Review: Korean and American fast food come together at TKO

The KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) sandwich at TKO is served with house-made pickles. Courtesy of Colette Collins/TKO

Credit: Colette Collins

Credit: Colette Collins

The KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) sandwich at TKO is served with house-made pickles. Courtesy of Colette Collins/TKO

TKO opened in late 2022 at the Southern Feedstore food hall, after being launched as a pop-up at various restaurants the previous year by chef Lino Yi, a former sous chef at Lazy Betty.

Short for The Korean One, TKO is located in East Atlanta Village, and manages to marry American fast food with Korean favors — or, more precisely, it pays homage to Newtro, a clever South Korean mix of new and retro from the 1980s and ‘90s.

While TKO stays open until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with the food hall offering live music, the airy space was more sedate when I visited for takeout on a Thursday afternoon, with lots of common spaces for seating, as well as a back deck featuring umbrellas and strings of lights.

One of the dishes on offer at TKO is cheesy kimchi fried rice. Courtesy of Colette Collins/TKO

Credit: Colette Collins

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Credit: Colette Collins

TKO’s perfect play is a mammoth serving of cheesy kimchi fried rice, seasoned and served with spicy mayonnaise, gochujang sauce and scallions. The concise menu has both expected and unexpected offerings, including a kids meal of chicken nuggets.

For me, the breaded and fried KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) sandwich was the signature dish. Served on a soft bun with house-made pickles, Yi’s nod to the Colonel had crunch, but yielded juicy bites, flavored with spicy mayonnaise and salty eel sauce.

I liked — but didn’t love — the smash burger. It featured a seasoned beef patty served on the same soft bun, and was topped with pickles, spicy mayo, melty mozzarella and gochujang sauce. However, compared with the $9 KFC, the $8 quarter-pounder seemed a bit skimpy.

In any case, I’d recommend ordering a $3 side of the thin, crisp, McDonald’s-style shoestring fries with either one. Or, for an additional $4, you could make it a combo, with fries or kimchi, and a soda or water.

For a snack or a starter, the eggroll taquito was a winning treat that kept its crunch surprisingly well. Three long, skinny, deep-fried eggroll wrappers surrounded the lightly seasoned ground beef. The hot flavor came from drizzles of hoisin, spicy mayo, Sriracha, scallions and nacho cheese.

The beef eggroll taquitos at TKO are served with drizzles of hoisin, spicy mayo, Sriracha, scallions and nacho cheese. Courtesy of Colette Collins/TKO

Credit: Colette Collins

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Credit: Colette Collins

There were three hotdogs to choose from, including the meatless panko-fried cheese dog, which came dusted with powdered sugar, making it a bit like the fast-food cousin of a monte cristo sandwich.

Look for specials, which seem to be offered mostly on weekends. Sadly, I was one day too early for Friday’s “krab” Rangoon.

As for TKO’s packaging, standard plastic foam clamshells assured everything arrived at home intact. Chopsticks, plastic flatware and napkins were included.

TKO is located in the Southern Feedstore food hall in East Atlanta Village. Courtesy of Naijah Ashbaugh/TKO

Credit: Naijah Ashbaugh

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Credit: Naijah Ashbaugh

TKO

Food: Playful Korean fast food, with a signature fried chicken sandwich

Service: takeout with online ordering; dine-in available in the food hall

Vegetarian dishes: fries, fried rice, dukbokki (spicy rice cakes), cheese dog

Alcohol: no, but available at Buteco Bar in the food hall

Price range: $3 (side dish) to $13 (chicken sandwich combo)

Hours: noon-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, noon-3 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays

Outdoor dining: tables and chairs in front of the food hall, plus umbrella tables on the back deck

Address, phone: 1245 Glenwood Ave. SE, Atlanta. 404-480-5452

Website: tko-atl.com

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