Now that Berkeley Social Club has opened (at 2050 University Ave. in the old Perdition Smokehouse space) we’ve got one more place at which to satisfy KFC cravings — Korean fried chicken that is. Berkeley Social Club’s version is built upon overnight-marinated boneless chicken thighs, which emerge from the fryer with a generous, crunchy crust. In its sauceless version, its flavor evokes the best iteration of K(entucky)FC, umami rich and just salty enough. Better still is the chicken coated in the house spicy sauce, which is, in fact, spicy. And ooey gooey sticky and a little sweet to boot.
That chicken appears as an appetizer or entree on the dinner menu, as well as perched upon a waffle at breakfast. And maybe, if we ask nicely enough, owners Steven Choi and Andy Kitsadaviseksak might add it to the lunch menu as well.
Nosh sampled the KFC and several other dishes at a December dinner hosted by Choi and Kitsadaviseksak. We got a small taste of the eclectic Asian-American fusion menu, as well as many of the beers on the restaurant’s tap list.
Another standout dish is the “Takoballs,” Berkeley Social Club’s version of Japanese tako yaki — essentially battered octopus fritters. Here, they have a creamy center studded with a few pieces of octopus, and are topped with a generous squeeze of mayonnaise, scallions, nori shavings and waving slivers of bonito.
And while the tortillas and the toppings on the very fusion-y K-Tacos aren’t particular interesting, the meat inside is excellent — both the spicy pork and the bulgogi are tender and flavorful. Curious eaters who try the Bang Bomb, a curious twist on bibimbap that includes a giant rice and salmon roe-filled meatball, would be wise to stir up the fillings as quickly as possible to best enjoy the creamy eggs below before they overcook in the hot stone bowl.
The restaurant’s breakfast and brunch menu is likewise eclectic, and it highlights “Millionaire’s Bacon,” thick-cut, glazed slabs of bacon that grace the menu of Coi’s other restaurants, including Fred’s Coffee Shop in Sausalito.
On the night of our visit, Berkeley Social Club had 27 beers and one cider on tap, plus a few bottled macrobrews and soju by the bottle. Its beer list is a point of pride for Choi, and it offers a breadth of beer styles from around the country. There’s nothing out of the ordinary pouring from the restaurant’s taps, but fans of Lagunitas and Founder’s Brewing will feel right at home.
As the restaurant continues to find its niche in the Berkeley dining scene, Choi and Kitsadaviseksak said they plan to tweak the menu to suit their customers. One improvement Choi is excited about is the potential for hosting movie screenings on the back patio, a la Pizzaiolo and Foreign Cinema. That patio, by the way, has been spiffed up since its Perdition days, with hanging string lights, a gas fireplace, landscaping and powerful heaters.
Explore the rest of the meal, in photographs, below:
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