OS Reviews: Waker Chicken
Watch out, Wings Over: A new chicken joint is open in State College. Waker Chicken is already available at two locations in Maryland and one location in New York, but the first franchise available in Pennsylvania provided an authentic taste of Korean fried chicken — much different from the menu and pictures on the Waker Chicken website. The new underground spot located on Locust Lane didn’t disappoint our staffers:
The one thing I always thought State College was missing was a good fried chicken place. Wings are great and all, but I really wanted to eat something with a good crunch to it. Now that Waker Chicken’s made its way to State College, I couldn’t wait to see what it was all about.
The menu offered more than just chicken, so my party of two got an 8-piece order of honey garlic chicken and a platter of marinated beef short rib.
The restaurant is obviously still getting some work done. Music was just playing from Spotify on a laptop on top of a speaker in the corner of the room and the menu was just written on some brown paper and taped to a frame on the wall. When all is said and done, however, I’ll always overlook decor and ambiance if the food is really good — and it was.
The fried chicken is a lot more skin than meat, but my God, that skin. It was crispy and flavorful and seasoned to perfection. I came in when I wasn’t all that hungry, but all the food we ordered was so surprisingly light that I could keep going and wouldn’t fill up. I tore through that chicken like there was no tomorrow.
The short rib was good, but not as satisfying as the fried chicken (though we still ate all of it). There are cups of forks on every table, but all of the entrees we ordered were little finger foods that made sharing fun and easy. I enjoyed that all the main courses came on a platter and without plates — I felt like I was at a baseball game and could just throw my peanut shells wherever I wanted. I let all my crumbs and grease fall onto my place mat and asked the waiter to keep the napkins coming. It made dining in a lot more casual.
I’d definitely come back to Waker Chicken again, but it certainly won’t be my go-to late night spot simply because of the prices. Quick and cheap is usually best for a night out, and although these prices weren’t unfair, I’d pass it up for some Yallah instead. Still, the food was great and it would be great place to order a ton of food and share it with a big group of friends.
When I volunteered to review this place, the name Waker Chicken painted a picture of a traditional American fried chicken joint in my head. Something along the lines of KFC or Popeyes, maybe even Breaking Bad’s Los Pollos Hermanos. I was a bit surprised when the restaurant’s sign said Korean chicken and cuisine.
The menu is pretty straightforward. You can opt for larger pieces of fried chicken or wings with or without sauce. Their sauces are inspired by Korean flavors, so you won’t find buffalo or barbecue wings on the menu. They also have more traditional Korean dishes, all of which seemed interesting, but my heart and growling stomach were already set on some chicken.
To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of wings or fried chicken in general. I often find them underwhelming. Nevertheless, I got a small order of spicy soy garlic wings because it combined all of my favorites: spice, soy sauce, garlic, and chicken. It came with either rice or radishes as a side dish, but I opted for the rice.
I waited for a little more than 20 minutes due to the lunch rush as my stomach voiced its dismay. Nevertheless, my eyes lit up when my order finally came. Those golden brown, soy sauce-drenched wings looked absolutely delicious. You know fried chicken is high quality when you can see the crunch, and these saucy boys were visibly crispy.
On top of the crunch, the chicken was (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) perfect. I really couldn’t believe how juicy and flavorful these wings were. The spicy soy garlic sauce was delicious and it made the wings satisfyingly salty. They even had a nice bit of heat to them.
I realize I am by no means a wing expert, but these were far and away the best wings I’ve ever had. The only downside of Waker Chicken is the price, as I paid $13.73 for my small order of wings. Even then, it was completely worth it. 10/10 highly recommend.
Let me start this off with a bold statement: I have never once in my life enjoyed a single piece of fried chicken in any meal as much as I enjoyed this one. I’m the one in my family who typically has a bowl of cereal on the rare KFC or Popeyes night because I hate the taste and greasiness of their fried chicken, Waker Chicken has changed me.
This hole-in-the-wall Korean chicken joint has the magic. A deceivingly large establishment, furnished with a wall for customers to sketch whatever their hearts desire, was filled with the salty-sweet scent of Korean cuisine. There isn’t a bad bite in what you’re served. Perfectly crispy, but with meat inside tender and juicy, this is unlike any sad excuse for fried chicken I’ve ever been served at Popeyes or KFC (both of which I hate because of the grease factor). And to top it off, they smother their chicken in your choice of homemade sauces, which are reflective of the Korean craftsmanship that goes into them.
The icing on the cake is Waker’s kimchi and service. The kimchi is also without question the best kimchi I’ve ever had. The service was absolutely incredible — don’t be shy to go in and ask for help and recommendations. The wait staff and even cook come out to greet customers, and it really just puts an amazing finishing touch on the whole experience.
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