Charcoal chicken is that succulent reliable friend you've always got in your back pocket. Too tired to cook? Headed to a picnic? The humble roast chook is an all-around crowd-pleaser. But not all charcoal chickens are equal, some excel above others—more succulent, crispier flavoured skin, and stuffed to perfection.
From your local chicken shop to the big time diners in Melbourne’s inner city, here is the best charcoal chicken in Melbourne:
Super Tasty Rooster
A Sunday ritual for the sore-heads around Fitzroy North, Super Tasty Rooster’s little store on Scotchmer Street is worth its weight in chicken salt. The neon-lit sign on the storefront leads into a small standing room only area with rotating chickens and a bain-marie laden with chips cooked, and salt-dusted to perfection as well as a range of salads. Alongside the chicken and chips, crowd favourites include the South Melbourne Market dim sims, as well as the chicken fillet roll with shredded lettuce and house-mayo in a toasted focaccia roll—absolute bliss.
The family-run charcoal chicken dynasty from New South Wales has its Victorian flagship store on the top end of Camberwell. With a big neighbourhood focus and a home-style cooking approach, there’s a lot to love about Chargrill Charlies. Their chargrilled chicken rotisserie-style has made them widely popular among locals and their seriously top-tier sides have cemented the operation as some of the best charcoal chicken in Melbourne. Expect a rotating selection of bountiful salads, and sides including roast potatoes, charred broccoli and perfectly crisped shoe-string fries.
So not a dedicated charcoal chicken shop but too bloody good no to mention. Cook Shop on Queens Parade is a mecca for charcoal-grilled meats. Cooking over open-flamed charcoals the chicken takes in all that smokey flavour and as the fat drips onto the coals it billows back up encasing the skin in a textured and extremely fragrant char. With more of a chef focus, Cookshop’s menu is filled with seasonally-inspired sides and sauces. They’ve also got an absolute belter of a gravy, which paired with the chicken and chips is an absolute game-changer.
A haven for a seriously good time, Sunshine Social’s converted industrial space is home to some of Melbourne’s finest charcoal chicken. The part open-air space is typically flooded with the sweet and aromatic smoke coming off the charcoal. Chickens are brined for 8 hours before being marinated in a special spice mix before being cooked over the charcoal to golden perfection. Best paired with a couple of beers and a raft of different sides including a spanking dill and fennel slaw, barbecued corn, and potato salad—a strong contender for the best charcoal chicken in Melbourne’s western suburbs.
Free Range On Centre Charcoal Chicken
A local treasure, Centre Charcoal Chicken is nestled amongst the local strip of shops on Centre Road in Bentleigh. It’s a low frill, no-fuss type of spot, the charcoal chicken shop we all grew up on, there’s just one difference—this one absolutely slaps. With a dedicated cult following of loyal fans, Centre Charcoal has won over its community with its marinated free-range Lilydale chickens cooked over coal and served up with piping hot chips. Hot tip, they also do one hell of a souva.
Alimentari Smith Street
Probably not where you’d expect to find some of the best charcoal chicken in Melbourne, but Alimentari’s serves up some seriously high-end poultry alongside its famed salads. Typically bustling with weekend crowds and daily coffee catch-ups—the Alimentari rotisserie version is a roasted organic chicken, served up with a truffle parsnip puree, peas and jus. There’s plenty to like about the Smith Street’s deli diners creation with strong flavours and sides to balance out the chicken.
Home To Roost
An absolute gem in the area, and the secret’s well and truly out on this one. Home To Roost is typically teeming with post 5pm lines each night that snake along the Burke Road footpath. The popularity is well and truly deserved, owned and operated by local favourite Angelo who’s craft has led to one of the best charcoal chicken shops in Melbourne. You’ll find a range of options here, from perfectly seasoned roasted chooks, marinated chicken burgers, gourmet salads, and insanely good chippies. The food here is fresh, it’s not oily and greasy, it’s got a healthy feel and they even offer a range of gluten-free and paleo options.
McManos Chicken Bar
A westside favourite and institution, McManos Chicken Bar is everything you’re looking for in a charcoal chicken shop. The timeless store still retains its gleaming yesteryear charm with old menu item imagery splayed across the walls and faux wood panelling. Equally famous for their critically acclaimed crinkle cut chips, McManos’s also whips up some of the best charcoal chicken in Melbourne. With an ultra-crunchy skin that’s been crusted from the coals, it shelters the chicken providing perfectly juicy and succulently salty flesh underneath. A reliable choice with plenty of legacy.
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Image credit: Home To Roost