Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fried Chicken at Rainpia in Ellicott City

Howard County Tourism inspired us to walk into a place that looks like a strip club, but serves up splendid fried chicken.

Rainpia in the Bethany 40 shopping center on Rte 40 has papered over its windows, so I never knew what was happening inside when I drove past en route tp Mirocjo or Bethany Seafood.  I never even caught the name.  But one of the HC Tourism folks emailed me last week, and some questions led to a quick turn on Yelp, which led to a few comments about Korean fried chicken.

Which led to me pushing open Rainpia's door while Mrs. HowChow skeptically wondered what we were going to see inside.

It looks like  a brightly-lit bar.  Seriously brightly-lit and tricked out with a casual, outdoor feel.  Wood paneling on every wall.  A communal two-sided table down the center with about 22 barstools.  Then "booths" along each side made by setting picnic tables and separating them with rough screens.  (There is also a television over the actual bar showing Korean television.  At the instant we walked in, the scene was a man and woman in bed, and -- just for that instant -- Mrs. HowChow thought, "That's going to be porn."  It turned out to be nothing.)

The fried chicken is absolutely exceptional.  Burn your fingertips hot.  Lick your fingertips delicious.  We split a single "mixed" order, so we got 10 bone-in pieces -- half crunchy regular and half dunked into a sweet sauce.  They're both delicious.  Even the white meat is juicy, and they come with pickled radish that serves as a perfect crunchy counterpoint to fried chicken.  The pieces are chunks bigger than a nugget, but smaller than a full drumstick or breast.  I loved the ratio of crust to meat.  Every bite had both, which actually helps Rainpia edge out my local favorite Chick N' Friends that serves standard breasts, wings, etc.

Chick N' Friends in the Long Reach Village Center is great take out.  Rainpia is really aimed at the drinking crowd.  We got fine service even though we just ate, but the menu and the crowd were clearly more in line with a place like Looney's or T-Bonz Grille & Pub than the barbecue dinner crowd at Shin Chon Garden.  The chicken would have been perfect for a night of beers and a table of friends.  At $16-18, an order of chicken isn't cheap.  But we split one order for dinner, and the small pieces lend themselves to sharing.  If you want a "wings and beer night," Rainpia is the perfect variation on wings.

Because I'm joking about strip clubs, I want to emphasize that Rainpia is a restaurant.  Super-well lit.  No smoking inside.  A waiter who answered all kinds of questions.  I'd send a "girls night out" to Rainpia in a minute as long as the girls drink beer or soju, a Korean wine in the same family as sake.  It's not a margarita bar.  It's not a place where you can Twitter about the craft beers you're drinking.  But you can get basic bottled beer plus some Korean brands, and the fried chicken is a treat.  Also, there is a long translated menu of Korean dishes like fish cakes, stews, and stirfries.  I'd love any recommendations, and my next trip will include the tuna and kimchi stew, which sounded terrific.

Thanks to R for the inspiration.  You can out yourself in the comments.  I figured that I'd let you put your name in you want since I used the term "strip club" in the lede.  Thanks also to Hal, who actually commented about Rainpia last year on my "tour" of Rte 40.  He called it a "casual bubble tea lounge with sofas."  The sofas are gone, but they still sell dessert drinks after 9 pm.  Rainpia is only open for dinner -- 5 pm to 2 am.

If you want Korean, definitely check out Shin Chon, Mirocjo, or Bethany Seafood.  If you go to Rainpia, consider an ice cream dessert on the way home.  On Rte 40, you can stop at the seasonal Soft Stuff -- or you could stay Korean and try the tart frozen yogurt at Tutti Frutti.

10194 Baltimore National Pike #103
Ellicott City, MD 21042
(410) 418-8992 

NEAR: This is on Rte 40 in the Bethany shopping center with Mirocjo and Bethany Seafood. It's on the north side of the street just west of Bethany Lane. This is west of Rte 29.

  Rainpia on Urbanspoon


1000yregg said...

how is the chicken compared to someplace like Bon Chon in Annandale? is the sauce like a soy ginger sauce or the spicy variant?
Also, how long does it take for them to fry the chicken (at Bon Chon, it's 30-45 minutes)?

HowChow said...

I haven't been to Bon Chon, so I can't compare. But it took far less than 30 minutes to fry. Maybe 15-20, but it was worth the wait because the chicken had clearly just leapt out of the oil.

brandon said...

I'm hoping it's similar. Bon Chon's appeal to me is the very crispy skin combined with the way they coat it in sauce. They use some method that gives the wings plenty of flavor from the sauce but without much sauce residue. They're unlike wings I've ever had before, but relatively pricey for wings. I'll look forward to trying Rainpia's chicken.

BeerGuy said...

LOL re: Twitter.

Seriously I've had the same thought about that place with the windows covered like that, makes me think of the ice cream truck and the possibly evil person inside it. At least now I know Rainpia is safe. They could probably do a lot more business if the place looked more inviting.

Unknown said...

Is it "family friendly"? My son's favorite food is fried chicken and we are trying to find a place to take him for "real" fried chicken for his birthday later this month.

HowChow said...

Terri -- I would take a kid at lunch or dinner. It was literally picnic tables. It's casual. It's more like a bar than a white-table-cloth joint. But it looked like taking kids to Looney's or the Green Turtle -- perfectly fine during normal business hours, probably not what you want to do during serious-drinking hours like Monday Night Football.