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Hangin’ with Klecko: Bap and Chicken’s John Gleason

Over the course of this summer I’ve noticed a lot of stores and restaurants pulling their plugs on Grand Avenue. As a post middle-age man, I realize I’m supposed to gripe about that, but you know what? Sometimes change is for the better.

For instance, recently as I was cruising down the 1300 block, I noticed that the Grand Shanghai had been replaced by a new concept called Bap and Chicken.

The Grand Shanghai stayed afloat for 30 some years. Most of their food was good, but their Peking duck was great. 

But who’s kidding who, when you put fried chicken up against duck, chicken’s going to win every time.

Knowing this, I called owner John Gleason and he was kind enough to meet me for an interview.

Klecko: Welcome to the neighborhood Gleason, what brings fried chicken to my stomping grounds?

Gleason: I guess you could say I’m a foodie, I almost never eat at home. During a typical week, I eat out five or six times. I’ve opened 20 restaurants, but this is the first one I’ve owned. When I looked at the numbers, I wasn’t terrified. The numbers were what I expected. There was nothing to be terrified about.

Klecko: My readers will want to know a bit of your history; impress them with your resume.

Gleason: (laughing) I’ve been fortunate. I’ve worked in some interesting places. Most recently I was the GM at Can Can Wonderland, I worked out at the Mall Of America with Tim McKee, that was fantastic. Another place that I really enjoyed was Giordano’s Pizza Uptown. Do you want me to keep going?

Klecko: Yes, but maybe later, what I really want to know is what exactly is Korean chicken.

Gleason: We coat it in a tempura batter and fry it twice. The chicken is crisp, with an ultra-thin shell. Then we slather it with one of our eight sauces we make in house, and I guess I should let you know we have three more in development.

Klecko: All right, not to second guess the concept, or stir up trouble, but you do realize you are not too far away from Revival? They have a pretty good rep when it comes to fried chicken.

Gleason: Yes, they do, but it isn’t an issue. We are selling different chicken, with a different profile. They do Southern, we do Korean bar snacks. Also, most of our customers start off ordering bowls Bibimbap and end up sharing an order of chicken.

Klecko: This location is prime John, did you look at other spots, too?

Gleason: Well yeah, you have to. I had several different neighborhoods that fit what I was looking for. I wanted high volume, dine in, delivery and colleges, but it was important to me that we set camp in an actual neighborhood. That’s important. Once I found the spot I finished details on the menu and can say I really feel good about this. We are offering comfort food, street food and a place to relax.

Klecko: OK, now that KleckoNation knows you’re on the map. What would you recommend they order on their first visit?

Gleason: Everything on the menu is going to satisfy, but I guess I’d like to start by telling people that our KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) sandwich is our top selling item, and it’s a steal at only $10. Our chicken drumsticks come in six packs and oftentimes people are taken back by how large they are. Even a guy as big as you, wouldn’t be able to finish an order alone. 

Klecko: What’s the numbers on dine-in verses delivery?

Gleason: 68 percent dine-in and 32 percent delivery/takeout.

Klecko: Gosh, you’ve done a lot to modernize this space John. I wish my column offered the availability to show what you’ve done, but since that isn’t going to happen, paint a visual for our readership.

Gleason: The first thing I did was removed the drop ceiling that was in here. I think it really opens the space. Then over on the east wall we have our version of a Jumbotron that plays Korean videos from K-Pop, but if the Vikings are on, we broadcast the game. Another thing I did was add a bar, I’ve found that many people feel more comfortable sitting at a bar than a table, and who’s kidding who, it also serves as a great storage space.

Klecko: You’ve giving me more than enough, Gleason, but is there anything else you’d like to say?

Gleason: Yeah, look at the wall behind the cash register. Those pictures hanging are pictures of adopted people. I am Korean and was adopted. I’ve always thought that it was a bit sad that adopted people don’t have many opportunities to receive recognition, after all….we are the chosen ones (insert grin). Minnesota has the highest percentage of Korean adoptees in the nation, if not the world. This really means a lot to me. In some ways you could almost call this a performance art piece.

Klecko: Do you have to be Korean to make the wall?

Gleason: No, adopted is adopted, we have a couple ‘Americans’ on the wall, too.

And with that, I ordered a bit of everything and took it home to sample. My wife loved the KFC chicken sandwich so much she made me take her and my son back to Bap Chicken four days later for more. And for the record, I did order a six-pack of drumsticks, wondering if I could polish off an order.

Not even close.

Friends, Bap and Chicken has officially become my chicken go to.

See you there.

Until next time….. 

Dan “Klecko” McGleno can be reached at kleckobread@gmail.com or 651-329-4321.

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