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Bok a Bok Chicken

A great idea that's gotten even better

When Brian O'Connor and Alex Prindle partnered on Bok a Bok, opening their White Center location in 2016, it was all about creating great fried chicken in a family-friendly atmosphere. "I have a wonderful wife and kids," says Brian. "I wanted to be a good husband and father and make some money while doing what I love." Brian's move away from fine dining and full-service restaurants into a fast casual model came after working for two decades in high-end restaurants in Baltimore, San Francisco, and San Diego, learning that restaurant chefs don't have the kind of time flexibility needed to foster a healthy family environment. He couldn't resist the allure of the Pacific Northwest and settled in Washington, working at Blueacre Seafood and Huxley-Wallace (Hollywood Tavern, Skillet Diner). It was time for a change.

Family meal

"Alex and I met when I was at Skillet. We clicked on a personal and professional level and I knew I would work with him in the future. I'm still the dreamer with ideas flowing, and Alex is the realistic one. He gets me out of the clouds and keeps us focused and headed in the right direction. He's a great business partner and a better friend."

With Bok a Bok, "I'm the operations guy. As much as I think I could still hold my own cooking on the line, years of working in kitchens has caught up with me and I don't cook anymore. Instead, I love being able to mentor staff whether they're cooks, managers, or cashiers. I have experience to share and more patience than when I was coming up in the industry. I'm not striving to be a world-famous chef anymore and have grown out of the tweezer and fancy ego-driven part of my life." He loves working with others in the industry and has been around Seattle long enough that he's almost an elder statesman. People run ideas and thoughts by him. "It's my goal to help as many up-and-coming chefs and managers as possible to reach their goals and let them have the platform to be successful."

When growing their company, Alex and Brian looked for small former restaurant locations, all under 1000 square feet, where they could simply bring in their equipment, 'doll it up a bit', and 'start slinging chicken.' Because we were small, when the pandemic hit, it didn't hurt so much to close our dining rooms. At White Center, we used the extra space to put in a walk-in cooler which we desperately needed. We added a walk-up window at Capitol Hill giving us more room in a small space. U District was always a walk-up window, and Burien is still in limbo as to what to do and when to possibly open seating. We were fortunate and lucky that we were already a take-out and delivery-based business when COVID hit."

Bok a Bok's chicken, dipping sauces, and many other items at this point have moved in the direction of being made gluten free. "I didn't set out trying to be a gluten-free fried chicken joint, but I had some friends who had wheat sensitivities and challenged me to make them fried chicken. When we opened Capitol Hill, I made a batch of chicken for the staff and they said 'okay, that's our chicken.' It was gluten free, and no one knew the difference, so we served it without telling anyone and now it's what we serve everywhere. Each year we add a few new items to keep our guests excited like the Dirty Tots/Fries, Bowl O'Shame, Bonito Caesar Salad, Dirty Bird sandwich, and New Classic sandwich. As long as we stay on brand, I still get to be creative."

With soon-to-be five locations, Brian does a lot of traveling between stores each day. "We have amazing managers and a couple of fantastic chefs who are the real heroes of our businesses. Francisco and Jaclyn run our Burien and White Center locations; Abraham and Mike take care of our Capitol Hill and U District spaces. I have had the pleasure of knowing and/or working with these fine people for the last ten years in other restaurants in our beautiful city and consider them family. It's a very family- and employee-focused company, and we strive to make good decisions daily to grow the company so the staff can grow with it, too."

With plenty of competition around, you might think Brian would be worried. "I love the competition; everyone is doing their version of fried chicken. The crazy part is that we're even in the realm of people loving what we do and talking about it. We're just a little neighborhood joint slinging chicken every day trying to make people happy. One day a bus driver stopped the bus and said, 'I know you; you own Bok a Bok, I saw you on TV.' That's fun! I want to keep doing this. We don't want to be a brand that settles, we want to stay current, consistent, and fun. I want to have amazing people around me, be a good friend and neighbor to all in our industry."

Brian still has dreams of doing his original concept, Same Same Noodle Bar. "Bok a Bok just took off and I didn't have the bandwidth to handle another project at the time. It was too much for us to handle at first, now our growth is slow and steady. I need to focus and keep my foot on the gas. Staff members trust us; they need to know we won't do anything to hinder our growth and quality."

Their fifth location should open this summer in Totem Lake. "We get the keys in June and it shouldn't take us long to get it up and running. This will be our first eastside location and we are super excited to be part of that community."

From being mentored himself by some of the best in fine dining, to operating and mentoring his own business and staff, Brian has created the life he craves and the food everyone else does.

Connie Adams/April 2021

Bok a Bok Chicken

White Center
1521 SW 98th St, Ste D
Seattle, WA 98106

Capitol Hill
1427 10th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122

131 SW 153rd St
Burien, WA 98166

U District
5201 University Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105

Totem Lake                                                          Owner Brian O'Connor
12600 120th Ave NE, Bldg F, Ste 150
Kirkland, WA 98034

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