This Hole-In-the-Wall Life

Greatest restaurant name in history: PIZZA AND CHICKEN LOVE LETTER, the Garden Grove outpost of a Korean fried-chicken empire. The moniker is apt, as this pub devotes itself to the art of drunken, messy, affordable grub. Love Letter only sells fried chicken and whole pizzas–no special courses, no entrĂ©es, just piles of food. Drinks come in liter bottles or beer mugs; breadsticks are available but pointless. Don't visit alone or during the day-stop in at night, and drag along pals with nowhere to go and people to gossip about.

The pizza's foundations are fine–firm dough, sauce sweeter than usual, milky cheese–but the chefs add Korean twists. The bulgogi pizza's meat shavings glisten with soy; a sweet-potato pie throws in pineapple and corn, creating a sugary glop in your mouth. Yet the pizza is really just a side dish to Love Letter's glorious hens. Korean fried chicken has earned plaudits from various American food critics this year, as Korean companies expand their chains to compete for stateside eaters. There aren't too many differences between regular fried chicken and Korean fried chicken (put a plate of each in front of Raiders fans, and they'll chomp up both with equal gusto), but the changes work. Hot-and-spicy chicken resembles buffalo wings, but its gooey sauce produces a backhanded burn, one best experienced after sucking your fingertips clean. The regular fried chicken is nearly greaseless, the chicken light, the flesh juicy and effortlessly leaving the bone. Even better is a bowl of popcorn chicken, each nugget as small as a tater tot, but more addicting. In all these examples, the skin is as brittle as a chicharrĂ³n yet free of any overwhelming fat flavor. Love Letter claims they fry their gals in a “special nutritional” sauce with “20 different vegetables as ingredients,” but I'll be damned if I tasted anything that ever lived via photosynthesis 'round here, save for the bowl of pickled radishes that lend a cool, tart contrast.

Now, a contest: The first person to correctly identify the screaming, sunglasses-sporting Korean chap who's pointing at a plate of drumsticks on Love Letter's to-go menu gets a free Hole-in-the-Wall Life dinner with me. I know he's a celebrity, but my Hangul is rusty–who is he? E-mail submissions to ga*******@oc******.com.


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