Thank U Chicken crushes Atlanta’s Korean fried chicken game

Don’t miss this KFC (that’s Korean, not the Colonel) if you like your bird super crispy
The Thank U Chicken at Thank U Chicken.

Photograph by Ted Golden.

About ten years ago, Korean fried chicken became a bona fide American trend, and Atlanta’s vibrant Korean restaurant community jumped right on board. KFC joints (“Korean fried chicken,” not a certain Kentucky-based fast food chain), once clustered mainly in Duluth, popped up all over Atlanta. But as the hype faded, most of those spots closed, and the question of where to get super crunchy KFC in Atlanta became a little bit of a fruitless hunt. I stopped seeking it out—and stopped craving it.

But on a trip to Seoul a few weeks ago, I found that Korean fried chicken (or is it just fried chicken there?) was still very much a thing. I ate my fair share in a variety of styles, many times accompanied with a tall mug of frosty beer (some restaurants even sold frozen beer) or highly potent soju (a clear Korean liquor). When I got back to Atlanta, I just couldn’t shake that KFC craving, so I visited relative newcomer Thank U Chicken, located in Duluth, with hopes I could reclaim some of that late-night pleasure of tearing through a platter of crispy seasoned bird. I was not disappointed.

What makes Korean fried chicken different from the type we Americans have come to know (think again to that certain Kentucky-based fast food chain) is that it is double fried: first with a dry flour coating to render out the fat of the skin, and then a second time after it is coated in a thin batter. The result is an outer layer that crackles like egg shells. Some KFC places offer thicker batters designed to hold heavier sauces and treatments, but no matter the batter, the result is the same: crackly fried chicken that is also very moist.

Thank U Chicken has several different varieties of fried chicken on the menu, including the eponymous Thank U Chicken (traditional Korean crispy batter), yang nyum fried chicken (fried in a spicy, sweet sauce), soy sauce chicken (exactly what it sounds like), Korean street chicken (fried in a lighter batter), and spicy fried chicken (fried in a spicy sauce with vegetables). The restaurant also has a long list of other chicken-based dishes like dak gom tang (chicken soup with noodles) and favorites such as rice balls, rice bowls, and stir-fried squid. Prices are quite a steal for the amount of food you get, and they have a few options for if you’re feeding a crowd: a whole fried chicken (divvied up into about 12 pieces) costs around $20. Or you can order a platter, which includes fried chicken gizzards, corn, fried potatoes, sweet potatoes, and fried rice, for $23.99.

The cheese-garlic chicken wings at Thank U Chicken.

Photograph by Ted Golden.

The restaurant also serves jumbo wings, which should not be missed. My favorite were the oddly addictive garlic-cheese, with a taste a bit reminiscent of Chili Cheese Fritos and were so juicy I wasted a napkin between each bite. The crust managed to stay crispy even though it was loaded down with a hefty coating of cheese, which spread out in a web-like crust all over the already crackly chicken. Before you’re served your chicken, the restaurant provides you with plastic gloves and a communal dish of dipping sauces that range from thin and sweet to creamy and spicy. There’s also a dish of pickled daikon radishes, a standard at such restaurants so you can have a tart palate cleanser in between luscious chunks of fried chicken.

The Thank U Chicken at Thank U Chicken.

Photograph by Ted Golden

Can’t make up your mind which variety of KFC you want? Order the half and half. I picked the Thank U Chicken and the spicy fried chicken. The latter was craggy, juicy, and drenched in a gochujang (spicy chili paste) sauce, which made the provided plastic gloves a big help. The Thank U was crisp, sprinkled with salt and seasonings, and a good vessel for whichever dipping sauce you’re partial to. The chicken’s crunch was so addictive I was almost obsessively shoveling it down, even when I was already full (not to mention on my way to a second lunch). Thinking the better of it, I boxed up the rest to take home, jabbed a few holes in the top (try this sometime—it lets out the steam and stops your food from getting soggy), and put it in the fridge. The next morning, on a quest for coffee creamer, I decided to test the chicken’s fortitude and found it miraculously still crispy, making it the perfect kind of chicken to take with you on a picnic or serve chilled to guests as part of a summer party spread. It was still so good that I may or may not have eaten the rest while standing in the fridge. If you are a fried chicken lover, this is a must-try spot that will you have, in fact, thanking the chicken. 3473 Old Norcross Road, Duluth, 470-875-9000

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