Joyfully juicy

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Bird & Burger, 9 Napier Street, Essendon. Phone: 9090 7265

Bird & Burger lives in a premises long previously occupied by a similar operation with different management.

But this new lot are doing more than maintaining the location’s chicken shop tradition – they’re doing so splendidly.

Here be fast food that really is fresh and delicious.

 

 

The interior is mostly black and white, with eat-in seating options down to stools and a bench on one wall and a handful of snazzy ottomans facing the front window and another bench.

There are, however, tall tables and more stools outside.

 

My heart sinks a little when I see the plastic cutlery atop one of counters, fearing these useless tool may be served with my chicken.

But no!

Not only am I supplied with metal cutlery, my meal is presented on a black platter, with chips and coleslaw in similarly angular bowls.

It all looks marvellous.

Tastes that way, too.

The chips ($3.95) are hot, liberally salted and fine.

The admission price of $6.50 for my coleslaw seems, at first blush, a little steep for what I’m thinking is just a side dish to a chicken meal.

But here’s the thing – it is worth every cent.

In fact, I’ll call it right here and now – this is quite possibly the best coleslaw I’ve ever had in a chook shop.

Made mostly of red cabbage, and boasting subtle whiffs of tarragon and dill, it is well dressed without being sopping, has crunch yet is pliable – and is 100 per cent wonderful.

My chicken falls into the “Yes, It Can Be Done” category.

That’s right – even the very heart of the breast meat is as juicy as the rest of it.

My half bird ($10.50) is marinated in the mild chilli sauce that is chosen from a list that also includes lemon and herbs, crunchy creamed peanut and outback BBQ.

All is beaut and succulent.

 

 

The classic beef burger ($12.50) comes from a menu that includes two other beef burgers, five chicken burgers and a lamb edition.

Our burger’s lettuce, tomato, red onion, tomato relish and herb aioli are joined – upon request – by excellent bacon for which no charge is levied.

The beef patty is nicely charry and superbly seasoned with – I’m guessing here, as the staff mumble something about “top secret” when quizzed – oregano and other goodies.

Every aspect of this burger is an outright winner.

If CTS used points, I’d deduct one for the fact that this burger is such a gloriously messy handful that I resort, in the end, to eating it with a knife and fork.

But in this case, I care not because everything is just so damn tasty.

Bird & Burger is a fine establishment.

CTS metaphorically clicks its heels as it saunters back to the car.

The chook burger wins

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manok5

 

Manok, 351 Somerville Road, Yarraville. Phone: 9315 1440

As previously reported right here on CTS, Manok replaces the long-standing chook shop on Somerville Road on the small shopping strip at that road’s intersection with the Princes Highway.

Team CTS has visited twice now and had enjoyable meals on both occasions.

But we recommend keeping expectations in check.

Even with the new Manok crew on deck, this remains a chicken shop – albeit with a few twists – and fast food is the go.

The service is fine and we love and applaud that our in-house meals are served on enamelled plates with metal cutlery attending, though takeaway customers get styrofoam.

 

manok1

 

Our biggest hit by far is the chicken burger ($10, top photograph).

Bennie orders this and I’m envious.

He loves every mouthful.

It’s a simple thing – pulled roast chicken mixed with house-made peanut sauce and placed between the bun bookends with coleslaw.

How good does it look?

This is the sort of creation that could see Manok develop a bit of cult and end up on lists.

 

manok4

 

The chips ($3.50) that come with Bennie’s sandwich are fine, fresh and hot.

 

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That makes them a step above those that accompanied my burger on an earlier visit – these were just OK.

The beef burger ($10, $1 extra for bacon) was pretty handy, too.

Much better than you’d routinely get in chicken shops across the city, though I did wish for a bit more charred beef flavour.

 

manok3

 

And the chicken?

There’s a choice of two – regular and lemon grass.

Both CTS pal Marnie and I go for the latter, with the above-pictured half chook and salad costing $12.90.

I find it enjoyable but a bit average.

I’d like a bit more flavour oomph from the chook – I end up wishing I’d ordered the regular and got the crusty, salty taste explosion that goes with old-school chicken shop poultry.

The Greek salad is acceptable.

But with this sort of chicken in this sort of setting, I’d much prefer to have a good coleslaw on hand.

Marnie is a long-time reader of CTS and we’ve been working towards actually meeting up for some time – sometimes these things can take a while!

She has filed the following:

“Hey Kenny, thanks for inviting me to help check out the place. It was lovely to meet you both. The chook was good but I think I needed some sort of dipping sauce to go with it. Something traditionally Filipino would be ace. Paying for nearly $3 (!) for gravy is a bit insulting IMO … I still think I prefer Pier Street charcoal chicken shop in Altona in terms of juiciness, tastiness and value for money though.

Nice to meet you, too!

manok6

Pete’s Charcoal Stop

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Pete’s Charcoal Stop, 562 Mt Alexander Rd, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9375 1169

Charcoal chicken shops = coleslaw and chips.

That’s the pretty much hard-and-fast rule for at least one half of the Consider The Sauce team.

So what am I doing breaking with such entrenched tradition?

I’d been alerted to the merits of this chicken shop several months previously by someone who knows about such important matters.

I’d stuck my nose in at the weekend for a look-see … and discovered that this particular business has a distinct Mediterranean flavour.

There’s dolmades and dips and more.

The takeaway menu lists mousaka, pastistio and spanakopita.

So I go with the flow …

And order some of scrumptious-seeming potato segments residing in tasty- juices instead of chips to go with my half-chook.

And Greek salad instead of ‘slaw.

The spuds are beautifully cooked, but I confess to expecting more by way of lemon/oregano zing. Still, a nice change.

The salad is good, the vegetables are fresh and there’s quite a lot of dressing but not much seasoning.

The bird itself is tender through and through – something that can’t often be said of such places, especially when it comes to the often-dry breast meat.

My chicken is a good roast half-bird – that is, it’s minus the crinkly, crunchy, blackened and pungent/salty skin.

My meal – including a can of soft drink – clocks in at a fine $14.

I suspect next time here I’ll revert to chips/coleslaw type.

I know that if I lived nearby, this would be a far-too-regular haunt.

It has the vibe that tells me it’s run by people who know exactly what they’re about when it comes to charcoal chicken, kebabs and burgers.

Sunshine Charcoal Chicken

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Sunshine Charcoal Chicken, 3 Alfrieda St, St Albans. Phone: 9364 5310

Now look here, I’d be rather cross if you folks started believing there’s some sort of group-think going on with food bloggers.

Well, believing there is more of it than is found in all sorts of endeavours involving the inter-action of human beings.

Reading other blogs is supposedly part of blogging itself.

Truth is, though, I love checking out what other people are up to.

Sometimes – when I’ve nothing to gasbag about myself – I spend a whole evening reading other blogs, leaving a few comments along the way.

One thing that has struck in becoming familiar with this wonderful new world is the rampant individuality and the personality that blogs generate.

This seems especially so of the 20 or so Mellbourne food blogs I admire most and follow the most religiously.

More specifically, I’m quite amazed about how little overlap there is between Consider The Sauce and the blog and blogger with whom we have most in common – Footscray Food Blog and its boss, Ms Baklover, whose work we adore.

Considering myriad mutual interests, including but not restricted to geography, this seems rather miraculous.

The number of places both blogs have covered would be well into double figures but equally well short of three figures.

I reckon that says a lot about the foodie riches of Melbourne’s western suburbs, don’t you?

But sometimes the obviousness and rightness of something cannot be denied.

So …

The very day Footscray Food Blog writes about the Sunshine branch of an outfit called Sunshine Charcoal Chicken happens to be a day off for yours truly.

Lunch is not only on, it’s mandatory – and preferably one I can bang on about.

The St Albans’ outlet of the same outfit has long been on the CTS wishlist.

And I need to harvest some photos for Snap West

So … a meandering drive to St Albans and back is just the ticket!

And thus, for the first time ever, CTS and FBB write on the same organisation on the same day, albeit about different shops.

(Editor’s note: As Ms Baklava herself point out below, this was actually the second time … but still. For such sloppy attention to detail, the author has been docked a week’s pay!)

I really like this Alfrieda St chook emporium – it has a lovely lived-in feel and four tables.

During my lunch visit, the place is pretty damn busy with chicken-loving regulars and locals.

They sell two kinds of chicken – regular Aussie-style charcoal chook and what they refer to as Spanish chicken, which means Filipino style.

The latter are butterflied and marinated, and a whole flock of them have just entered the in-house tanning salon as I arrive.

A quarter bird of either will cost you $4 and a half, $6.

I go Filipino-style, of course, that being the whole purpose of my visit.

Bonus points to this joint for providing real cutlery and crockery, which according to Ms Baklover is not the case at the Sunshine food court outlet.

The chips are fresh out of the frier but a little disappointing – I’m not quite sure what the problem is, as they’re hot and nicely salted. Maybe the problem is all mine.

The breast meat is too dry, but not disastrously so.

The meat around the various bones is much, much better – top class, in fact.

The flavour is rather mild. There’s an expected sweetness and my tastebuds tell me there’s a significant garlic component as well.

The coleslaw is heavy on the gloop factor but the cabbage and carrot ingredients are fresh and crunchy.

It’s a really good chicken lunch I enjoy, so this place is likely to be the subject of return visits by father and son.

I’m partial to regular charcoal chicken, but it’s cool that there’s this tasty alternative in St Albans AND Sunshine.

And on the way back home, doing the CTS Westie Prowl, I discover an Argentine bakery in Derrimut! It’s closed but I’ll be there the next day for sure.

Sunshine Charcoal Chicken on Urbanspoon

Hot Wings

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134 Ferguson St, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 0146

Want to know what Australia eats on a Saturday night?

Forget your fancy pants cooking and lifestyle shows, glossy magazines, newspaper reviews, food guides and food blogs.

Sit, instead, at one of the few inside tables at Hot Wings in Williamstown at the start of rush hour … and watch an amazing, ceaseless flow of customers come and go.

These are not groups of teens fuelling up for a night of movies or mayhem, or couples of any age grabbing dinner on the way home from a day out.

Nope, almost without exception these are parents popping in to grab obviously family-sized meals for family-sized families.

Think of this same scene unfolding at all the good chicken shops across Melbourne, then Victoria and then Australia – it’s amazing to contemplate.

There’s no doubt this is spectacularly unhealthy food.

But I doubt it’s any worse than, say, fish and chips, which seem to have acquired a patina of righteousness in the past decade or so, or the unfood of the franchises.

I doubt even that a chicken shop feed is much more of a no-no than the kebab and dips approach, or the whole five-course deal at a French establishment.

In any case, these places are hugely popular – a mainstay, for better or worse, of the Australian family food routine.

I’d love to know more about them.

When did they start? Where did the inspiration come from?

Are there equivalents in other countries, apart from the fried chicken of US fame?

You still find quite a broad spectrum of people running such businesses, but my impression is that these days they are dominated by folk of the Chinese persuasion.

And then, too, there’s hybrids – chicken ‘n’ pizzas, chicken ‘n’ burgers, chicken ‘n’ F&C, chicken ‘n’ kebabs, chicken ‘n’ the lot.

There’s nothing hybrid about Hot Wings – it’s a classic of the genre.

It’s all here – the scalloped potatoes, deep-fried chicken if you’re perverse enough to desire such, the gravy, the salads.

A couple of the salads look like they’ve been mayonaised to death, but there’s a decent looking Greek salad and even – wow! – a tabouli.

When the mood strikes me for this kind of food – about once a year – I prefer to head for the shop in Racecourse Rd, Flemington, or some other place that does eat-ins with metal cutlery and real plates.

But as I chow down at Hot Wings, I have no regrets – as what I experience is a peak chicken shop meal.

Timing is vital in visits to such food outlets.

If, when you enter, a new batch of chips is on the way and the final, bedraggled remnants of the previous lot are sitting there looking unlovely, head for the door … walk around the block or go somewhere else.

Tonight, I’m in luck – the chips are fresh, hot and wonderful.

The downer of having to use plastic cutlery is substantially decreased by the juicy quality of my half bird – even the deepest part of the breast meat is moist, requiring no help from gravy or such like.

This, in my experience, is a rarity.

As is coleslaw that is neither gloopy with or drowning in mayo.

That said, this one doesn’t quite back up its good looks – it’s plainly on the dull and bland side.

Chick N Ranch

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149 Minerva Rd, Geelong West. Phone: 5298 1921

Chicken shop in an old servo?

It drew me like a magnet.

I chat to the main Ranch hand, Tony Kopty, outside while I take photos.

He tells me that while his mob have been running the show for only a couple of years, the once-was-a-servo has served as a chicken shop of one variety or another for 20.

I tell him it’s notable that several posters on the joint’s Facebook page use words such as “great for hangovers” or some such.

“You should see them on Sundays, about midday, rolling up here like zombies,” he says with a laugh.

Fuelled by the appeal of the location and its former use, as well as the outfit’s cool name, I have notions of something a little more funky than your typical Oz chicken shop.

What I get is your typical Oz chicken shop.

For me, two of the benchmarks for a cutting-edge, exemplary chicken shop experience are real cutlery/crockery and coleslaw that’s not drowning in mayo.

I get none of that here. And stupidly, I forget to take a pic or two before getting stuck into my lunch of half a chook, chips, gravy, coleslaw and soft drink. By the time I remember, it’s not in the least bit photogenic.

The chicken is good, the chips a bit tired on it but OK, while the salad has so much mayo I’m half expecting it to flow out the door.

Yes, I’ve had better chick shop feeds … but, by heck, I’ve had plenty a whole lot worse, too.

So it’s a typical Oz chicken shop meal in a typical Oz chicken shop.

Closer to home, another outfit that lives in an old servo can be found at Stephz in Sunshine.