Battle of the Birds in Buam-dong: Gyeyeolsa Chicken 계열사 치킨 + Sai Chicken 사이 치킨

Fittingly, killing two birds with one stone happens naturally when you’re in Buam-dong, the home of two fried chicken heavyweights separated by less than 20 steps from one another (really, I counted). Gyeyeolsal Chicken and Sai Chicken are considered some of the best of Seoul’s KFC offerings, and I finally got to visit both with a friend who really likes her chicken. Getting straight to the point, they’re both NOT that spectacular or special in any way – and definitely not worthy of being called the best in Seoul. If you’re familiar with traditional yetnal tongdak 엣날통닭 – where the entire bird is fried as is – it’s pretty similar to that AND it’s missing proper seasoning. Really, I have no idea where all the hype came from, but it’s quite surprising to see them be this successful, both killing it on a nightly basis with packed houses and long lines. If you happen to live in or around the area, these are not bad options for you given the fact the area is known for its unique cafes and artist-driven shops. However, would I recommend traveling from afar as my friend and I did? Probably not. Would I recommend giving it a try if you’re a serious KFC addict like myself? Only Sai. Click here for my personal favorites.

Quick comparison: Sai Chicken is relatively a newcomer to the more established competitor, Gyeyeolsa Chicken, famed not only for its chicken but also for its brash-talking Halmoni owner. Acting like a two-star army general, she likes to give out orders at will – including to customers – to ensure a smooth operation every night. I really liked the part where we didn’t even have to order our food, she just assumed we’d get one order of the regular fried chicken (which we did) but forgot to bring our order of beer (mandatory chimek, duh), which she not-so-kindly shot back, “Are you sure you ordered beer already?”  I have no qualms about being bossed around by old halmonis, but this Halmoni was a little coarse for my taste. Regardless, I was only focusing on the fried chicken and came to the easy conclusion that Sai is clearly the better of the two options (I didn’t tell her that). Crispy pieces of chicken without being too oily, a sweet n tangy mung bean salad, a cozy and inviting atmosphere, prompt and friendly waitstaff, and some addicting fries are just a few positives that stood out at Sai. In contrast, Gyeyeolsa is a notch down in all areas. The chicken was on the oily side with the excess oil saturating the exterior, leaving the meat a little stringy instead of moist; the seating was too cramped and uncomfortable, giving the impression they wanted to maximize space for efficiency rather than customer comfort; older waitstaff were slower and less attentive; and the potato wedges were a pleasant surprise but didn’t have any crunch like a good potato wedge should. Now that I reflect, I wouldn’t be surprised if the younger peeps at Sai did some benchmarking and improved on all the deficiencies that was apparent at Gyeyeolsal. Hmmmm.

Anyways, it was a nice experience eating at back-to-back fried chicken joints on a Friday night in an area that I had never been to before (near Cheongwadae, the Blue House, I think). And ultimately, I am pretty happy these two places didn’t live up to my expectations because that means my search for the “best” KFC joint will continue on…… 🙂

“Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.” ~ M.F.K. Fisher


Sai Chicken (사이 치킨)

257-3 Buam-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Phone: 02-395-4242

Hours: Mon~Fri. 1pm~midnight, Sat & Sun 12pm~midnight 

Click here for an interactive map:

Food: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Service: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars

Ambiance: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars

Value: ★★★★ out of 5 stars



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Gyeyeolsal Chicken (계열사 치킨)

7 Baekseokdong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul 

Phone: 02-391-3566

Hours: 12 pm ~ midnight, closed every Monday

Click here for an interactive map:

Food: ★★★½ out of 5 stars

Service: ★★★½ out of 5 stars

Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars

Value: ★★★½ out of 5 stars


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