The nondescript little storefront at 2040 South Havana Street that once boasted the name Yong Gung Dragon Palace Chinese Restaurant is now simply Yong Gung — a minor change that takes away some confusion, since the restaurant doesn't serve Chinese cuisine as Americans know it. Instead, Yong Gung specializes in Korean-Chinese cooking, with recipes that originated in China but evolved over time in Korea.
The modern, lively eatery's chicken wings are one of the few items on the menu that aren't of Chinese origin (although Beijing-style fried chicken wings are popular in Korea). Instead, they capture the spirit of American bar food — with the added punch of Korean heat. Yong Gung's menu is short and easy to navigate, with the names of dishes in Korean and descriptions in English: Look for maewoon dak, or just ask for fried chicken wings. What you'll get is a generous pile of bird — mostly big, meaty drumettes — fried crisp, doused in sticky, tangy sauce and sprinkled with crushed peanuts and sesame seeds.
The combination of salty, tangy and funky flavors — overlaid with a slow burn on par with that of classic Buffalo wings — cries out for a beer or soju, a light but potent rice-based beverage. The reddish skin crackles beneath a shiny glaze that pools on the platter, inviting cleanup with a spoon (resist the temptation to just lick the whole plate). If the heat's a little too intense, cool your palate with the accompanying side salad doused in a simple Thousand Island dressing.
The wings are just a sample of the whole bird, though; Yong Gung also offers entire plates of fried chicken in either sweet or garlic-imbued chile sauces.
Throughout this year, we'll be counting down the best dishes in the city — from longtime classics that keep us coming back to new additions that have caught our attention. If there's a dish you think we need to try, tell us about it in the comments section, or shoot us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hungry for more? All the dishes in our 2016 countdown are linked below.
No. 100: Masala Beef at Biju's Little Curry Shop
No. 99: Bacon Shrimp and Grits at Bacon Social House
No. 98: Porchetta and Kimchi Sandwich at Brider
No. 97: Squab-and-Sunchoke Tortellini at Abejas
No. 96: Housemade Burrata at Viand
No, 95: Schweinshaxe at Rhein Haus
No. 94 Kimchi Jeon at Seoul BBQ
No. 93: Zuppa Pomodoro at Parisi Italian Market & Deli
No. 92: The Ocean Salad at Sushi-Rama
No. 91: The Signature Bowl from Churn & Burn
No. 90: Green Chorizo at Los Compadres
No. 89: The Diavola Calzone at Pino's Neighborhood Pizzeria
No. 88: Biscuits and Green Chile at the Noshery
No. 87: Chirashi at Izu Sushi
No. 86: Brisket and Ribs at GQue Championship BBQ
No. 85: The Tornado at the Chowder Room