Mu Ramen, the Queens noodle shop that began as a bagel store popup in 2013 and became one of those most acclaimed ramen restaurants in town, didn’t survive the pandemic, never reopening after the initial lockdown in March of 2020. But a couple of months ago another restaurant, Kuku Chicken finally took over the shuttered Jackson Avenue spot and, although it’s very different from the beloved Mu, it’s very good in its own right.
Kuku Chicken offers a lot of chicken, obviously, and in a lot of different ways. There are Wings and Drums, served in big buckets if you want, and prepared as either “spicy,” “garlic,” or with a “sweet n’ spicy glaze,” which features a crisp garlic chip sprinkle. They don’t specifically call these Korean-style wings, but the provenance is clear.
A dozen wings is the minimum order, so I, a solo diner, opted instead to try Kuku’s Poppers, appropriately located in the Crunch section of the menu (you can also get Tenders here). These were delicious, just a marvel of fried bird engineering, with a crackling exterior and juicy meat within (and this was all white meat, too, not an easy trick to pull off).
There are four varieties of fried chicken sandwich, including a piled-high Classic Spicy beauty that was messy as hell–the potato bun isn’t quite up to the task–but really hit the spot after a day spent biking all over the city. Again, the meat here nails that crispy-juicy combo, the sauce is legitimately fiery, and the pickled things on top smooth the whole thing out.
There are also sandwiches drenched in Sweet Thai Chili sauce, Nacho Cheese, or House Ranch, the latter of which I had with my Poppers and was quite good. And definitely get an order of Kuku’s Waffle Fries to go with whatever you order. They are excellent and can come with any number of dipping sauces, from Kuku Spicy Garlic to Buffalo Hot to Wasabi Cream to good ol’ Ketchup.
All of that would be more than enough to keep me happy through multiple visits, but the Kuku’s menu also has a whole page of Korean (or Japanese) classics from which to choose, featuring more entree-like fare such as Beef Bulgogi; Japchae with stir-fry vermicelli, pork, or chicken Katsu served over rice; and Tteokbokki, rice cakes tossed in gochujang and topped with both fish cakes and pork dumplings.
I went with the Kimchi Fried Rice in this category, and was rewarded with a first-rate version of this funky, filling dish. The runny fried egg and chewy, smoky bacon studded throughout really amped up the appeal of this plate.
The basic interior is much the same as when Mu Ramen lived here—you’ll recognize that ceiling immediately—though they’ve removed that odd central staging area to better accommodate its counter-service logistics. Most importantly, Kuku is serving up great dishes in here (all of which the staff on hand can tell you all about if you want some guidance).
Kuku Chicken is located 1209 Jackson Avenue, between 48th Avenue and 47th Road, and is currently open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (718-706-8888; kukuchicken.com)