BRIDGEPORT — When Jassy Lee moved back to her adopted hometown of Chicago from Los Angeles, she wanted to open a restaurant that reflected her diverse background and love of travel.
That dream has spawned Big Boss Spicy Fried Chicken, which opened in March at 2520 S. Halsted St.
Big Boss’ menu pulls from Lee’s Central American and Asian heritage in a setting influenced by her West Coast roots.
The restaurant’s namesake fried chicken is a hybrid stye that pulls from Nashville and Belize, where Lee has family. The chicken uses the Belizean method of seasoning the bird before it gets coated in a crispy breading, and adopts from Nashville the intensely hot sauce.
That means a double dose of spice, inside and out. There are four level of spiciness, not counting the served-without-sauce option. Lee said the spiciness level has caught some off guard, and even she only prefers the “x-hot,” not the most-spicy “big boss hot.”
“People, if they really like spice, they will pick the hottest one,” Lee said. “So we wanted to bring something spicy.”
This isn’t the first Big Boss Lee has launched. She previously opened locations in Forest Park and Westmont, restaurants that served more traditional Chinese menu items, and the fried chicken. Lee said she closed the other ventures and decided to relaunch with the new fried-chicken concept in Bridgeport, which is closer to where her parents live.
“We learned from the experience,” she said of the other restaurants. “We had a huge menu before. That’s not too easy to duplicate. With this one, we wanted to keep it more simple.”
Big Boss’ menu is centered around the fried chicken, which is served bone-in, as tenders, popcorn-style and in a boneless chicken sandwich. The drinks are inspired by Lee’s Chinese heritage, including a creamy, tea-based beverage inspired by a mung bean soup meant to eat with spicy food. Other items, like the curry chicken box and curry-chicken rangoons, are influenced by Lee’s travels, she said.
The first thing anyone will noticed about Big Boss is its lively, graffiti-covered facade and interior. Much of the work was done by Lee and her friends, with the help of neighbors and kids who walked by and wanted to help, Lee said. The upbeat and easy-going design plays on Lee’s California roots, as well, she said.
“I really wanted people to come here and relax,” she said. “We wanted a place where everyone can feel at home.”
If Big Boss is successful, Lee will be able to follow her dream of building a business while also being able to spend time with her family. Though Lee has not ruled out opening up more locations, she said there are other considerations to make.
“It’s a possibility, but I would have a lot more gray hair,” Lee said of opening other locations. “We realized money isn’t the only thing.”
Big Boss is open 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Wednesday through Monday, and is closed on Tuesday.