A year has passed since we first took it upon ourselves to eat our way through Melbourne’s fried chicken options. Some venues have closed making way for new contenders. Others (we’re looking at you Rockwell and Sons) have stayed strong. So here it is, 10 of Melbourne’s best fried-chicken joints you need to get to.
There’s more than one way to fry a chicken. Deep-fried, double-fried, soaked in buttermilk, dusted in spices, glazed in hot sauce. Inspired by traditions of the Deep South, Japan, Korea and the Caribbean, perfection is a delicious, crisp crust with succulent and flavor-packed meat within.
Whether you’re enjoying it as a snack at the bar after work, or rolling up your sleeves after a night out, be prepared to get your hands dirty.
Rockwell and Sons
For an authentic Southern fried-chicken experience you cannot go past Rockwell and Sons on a Wednesday night (Melbourne’s worst-kept secret). Using a family recipe, North Carolinian Casey Wall serves a whole chicken that has been cut into eight parts, brined for three days and dredged through a seasoned-flour mix before being deep-fried. The result is juicy chicken pieces with good crunch. Served with biscuits, devilled eggs and side dishes that change weekly.
288 Smith Street, Collingwood
Po’ Boy Quarter
Gumbo Kitchen’s permanent diner on Smith Street is known for its Louisiana-inspired comfort food and its fried chicken is no exception. Cajun-spiced wings come with a smoky chipotle mayonnaise, and $10 will get you fried chicken with a waffle. There’s also a namesake fried chicken po’ boy comprising Cajun-spiced, buttermilk-marinated chicken tenderloins squeezed between a crusty roll and smothered with Louisiana hot sauce.
295 Smith Street, Fitzroy
Belle’s Hot Chicken
Belle’s Hot Chicken takes fried chicken to the next level, serving it up Nashville style with eye-watering heat. For a weekend lunchtime treat, get your tenders, wings, or drumstick and thigh on a fluffy Belgian waffle – the heat-packing satanic red outer shell is somewhat extinguished by the soothing, sweet maple syrup. And if you’re nursing a hangover, the higher the heat, the more likely you are to benefit as you sweat out those toxins and reawaken your taste buds.
150 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
Le Bon Ton
A late-night bar and supper club known for its Texas-style barbeque and oyster saloon, Le Bon Ton also offers some pretty decent Southern-style fried chicken. Three large, buttermilk-fried chicken tenderloins come with a ramekin of cracked pepper, white gravy and a jalapeno garnish. Tear off a chunk of chicken, douse it in gravy and add a pepper before stuffing it into your mouth.
51 Gipps Street, Collingwood
Fried and Tasty (F.A.T.)
With a name inspired from our first fried chicken round-up, F.A.T. is a welcome addition to our updated list. For those with an appetite, the Bucket O’ Chicken comprises a whole chook cut into nine pieces and fried to perfection in your choice of secret-spice-mix original, hot and spicy, or a combination of the two.
360 Lygon Street, Brunswick East
Truck Stop Deluxe
This truck-stop-inspired diner serves a mean burger, but its fried chicken is worth a visit in its own right. Offering excellent crunch and a golden demeanor, the outer crust is made with no less than 14 ingredients, with cinnamon and thyme giving it a slightly sweet edge, offset by the earthier ground cumin. Cooked low and slow, thus eliminating the grease factor, start with three thigh tenders and there might just be room left over for that burger.
98 Watton Street, Werribee
Leonard’s House of Love
Opting for a more traditional take on fried chicken, the chicken tenders at Leonard’s are encased in a flour mix using, among other things, onion, garlic, paprika and cayenne. The spice is more for flavour than heat. Served with dill pickles and chipotle mayonnaise, head in on a Wednesday for the Wing it Wednesday offerings (pick a cut, heat, sauce, and sides) or, if you’re lucky, the “off-menu” popcorn chicken with diced thigh fried to perfection.
3 Wilson Street, South Yarra
The Hot Chicken Project
Not technically in Melbourne – but worth a stop-in if you’re passing through. Inspired by late-night trips to a “shall-remain-unnamed” chicken joint for a post-work Zinger, the Burger Royale at Geelong’s Hot Chicken Project wont induce feelings of remorse (unless, of course, you opt for the “evil” level of heat). Two tenders at your desired heat level rest between a soft, seeded milk bun from nearby bakers Born and Bread, with ranch dressing, iceberg lettuce, cheese and pickles. Wash it down with a Blackman’s unfiltered lager.
84a Little Malop Street, Geelong
There’s no denying the Japanese nail it with their beer (or sake) and snack combinations. The fried chicken rib karaage at Gas-light Izakaya (the new restaurant in The Gasometer), for example, is definitely food designed to be eaten while drinking. Chicken ribs on the bone are dredged in an egg-white base and spiced-flour mix before being dropped into the deep fryer, resulting in a crunchy “puffed out” morsel that’s served in a portion of seven pieces. Dip into gochujang and kewpie mayo for an added flavour hit.
484 Smith Street, Collingwood
NeNe might be relatively new to Australia, but it has more than 1000 stores in Korea, proof that it’s doing something right. Despite its fast-food heritage, your chicken is fried to order and arrives steaming hot. Served with radish and coleslaw, standouts include the bulgogi fried chicken with its tangy barbeque hit, and the sweet yet spicy “swicy” chicken.
Melbourne Central, Box Hill, Highpoint Shopping Centre, Elizabeth Street.
See locations here.