It’s been years in the making, but two food and beer enthusiasts are living the dream, dishing up American-style chicken to patrons from both here and abroad.

By Sue Turpie – Photography by David Field

You know you’re on a good thing when an ex-pat from the States compliments you on your Southern American cuisine.
Justin McPhail and business partner Nick Horgan have brought a taste of America to Bendigo with their new venture, Flight Bar and Bottleshop and the positive response has reinforced their belief that the city was ready for something a bit different.
After taking over the premises in Centreway Arcade, Justin and Nick gutted the shop and rebuilt it to their own specifications.
“This is something we’ve been working towards for the last two years. We opened as a chicken shop while we were waiting for our liquor licence to come through, and the response to that was awesome,” Justin says. “Then two months later when we got our licence, things just exploded.
“Everything sold is 100 per cent craft beer, independent beer. We want to also do smoked chicken but this space doesn’t allow for that so that’ll be down the track.”
It was more than two years ago Justin visited America, spending two months touring and tasting.
“I basically did the big food tour all the way down south, where food was basically smoked meats and southern fried chicken. So I pretty much ate fried chicken from the right-hand side to the left-hand side of the country, and gained 10 kilos in the process,” Justin laughs.
“It was great to learn the different variety and styles of chicken that they’ve got because they all cook them differently, fry them differently and crumb them differently. Some use the free-standing fryers, while some really traditional fried chicken joints use cast iron pots still, like they did some hundred years ago. The best-tasting chicken came out of those cast iron pots.
“We’d been working on the recipe for a couple of years before we got here. I’d been playing around at home and at different restaurants. Eventually, about six months ago, I was really happy with what we were doing and we started doing a few pop-ups which lead to this.
“The menu itself is really simple; we offer three types of chicken — wings, tenders and thigh, which goes into the burgers — and basically you can choose your heat. Everything comes out southern fried but you can add spices to it, from mild then running all the way up to Nashville which is traditionally known as the hottest chicken.”
The fat chicken requires 24 hours’ notice as the chicken is brined in chilli before being hot crumbed and given the Nashville-style finish … it’s a challenge for those who reckon they’re okay with ridiculously hot food.
“We’ve had people saying ‘It’s not that hot’ but with a big red face and tears and sweat on their forehead — I think it’s more of a pride thing to be honest,” Justin jokes. “We’ve had in a few Americans who live in Bendigo. One came in who was from Austin. They’re mostly southern Americans, and they come in and love it which is probably the biggest compliment.”
You can check out Flight on Facebook, and its selection of hot sauces are available to purchase, too.