrow strip of spaces, navigate it carefully. Inside the place is a bit bare-bones: some Asian wall-hangings, TV with K-pop videos and shows rolling and a back counter for ordering. I put my order in for a half-chicken with garlic-soy sauce and wait in quiet desperation up front. They cook it all to order here so it takes some time, 15 plus minutes but I’ve been waiting years for this treat so no big deal. I get my styrofoam container, hop in the car and blast off for home. The smell is intoxicating. Even with a cold I can smell savory garlic aromas penetrating the car and upholstery but if your car is going to stink of something, Korean fried chicken ain’t a bad way to go.
I get home and unpack my bag. They’ve got some foil lining the Styrofoam and inside I spy 8 neat pieces of crispety, crunchety chicken, glistening with sauce. The surface is all bubbly even though from what I understand, Korean fried chicken doesn’t use much coating. I grab a drummette and it’s sticky with sauce, take a bite and… bam! That crazy umami feeling when all your eating senses go on high alert. This chicken has got some crunch, sticky sweet sauce, pungent garlic layered on top of tender chicken. Whoa! Take another bite and another, that piece is gone! As I work my way through half the box, my opinion doesn’t change, this chicken is awesome! Even with my taste at 60% I can tell that Soo Cafe dishes out some mean-ass fried chicken.
I stop my hungry little brain after eating half of the container and show some restraint, the rest is for tomorrow. But I can tell you that if this Korean fried chicken was ALL Soo Cafe did, they’d be a winner in my book. But they also dish out sushi, bulkogi, katsu and more. And I’m pretty sure even if it’s all good, I’m going to have a hard time getting past the chicken on the menu. No website, no Facebook I really thought about keeping this one to myself and not writing about them, but… Two words: Try it.