Providence restaurant puts global twist on fried chicken

Fried Chicken has maintained an iron grip on life as we know it. 

A reminiscing few may recall the ‘Sandwich Wars’ of 2019, when Popeyes burst onto the fried chicken sandwich scene, intended to challenge the behemoth of Chick-Fil-A. Even the Kingston campus of the University of Rhode Island is not immune to this trend, with new establishment Stack House opening last year with a southern variety of the dish.

But another spot in Rhode Island, located in Providence’s Thayer Street neighborhood, has enticed critics, won over newcomers and left patrons salivating over its delicious offerings. Its name is Den-Den Korean Fried Chicken, and during O-Week I took advantage of a free bus trip to Thayer Street to see for myself what all the fuss was about.

Opening their doors in 2017, this fried chicken establishment didn’t waste any time building up a raving fan base of customers, and one can see why: upon walking into the establishment, it is easy to tell that the folks at Den-Den do not mess around with their craft. A symphony of smells greet you at the entrance, a comingling of soy, garlic and spices that infiltrate and delight your senses. A clean, modern flare is seen everywhere in the restaurant, the white-tiled walls paired with the simple black aesthetic created by the tables and chairs. The menu is small compared to other restaurants, but if anything, serves as a reminder that the offerings available are done well – extremely well. 

Our party started with the pork dumplings, served with a spicy vegetable slaw. And while I am not afraid to admit that this meal was where I learned how to use chopsticks for the first time, I picked a darn good meal to start, because these were some of the best dumplings I’ve had in a while. A perfectly crispy exterior with a savory filling, while also getting a nice punch of spice with that slaw. A great way to kick off the meal.

For entrees, there is quite a bit of variety to choose from. We ended up getting a couple dishes, including two varieties of BBQ – a more traditional Korean-Style and the fried chicken that gives Den-Den its name. We also ordered the beef bulgogi, a popular Korean dish consisting of thinly sliced and marinated ribeye, served with vegetables and rice. 

Now, I will preface the following with this statement: There have been many times where the food I’ve eaten in a meal has been very good, but few occasions have nearly put me into a food coma.

This was one of those times.

From the start, it was an incredible dining experience. The fried chicken was a mix of white and dark meat, and was double-fried to produce an exquisite crunch on the finished product. The seasoning was perfect, and complemented further by the addition of the soy garlic sauce that coated each delectable piece of chicken. No notes.

The beef bulgogi was also amazing. I’ve never had this dish before so I didn’t have anything to refer to in terms of precedent, but what I do know is that this dish has set the bar very high in my mind in terms of what makes a good bulgogi. The beef had an amazing flavor from the soy marinade, lending some sensations of umami as well. The textural contrast of the crisp vegetables really just made everything that much better, and made for another powerhouse of a dish on the table. 

And I haven’t even begun to talk about the kimchi yet. I can’t say I have the popular pickled cabbage offering that often, but after this, I might just start having it with everything. It gave a perfect tangy and spicy flavor with each bite of fried chicken or dumpling, and was the metaphorical bow that tied everything in this incredible eating experience together. 

The verdict? Den-Den has firmly staked themselves as titans of the Providence dining scene with their modern fast-casual take on a beloved dish, infusing it with the Korean flavors that both casual consumers and critics have come to love. If one thing is for certain, it is that this fried chicken haven of Thayer Street is here to stay: and if the food is any indication, they have no plans of slowing down anytime soon.