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Bok Bok brings fried chicken flair to Utah County

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ALEX SPRINGER
  • Alex Springer

Despite the flood of interesting prospects that have been popping up all over Utah County, it's been a hot minute since I checked up on their food scene. Comfort food spots, creative bakeries and scores of other eyebrow-raising eateries have started to establish themselves in American Fork, Orem and Provo, and the UC is long overdue for some serious gastronomic consideration. I decided to kick off this expedition with Bok Bok (648 E. State Street, Ste. N, American Fork, 385-498-3615), a minimalist Korean fried chicken joint that recently opened a second location in Provo (1181 N. Canyon Road, 801-691-0921).

Bok Bok captured my attention via Instagram, and I've suppressed the urge to devour boxes of double fried chicken doused in glistening sauces of golden and crimson for long enough. Not even the hellish stretch of freeway construction that cuts through Lehi like a botched appendectomy scar could dissuade me. I've been keeping a close eye on these Korean niche places because they're almost always doing something new for Utah, and Bok Bok's extremely modest menu hints at some underlying expertise. I'm a big believer in places that only serve one or two items, and it's rare that I get burned by a place with a specialized arsenal.

For instance, Bok Bok does bone-in or boneless chicken wings ($9.99), a chicken sandwich ($6.49) and a combo ($10.99) that adds a quarter leg to a mix of boneless and bone-in wings. There are a few sides—like Bok Stickers ($2.99) and Bok Tots ($3.99) along with the fries and slaw that come with the wing plates—and that's pretty much it. These unassuming menu items are stellar on their own, but only get better when doctored up with one of Bok Bok's signature sauces.

The Bok Bok standby is their house sweet and spicy sauce, which is a well-rounded mix. Sweet melds with spicy to form something that's sticky, tangy and delightful. For a first-time visit, there's absolutely nothing wrong with going this route—but I would encourage you to think a little bigger when getting your Bok Bok on. The three other sauce options veer so far into their respective territories that there's really no turning back. The candy garlic skirts the edge between just right and cloying saccharine overload that it's almost too much—which is when the garlic kicks in. There is so much garlicky goodness infused into every drop of this sauce that your tongue can't decide whose side it's on. It's deliciously disorienting.

The house spicy, meanwhile, tricks you into thinking it's just another sweet glaze, until you get that capsaicin wallop. While I wish this sauce balanced its spicy flavor profile just a bit more—it's exclusively sweetness until your tongue starts to burn—it's perfect for anyone in need of a more legitimate excuse to cry over dinner. If you're feeling straight-up dangerous, then you need to check out the dry rub simply called snow. Instead of a syrupy glaze, snow is a powdered cheese mixture to end all powdered cheese mixtures. Eating crispy fried chicken doused in this debauchery is a singular experience, and only time will tell if your individual experience will bring you triumph or regret.

While the sauces at Bok Bok are what makes this place special, their fried chicken is remarkable on its own. Its double-fried preparation means you get an extra crispy yield, which holds up nicely to the deluge of sauce drenching each order. Those craving a lovely, soulful piece of fried chicken will want to order up the chicken sandwich. Bok Bok reserves the biggest, juiciest pieces of chicken breast for their sandwiches, and the pickled slaw adds a new flavor dimension to the house sweet and spicy sauce. Despite the sandwich's girth and cumbersome fillings, the toasty Tuscan bun does a fine job of keeping everything together. In the era of the fried chicken sandwich, this one scores pretty damn high. It's built upon a beautiful piece of fried chicken, and the crunchy exterior blends with the acidic slaw and tangy sauce to create a serious chicken sandwich contender.

When considering side dishes, it's safe to pass on the Bok Stickers; they're good, because pot stickers can't not be good, but there's nothing exceptional here. The Bok Tots are worth a spin because they get powdered with cheesy snow dry rub, which is a perfect combo. I was pleasantly surprised by Bok Bok's fries, which were unexpectedly above par—I suspect they also get the twice-fried treatment.

Though a visit to Bok Bok requires a bit of a Southward jaunt through a stretch of freeway that barely has visible lanes, their fried chicken game is definitely worth it. I can see myself making a semi-regular pilgrimage to American Fork for that chicken sandwich—it was truly mesmerizing. Regardless of your favorite type of fried bird, Bok Bok is a must-visit for crispy chicken fans. It's a prime example of how getting the basics down pat is the best way to foster creativity.

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