The Colonel might hold the patent on those secret herbs and spices, fried chicken isn’t rocket science, but it's pretty close. Good quality oil, heated to a sunshine bubble. House-made batter. Free-range chooks (white or dark meat, depending on your preferences). Dip it in and watch out for splashbacks. Whack on some hot sauce and you’re in Flavour Country.
But where do you get the best fried chicken in Melbourne? We’ve scoured the streets to dig up the best fried chicken this town has to offer...and gone up three pant sizes in the process.
Korean Fried Chicken
Korean Fried Chicken, or ‘KFC’ (it’s okay, no-one’s been sued yet) is about as close to culinary perfection as humanity is ever gonna get. Perfectly fried chicken, doused with soy and garlic, so sticky it fuses to every exposed inch of your hands, arms and face. Wash it all down with a massive pint of frosty beer....
Gami (CBD): The Big Kahuna of Melbourne’s KFC scene. Go soy & garlic, go boneless, and don’t look back. Order a kimchi pancake and a beer keg and you’ll be rolling home.
Bornga (CBD): $29 for a huge platter of golden fried chicken? Sign us the hell up. Bonus points if you order up a serve of the Mushroom Bulgogi. That thing is off the chain.
Kong (Richmond): Kong is all about the shared plates. But one plate you definitely should hog all to yourself is the KFC with yang yang sauce, crushed nuts and shallots. Sharing is overrated.
Chick-In (CBD): The schnitzel is good, but the wings are better. Order up a serve of the spicy wings with chips, plus an avocado bibimbap to cool things down. Don’t forget the cheap Cass beer either.
Crazy Wings (CBD): Whatever you do, don’t underestimate the dreaded ‘crazy wing’. Hands down the hottest fried chicken in Melbourne. These things could be used as chemical warfare.
Hwatu (Carlton): Hwatu’s set menus are legendary, and our fave has gotta be the ‘Dumpling, Chicken & Beer Set’. Fried pork dumplings, cheesy corn, a jug of Sapporo and half a boneless chook. Happy days.
American-Style Fried Chicken
American food in Melbourne used to mean just Andrew’s Hamburgers and American Doughnut Kitchen. But now every street corner has its own burger bar or fried chicken joint. American fried chicken tends to come un-sauced (unlike KFC). It relies more on the herbs and the batter. Gnarly and golden or spiced up to hell—we don’t care, as long as there’s chips and a milkshake.
F.A.T. Fried & Tasty (Brunswick East, Fitzroy): The name pretty much says it all. At F.A.T. you can’t go past the fried chicken on buttermilk waffles with vanilla ice-cream and Canadian maple syrup. NOM.
Sonny’s Fried Chicken (Carlton): Sonny’s is the latest takeover at the John Curtin Hotel. They brine their chicken for 24-hours, then pressure fry it to an outrageous crisp. Seriously, you gotta try these things.
Parlour Diner (Windsor): If you’re after fried chicken in Windsor, this is where you go. Parlour’s Blue Ribbon fried chicken is bigger than it sounds, especially once you add in curly fries and a salad. Six wings only for the pros.
Le Bon Ton (Collingwood): Southern-style buttermilk fried tenders with cracked pepper white gravy? Oh lordy, yes. Definitely whack on the pickles and jalapeno cornbread as well. Praised be, Le Bon Ton.
Phat Chicks Fried Chicken (Footscray): Mi Goreng fried chicken? Kettle CHILLI CHIP fried chicken? What sorcery is this? Phat Chicks stormed onto the scene in 2017, and it’s already achieved legend status.
Temple Brewing Co (Brunswick East): When the menu says ‘Bucket of boneless fried chicken’, that’s what you bloody well order. Comes with a wicked Togarashi spice rub and lime yuzu mayo, too.
Smoke & Pickles (Elsternwick): Home to our favourite hot sauce and our favourite chicken. What could be better? Smoke & Pickles is better known for burgers, but their fried chicken ribs are freaking delicious. Always, always go the 9-piece.
Juanita Peaches (Brunswick): These guys joint and season their own free-range chicken on-site. The result? Some of the tastiest birds in the whole damn city. Burgers aren't too shabby either...
Kodiak Club (Fitzroy): Home to some of the spiciest wings in Melbourne, the infamous Kodiak Buffalo Wings. They come tossed in Yankee hot sauce, with a side of celery sticks and blue cheese dressing. Cue stomach rumbling...
Trunk Diner (CBD): Trunk is one of our favourite CBD venues, although their ‘Stupid Hot Wings’ are (frankly) terrifying. Stick to the Buffalo Wings if you’re a newbie, and ask for a side of their epic house-made hot sauce.
Leonards House Of Love (South Yarra): The guys behind Sweetwater Inn have created something special at Leonards. The burgers are killer, but the fried tenders with pickles and Chipotle mayo will melt your face. So, so good.
Belles Hot Chicken (Fitzroy, CBD): Southern-style fried chicken at its very best. Be brave and order the ‘Really F*cking Hot* wings with a side of mac n cheese. That Nashville tang is out of this world.
Rockwell & Sons (Collingwood): Rockwell’s Wednesday night fried chicken is the stuff of legend, and spots usually book up weeks in advanced. Slow-brined, coated in buttermilk, then fried to a perfect crisp, it’s a thing of beauty.
Japanese Fried Chicken
Karaage, you beautiful bastard. We have no idea how to pronounce you, but damn you taste good. Japanese karaage is lighter and less greasy than its American counterpart. The secret is the spiced wheat flour or potato starch batter, which gives one hell of a crunch. All you need to complete the picture is a little pile of pickled daikon and aioli with a solid tang.
Izakaya Den (CBD): An oldie, but still a goodie. Head down the stairs and order up a bowl of ID’s famous karaage. Puffed, golden and crispy, with a cheeky lemon wedge on the side. Pro tip: grab a seat up at the bar for extra theatre.
Butcher’s Diner (CBD): Not a Japanese specialist, but try a plate of their karaage and tell us we’re wrong. Go on, we’ll wait. This stuff is chicken crack. Fried to perfection and served with creamy aioli. Freakin’ YUM.
Ichi Ni Nana (Fitzroy): It’s food envy whichever way you look at Ichi Ni Nana, but the karaage is always a solid choice. Fried chicken drumettes that come sprinkled with salt and pepper or slathered in honey and sesame. Guess which one we prefer.
Misoya Sake Bar (Brunswick): Awww yeah. Deep-fried chicken karaage, still moist in the middle, drizzled with a finger-licking shitake mushroom sauce. One of our all-time faves. You’ve got to check out Misoya next time you’re in Brunswick.
Yoku Ono (Prahran): If you need a little stomach liner before settling in to that bowl of ramen, Yoku’s karaage is up there with the best. Golden crisp and not too heavy. Perfect pre-ramen fuel.
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Image credit: Sonny's Fried Chicken | Griffin Simm