It’s chicken time. Again.
In the never-ending search for delicious chicken, it’s grown painfully evident that there is a fairly obvious stone left unturned: CM Chicken made its Columbus debut back in 2021. The place is not exactly hidden, its first Ohio location set up shop at the busy intersection of Kenny and Henderson. CM Chicken has since branched out to the likes of Pickerington with promises of more stops in Central Ohio.
Although CM Chicken is profoundly casual and also a chain, it still feels like a cultural experience. The rhythm is distinctly different from that which shapes most local dining spots. Rather than sports events, its television screens might feature current Korean cultural artifacts, cue the K-pop. And the menu, dedicated to Korean fried chicken, is organized in a fashion that takes a moment to process.
Case in point, there’s a menu section devoted to chicken wings covered in onions.
But familiar organizational patterns are overrated. With a good dose of intellectual humility, identifying a good eating strategy can be fun puzzle.
In terms of chicken joints, let’s review the rubric for basic expectations. The chicken’s gotta be crunchy, the shell has to taste like something (most places do this), there has to be meat under the shell (not just gristle or bones), and finally, the meat has to taste like chicken. In an age of corporate farming, that last element has been evasive.
Let’s return to that aforementioned onion-covered section, at the top of the list is a delightful showcase, or snowcase, rather: The Snow Onion ($16.99). Despite the name, the snow onion is a chicken dish centered on poultry parts (you can choose tenders, wings and other chicken parts) covered in a thick, creamy sauce and stark white onions cut razor thin. The combo blankets the chicken like a smothering snow. The onions are on the milder, sweeter side, so the dish works better than expected, providing two different palate experiences that battle for dominance in a complimentary fashion.
Something on the lines of Garlic Spicy Chicken ($14.99 for wings) makes it easier to focus on the chicken itself. Its craggily fried shell delivers a big dose of flavor distinguished by the sauce’s appealing mix of heat, salty soy and garlic. Using the rubric, it’s got the crunchy, flavorful shell, and there’s a good supply of juicy meat. As for the “chickeny” element. To be honest, it’s hard to tell, that’s a feature that is easy to overthink. With the mix of other flavors, though, the end product is delicious, and that’s what counts.
An order of Tikkudak ($15.99 for tenders) offers a different sort of approach. The fried chicken is roasted as a final step, delivering an appealing charcoal accent that is typically reserved for grilled goods. The Soy Tikkudak version hits like a teriyaki with a hint of sweetness that compliments the crunch.
Side-wise, French Fries ($4.99) make a solid companion. Alternately, you can explore the house coleslaw, calamari or a couple versions of chicken gizzards.
Outside of chicken and sides, CM is expanding into a menu of additional Korean street food dishes.
To wash it down, there’s soda, beer, or traditional soju in flavors that include apple and peach.
CM Chicken’s first Ohio location can be found at 1132 W. Henderson Rd. The newer Pickerington location is at 1510 Cross Creeks Blvd.
For more information, visit cmchickenus.com.
All photos by Susan Post