88rising knows how to deliver, from rockstars on the stage to rockstars in the kitchen. If you were lucky enough to snag a ticket to their inaugural Head in the Clouds New York festival you would have seen long lines with a lot of smiling faces carrying multicultural cuisine, especially Korean fried chicken, thanks in part to the team’s carefully curated food and beverage lineup. One of the true shining stars of this select group of foodies that was a hit with festival goers was Rokstar Chicken, which reimagines Korean fried chicken
Now, Korean fried chicken has been around for decades, but Rokstar Chicken is a “Korean flavor with a New York attitude” fried chicken, said owner and founder Mark Lee. Pulling inspiration from his own life for Rokstar’s signature style, Lee acknowledged “I’m Korean American. I came here [to New York] when I was 11 and the way I wanted to really showcase…Korean fried chicken was more in of a New York way.”
As to what exactly is Korean fried chicken with a “New York attitude,” Lee explained “it’s crispy, you know, New Yorkers, we are aggressive, but we want the highest quality of everything. That’s what we’re trying to do— JAM PACKED flavors with high quality ingredients.” He described, “we’re trying to go for really good service, amazing food—pretty fast.” Lee added, that the R.O.K. in Rokstar stands for the Republic of Korea.
Whether it was rain or sun the crowds definitely lined up to enjoy this unique taste of Korea. The masses seemed to be craving Rokstar’s “boneless chicken and chicken sandwich,” Lee confessed. He also noted that “they really love our soy garlic flavor, Korean sweet chili, and honey butter fries.” Despite the long lines and success, Rokstar’s beginnings were humble. Lee revealed that the food chain was born during the pandemic when many businesses were either closed or closing up shop. Hearing his calling after running a dessert café for 12 years, Lee returned to his Korean roots and picked a strategic way to kick off his new venture. Thinking outside of the box, he unconventionally opened his new restaurant inside of a Food Bazaar supermarket. Lee remarks, ” with the COVID pandemic happening, I understood that a consumer’s behavior is when it rains, they go to the market, when it’s sunny they go to the supermarket, so then I wanted to make sure to be… [where the] traffic [was]. So, we started with the [Food] Bazaar supermarket.” He admits, “we started small, [but] we’re very excited… [and] we look to expand…it’s our time to reach out and be at the crowd.”
Lee envisions Rokstar Chicken being the Korean fried chicken of Shake Shack, having mastered and shaped the concept of fast-casual now dining with high-quality ingredients and great service, all without losing the significance of his food. “The goal has always been simple and clear, continuing to introduce and share Korean culture with the world through the best way possible, food!” As for what is next on the horizon, Lee confessed, “I would like to get into CitiField [or] Yankee Stadium to represent our culture and our style of food.” If Rokstar’s popularity at Head in the Clouds New York festival is any indication of success, it’s clear Lee has certainly hit a home run.
Rokstar Chicken offers pick-up, delivery, and in-store orders at its three locations. Those locations are in Harlem, Long Island City, and Douglaston. To find out more about their “made fresh for every order” offerings check out rokstarchicken.com.