It's not junk food when it's on the best tables

Natascha Mirosch
KFD? Yep, it's Kentucky Fried Duck at Public.
KFD? Yep, it's Kentucky Fried Duck at Public. 

Is our love affair with Spain cooling? The tapas menu, once a feature of restaurants from the CBD to deepest suburbia is being eschewed for the broader, "share plate". Meanwhile, "sliders", "Buffalo wings" and "po' boys" are becoming as much a part of our culinary lexicon as "chorizo" and "croquetta" were a few years ago.

At Next Door Kitchen & Bar there are "Gangster" chicken wings; at Public, Texas brisket and Kentucky fried duck; ranch dressing, shoestring fries and barbecue sauce are on the menu at Bistro One Eleven; buttermilk pork collar and slaw at Malt and short ribs at The Euro. American food, it seems is kicking the tapas trend squarely in the butt with Brisbane diners in thrall to a cuisine we once considered little more than junk food.

Mmm... pie time at Carolina Kitchen.
Mmm... pie time at Carolina Kitchen. 

In the southern suburb of Coorparoo on a weekend, crowds of die-hard rib and wing lovers loiter on the footpath outside Carolina Kitchen, hoping for a table and a fix of saucy finger-licking goodness. This laid-back soul food purveyor offers the full American immersion experience from menu to music.

Rather than tapping into the trend or creating a "theme" though co-owner Nigel Perry says when they opened two years ago it was simply a case of doing what they knew best.

"We never thought about whether it would work or not," Perry says. "My dad is from North Carolina and we grew up cooking and eating this food. It was just a case of wanting to do something and this is what we knew."

Carolina hasn't changed or expanded its menu since it opened. Which is just how their diners, who go through "hundreds of kilos" of Buffalo wings with blue cheese sauce each week according to Perry, as well as hot dogs, hoagies and "New York fries," prefer it.

The newish PJ's Steaks in West End is fast developing a cult following too, after introducing Brisbane diners to the joys of the "cheese steak". An institution in Philadelphia, the cheese steak, is thinly sliced or chopped steak piled onto a "sandwich" (roll) with onions and cheese (often Cheez Whiz or provolone) – pretty much an American version of our petrol station staple, the steak sanger.

In Newstead, Chicago-born Brian Kennedy and business partner Carl Rhodes of Tippler's Tap have matched an eclectic beer list with a menu with its foot firmly planted in Kennedy's home town. Drinkers can perch at the bar with a craft beer and trio of sliders, lick the grease and cheese sauce from their fingers after a kilo of wings or try the most authentic Chicago hot dog this side of Illinois.


Why American food though? It known neither for being healthy nor highbrow but it inexpensive and accessible.

“Our craft beer is more expensive than mass produced beer so we try to keep the food prices down,” Carl Rhodes says. The majority of dishes on the Tippler's Tap menu from a kilo serve of chicken wings with blue cheese sauce and black sesame seeds to "Grandma Kennedy's chili" are under $10.

But the Americana trend is just as much about changing social mores; a natural progression from tapas and the continuing casualisation of food and the dining out experience. What remains to be seen is whether it will have the same tenacious hold that tapas once did.

Where to eat American

Carolina Kitchen, 38 Macaulay Street, Coorparoo, 07 3847 8227

Five Dogs, 290 Brunswick Mall , Fortitude Valley.

Harry's Diner, 104 Newmarket Road, Windsor, 07 3357 7177

Ohio Cafe, 10/701 Sandgate Road, Clayfield, 07 3262 3107

Pjs Steaks, 2/173 Boundary Street, West End, 07 3844 1886

The Smoke BBQ, 85 Merthyr Road, New Farm, 07 3358 1922

Tippler's Tap, 22 Master's Street, Newstead (no phone)

Superwhatnot, 48 Burnett Lane, Brisbane, 07 3210 2343

Yard Bird Ale House, 6/24 Martin St, Fortitude Valley, 07 3852 6413

Coming Soon:

The Diner, South Bank.

Wing'in' it, A Brisbane based food truck selling American food. See their Facebook page here.

G Dogzz, 356 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley.

Natascha Mirosch is the editor of Good Food Guide 2013. The new Guide will be available in Queensland bookshops and on from Tuesday April 16 and Queensland newsagents from Wednesday April 17 for $19.99.