ATLANTA - From Coca-Cola to Delta Air Lines to The Home Depot, Atlanta is a city built on blockbuster brand names. And Georgia State University graduate Sean Chang hopes his will one day join that prestigious list.
Chang is the founder of Mukja Korean Fried Chicken, a fast-casual restaurant concept where the American South meets South Korea.
"Mukja actually means 'let's eat' in Korean," explains Chang. "Some of the traditional dishes that I like, they can be a little too – I guess – out of the ordinary for people. People are just getting used to Korean BBQ. And so, what better way than something familiar in the South: fried chicken?"
Owning a restaurant wasn’t always the plan for Chang, who was born in California and raised in metro Atlanta. But as a pre-med freshman at the University of Georgia, a late-night drive changed Chang’s life in an instant.
"I was on my way home and I had dozed off; fell asleep just briefly. And then, when I woke up, I was on the access path on Interstate 85, and right on Sugarloaf there's a roundabout," recalls Chang. "I just smashed on my brakes as fast as I could, at 65, and the roundabout was just coming way too close, and I had run out of pavement. And my car went flying into the ditch, went up, and hit a tree."
Chang managed to avoid hitting another car, but the crash left him paralyzed from the waist down. After months at Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, Chang decided to follow his true passion and transfer to Georgia State University’s hospitality program. It was then that he and friend Peter Chung cooked up an A+ concept.
"The idea actually came as my senior project at Georgia State University – my hospitality program – for franchising. We were tasked with creating a franchise that we thought would be successful," he says.
The duo opened Mukja in Midtown in the fall of 2020 – and, of course, immediately faced the challenges of owning a restaurant during the pandemic.
"We went through weeks where we had maybe had two, three customers all day," says Chang. "I think half of our staff caught COVID in January, and with me having a spinal cord injury, you know, immunocompromised, that was really scary."
But Mukja Korean Fried Chicken eventually gained a loyal following thanks to its flavorful wings, tenders, and sides -- proving Mukja might just have the staying power to become the city’s next big brand.
Mukja Korean Fried Chicken is located at 933 Peachtree Street Northeast, Suite 951, in Midtown Atlanta. For more information on the restaurant and to check out the menu, click here.