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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

December 11, 2019   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Restaurant in IC Square has great food at great value

Chick-n-bap

When he was a senior at Binghamton University, Sung Kim combined Korean recipes with New York City-style street food flavors. He then delivered the food out of his off-campus house to other students.

“When I officially began the journey for Chick-N-Bap, I wanted to have the ‘Founded by a student for students’ mentality by prioritizing delicious food at a great value with quick service,” Kim said. 

These same recipes were the inspirations for Chick-N-Bap, a newly instated Korean-inspired street food vendor in IC Square. Chick-N-Bap’s new location on the Ithaca College campus joins other locations at Binghamton University and SUNY New Paltz.

Chick-N-Bap takes the basic chicken and rice dish and, with its Korean flavors, transforms it into a tasteful experience. Customers can choose among yellow rice, white rice or brown rice for the base of the bowl. Then they choose among original chicken, gyro meat, original combo, Korean BBQ chicken, spicy Korean chicken or Korean combo. 

Chick-N-Bap also offers vegetarian options of Korean hummus or ginger-scallion mushroom. The original chicken and gyro meat cost $7.49; original combo, Korean BBQ chicken and spicy Korean chicken cost $7.99; Korean combo costs $8.49; ginger-scallion mushroom costs $7.25; and Korean hummus costs $6.49. On Thursdays and Fridays, Chick-N-Bap offers all platters for $5.99 from 3 to 4 p.m.

The menu is straightforward — customers select their style, protein, fillings and sauces — and the line moves quickly.

“We strive to be as efficient as possible with our operation so that students can get on and off the line quicker than anywhere else,” Kim said.

The menu also lists the calorie count and whether or not an ingredient is vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free. Kim said he wanted to make the food as health-driven as possible, and the ingredients are ordered twice a week to ensure freshness.

Kim said another goal of Chick-N-Bap was to provide delicious food for a great value. He said the company added more varieties of rice, protein, toppings and sauces in addition to the New York City chicken and rice to add more value for their customers. The regular toppings — lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and bap-corn — are included in the price of the protein option, while the premium toppings — pita bread, tortilla, cilantro kimchi and Korean hummus — vary in price from $0.25 to $1.25. The portion is reasonable, and the rice bowls are filling without leaving you stuffed.

“I feel like it’s a lot,” freshman Grace Huether said about her first time eating at Chick-N-Bap. “It’s in a to-go container, so I can put the leftovers in the fridge. It’s nice if you don’t want to go to the dining hall.”

The food presentation is standard. The rice and lettuce bowls are packaged in a to-go container, which is helpful for students who have limited time to eat and need to take their meals to go. Chick-N-Bap is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m.

Although the food is inspired by Korean flavors like the bap sauce, which is gochujang, roasted garlic and mayo, if the customers are not familiar with the sauces, then the food is simply a rice and chicken dish. 

Kim said he recommends customers start with the white sauce and then add more sauces based on their spice tolerance. 

“I got the white sauce, and it tastes like ranch so I like it,” freshman Kayla Howley said. “But I didn’t want to get the spicy sauce and then not like it.”

The white sauce is described as creamy and tangy, the BBQ sauce is sweet and smoky, the bap sauce is Korean spicy mayo, the green sauce is fresh and zesty and the hot sauce contains habanero and gochujang, which is listed as extremely hot.

While some newcomers may be tentative about trying the bap, green and hot sauces, veteran eaters of Chick-N-Bap return for the unique flavors. Kim said Chick-N-Bap has devout followers for individual items, but he would say Korean BBQ chicken with yellow rice is the most popular choice. 

“I would recommend the yellow rice bowl, Korean BBQ chicken with white, green and bap sauce,” said freshman Caleb Hall-Arnett.

Being born and raised in Korea before moving to the United States, Kim said that the Korean culture, especially the food, is a big part of his identity and that he wanted to incorporate it into Chick-N-Bap. “We are new to the Bomber family, so we may have some kinks that we are still working out, but we are here to solve them as long as you reach out,” Kim said. “Our goal really is to make you guys happier through our food.”