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Bon Chon on John versus Chambers Street Location

Bon Chon Showdown: John Street vs. Chambers Street

Bon Chon on John Chicken Wings
Bon Chon on John's chicken wings!

As those of you who have lived in the area for a while may know, the block on Chambers St between Church and Broadway used to house a place called “Bon Bon Chicken” that served Korean Fried Chicken.  In the past year or so, however, the shop was bought out by Bon Chon, a Korean Fried chicken franchise from South Korea.  In addition to this take over, Bon Chon opened another restaurant on John Street, not too far from the Chambers Street location.  In the past when I had visited the Chambers Street location, it never seemed busy-in fact, I’ve never had to wait, and their deliveries never took very long.  Wasn’t opening another store less than 10 blocks away a little redundant?  What did the new Bon Chon on John have to offer besides its catchy name?

After visiting the two establishments on a Sunday night, I can see why BonChon decided to open up a new restaurant.  First of all, the Chambers St. location is a hole in the wall; it’s a tiny store front with four picnic style tables, one of which only seats two people.  The only differences I can detect from the store’s Bon Bon days are the new logos and packaging, and they now use flat screen TVs to display the menu.  This location clearly focuses more on delivery and take out, and looks more like your typical fast food joint.  And the food did come out super fast; although there is a disclaimer on the wall stating that their chicken is cooked fresh to order and we should expect a 30 minute wait, we got our small order of mixed flavored chicken in less than 3 minutes.

After the Chambers St experience, Bon Chon on John took me completely by surprise.  As we walked down John St, I initially thought the restaurant was closed because it looked so dark inside.  I expected the same florescent lighting and fast food feel as the Chambers St location, but Bon Chon on John is a, dare I say classy, restaurant and bar, complete with mood lighting for people on dates, and two flat screen TVs at the bar for people trying to catch the game (a much more appropriate way to use a TV, don’t you think?).  They provided us with actual plates and silverware, and even gave us a bucket for our chicken bones!  I felt so civilized.  The only downfall here was that in order to try two flavors of chicken, we had to order the medium sized meal, and the wait time was about 15-20 minutes.

As for the actual chicken, both locations used good quality meat, but you could tell that Bon Chon on John’s chicken had just come out of the fryer- it was steaming hot, super crunchy on the outside, and still juicy on the inside.  Bon Chon on Chambers was just as crunchy, but the meat was a little less juicy.  The chicken wings and drumsticks seemed a lot smaller at the Chambers location, but that could have been due to the way it was presented.

Another thing that set the two locations apart are the side dishes.  Chambers only offers bread and rice, while John offers fries, rice, bread, coleslaw, or kimchi coleslaw, and every order comes with a side of pickled radish.  Of course, we got the fries at John St, and I have to tell you, these might have been the best french fries I’ve ever had!  They  had a really thick crispy outer layer, but were tender on the inside, and not at all mealy.  The fries were just as crisp as their twice-fried chicken, which makes me think that perhaps their fries are twice fried as well!  They were also extremely generous with their side portions, and they gave us an entire cone of fries!

Bon Chon on John was much more expensive, however, than the Chambers location.  The small meal that we ordered at Chambers was $7.99, and came with one drumstick and six wings.  The medium order at John was $13, and it only came with one more drumstick than the small order at Chambers!  That being said, we did get bigger pieces of chicken at John St, and they did give us a huge portion of fries.  Plus, the ambiance of Bon Chon on John is worth paying a little extra money, as is the fully stocked bar!  The bartender was very generous, and offered a free shot of his own unnamed concoction to everyone in the restaurant.

So, do we really need two Bon Chon locations in lower Manhattan?  When it comes to fried chicken, the answer should always be yes!  At the end of the day, both locations serve crispy, delectable Korean fried chicken, and I think each location serves its purpose.  Chambers St is perfect for those times when you just need that chicken NOW, or if you just want to grab a box on your way home.  Bon Chon on John is perfect for happy hour, or those of you who want to enjoy the game while snacking on crisp juicy chicken and a beer, or who are just looking for a more civilized fried chicken experience.

Just so you know, Bon Chon on John offers some of the best happy hour deals in the neighborhood.  They offer a buy 1 get 1 free deal on drinks all week from 4pm-8pm, all day on Saturday, and from 4pm-11pm on Sundays.  Plus, Tuesday night is Ladies Night, which means that on top of the BOGO drink deal, girls also get a free special entree!