A small Korean chicken franchise has launched a take-out on student-heavy South U., bringing home a townie to run it.
Pioneer High and U-M alum Jamie Kwon opened the fifth Noori Chicken location in September, sandwiched in the same block as two longtime Korean restaurants—Kang’s and Rich J.C.— where she sees both a market and a niche.
Kwon is clearly in love with her product, which she discovered in the process of helping a friend get her own location in Clawson off the ground. Early on there she also met Noori’s corporate brass and got encouragement. “I saw how the business goes. And I really liked the taste of the chicken and how it is prepared,” she beams.
She leased the first storefront her agent showed, the former Belly Deli. “It’s really hard to find this kind of location, but it’s a little small,” Kwon remembers thinking. “But the franchise owner was like, ‘This is a perfect location and perfect size for me. So you should go with that.’
“Since then it was really quick, and everything was so smooth.”
Kwon earned a degree in Asian studies at the U-M, where she mastered Japanese, then spent fifteen years in the automotive industry as a program manager. But moving back from Troy to start a restaurant was not a foreign concept to her. Her uncle Ben owns Bell’s Diner on W. Stadium, and cousin Andrew owns Biwako Sushi in Saline.
It’s been fourteen-hour workdays for her as she trains her staff of eight part-timers. They, like the majority of customers, are U-M students. The core product is the fried chicken wings, featuring seven different sauce options—a mild chili-sweetened, medium spicy, hot, soy garlic, chili- or jalapeño-spiced soy garlic, “magic sprinkle” sweet onion cheese powder—and a homemade sweet mayo side. Over time, Kwon says, they’ll expand the menu “one-by-one” with boneless wings, rice bowls, and chicken salads.
Online ordering offers a scheduled pickup option, so most customers won’t be inside for too long, though the white-tiled yellow and neon decor is fresh and cheery.
“Like I fell in love with the chicken, many of the students, many of the customers, they also found a love with the Noori chicken,” Kwon says. “I already have regular customers!”
Noori Chicken, 1317 South University. (734) 780–7068. Thurs.–Tues. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Closed Wed. noorichicken.com