Fat Belly Jacks wasn’t supposed to happen. When Sydneysider Ben Kagan started scouting for sites for his first Brisbane restaurant, the plan was to haul his popular burger joint Down n’ Out up north.

But after securing a spot on Petrie Terrace beside Fritzenberger and around the corner from Ben’s Burgers – now in Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall – things changed.

“We thought we’d try something different,” says Kagan, who was also behind the enormously popular Lobster Shack pop-up that recently spent three weeks in the same Petrie Terrace tenancy.

A fried chicken “crawl” through America inspired Kagan to bring Nashville-style hot chicken to the strip instead. He began a months-long process trying to recreate the fiery fried bird found at Tennessee institutions such as Princes and Hattie B’s. “We were … trying different flour combinations so it gets that nice crisp [coating] without being too thick … we feel like we’ve cracked it.”

Kagan claims the result is some of the best fried chicken in the world. It’s a huge call. But it does stand above a lot of Australian competitors. The super-succulent chook, smothered in a spicy-sweet sauce, packs some serious heat (and crunch).

“We’ve had people in from Nashville already saying, ‘You guys don’t know how well you’ve nailed it’,” says venue manager Andy Wilson (ex-Montrachet). “All the feedback has been super, super positive.”

Patrons choose the cut (thigh, wing, tenders) and heat level (Southern Style to Really F**cking Hot!). For those who are game, there’s an even spicier off-menu option: “A super secret hot [sauce], which we serve black latex gloves with,” Wilson says. He’s not kidding.

Each serve comes on a slice of white bread with pickles and a side: choose from mac’n’cheese, bacon-fried greens, Memphis slaw and more. “The white bread soaks up the sauce and it’s kind of like a palate cleanser – same as the pickles,” Kagan says. “[It] helps to cancel out [the heat] a bit and cool down your mouth.”

For drinks, there’s an extensive selection of North American spirits – whiskey, bourbon, mezcal, tequila, moonshine and more – plus a tight crop of beers, including a house pale ale and lager. A soon-to-launch cocktail list will also lean on American classics.

The theme extends beyond the menu. Posters of iconic westerns line the walls, and an all-American soundtrack of blues, rock, soul and country pumps through the sound system.

Fat Belly Jacks
48 Petrie Terrace Brisbane (opposite the Barracks)
(07) 3368 2991

Tue to Sat 12pm–10pm


This story was originally published November 21. Menu items may have changed.