By Vivienne Pearson
It’s fried chicken but it’s a long way from the ‘K’ Fried Chicken franchise.
Not only is it a small business, owned and run by locals; almost all the food is made from scratch onsite using local produce. Call it ‘SFC’ instead – it’s up to you whether the S stands for ‘Steppers’ or ‘Southern’.
The food at Steppers – The Hot Chicken Social is Southern style and is delicious. The care behind it shows. Unless you choose to have a burger, the idea is to choose a meat (tenders, drumsticks, wings or fish bits), sides (coleslaw, French fries or Mac&Cheese) and a sauce.
There are seven sauces to choose from and all are made onsite from scratch. I’ll leave you to discover them all but my favourite is the lemon aioli (ideal for fish, chicken or fries) and I was amazed to also like the Steppers blue-cheese sauce (not being a natural fan of blue cheese).
The Caribbean Killer Habanero is the choice for heat-lovers (I begged for water after just a small dab) and the chipotle aioli provides a warmth-with-flavour option (it is made form a host of ingredients including pineapple, mango, coriander and whole limes).
There are vegetarian and vegan options. Sure, not every vegan will want to frequent a place that cooks a lot of chicken, but if a couple or group have differing culinary needs, Steppers will look after the non-meat-eaters with a hot mushroom burger or, for pescatarians, fish bites.
Unexpectedly, most of the menu is gluten free. The chicken (and fish) crumb is cornflour based (with a delicious herby spice mix). All sauces, handmade onsite, are also gluten free.
Decidedly not gluten free are the Churros, the main sweet option at Steppers. The Spanish influence on this dessert offering was provided by the business owner, Tony Lopez, a well-known local musician. Fans of these Spanish-style chocolate-sauce-dipped treats will be impressed.
The main man on the ground is Sacha Meier, a chef who has owned restaurants on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road and always planned to move to Byron after a visit as a backpacker in his youth.
He is fascinated by fermented foods and plans to introduce a fermented chili mash and pineapple vinegar for the ’slaws. He makes his own pickles (grown in Newrybar), onion jam, sauces and churros. His chicken is soaked in buttermilk for 24 hours and he adds his own ‘secret’ mix of herbs and spices.
‘I need it to be interesting,’ Sacha says. ‘Nothing goes to waste. I use the nose-to-tail of the veges!’
Steppers, located near the bus terminal, opened in late November. The space is a great combination of relaxed outdoor tables and indoor bench seating – ideal whether you are looking to catch the sun or escape from it.
Or, if don’t want to leave home (or the beach), takeaway and home/beach delivery are available.
Steppers, The Hot Chicken Social:
4/84 Jonson Street, Byron Bay. 11.30am–8.30/9.30pm.
Ph: 6685 7732, steppers-the-hot-chicken-social.business.site. Phone for delivery.