The Colonel was definitely onto something when he coined the phrase "finger lickin' good". Fried chicken, predominantly of the Southern US variety, is popping up on menus all over town.
A simple dish in theory, there's an art to making fried chicken with a number of components coming into play. On the bone or off the bone? Skin on or skin off? White or dark meat? Pan-fry or deep-fry? Vegetable oil or lard? Then there's the seasoning.
Traditionally, chicken is cut off at the joints with the bones and skin left intact before brining it in buttermilk, breading it in a flour mix and deep-frying. When done, it's drained slightly on paper towel before serving. And fried chicken is very much a hands-on experience – no cutlery required.
Here are 10 of the best.
Rockwell and Sons
Southern import Casey Wall nails it with his traditional fried chicken. It is served only on a Wednesday night. Wall cuts chickens into eight parts, brines them for three days, and dredges the pieces in seasoned flour before frying. Good crunch, a gentle spiced flavour and moist, succulent chicken within makes this my hands down favourite.
288 Smith St, Collingwood, 8415 0700, rockwellandsons.com.au
Using thigh meat taken off the bone, the golden fried chicken at Belle's is light and crisp, curling around at the edges like a comforting hug. Chef Catriona Freeman keeps her spice blend close to her chest but hints of paprika give it a gentle zing.
150 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, 3068, 03 9077 0788, bellesdiner.com.au
Why order two pieces of buttermilk-brined fried chicken breast when you can get six? The pieces are golden, light and crisp. The slightly sweet casing gives way to a moist interior that retains the flavour throughout. The house-made, tomato-based "fancy sauce" is the perfect accompaniment.
64 Chapel St, Windsor, 3181, 03 9533 2006
Joe's Bar and Dining Hall
Chicken thigh meat, bone out, skin off and a double crumbing process is how Joe's does it and the result is a surprisingly succulent interior and a tangy exterior with excellent crunch; proof that you can get great fried chicken off the bone.
64-66 Acland St, St Kilda, 9525 3755, joesbar.com.au
Warning: American portion size alert! Served as a side, The B.East's fried chicken is a meal in itself. A combination of white and dark meat left on the bone, the buttermilk brined Southern style fried chicken is served drizzled with house-made ranch dressing.
80 Lygon St, Brunswick East, 9036 1456, theb-east.com
The 120th St Chicken and Waffles at The Merrywell pays homage to its Harlem soulfood roots with a half fried chicken, cooked on the bone, boasting spices used by African American residents, and served on a light and fluffy red velvet waffle with killer bee honey.
Crown Tower/Clarendon St, Southbank, 9292 7468, themerrywell.com.au
St Katherine's Fried Chicken, or KFC as it's cheekily dubbed, doesn't take itself too seriously but still tastes great. Boned Maryland chicken legs are steamed, placed in buttermilk, then crumbed in a mix that includes packet tomato soup and cornflakes before frying, resulting in extra crunch and a pleasing dark casing.
26 Cotham Rd, Kew, 9207 7477, stkatherines.com.au
With a light peppery flavour and a golden outer, the southern fried chicken ribs at Gramercy are much larger than expected. Extracted from near the shoulder, ribs are soaked in buttermilk, rolled through a combination of rice flour, smoked paprika and onion, fried and served with dill-infused ranch dressing.
162-164 Commercial Rd, Prahran, 9098 1155, gramercybistro.com.au
A Eurasian spin on a Southern classic, a half chicken is divided into 8 pieces, brined, vac-packed in a water bath, cooled, drained, buttermilk dipped and rolled in a three flour mix before deep-frying. The end result is a savoury spice explosion.
2/157 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, 9525 4488, goldenfields.com.au
Light in colour and mild in taste, Gami's thin crust Korean style fried chicken is a Melbourne institution for post-boozing indulgence (many believe the "famous house beer" further enhances the experience). Original, sweet chilli, soy garlic or spicy sauce. Just add beer.
Healeys Lane, 535 Lt Lonsdale St, Melbourne, 9670 3232, gamichicken.com.au
Where do you go for a fried chicken fix in Melbourne? Use the comment function below to share your top picks.