The roo parma
WHILE much of the attention is focussed on the pub's iconic bogan burger, its chicken parma ($20) with its unusual topping is an undervalued gem. It starts with a free-range chicken breast and instead of ham, patrons can choose to top it with slivers of smoked kangaroo fillet. The two meats blend much better than you'd expect, with the kangaroo succulent and subtle. Beware: portions are huge and this dish could easily feed two. If the weather's good, take it out to the side beer garden, although classicists might argue the front bar suits a parma best.
The Napier Hotel, 210 Napier Street, Fitzroy, 9419 4240; open from 3pm Monday-Thursday, open from 1pm Friday-Sunday.
NO LIST could be complete without a visit to Melbourne's most hospitable matriarch, Mrs Parmas, with 13 variations on offer. The parma-geddon ($24) - the hottest parma in town - is our pick. A 230-gram chicken breast is topped with a home-made chilli sauce that, according to bar manager Elaine Mark, has 17 ingredients, four types of chilli and takes four days to make including eight hours of simmering. Yes, it's hot, but there are 10 taps of Victorian craft beer on hand to put out the fire. If you're spice-averse, veal ($26) or eggplant ($20) are also available.
Mrs Parmas, 25 Little Bourke Street, city, 9639 2269; lunch and dinner daily. See mrsparmas.com.au
FOR die-hard fans, the only thing better than a parma is a parma on top of another parma. Welcome to the 700-gram grandy ($35). Since 2005, the Albion Hotel has been producing these mammoth meals as part of its Wednesday night Parmarama deal. Manager Bob Barclay says at least 10 are sold each week, though only four on average are finished. For a short time, the three-stacked parma was available but even fewer could get through it, sothe third was dropped. If diners eat their meal in less than 30 minutes, they get to spin a wheel full of prizes of up to $75.
The Albion Hotel, 146 Evans Street, Port Melbourne, 9646 1991; Monday-Friday lunch and dinner, Saturday dinner, closed Sunday; hotelalbion.com.au
THINGS change quickly on Brunswick Street, but for the past six years Palookaville's mainstay dish has been its slightly askew take on the traditional parma ($15). ''We wanted to take the humble parma to another level,'' owner and chef Stephen Bromilow says. ''We are well over the 60,000 mark sold now.'' Ham is replaced by Lago's house-made kurobuta pork pancetta, and instead of tomato sauce, fresh tomato salsa adds a little kick. The chicken is thick and coated with a blend of fresh ground herbs and Japanese panko crumbs. Large hand-cut wedges finish the dish. It's a lighter, more flavoursome version of the standard offering.
Palookaville, 416 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 9416 3942; dinner daily; palookaville.com.au
The parma dog
FOR Canadian expat Jay Currie, the idea of owning a late-night food van came four years ago while he was working behind a desk. ''I just wanna buy a hot dog truck and sell dogs, man,'' was his plea to friends. Fast-forward to today and it's common to see lines of hungry revellers outside his graffiti-laden truck, many of whom have come for the parma dog ($7.95). It starts with a roasted beef frankfurter topped with oozing mozzarella and garnished with crisp-fried parma ham. According to Currie, it's all about the home-made napoli sauce, which is blended with 11 herbs and spices. It's the perfect late-night supper. Check Twitter or Facebook for where to find him.
Big Moose's Food Van, facebook.com/bigmooses; @bigmoosesdogs