Whether it’s feasts with friends, quick workday lunches or late-night hankerings, fried chicken is always there for us in all its hot, crunchy glory. As aficionados of the humble chook, we’ve done the hard yards to bring you the best fried chicken in the city, whether it’s Southern-style or Korean, in wing form or on waffles – we’ve even got vegan options in there. And with National Fried Chicken Day just around the corner (6th July), there couldn’t be a better time to indulge.
This stripped-back yet homey little diner is held close in the hearts of Brunswick locals – a friendly, dependable spot for well-made comfort food. Their fried chicken stands tall among competition, marinated in a zingy brine laced with peppercorns, lemon and onion before sporting a thin yet crispy coating that couches juicy meat. It hardly needs the addition of sauces like honey mustard or chilli ‘boss sauce’, but they don’t hurt either. We also love that it’s served with slaw, fries, a bread roll and gravy – like a KFC box but infinitely better.
12 Edward Street, Brunswick
There's more than a little bit of New Orleans at this late-night smokehouse and bar bringing the traditional flavours of the south to Collingwood. While their pit-smoked meats are the main affair, their fried chicken is also a winner – tenders soaked in buttermilk and cooked to perfection, served with a moreish white pepper gravy and zingy jalapenos.
51 Gipps Street, Collingwood
Belle’s Hot Chicken is one of Melbourne’s great success stories, growing from a single humble shopfront in Gertrude St to half a dozen locations across Melbourne and Sydney, in five short years. It’s a testament to our love for the product, unflinchingly spicy Southern-style chicken that’s super crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. Choose from six different heat levels tempered by sauces like ranch and blue cheese, before teaming with comfort food sides such as mac’n’cheese and Old Bay fries.
150 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
147 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne
727 Collins Street, Melbourne
Wing lovers take flight! This dedicated eatery specialise in buffalo wings made exactly how you want them. Choose from original, boneless or vegetarian wings made from seitan, before dialling up the heat with big flavours including chilli mango, Sichuan pepper, smokey barbecue and cajun. They don’t mess around, offering combos from 1 to 100 wings. So grab your chicken-loving mates and plough in, with buckets of Coors to soothe the heat.
288 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
253 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne
Gami’s Korean-style chicken is fried twice, so that the thin batter stays shatteringly crispy even after being tossed in delicious marinades, which include sweet chilli, soy garlic and chilli. As their name implies, their chicken is made for soaking up beer alongside friends – a brief they take so seriously that they also do a vegetarian fried chook, made with soy and served in a sweet black bean sauce, so that no one misses out.
Chapel Street’s perennially packed-out hotspot for modern Japanese does a dangerously addictive karaage chicken. Bite-sized nubbins of juicy dark meat are dusted with a secret seasoning, served with smooth kewpie mayo. If you’re in a group, we highly recommend you get more than one serving, lest there be a fight at the table.
99 Chapel Street, Windsor
Best known for their epic burgers – with a name like Burger Project, you know what to expect – but if a cheeseburger just won’t cut it, opt for their delicious Southern-fried chicken instead. Served in bun form, this sizzling, crispy combo features a delicious mélange of Lilydale chicken breast, deep-fried in a crispy batter coating, topped with aioli and pickles, or go Deluxe with added tomato, lettuce and cheese. There are plenty of extras to choose from too – think triple-smoked bacon, house-made salted red chilli and house-pickled jalapenos – to pimp your burger to the max.
Pelicana is a household name in Korea. They opened their first Australian store in Melbourne this year, which means now we also get to enjoy their ultra-crispy, 48 hour-marinated chicken, that comes with the option to order bone-in or boneless. It’s battered with a secret seasoning before being doused in your choice of toppings from wasabi dust to honey butter, served with pickles and coleslaw to cut through all that delicious grease.
163 Franklin Street, Melbourne
They take their fried chook here very seriously, brining for 24 hours before pressure-frying to attain extra crispy skin while meat stays juicy. Those that are picky about their pieces will love that you can order by white meat (breast) or dark meat (drumsticks and thigh pieces), with sauces including comeback, ranch, or our personal favourite – their lush housemade gravy. Pair your bird with a range of Southern-style sides including mac'n'cheese, bean salad and paprika-dusted corn on the cob.
29 Lygon Street, Carlton
Great fried chicken doesn’t always equal great ambience, but Leonard’s House of Love has no problem on that front. The 70s inspired log cabin and bar is cosy, vibey, and a whole lotta fun, sporting an open fireplace, wooden fixtures and quirky knick knacks aplenty. Alongside killer burgers and an entire dedicated menu of loaded fries, their fried chicken draws the punters in thick and fast. Juicy chunks of breast meat tenders come in a crackly coating, served with a tangy chipotle mayo with pickles to refresh the palate. There’s also popcorn chicken for the snackers while XXX hot wings will quickly have you reaching for your beer.
3 Wilson Street, South Yarra
Damn straight, fried chicken is an art, and these guys are bonafide masters. This unassuming Flemington shop does a roaring trade for their juicy, tender bird, offered in original, Nashville or Mexican flavours and dipped in sauces ranging from buffalo to spicy maple – don’t forget to order a side of tangy Vietnamese slaw to cut through the heat. They also do chicken and waffles, burgers and best of all, they’re open super late (until 1am most nights) so your midnight cravings need never go unanswered.
320 Racecourse Road, Flemington
F.A.T. stands for ‘Fried and Tasty’, which certainly holds true for their top-notch Southern-style buttermilk brined chicken, which is fried in a pressure cooker to lock in more flavour. It’s served in all the varieties you’d find in the States – think fried tenders, buffalo wings and hot chicken served with a range of dipping sauces that include chipotle BBQ and peach cayenne. Best of all, they work sweet-salty magic with their chicken and waffles, teaming their original fried chicken with buttermilk waffles, vanilla ice cream and maple syrup.
360 Lygon Street, Brunswick East
41-47 Smith Street, Fitzroy
If you’re looking to eat a piece of fried chicken as big as your face, there’s only one place to go – Hot Star. The Taiwanese import is famous for their oversized, two-hander beauties, made by beating down a 250gm breast fillet into a thin, schnitzel-like chicken steak, coated in a special tapioca flour batter that stays super crispy while locking moisture in. Finish it off with a dash of salt and pepper, or a dusting of chilli or cajun for extra kick.
This one’s for our plant-based friends. Loving Hut proves that vegans don’t have to miss out, plating up a Southern fried chicken recipe that’s almost as good as the real thing. A super crispy, flaky coating hugs fillets of incredibly convincing “chicken” made of soy protein. Served with sweet chilli mayo or volcano sauce and a side of potato salad, even meat eaters will be kept happy with this one.