Is Pelicana Really the ‘King of Chicken’?

Pelicana Chicken and sauces. Photos credit to Zach Dinsmore

Football may have just ended and interest in the PGA Tour may be fading, but baseball season is just a few weeks away which means fans are aching to watch the game while enjoying some comfort food, and Pelicana Chicken might just be what they are looking for. Marketed mostly toward sports fans, Pelicana hopes to get them in the door to watch a game and eventually order some chicken and a drink. They claim to be the number 1 spot for Korean fried chicken. 

They call themselves “The King of Chicken.” 

Located on Balboa Avenue and Convoy Street is Pelicana Chicken and only two hours after their doors open at noon, their parking lot is full.

Immediately, laughter and conversations were happening as I walked into the fairly spacious restaurant. Warm lighting hangs from the ceiling which, along with the metal and woody design, gives a rustic feel to the place. I noticed five televisions throughout the building which sounds scarce for a sports joint but from the size of the room, actually worked quite well. It seemed every table had a decent view of at least one of the televisions. 

The full bar holds saki bottles, 14 different draft beer options and even more cocktail choices. At the time, four beer taps were unavailable. 

Pelicana Chicken and sauces. Photos credit to Zach Dinsmore

At the end of each table is a red button with a phone number on it and nothing else. Through some reasoning, we figured out that no one had come to take our order because we hadn’t pressed the button. Figuring that out was amusing but I could see how if someone didn’t think of that, it could be frustrating. Once I pressed the button a red number 11 flashed on an electronic board by the kitchen, letting them know table 11 was ready to order. 

At 2:02 p.m., the same time I pressed the button, the restaurant was around 85% to 95% full which is impressive considering how early it was in their day and the limited parking. The majority of patrons were part of one large group which took most of the staff’s attention. It took 14 minutes for the waitress to take our order after we pressed the button but that was no issue as the backwoodsy design of the place captivated my attention. A beer wall with metal beer brand logos, a clear and retractable garage door leading to the supply area outside and the unique style of the bar were all fun conversation starters. 

The staff had little patience but that was more than understandable considering how busy they were. 

There is a choice of regular fried chicken or regular fried wings with sauce options of “signature,” “honey hot,” “smokey hot,” “garlic,” “hot chili” and hottest of all, “hot spicy.” We placed an order of fried wings with no sauce and a side of fries. No sauce because we planned to get a side of every sauce. Unfortunately, only three of their sauces are available on the side, the others must get tossed with a batch of chicken. After much debate, we got a range of flavors including their “signature sauce,” “smokey hot” and “hot spicy.”

Here’s how they ranked.

1. “Smokey Hot”

This ranked number one because I enjoy a nice kick when eating wings and “smokey hot” delivered. Taking a plain wing, I took a dip of sauce, bit and I immediately felt a rise in temperature around my ears. The smokey flavor drew out the heat allowing for a slow burn just hot enough to make you want another bite.

2. “Signature Sauce”

Pelicana’s “signature sauce” is sweet when it touches your tongue but as the flavor develops there comes a slightly heated yet tangy sensation on the roof of the mouth. I am fairly used to buffalo-style sauces so these options were a bit unexpected, however, they did not disappoint and neither did “signature sauce” landing second. 

3. “Hot Spicy”

My least favorite of the trio is simply because there doesn’t seem to be much flavor to the “hot spicy” other than the first few seconds, after that, you can expect a quick reflex for something to cool off your mouth. This sauce packs a big punch which quickly caused beads of sweat to form around my hairline. My ears heated up intensely causing me to reach for my water a few times but this is the hottest sauce they offer so it lives up to its name in that regard. It’s simply just a bit too much for me.

Sauces aside, the wings by themselves were full of flavor. They were definitely not the biggest wings I’ve eaten but they weren’t small either, they were a medium size and I wish there was a bit more meat on them. The batter they use to bread them must have a special seasoning because even with no sauce I was tasting a full range of spices that I couldn’t quite nail down. The wings are fried to near perfection which seems to prove harder these days.

I rarely see a basket of wings on parchment and the paper isn’t soaked in grease, but that was not the case here. The process Pelicana uses when frying their wings should not be changed at all in my opinion. With this nice crispy shell, the moisture gets trapped in the meat providing an incredible and moist bite. 

The fries were nothing special, a little bland and soggy. For a place that seems to want sports fans in their doors, I would think they cared more about their fries. I know it’s just a side but it’s a lot of people’s favorite side. Sometimes you go to a place just to get some of their fries but I wouldn’t be shocked if they aren’t too focused on their french fry game since their wings seem to keep customers inside. 

So is Pelicana really “The King of Chicken?” No. I think it takes a lot more than this to hold this title. It would have been nice to be told to press the button when we were ready, the wings were tasty but not that big and the fries could use some work. However, this is a pretty incredible spot to grab some wings and a drink with some friends while watching a game. The energy was electric and that was just with groups of friends having a good time together — imagine if there’s a big game on the line. I loved almost everything about the wings and I’m looking forward to returning in the future to see the first pitch of a game.