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Monday, March 16, 2009

99 (Chicken) Bottles of beer on the wall....

As a follow up to a previous blog posting, I paid a visit to 99 Chicken in Santa Clara, next to a (former) favorite Sushi spot near El Camino and Scott Blvd. Having eaten in this tiny strip mall many times before and passing by it without giving it so much as a second look, I was suprised to have gotten a glorious recommendation recently for it. I was told that this place had amazing fried chicken with all kinds of free side dishes and extras. This recommendation came from a reliable source (good food adventure tips come from other food adventurers!), so naturally my curiosity was piqued.

It actually took a second visit to actually go in and eat, as my first attempt the day before was thwarted by an unruly lunch crowd that I was just not in the mood to deal with at the time. Tried again the next day, and was pleased to find the early dinner crowd was much lighter. True to form, this place was a typical long, narrow, and intimate m&p (mom-and-pop) food joint with lots of nationalistic Korean flags, beer advertisements, and, of course, photos of past diners plastered over every available square inch of wall space! Now, I have seen this decorating technique before, normally commemorating a birthday or some other type of special event at the establishment, but these seemed to just be regular people enjoying their food. Strange, I thought, but then I thought "Why not??" Okay, it made me think differently about something I'd seen before, and thats part of food adventuring, right?

I think it was the owners wife that sat us and gave a 10 second de-briefing on how the place works: study the menu and place your food/drink order. There is indeed lots of free stuff, including a 'salad bar' (complete with lettuce and your choice of 3 toppings, the minimum amount to be called a salad bar I think), self serve white rice, a hot tea dispenser, and refill-your-own-water station. I guess this all cuts down on the back and forth between the waiter (owners wife) and the diners. Instead, people fight amongst themselves for drinks and side-dishes. Okay, I didn't actually see a fight, but it was fun noticing how people timed their trips and positioned themselves strategically to take advantage of the next open spot.

Beer is common to have with fried chicken, and although I don't drink the nasty stuff myself, I notice just about everyone enjoying a cold bottle, or 2, or a 40-ounce, with their dinner. The sexy Korean beer posters made it hard to resist...then I remembered what it actually tastes like.

They have plenty of Korean dishes, but I came for the fried chicken. As suggested, I got the sampler plate for myself and dining guest. It comes with about 8 pieces (drumsticks and wings), 2 pieces each with 4 different flavorings. 2 were plain, with no sauce or flavoring (my favorite), 2 came drenched in a sweet & sour sauce, 2 with a spicier sauce, and 2 with just a honey coating. It was fried chicken. What else did I expect? I was expecting a melt in your mouth, one-of-a-kind experience, I guess....but it was just fried chicken.

The comparison to KFC is obvious, and I hate to do it, but I have to say, as far as the fried chicken itself goes, is not much different. KFC has special flavorings, too, although the pieces are not as fresh. Does it really matter with fried chicken? It has been a while since I have had chicken prepared this way, and I forgot just how greasy it is. I can see why this is more of a lunch place, and I think it would be better had mid-day, instead of just before bed, as you will want to let this stuff digest before stomach was growling all night. Lets just say I 'paid for it' the next day with a slight nauseous feeling most of the day.

The experience was fun, and was around $20 for both of us. Although the plain pieces were my personal favorite, if you visit, go for something unique. Also, on my way to the restroom, I noticed also that there was a special, neon lit room for a what looked like a private a party. I may try to get that next time with some friends.

-Tom W Tell

1 comment:

  1. There is indeed lots of free stuff, including a 'salad bar' (complete with lettuce.
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