This place gives me the schnitz

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Schnitz, Highpoint.

Oh dear – there go our lunch plans.

We’re dropping off some garments for alteration at Highpoint.

I know there’s places to get this work done that aren’t at Highpoint but I’ll be darned if I can recall where they are.

So here we are.

The wait time is an hour – and the idea of leaving and then returning to the shopping centre has no appeal at all.

So we better make the most of Highpoint time, as best we’re able.

Sox top-up from Harris Scarfe.

Routine eye furniture maintenance and screw-tightening at Specsavers.

Lunch.

We’re faced with the same choices as ever; some we even like but none appeal muchly today.

So we try one of the newer places, Schnitz, which is situated on the lower level and not far from the cinemas.

It may specialise in schnitzels and parmas but the vibe is all cheerful franchise fast-food, and the lineup of wraps, rolls and plates fits right in with that.

 

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Bennie goes for the No.4 – American Dream – in roll form with a schnitzel with regular crumbs ($11.50), with the combo deal ($5.50) adding a small chips and a small fizzy drink.

Even while I’m still photographing my own meal, he’s enthusing: “The chips are really good, dad!”

He reckons his filled roll is good, with a nice chunk of nicely cooked chook, but he would’ve preferred the roll to be better toasted.

 

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I get the same chips with my schnitzel and coleslaw ($14.50 all up).

I disagree, very much so, on the chips front.

Look, I can handle some chicken salt.

BUT NOT THIS MUCH.

This is chicken salt overkill and renders my chips inedible.

My plain and modestly proportioned schnitzel is rather good, with lovely crumbs and surprisingly tasty and juicy meat.

The coleslaw is fantastic, especially for a fast-food joint in a shopping centre.

Context is everything, I guess.

It’s finely chopped winner, fresh and not dressed to the point of gloopiness.

There are worse places to tuck in at Highpoint; but there’s better ones, too.

Our vote for the best remains with Dumplings Plus and Guzman y Gomez.

 

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Old-school WeFo

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Con’s Fish And Chips, 577 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 9689 280

Bennie and I had good fish and chips from Con’s many moons ago but haven’t explored the place further since then.

This time, I’ve been nudged through the door by Col and the very excellent Barkly Village Facebook page he runs – he’s raved about the Con’s burgers several times, arousing my interest.

Truth is, we’d looked elsewhere largely based on our preference to eat in and sit down whenever possible, no matter what kind of food is at hand.

So I’m delighted to find, in what is a basic take-away operation, a small table and chairs for my comfort and enjoyment.

Long tells me she and Hung have run the joint for about 11 years but that they still see the eponymous Con from time to time.

 

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Did I say old-school?

How can you tell?

 

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I’m super impressed that Long provides me a half serve of the minimum serve of chips for $2.

They, too, look old-school but are fine, hot and enjoyable.

Predictably, even a half serve is way too big.

 

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My “one with the lot minus egg” ($7) is a two-hands job that is demolished quickly – it’s a typically enjoyable, um, old-school burger.

In the way of such places, the patty has been smashed flat.

I don’t have any problem with that – tradition is tradition, after all.

But next time, I’ll request an extra patty.

These folks are so friendly and obliging, I’m sure that will not present any problem!

 

Con's Fish and Chips on Urbanspoon

 

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Burgers? Best in show

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Zigzag Burgers ‘n’ Salads, Showgrounds Village, 320 Epsom Road, Flemington. Phone: 9372 5948

We’ve never felt any affinity for the showgrounds shopping precinct – the very honourary Lebanese fare of Saj aside.

Even last week, upon spying a new fast-food outlet, my eyes and mind slid by with barely a hint of interest.

Perhaps its was the somewhat conflicted description of “Burgers ‘n’ Salads”.

But then a regular reader and burger fan – Hi Lauren! – broadly hinted she’d love the CTS verdict before taking the plunge herself.

And then, when doing some research, I noted some very positive reviews at Urbanspoon and on the joint’s Facebook page.

Hmmm, this was starting to look more promising by the minute.

So much so that a report from our burger guru of choice, Nat Stockley, that he’d heard mixed comments about the place in no way deterred a happy, hungry CTS Team of four fronting up for Sunday lunch.

Our verdict?

Oh, yes – this is a winner!

Everything we had was good or excellent.

Our multi-facted order arrived within minutes but the food showed no signs of hasty preparation.

And the pricing (see menu below) is excellent.

 

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Bennie went the brisket bacon deluxe ($9.90) and he liked it plenty.

He reported the brisket was less like the BBQ versions we’ve been indulging in mightily in recent months and more like the brisket “you get in pho”.

But it all worked good for him, and that included the dressing/sauce and salad components.

As part of a combo deal, he also got a serve of the “house cut chips”, another order of which we got to share.

They were tasty but not crisp – not that it mattered.

 

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Our table also ordered a serve apiece of the popcorn chicken (above) and the popcorn prawns – both priced at $8.50.

The serves looked small but were big enough to ensure that all four of us got a good taste of both.

They were both excellent – crisp, unoily and tasty, with dipping sauces (chilli garlic mayo and Thai lime chilli) providing nice contrasts.

 

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The recipient of the chicken burger ($9.50) was happy with his lot while also reporting that the thin chicken breast, grilled not crumbed, was a little on the dry side.

No matter – as with all our burgers, the whole in terms of construction, presentation, balance and ingredients made such a criticism very muted indeed.

 

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I reckon I did best of all of us with my beef bacon deluxe ($9.90).

Again, all was in harmony.

This was a damn fine burger for $10 – one could easily pay another $5 and more around town for such a fine sandwich.

 

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And the salad portion of Zigzag?

Well, obviously we were in no mood for any such thing.

But the salad display actually looked very interesting and varied.

This could be a winner for Zigzag, as several customers were going salad instead of burgers when we were in the house, and the food options – especially quick, cheap and healthy ones – are not thick on the ground around here.

We had a super lunch, and on that basis we vote unanimously that Zigzag is a new, small western suburbs business that is doing good.

And for those who care, there’s not an ounce of hipster to be seen – and as little likelihood of queues.

Check out the Zigzag website here, though the menu there is not as detailed as the one below.

 

Zigzag Burgers n' Salads on Urbanspoon

 

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The BeeeasT of Tarneit

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BeeeasT Burgers, 1 Alexandra Avenue, Tarneit. Phone: 9974 6971

It’s difficult to imagine a more whitebread upbringing than school life in particular and life in general than that experienced by CTS in the ’60s and ’70s.

There were occasional exotic influences and people – though not much in the way of exotic food – but by and large Maori people and culture in particular were something that happened in textbooks, the North Island or the All Blacks.

A later career move that found me living, and surfing, in Gisborne and, before and after, in Wellington brought a more homogenous New Zealand to my life.

Still, the Melbourne move when it came was made at least in part because of the desire not to simply slip into a Kiwi sub-culture in, say, Sydney or Brisbane.

I love my Kiwi brothers and sisters, whatever their genre, but I have no desire to be surrounded by them at the expense of all else.

But after almost 15 years in the west, there has been a change.

It started – or, rather, I started to notice it – at Bennie’s primary school, where one of his best pals was a young Maori lad.

It continued with the thoroughly Kiwi-infused vibe of the Footscray Bulldogs Rugby Union Club, for which Bennie played for a couple of seasons.

In more recent times, I have enjoyed monitoring the ups and downs of the Altona Roosters Rugby League Club, though I have yet to make it to a game.

As well, I am enjoying observing through Facebook the beaut work of Victoria Maori Wardens and their efforts to keep Maori and Islander youngsters from getting into big trouble. I will make it a point to meet them one day.

I even diary-marked a couple of Waitangi Day functions this year – one in Elsternwick, one in Altona – but sadly missed both.

Maori may not flow in my blood but it resides in my soul, and is capable of surprising me with the force and profundity with which it sometimes surfaces.

 

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All these things are but a reflection of the fact the Maori and Islander population of Melbourne’s west has increased dramatically in the past decade or so, drawn like so many of us from around the world by housing prices but also, these days, no doubt by a sense of community as well.

Honey knows all about it.

She and her family live in Point Cook, but Honey travels to Manor Lakes p-12 College for her regular gig as assistant principal.

Assistant principal of a western suburbs school of 1800 or so kids?

Oh yes, she knows very well the changing face of the west in general and its Maori/Islander face in particular.

Incredibly, Honey has another job – she is a co-owner and co-proprietor of BeeeasT Burgers in Tarneit.

And the BeeasT itself, which shares a small business precinct with the likes of branches of Briyani House and International Foods, is testament to the growing Maori/Islander community in the west.

The business has been up and running since November yet in that time it has amassed a staggering 9000-plus Facebook likes.

 

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So it is with an easy smile that I front up for a chat and a feed.

In truth, aside from sweet potato chips on the menu (see below) and L&P in the fridge, there’s nowt that is particularly Kiwi about the fare here.

But there is no mistaking the nature of the management or the joint’s customers.

Many of the burgers listed are more complex and grandiose than fit my immediate needs, so I go for the Fair Dinkum ($10) – minus the pineapple.

All Beeeast burgers come with chips.

Those chips appear a tad nondescript but are really excellent and hot.

Similarly, my burger looks modest but goes down a treat.

It’s like a cross between an Aussie-style corner store burger and Grill’d, mostly because the very good patty has a real beefiness about it.

 

Beeeast Burgers on Urbanspoon

 

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So-so burger in Kensington

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Jerry’s Burgers ‘N’ Shakes, 482 Macaulay Road, Kensington. Phone: 9372 1687

Not too long before we noticed the assembling of a Jerry’s franchise branch in Kensington, our friend The Burger King dined at the Tullamarine shop.

His verdict?

He was and is dismissive.

More recently, another friend – for whom Kensington is neighbourhood territory – implied he and his had a much more satisfying time at the new place.

So I decided to find out for myself.

 

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The Kensington jerry’s is a smallish operation, done out in typical fast-food franchise fashion.

The seating is limited and rudimentary.

I found the service to be good and the prices to be very low.

But there’s the rub – on the premise of “you get what you pay for”, your Jerry’s burger will most likely suffer by comparison with the more pricey likes of Grill’d and other ritzy burger places.

The range of sandwiches – and even salads – is very long (see below), ranging through beef, steak, pork, fish, vegetarian and breakfast items.

 

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I went with the She Hot! burger with beef, bacon, cheese, red onion, Tabasco aioli, lettuce and jalapenos ($7.90) and a small serve of chips ($1.90).

My burger was just OK, and as hinted at above pretty much what you’d expect for cents under $8.

It wasn’t nearly as hot as the number of pepper slices included might suggest.

It was a sloppy meal, with the structural integrity lapsing totally by the end.

Worst of all, the meat patty was bereft of beefiness and redolent of sausage meat.

I wouldn’t go so far as draw a comparison with “pet food”, as one Urbanspoon contributor has done, but you get the picture …

The best part of my dinner were the chips, which were terrific and plentiful.

 

Jerry's Burgers 'n' Shakes on Urbanspoon

 

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Yup! Another new Yarraville joint

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beat9
b Eatery 21 Anderson St, Yarraville. Phone: 362 080

So Yarraville’s long-time burger place has gone.

No surprise, really.

Perhaps it was nudged out of the picture by the arrival of a Grill’d outlet just up the street.

Or perhaps it had simply done its dash.

Whatever the case, a new business is in residence – one we believe has proprietorial links with the previous establishment.

The place has been done out a treat – the ambience speaks of laid-back cool without trying too hard.

The upstairs area remains, but we hunker down in a nice back room.

 

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We suspect, appraising the menu and generally taking in the operation, that while the success of this business is no doubt the paramount aim, such success may lead to other eateries of the same ilk opening up elsewhere.

The staff, we find, do a fine, on-the-ball job for us.

The two-sided menu (see below) covers the breakfast-and-more territory, including some very unusual items.

Sesame-seared ahi tuna nachos, prawn and crab “bang bang” cakes or Italian soda fountain drinks, anyone?

In the interests of blog diversity, Bennie has been banned from ordering the burger.

So he does the next best thing by nominating the steak sandwich (pictured at top).

It does good for him, with the nice slab of meat, good rocket and garlic-lemon aioli dressing all disappearing very quickly.

The chips are unlisted but we’re glad to observe their presence, as it makes the $15.50 steak sanger price tag a good one.

The chips are good though could be hotter.

 

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We share one of the smaller items – a duck rice paper roll ($5).

It’s OK but the quack quotient is on the tardy side, meaning the roll’s filling is mostly vermicelli.

Presentation has trumped eating practicality – the hoisin sauce is prettily drizzled on the roll, the eating of which is thus a very messy business indeed.

 

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For the second time in a week, I go the healthy route with my chicken salad ($16).

It’s a nice thing, beautifully presented and super fresh, especially the finely grated apple, which mixes well with grapes of both kinds, celery and chicken.

It’s like a waldorf salad with bells on – but without the waldorfs.

Ha!

The chook is a bit tasteless and I generally think of my lunch as being on the bland side.

I resist the temptation of requesting salt and/or pepper dispensing implements, but wonder if the rest of the menu evinces such rampant moderation in the seasoning department.

Given the spread of the menu, b Eatery we feel is likely to be a hit with families.

It appears to have been set up with some ingenuity, finding a niche in jam-packed Yarraville by doing what many others are without mirroring the competition in any precise way.

 

B Eatery on Urbanspoon

 

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Newport cafe cool

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Odd Spot Cafe, 302 Melbourne Road, Newport. Phone: 9399 2241

Following a knowledgeable recommendation, we give Odd Spot Cafe a whirl after stocking up nearby on goodies for the general all-round comfort of our new family member.

Odd Spot Cafe is situated amid a strip of shops on Melbourne Road to which we usually pay little interest as we’re usually too intent on going elsewhere when we whiz past, though we’ve also heard that the Thai joint Siam Kitchen is worth checking out.

Odd Spot has a nice fit-out dominated by black and white that speaks of coolness on a hot day.

It presents as an oasis.

We really enjoy our lunch choices and find the service to be grand.

 

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Odd  Spot features a number of dishes and a philosophy and approach that embrace “health food” – the sort of thing that can send the senior member of Team CTS fleeing.

So Bennie’s burger ($16) amply illustrates the “don’t judge a book by its cover” axiom.

It’s all-round fantastic.

He would’ve preferred onions to be cooked and some bacon but he really digs the pronounced pickled cucumber tang.

Is there anything more important – apart from the patty itself – to creating a successful burger?

The crinkle-cut chips are fine.

 

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Kenny, what are you thinking?

Sesame-crusted carrot fritters with “wilted spinach, pesto, hummus and micro herbs” ($16.50)?

Yes, I surprise myself by going all healthy.

Perhaps it’s a the festive season and all that oh-so-rich food we’ve been eating, but it does me fine.

Sure, the carrot pulp of the fritters is coated with sesame seeds rather than crusted or even, it seems, really cooked.

Perhaps I would’ve liked a bready base of some sort.

And the seasoning levels are way below what we’re used to in our mostly multicultural journey.

But right now, here today, this hits the spot.

 

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The Odd Spot cake display cabinet is chockers with great-looking things.

Bennie and I split a “chocolate fondant of goodness” ($4).

It’s a paragon of choc intensity and we love it.

Our cafe latte and hot chocolate are winners.

 

Odd Spot Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

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