By Doug Deal
Macon Community News
Outside of Mexican or fast food, Asian cuisine is probably the most plentiful option for dining out in Macon, but Korean is still challenging to find. About two years ago, one of our first articles after rebooting Macon Community News online was to introduce Macon to Chico and Chang, which was a new Korean-fusion restaurant at the time. After two years, their food is as delightful and high-quality as it was when we first became acquainted with their menu.
Occupying part of the space vacated by the old Shoki Japanese restaurant, Chico and Chang has a bold, modern feel with bright walls, plentiful natural light, clean lines, and digital menus. The atmosphere is casual, perfect for a weekday lunch or relaxed dinner.
An ergonomic prep station greets you, where you can order your freshly prepared meal and watch as it is plated. However, should you choose to sit after you have ordered your food (as most patrons do), you can expect the staff will deliver your food to your table. Service is always swift and attentive to the needs of patrons.
Although Korean inspired, the restaurant does not serve Korean dishes in the traditional sense. Instead, Chico and Chang combines those flavors with a presentation in burritos, tacos, and quesadillas; hence the term “fusion.”
Their main menu allows patrons to choose from three “styles”: taco, burrito, or bibimbap rice bowl. They also offer “protein” choices: beef, spicy pork, chicken, spicy chicken, veggie, and tofu. The meat-based protein options can also be combined in a quesadilla or stir-fried over rice. Other popular menu options include their beef pasta, sesame french fries, and hand-rolled egg rolls.
They have a selection of soft drinks and beer, but they are served in the bottle, so keep that in mind. Other beverages include bubble tea, iced coffee, flavored green teas, and fruit slushes which can all be served with boba. If you have never had it, boba is tiny tapioca balls that can be sucked through a straw to add an interesting texture to your drink. It is especially good with Chico and Chang’s milk tea.
My favorite dish and most ordered entrée is the spicy pork bibimbap bowl. You can order the same essential ingredients in the burrito with either seasoned rice or kimchi rice, or in a taco with seasoned lettuce, soy sesame vinaigrette, and jack cheese, for a slightly different taste experience and price point, but the bibimbap bowl is a lower carb option. It also represents one of the most authentic Korean dishes on the menu.
Bibimbap has steamed rice, sautéed vegetables including greens and mushrooms, and flavorful meat, with hot pepper paste. It comes with an egg on top that you can specify to be more authentically (and deliciously) runny or well done, as I suspect some people would prefer. You can also ask for it to be left out if an egg is not your thing.
The pork is fantastic, spicy but not too spicy with a delicately sweet flavor. Each bite leaves you longing for another. The mixture of rice, egg, mushrooms, and vegetables blends perfectly and encourages you to finish the dish. If by chance you do fill up while eating your entrée, you are in luck, as they serve their bowls in easily sealable containers that make good tableware but also are a snap to turn your meal into a takeout.
I paired my meal with an order of egg rolls which were also outstanding. The egg rolls are served with a spicy and sweet chili-based sauce. In the past, I have also had the pot stickers which are another great side, but I much prefer the egg rolls.
Although my oldest child has started to become more adventurous, willingly eating the rice bowls, both of my children love the giant quesadillas. Cheese is one option, but you can also get them served with the various meat options, as alluded to above. They are excellent if topped with a bit of kimchee, and our youngest enjoys a runny egg with hers. Quesadillas are served with a mildly spicy yet delicious dipping sauce. Typically, we will also share a smoothie or bubble tea with our kids.
The service is top notch, and the owners, as well as the other staff, are amiable. Each employee leaves you with the impression that they are happy you are there, which is a refreshing change from some restaurants. Chico and Chang’s customers are loyal because their dedication to their food comes through in every bite.
The restaurant’s location is 3850 Riverside Drive in Macon.