One of the more exciting food trends we’ve seen over the past several years is the emergence of Korean food and in particular, Korean fried chicken. This delicious, double-fried poultry was brought to the area first by Soo Cafe out in Raleigh. And over time, Korean fried chicken has slowly been added to many menus of restaurants that serve Korean food. But I admit that I was excited to see what Chicken Bee could do since it specialized in Korean fried chicken. So it was time to head off to Durham’s 9th Street to see what Chicken Bee is all about!
While Chicken Bee is conveniently located on 9th Street, it sits at the very northern end of the street in the newer section past Hillsborough and Markham Avenue. Given the newness of the building, Chicken Bee is pretty light and bright inside with a basic but modern cafe decor. Primarily smaller 2-tops and 4-tops throughout the dining room. In the back sits a small bar with a couple of TVs for entertainment. The usual crowd here is mostly Duke students looking to get their chicken on or take-out orders for workers heading home. Chicken Bee has a classic Korean fried chicken menu similar to Bonchon (a chain) offering up KFC but also a handful of Korean dishes and even some Japanese ramen. Everything’s pretty much $7 to $15 on the menu so it’s affordable eats here. Along with the food, Chicken Bee offers a handful of beers-wine along with some Korean soft drinks.
For appetizers, I definitely recommend the mandu (Korean dumplings) glazed with some soy-garlic sauce. While they are vegetarian, the mandu here are perfectly fried (similar to gyoza) and wonderfully delicious. With 8 to an order, you should definitely be sharing these with friends! The Korean food seafood pancake doesn’t fare quite as well, a bit greasy without a ton of taste so I’d probably pass here and save my stomach for more important things. But given that it usually takes at least 30 minutes to get fresh Korean fried chicken, an appetizer or beer helps immensely with your wait.
And more important things at Chicken Bee is of course, their signature Korean fried chicken. Offered as soy-garlic or spicy garlic in 6, 10 or 20 pieces, I’d go the half and half route to taste a bit of both. The Korean fried chicken is served with your choice of two sides, choose from cole slaw, white rice, pickled radish, soda, or kimchi ($3 extra). While you may wait a bit for you fresh KFC, it’s totally worth it! When they drop that plate in front of you, it’s hard not to jump right in but be careful it’s probably just out of the fryer. And Chicken Bee was nice enough to provide these plastic finger covers to neatly eat your KFC, first time I’ve seen them. But once you dive into the chicken, it’s really hard to stop eating! Plump flats and drums lacquered with delicious soy-garlic or spicy garlic sauce are equally wonderful. The wings here are meaty and perfectly cooked, the skin is crispy and pulls off the meat a bit. Really wonderful bar eats but yeah, probably not the healthiest thing you’ll eat this week.
And service? There have been some complaints, the restaurant is still pretty new along with the staff. And I know there has been some stress in getting patrons to understand the KFC cooking/frying process which just takes some time. But if you’re patient, dinner here is well worth the wait for this chicken deliciousness. I’m in Durham often for dinner and other than Hutchins Garage and M Pocha, Chicken Bee is a craving that I get whenever I visit. So despite its faults around service, you’re going to get great Korean fried chicken at a very reasonable price here at Chicken Bee. And that’s plenty good enough for me when I’m choosing a place to eat in the Bull City.
810 9th Street #129
Durham, NC 27705