Great burgers – $12 with chips

4 Comments

fam33

Famous Blue Raincoat, 25 Vernon St, South Kingsville. Phone: 9391 8520

“You look familiar – you look like a blogger!”

Ahhh, our cover is blown.

Hardly surprising, given my anonymous moustache and the fact this likely to be our third post on this Kingsville institution.

FWIW, I doubt very much that our splendid burger meals are in any way compromised, good or bad, by the ‘Coat’s knowledge that Consider The Sauce is sitting in the back garden.

This is an impromptu visit – we like that.

There’s Greek salad makings in the fridge at home, but we’ve hit the road … lured by the restaurant Facebook reminder that this is $12 burger night.

On a pleasantly muggy, hazy summer’s night, the back garden is a wonderful place to await our dinners.

We spy a young mum tucking in to a parmagiana as her partner’s steak sits unmolested.

He’s walking their toddler.

He returns; they swap roles.

Been there, done that … many, many times!

fam32

They may have been purchased at special burger-night discount price, but it’s interesting to note that our whole meal deals end in dollar terms where a food truck stand-alone burger begins.

And here we’ve got real cutlery and crockery, and a lovely setting in which to enjoy.

The chips are deeply tanned and very good. And there’s a good-sized serve of them on both our plates.

Between standard but good buns are some greenery, tomato, beetroot, bacon and tomato relish.

All good.

The meat looks less patty and more big, fat meatball.

But they squash down well to serve our burger purposes well.

They taste magnificent – beautifully seasoned and a little bit peppery.

Bennie, happily smiling, raves about our burgers all the way home.

fam34

Famous Blue Raincoat on Urbanspoon

REAL old-school in Altona

Leave a comment

alex5

Alex Take Away Food, 11 Ford Rd, Altona. Phone: 9398 4267

“If you aren’t paying for a product, you ARE the product.”

Such is the charge often levelled at Facebook

We’re not blind to the creepier aspects of the social media behemoth.

But while keeping them in mind, we find it almost impossible to remain unmoved by the connectedness it can foster.

Take the Altona, I lived there FB page for instance.

In its short life, it has quickly racked up more than 2500 members and become a lively, entertaining focal point for all sorts of stories, photos and reminiscences about Altona.

And it’s how we found out about Alex Take Away Food.

alex4

The address has nothing to do with what most of us non-Altonians think of when we think of Grieve Parade – the freeway exit after the Millers Road one.

Nope, this part of Grieve Parade requires taking the Millers Road exit, heading right down past the refinery, turning right on to Civic Parade and THEN  turning right on to suburban – as opposed to industrial – Grieve Parade.

On the early week night we visit, the place is mad busy.

There’s a heap of customers in-house and there seems to be just as many phone orders coming in.

Everyone but us is a regular. We feel like strangers gatecrashing an intimate gathering of friends and families.

Certainly, the pace is sufficiently frantic to preclude any chit chat and inquiries about just how long this community asset has been doing business right here.

But judging by the funky decor, I’m guessing at least since some time in the 1970s.

We’re in no hurry though, so happily enjoy the vibe until our order is taken.

alex6

There are zero tables or chairs, inside or out.

And unlike almost all the other customers, we can’t simply whisk our goodies home – and even the beach, while reasonably close by, seems a stretch that will ruin our dinner.

So we prop on the footpath right outside the shop, get stuck in and make small talk with some local youngsters while we’re at it.

alex7

Bennie loves his “with the lot” ($7.50).

He’s enough of a burger maven to understand and appreciate that there’s a difference between more American-style burgers and the Aussie variety – and that there’s a time and a place for both.

alex8

My calamari rings ($1) are the of the surimi variety and just OK.

My deep-fried snapper ($7.50) is much better and a real classy piece of work.

The batter is crisp and deep brown, and adheres to the fish pretty good.

The snapper itself is a huge chunk of seafood and has juicy depth of the sort we’ve rarely encountered.

Our chips orders ($4) got lost in the hubbub somewhere, so we end up with some that appear to have been sitting for a while – they’re barely warm and a bit leathery.

But as we saw heaps of chips of what appeared to be excellent quality and appearance be prepared as we waited for our food, we wouldn’t let this minor lapse deter us from returning to this amazing and obviously much-loved neighbourhood joint.

Alex Take Away Food on Urbanspoon

alex2

Messy but good

4 Comments

dude7

Dude Food Man at Yarraville Gardens

We head for Yarraville Gardens in a ridiculously brisk and windy spring twilight without dad doing his sums – figuring that $31 plus change should cover us.

We are forgetting, of course, that food truck food as it’s swept through the suburbs is not necessarily all that cheap.

So our immediately available funds fall a tad short of what’s required for our two burgers, chips and a couple of cans fizz.

This doesn’t faze the Dude Food dudes at all.

In the interests of happy customers, they happily make up the shortfall – and for that generosity we thank them.

But how do their burgers stacks up?

Especially when their goodies are more pricey than the outfit with which we are able to make a direct comparison – Mr Burger?

Darn well, actually.

In this case at least, it’s a matter of getting what we pay for.

Or mostly pay for …

(I have toyed with idea of relegating the close-ups of our sandwiches to the bottom of this story or not using them at all, so unappealing do they make our dinner appear.  Both burgers fall into a category that might usefully be termed “over-dressed”. But they’re here in all their technicolour glory – just rest assured what we enjoy tastes a whole lot better than it looks …)

dude1

Bennie enjoys his pulled pork slider with “48hr cooked pork, crackling, coleslaw, house-made BBQ sauce” ($13), especially the smokey flavour of the sauce.

The coleslaw strikes me as a creamy delight.

dude2

My Dude Burger with “160g Wagyu patty, iceberg, cheddar, tomato, caramelised onion, pickles, American mustard & aioli” ($13) is even better – a real hands-on treat.

The patty is of pronounced beefiness and has great, chewy texture.

dude3

In many ways our chips ($7 with roasted garlic aioli) are the biggest surprise of our chow-down.

These are super-dooper chunky, hot, crisp, perfectly cooked and far and away the best chips we’ve had from a Melbourne food truck.

In truth, and on account of the cold blast of the weather, our meal is something of an eat-and-run excerise.

But on a warm evening and right next door to this or another park, we’ll be happy to return for more.

Best way to find out where Dude Food Man is serving is through his Facebook page.

Dude Food Man on Urbanspoon

dude4

dude5

dude6

Revisiting an old Willy pal

8 Comments

culture1

Burger Culture, 3 Cole St, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 7156

Burger Culture, situated opposite Santorini Greek restaurant just off Nelson Place, pre-dates the likes of the now common Grill’d burger chain.

In fact, it was the first place Bennie and regularly hit to get our hands on affordable American-style burgers, different from the Aussie style and without setting foot in a pub.

We had many fine meals there.

But somewhere along the way, we ventured elsewhere, and I recall that on our last visit we were a little underwhelmed in particular by the thinness and mediocrity of the beef patties.

So I’m interested to check the place out again in what is an impromptu lunch in terms of venue.

Jacqui of Urban Ma and I had headed this way with a specific eat shop in minds, but it’s closed so we make do in a locale loaded with eating options but precious few really good ones.

And while what we get at Burger Culture will not win any awards, we nevertheless really enjoy our lunches.

The interior is bustling with lunchtime activity, so we grab an outdoor table even though it’s a rather chilly spring day.

For me, it’s the culture classic (above, $7.50) with “lean beef, tomato, lettuce, onion, tomato relish and culture mayo” with bacon as an extra.

For Jac, it’s the New Yorker (below, $11.90) with “lean beef, caramelised onions, swiss cheese, tomato, lettuce, tomato relish and culture mayo”.

The first and best thing that impresses me about my burger is the patty – this one has a real nice, real beefy texture and flavour, and the bacon is fine, too.

But I envy Jacqui’s more diverse and interesting sandwich – there’s mustard as well as the advertised ingredients.

What impresses both of us most about our meals is that combo deals encompassing chips and a can of soft drink are offered for a mere $3 extra.

This means that, cost-wise, Burger Culture combo deals pretty much end where Grill’d stand-alone burgers start.

That’s good!

Our chips are just OK, though – we reckon they could be hotter and little more well done. But we consume them happily with little plastic tubs of tomato relish and chilli mayo that cost us 50 cents each.

The Burger Culture website is here.

Burger Culture on Urbanspoon

culture2

Could be burger of the year …

3 Comments

chase2

Chase Kitchen, 80 Hudsons Road, Spotswood. Phone: 0423 742 460

The initial aim of our Sunday drive is to eyeball the tall ships parked in the bay at Williamstown.

But that plan comes to nowt when we find the traffic backed up way before our destination and even some way down The Strand.

No way – we’re not that keen on things nautical!

So off we go with lunch on our minds.

Bennie – surprise, surprise – fancies a burger; his dad’s fancy is turning to the roast lunches available in the vicinity.

Bennie gets his way, but that’s a good thing indeed in this case.

We park expecting to hit the Spotiswoode pub, but choose to check out the action on Hudsons Rd anyway.

And what do we find but a new arrival.

Well, relatively new.

Chase Kitchen is open for business on a shopping strip that has become rather competitive – there’s a hip bakery and three other coffee/breakfast/lunch places right across the road.

We decide to give it a go based on the Boston Burger advertised on the footpath blackboard sign and end up being really delighted we have done so.

Inside is a chic but mostly regulation cafe space with stools and tall tables at the front, other seating further in, a back room between the front counter and the rear kitchen, and a garden further out back yet to be utilised.

The service and welcome we are provided are exemplary.

Certainly, the sharing of our two choices – the burger ($14.50) and the pulled pork roll with Asian slaw ($16.50) – is obligingly handled by the staff.

chase1

The pork roll is fine and generous, although the crunchy, creamy, delicious slaw rather overshadows the pork.

But the burger is better – Bennie even rates it the best he’s had this year.

That’s high praise from An Expert.

The patty has great flavour, although it does seem a little mushy – more of a meaty texture would be grand.

But what really makes this a burger supreme is the tangy, spicy mayo given a righteous kick from jalapenos and terrifically crispy bacon.

It’s really, really good.

We are both given heaps of thin fries that are hot, salty and pretty damn fine, too, though some of them seem a bit limp to me.

We are not the first Melbourne bloggers to cover Chase Kitchen – that honour falls to our pal Jacqui at Urban Ma – read her review here. Although it may seem a bit boring that Jacqui and her family ordered exactly the same as us!

Chase Kitchen on Urbanspoon

chase3

Thali, burger and chips

7 Comments

sri8

Sri Murugan, 27 Watton St, Werribee. Phone: 9741 9656

Sri Murugan is a first restaurant adventure for Rathi and Vellayan.

They’ve been up and running for about five weeks, bringing their native Sri Lankan food to the party and combining it with your regular fish and chips and burgers, the ins and outs of which the previous, Greek management imparted to them before splitting and leaving the lovely, friendly couple to their own devices.

Based on our swell Sunday lunch, we reckon they’re doing a pretty good job of handling both aspects.

The place unmistakably bears all the hallmarks of its origins as a genuine, old-school Aussie chippery and burger bar, yet the menu is also festooned with Sri Lankan dishes.

We have a four-way bash at quite a wide bunch of it.

sri5

I’m happy to let Bennie have his way and the lad does real good with his burger pack of one with the lot, chips and a can of drink for $8.

Unlike our previous outing with this style of burger, this one is a glorious hands-on delight, with real beefy meat patty, gooey egg and all the bits and pieces you’d rightfully expect.

The chips are hot and OK in an average sort of way, but the burger is an outright winner.

As Courtney opines: “Sometimes it’s just got to be a fish and chip shop burger!”

sri1

Two vadai (90 cents each) served with coconut chutney are a delight – softer and more moist than is often the case, they’re liberally studded with green chilli. The masala vadai ($1) doesn’t impress quite as much.

sri4

Likewise, a three-piece serve of idli ($6) goes down well with the same chutney and a portion of thickish sambar/dal.

sri3

Rice and curry turns out to be a lovely looking thali.

The star without doubt is the lamb curry, which is coconutty, rich and delicious.

The chick peas are good, too, and have a similarly hefty chilli whack.

The vegetable serves – one of cabbage, the other a mixed concoction of zucchini, beans and carrot – are way overcooked but suffice.

Still, at $8 – and especially if the vegetables were replaced with a dal of some sort – this is a bargain.

In admirably curious spirit, Courtney and James get busy thumbing their mobiles to find out about kothu rotti, and order a couple based on this Wikipedia entry.

sri6

The first, lamb kothu rotti, is the darker and heavier of the pair.

sri7

The second, egg kothu rotti, is both kinds of lighter.

But both are damn tasty, stuffed with all sorts of vegetables and chopped rotti, and with a whiff of wok hei about them.

They are a very satisfying feed, coming across as something like a superior Sri Lankan version of fried rice.

We’re all impressed with the food, service, our ability to enjoy such a wide-ranging meal and the sublime hipness of finding such a cool mixture in the west.

We’d actually started the day meeting up at a foodie pub up the road apiece, but have no regrets about adjourning – based on a CTS reader tip (thanks, Martin!) and mutual gut instinct – to this multi-approach joint.

We wish them well.

Werribee, we’re happy to reflect, is becoming a happy hunting ground for us.

Sri Murugan on Urbanspoon

sri2

When a place goes bad – or at least a little off – do you want to know? No matter the cost and consequences?

27 Comments

On Sunday night, Bennie and I visited an old favourite we hadn’t checked out for a while.

We’d heard there were new owners running the place.

Indeed, about the time this joint was on the market, our previous post on it received quite few visitors. Prospective buyers doing their research?

Would the food in particular and the experience as a whole be of the same excellent standard as previously?

Yes, there was a new crew running the place – and doing a grand job of it.

The service was tip-top, the smiles wides, with walk-ins being treated to the same standard of friendliness as the many phone-ins.

The phone barely stopped ringing the whole time we were in the house.

The food?

Well, on the one hand what we got was all anyone could rightfully expect of a pair of $5 burgers, bacon $1 extra, small serve of chips for $3.

But on the other hand, the chips were dull and quite a few of them were barely lukewarm.

The burgers seemed equally drab and a mite miserly, with the patties those cheapy kind that when cooked have texture and taste closer to meatloaf than a beefy burger.

It was an average meal but typical of the kind you’d expect from such an establishment. But it was notably less impressive than those we’d been served by the previous owners.

Were this a bigger business or a trendy one with plenty of supporters and fans and potential defenders, I’d be up for an explicit and honest review.

But … this is a lovely little “mom and pop” operation.

And as it stands – today, right now – I’m feeling squeamish about laying it all out. As well, it could be that other aspects of the food available – such as fish and chips – remain excellent.

So, dear readers, the question is: Do you want to know – no matter what, and no matter the cost and consequences, potentially quite damaging, to the businesses involved in such cases?

(To those of you really curious and who take the time to email me, I’ll spill the beans!)

Nice buns at beer hall

9 Comments

junction7

Junction Beer Hall and Wine Room, 15 Hall Street, Newport. Phone: 9391 8188

The now fading days of the Geelong commute were undertaken mostly by car, but some of it was courtesy of the uncertainties of train.

That often entailed an early evening train switch at Newport, so I spent quite a bit of downtime loitering at Newport Station, sometimes taking the opportunity to do a bit of mostly desultory shopping in the Hall Street shopping precinct.

Maybe it was more about my morose state of mind than anything else, but the recall of those times is largely one of drabness and even a certain sense of menace.

Right in the middle of that shopping strip was a down-at-heel old school boozer.

In Saturday lunchtime sunshine – and with the Geelong trip just a memory – the whole vibe seems quite different.

We pass a couple of busy cafes on our way to what is now Junction Beer Hall & Wine Room.

junction5

The management of the various establishments may beg to differ, but the new-look Junction seems to us to have a lot in common with two other pubs we have been frequenting of late – the Spotiswoode and the Plough.

That extends to the fit-out as well as the food, although the Junction – as befits its full name – has very long beer and wine lists.

Out back there’s a roomy lounge that has – we are tickled to discover – three sofas identical to the Scandinavian-style number that sits in our living room, as well as many other of the same model in different colour schemes.

The Junction has separate food menus for the beer hall and wine room, though they appear to overlap.

The beer hall menu has pizzas and steaks, going for around $30, as well as some novel snacky items such as prawn sliders and fried chick peas with cumin and salt.

But having scoped out the menu before leaving home, we’re pretty sure we know what we’re having so waste no time ordering.

junction1

“This sure is a shiny bun,” says “Five Bowls” Bennie.

Yes, it’s my boy’s first experience with a fancy foodie burger using brioche as its bookends.

His burger with “cheese, beetroot relish, aioli and brioche bun, served with onion rings” ($14) is less of a glorious handful than he is accustomed to, so the sandwich lasts all of about three minutes.

However, the mouthful of burger I snag in the interests of science tastes outright excellent.

The good onion rings are joined on the chopping board platters by some crunchy cornichons.

junction3

Bennie freely casts envious and admiring eyes at my pulled pork sandwich “with house made BBQ sauce and coleslaw” ($13).

That’s only right – as it’s a beauty.

Stuffed between a wonderfully fresh ciabatta-style roll are just the right proportions of chewy, flavoursome pork and tangy, crisp slaw.

Unlike Bennie’s burger, this sandwich IS a handful – and a suitably messy one at that.

Throwing in extras such as fries ($9) and alcohol could see your Junction bill climbing skywards, but the immediate locals would seem to have every reason to be happy about having this foodie pub at hand.

Check out the Junction website – including menus – here.

Junction Beer Hall and Wine Room on Urbanspoon

junction9

junction4

junction8

Killer burgers in Spotswood

8 Comments

spotiswoode22

Spottiswoode Hotel, 62 Hudsons Rd, Spotswood. Phone: 9391 1330

Even with the contemporary makeover, the Sunday night scene at the Spotiswoode is cheerily like any pub anywhere in Melbourne.

There’s family groups all over the joint, couples and single diners, too. Some are watching footy but everyone is having a fine old time.

Some folks are even chowing down on the $10 Sunday roast special this late in the day.

It’s that sooper-dooper special that has seen us return several times since our first visit.

But tonight we’re here to try the broader menu, about which we’ve heard very mixed reports.

We have to report, however, that the meals we see scurrying around us – shanks ‘n’ mash, two kind of ribs, steaks, F&C and pasta among them – look amazingly tasty and very big.

Whether this is testament to a triumph of substance over style, we know not.

But still, we’re wondering if we’ve really goofed by BOTH of us ordering the burger with lot ($15.50).

spotiswoode21

Those doubts are accentuated when our meals arrive looking nothing special at all.

That turns out to be largely an optical illusion caused by the large white plates on which our food resides.

The truth is, these are killer burgers – hands-on, gooey, messy, unrepentant macho classics.

The buns are big and fresh.

The good-quality bacon and cheese both taste real fine.

Even the fried egg – something I can and do live without when it comes to burgers – seems just right.

The beef patty is partially charred on the outside, nice and chewy and just the right dimensions in relation to the other ingredients.

Finally, the various green bits and the tomato have a crunchy freshness to match it with the more greasy elements, providing just the right kind of contrast.

Thee are the best burgers we’ve had for a good long while, and the price is a steal.

But we both wonder how they’d go when being assessed by our pal Nat, a hardcore, finger-on-the-pulse Melbourne burger maven if ever there was.

The chips?

They’re a deep brown and look like they may be ace – but they’re just OK.

Spottiswoode Hotel on Urbanspoon

spotiswoode23

Momo a-go-go in WeFo

8 Comments

magic22

Magic Momo Kafe, 588 Barkly St, West Footscray. Phone: 9972 2616

“Looks like a work in progress.”

Bennie may be on the unfair side there, but Magic Momo Kafe does have an undeniable vibe of being newly minted and very recently opened.

The double doors are wide open to the world on a cold day and the three staff members in attendance are pumped with nervous energy and eager to pleaseness.

Writing about such a place at such a time in its life almost seems on the cruel side.

But what the hey – we’re only after an after-school snack.

As we’d been promised when we called in while the place was still under construction, there is a lovely looking range of luridly colured Indian sweets, along with some cakes and slices of the brought-in variety.

We know the momos are produced in-house, however, on account of the big tub of ace-looking seasoned pork mince that is being used to fill pastry casings.

OK, so a post-school serve of fried chicken momo (10 for $7.95) it is for us.

magic21

The fried is pan rather deep, with the bottoms nicely tanned and the tops chewy in just the right way.

The innards are peppery, maybe there’s some ginger in there somewhere as well, and have crunch from onion and colouring from coriander.

They go great with the medium-spicy chilli concoction served on the side.

We’re both halfway through our first momo when we immediately acknowledge the pressing need to also order a 10-piece serve of the vegetable dumplings.

magic23

If anything these are even better. Bennie certainly thinks so.

They’re the same price and appear a little bigger, even though I’m sure the same dough cutter has been used for both varieties. As well, the dough used in this batch is a bit darker.

I’ve been expecting a filling packed with crunch and slither from cabbage, mushrooms and the like.

Instead, we get a filling that seems to be potato and carrot-based and that, as my unusually-astute-on-this-day offsider instantly observes, makes these dumplings seem a bit like soft samosas.

Mind you, there is some crunch and texture from onion and cabbage, while – like their chooky colleagues – these are also peppery and scrumptious.

Explorations of the burger, kebab, BLT, French toast, lemon pepper calamari and tomato soup variety at this intriguingly multi-focussed eatery will have to wait for another day and a more suitable occasion.

In the meantime, and based on our two fine serves of momo, we can attest that there is indeed magic in the air here.

Magic Momo Kafe on Urbanspoon

magic24

Getting serious at the Plough

8 Comments

plough33

Plough Hotel, 333 Barkly St, Footscray. Phone: 9687 2878

We attended the opening night party, and we’ve read reviews and comments – including those at Footscray Food Blog.

Now it’s time for us try a meal proper at the new-look Plough Hotel for ourselves.

It’s an early Sunday evening dinner for us, so it’s something of a departure from our usual routine of settling in for the end of weekend night.

At the time we arrive, the landmark pub seems to be about a quarter full, yet it’s already quite noisy. The chatter and hubbub are such that they render the music little more than more background rumbling.

I can imagine that when this place is really packed and jumping, that it may be a matter of shouting instead of conversing.

Still, it’s a cheerful scene and we’re looking forward to some ace food.

There’s never been any doubt that on this particular adventure that I’d lose out to Bennie in the “I’m having the hamburger” stakes.

plough31

His “150g veal pattie served w. caramelised onions in seeded mustard, fresh tomato, lettuce, bacon, cheddar cheese & roasted garlic aioli, served w. beer battered chips” ($21) is pretty good.

For all the fancy words, it is just a burger – and he’s more than happy with that. He rates it an 8 1/2 or 9 out of 10.

I try a few hearty mouthfuls of the meat, finding it has great texture and bite but lacks somewhat in the robust flavour department.

The chips are, truth to tell, a little disappointing … in that they’re merely good rather than being the outstanding we feel entitled to expect from this sort of place selling this sort of food.

And in my case, I have to rescue my chips from underneath the chicken parmagiana ($25) that is squatting atop them.

I’m not the first person to raise this issue, and I’ll not be the last.

One question: Why?

Another question: Would a restaurant serve a steak on top of the accompanying chips?

One solution: Ask the customer their preference.

plough32

My parma itself is very good and very big.

The chicken is beaut – flavoursome, well cooked and juicy.

The cheese layer on top, too, is wonderful, and there’s quite a bit of basil doing good things amid a sauce made with real tomatoes. The gypsy ham doesn’t seem to add any extra flavour.

The salad of capsicum strands, radish and various greens is OK, but Bennie eats most of it.

But here’s an interesting thing about my otherwise lovely parma – it’s crunchy.

Yes, crunchy!

I lift up the cheese topping to discover from whence does the crunch come – only to discover that the cause is raw onion.

Quite a lot of raw onion, actually.

Red onion, mind you, so the flavour does not overpower enjoyment of my meal, especially once I scrape most of it to the side of my plate.

But still, it seems quite odd.

An inquiry made to a staff member elicits the information that the kitchen is aiming for a twist on the typical parma tomato sauce by concocting more of a salsa vibe.

OK, I quite like the sound of that.

But the actual fact of the matter is that there’s nothing salsa-like about my sauce.

What it seems like is fairly typical Napolitana parma sauce studded with quite big chunks of raw onion.

What it seems like is a mistake.

While our meal hasn’t really rocked our world, we like the new Plough heaps and will be back.

Plough Hotel on Urbanspoon

plough34

‘Premium fast casual’

11 Comments

“Premium fast casual”?

Sounds like pure PR/marketing drivel, doesn’t it?

I found it in this Age/Good Food story on the new wave of fast-food restaurant and chains – with the focus very much on Lord Of The Fries and Grill’d.

Before reading it, I knew zilch about Lord Of The Fries.

Now I know more, I’m actually keen to give it a go.

I’d hesitate to call us fans of Grill’d, though we most certainly prefer its wares to the dreadful likes of McDonald’s or Hungry Jacks.

In the case of Guzman y Gomez, we happily and unapologetically count ourselves as fans.

But on a general level of taste and flavour, we reckon these kinds of places really are a whole lot better than traditional, trashy fast-food franchise food.

Regarding nutrition and healthiness, I am simply unqualified to comment.

And the story does have a rather narrow focus – no mention, for instance, of sushi rolls or places such as Sumo Salad.

What do you think?

Are Grill’d and Lord Of The Fries a boon? Do you eat at such places often, occasionally or never?

Road trip pragmatism …

3 Comments

king1

Burger King, international terminal, Auckland Airport

Heavy weather has made our domestic flight from New Plytmouth to Auckland late – but not disastrously so.

Still, we know full well that under the terms of budget flying in the new centuries we are going to be fed precisely zilch on the plane to Melbourne.

We have some time, but not enough to “um” and “ah”, or perhaps even order food to be cooked for us such as noodles or an acceptable burger.

So Burger King it is.

A double whopper meal deal for the pair of us at $NZ13 each, in fact.

king3

It’s been a long time since we’ve eaten food such as this – and there are some pleasant surprises.

The salad ingredients, dressings and pickles are fresh and tasty.

The meat patties, though, are somewhere between Grill’d and the Golden Arches – that is, nowhere near as good as the former or as bad as the latter. Closer to McD’s, says Bennie.

The big let-down is the quality of the buns. Really, what is an otherwise acceptable fast-food meal in a fast-food situation is rendered a negative experience by these squishy, sweet nonentities.

And the chips – hot and utterly without charm or flavour.

Still, sometimes men have gotta do what seems inevitable.

We half expect to find a noodle or wok joint closer to our departure gate – and don’t know whether to feel relieved or exonerated when that is not the case.

Paradoxically, on the way over from Melbourne we enjoyed a great feed given the no-show of airline food these days – two tubs of dip (hoummous, eggplant), pita bread and kalamata olives.

After four or so hours … it’s good to be home.

king4

Food truck mayhem in the west …

6 Comments

mr1

mr7

Mr Burger, Somerville Rd, Yarraville. Phone: 0312 345 67

What’s this?

Looks like a food truck shootout in Somerville Rd.

Although having no plans to eat anywhere except at home, I’d noted courtesy of Where The Truck at that Beat Box Kitchen had plans to be at Yarraville Park in the evening.

Then about 6.30pm, I discover via a Facebook post by White Guy Cooks Thai, that they, Dos Diablos AND Mr Burger are all planning to set up shop there, too.

That’s too much fun to miss out on, so off I go.

It IS a festive scene that greets me at the park.

There’s three trucks up and running – no sign of Beat Box Kitchen.

mr2

I figure this is a foretaste of how the west-loving food trucks are going to go in winter.

There’s about 50 or so people milling about. Some are deciding on what they’re going to eat. Others are waiting for their orders.

There’s families, cyclists, toddlers and dogs.

Just about everyone, except the cyclists, is suitably rugged up.

Some people are, um, “eating in”. Other are grabbing their goodies and heading back to their cars and, presumably, home.

The interests of journalism, food blogging and spreading myself around a bit dictate that I opt for Mr Burger, having already tried the other two trucks present.

mr5

My food takes about 10 minutes to get prepared. The Mr Burger crew is working hard.

I like the way my side and sandwich are served in the same cardboard box.

A small serve of chips is a fine deal at $3 – they’re plentiful, fresh, hot, crunchy and plain. None of your sea salt ‘n’ rosemary here.

mr6

My basic Mr Burger – beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mustard, mayo and tomato sauce for $9 – is wrapped in both paper and foil.

It appears both modest in size and like a sodden, mushy mess.

But it tastes great and is adequate size-wise!

The meat has a nicely char-like exterior, the lettuce is crisp, the tomato fresh and the dressings just right.

I wonder, though, how such a burger would handle even the briefest of drives home.

I’m halfway through my meal when the Beat Box Kitchen vehicle turns up. It’s up and running with surprising speed.

Maybe next time.

Mr Burger on Urbanspoon

mr8

mr3

The Greekgrill

2 Comments

thegreek1

The Greekgrill, 43 Civic Parade, Altona. Phone: 9398 5335

Getting in early seems to have become something of a Consider The Sauce habit of late.

When I ask the staff at The Greekgrill how long they’ve been open, they say since about midday!

Yep, it’s opening day.

That would explain why we haven’t noticed this establishment before.

It’s smack bang in the middle of a small shopping strip that has previously been of little interest to us, save for hitting the ATM of the correct flavour before heading to adventures elsewhere in Altona and environs.

The Greekgrill delivers a variety of options – yes, you can order a burger or kebab wrap or charcoal chicken here.

But what intrigues me are the more substantial and traditional Greek offerings.

And especially at attractively low prices. (As previously noted, we love Greek restaurant food, but that style loses out when the prices are steep compared to more affordable options.)

How about a plate of chicken or lamb gyros with “chips, salad, warm pita bread and tzatziki” for $16.90?

Or “char grilled baby snapper served with lemon and herb scented rice and salad” for $17?

Mixed grill for two goes for $36 and the seafood platter for two costs $42.

I entered seriously contemplating some of these heftier items, but while ascertaining if the taramosalata is house-made – the answer is “yes”, but it’s not on today – I switch paths and figure a light meal is just the ticket for this early evening chow down.

My mixed mezze plate (top photo) is beaut – particularly at $14.

The dips, eaten with warmed and lightly toasted pita bread, are super – an apricot-coloured spicy fetta number with a swell and very cheesy chilli kick, a plain cucumber and yogurt combo, a garlicky eggplant delight, and a beetroot blend that is less sweet than most of its kind but packed with that earthy beetroot flavour.

Elsewhere on my plate are two kinds of olives, kalamata and stuffed green jobs, a few cubes of rather ummemorable fetta and some roasted red capsicum.

I’ve been given a few extras over and above the menu description – perhaps because it’s opening day and they’re looking to impress or perhaps because of the interest I’ve shown.

Small red peppers stuffed with a creamy blend of fetta and ricotta also have a nice chilli hit, while the marinated octopus is chewy but nice enough.

A serve of “dolmadakia” (“vine leaves stuffed with herb rice”) costs $6.50, but I’ve snagged a couple at 50 cents apiece. They’re plain but good.

Judging by the number of locals dropping in to grab menus, it seems The Greekgrill will prove a winner.

The Greekgrill on Urbanspoon

thegreek6

thegreek7

thegreek5

Late at night with the truckies …

7 Comments

ports6

Ports Diner Roadhouse, 420 Footscray Rd, West Melbourne. Phone: 9689 9975

As most Consider The Sauce visitors will know, cool late-night options are a tad thin on the ground in the western suburbs.

So when the midnight hour munchies strike, I habitually head for the relatively close and comforting charms of the Embassy Taxi Cafe in Spencer St.

However, there is a slightly closer alternative, one that promises to provide a similarly distinctive transport-related fast food fix – and the time to take it for a road test it is now.

This place doesn’t keep anything like the 24/7 opening hours of the taxi cafe, but I figure it’s worth a shot just to enjoy another unique Melbourne dining experience.

In the night-time shadows of the Citylink/Bolte Bridge, and with the ridiculous Big Wheel in the background, I pull into the vast parking lot.

There’s a lot of trucks here – and I’m pretty sure there always is.

As several come and go, I finally find a parking spot, next to another small car, where it seems there is a good chance my vehicle will not be crushed like a bug by some reversing behemouth.

Inside the prefabricated building I find your typical diner set-up, spick and span, and with press coverage of the joint on the walls and copies of Big Rigs newspaper at hand.

ports1

There’s plastic containers of that night’s Chinese and pasta dishes in the bain marie, but I – of course – go the burger ($7 with bacon and onion) and chips route ($3).

Unfortunately, it’s all rather drab.

The burger patty is quite large, but appears to be a generic supermarket model. Certainly, it’s devoid of flavour or allure.

The rest of the burger is similarly unmemorable.

The chips are plentiful, hot and crinkle cut. They’re just OK, but are nevertheless the best of my meal.

No matter – I’ve enjoyed checking another personality-laden, one-of-a-kind Melbourne eating experience.

I’ll even consider returning – maybe for a steak sandwich or souvlaki.

After all, when the late-night munchies strike, a man’s gotta get truckin’ …

Port Truckie Diner on Urbanspoon

ports2

ports3

ports4

ports5

Mama Bear

2 Comments

mama7

mama6

Mama Bear, 526 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 9376 0386

In terms of location, Mama Bear really has it nailed.

Roughly equidistant from the coffee-and-more riches of Union Rd, the swell Asian smorgasbord on the other side of the railway line on Racecourse Rd and undistinguished Macaulay Rd, it really stands out.

Even better, unlike the situation on those three nearby strips, the parking here is unrestricted on both sides of the road. You may have to look for a wee while at weekends, but I doubt it’ll be any great problem.

Lovely exterior artwork, concrete floor, random yet stylish furniture, vintage signs, a high communal table with stools – yes, this is hipster cafe territory.

As you’d expect, breakfast is the big deal here. Heck, there’s not even a lunch menu – the post-noon fare falls under the heading “Brunch”.

The building was previously a Mexican joint the threshold of which we never crossed.

Co-proprietor Daniel tells me that ithe building’s first role was as a stables or some other equine-related business. He shows me the indentations where horses had gnawed away at the window frames.

mama4

I love the display of $3.50 old-school slices and hedgehogs. Some are brought in, some are made in-house.

The non-breakfast line-up is compact and appealing, with all items sitting on or around the $17 mark.

There’s a pesto-based pasta, a blackboard risotto, a calamari salad and a beef cheek slider.

I go for the Angus burger.

mama1

The orthodox in me yearns for something more usually related to burgers for accompaniment – coleslaw maybe, or chips. Or both.

But truth is, I am a fan of the rocket and fetta fad – and this is a good one: Fresh, lemony, tangy.

The skewered pickled cucumber is a crunchy, slightly sweet and delicately seasoned delight.

The beef patty looks modestly sized but is quite substantial. More importantly, it tastes fantastic. If only all burgers were this juicy! Maybe it could’ve done with a slightly heavier hand in the salt, pepper and seasoning department, but it’s still a very fine thing.

By the time the beef is all gone, I’m left with a handful of other ingredients – high-quality bun, shredded red cabbage that looks pickled but doesn’t taste like it, tomato, good and gooey cheese, mustard and mayo. But they’re all so classy, I enjoy consuming every last morsel.

Has my Mama Bear burger been worth the extra few bucks above what you’d pay for a basic sandwich at, say, Grill’d or Jus Burgers?

Yes.

To finish, a cafe latte is ordered.

It’s insanely excellent.

Mama Bear on Urbanspoon

mama5

mama2

Grill’d Yarraville

12 Comments

grilld24

Grill’d Yarraville, 18 Anderson St, Yarraville. Phone: 9687 1107

The corner of Anderson and Ballarat streets, the heart of Yarravile … it’s where we live; well, almost.

It’s certainly where we shop for all sorts of things, get haircuts and the occasional beer, browse, partake of coffees and gelati and ice-cream, run into friends, see the odd movie, buys books … yes, well, it IS where we live.

Have done so for years and presumably many years to come.

So seeing a flash new franchise hamburger outlet operating on the site of the former post office is shocking to the point of confrontational.

Will it come to be thought of as an eyesore?

Or will the passing of time see it become just another part of the local furniture?

I have noted, though, that in the few days it’s been open it has been doing very good business, although I’ve yet to see any locals – locals I know, that is – taking the place for a test spin.

On the other hand, I doubt very much that I’m the first to give it a go.

grilld22

Inside, looking out on to the so very familiar street life is quite a surreal experience.

The interior has polished concrete floors, lots of wood, a newspaper rack – always a plus.

The young or youngish staff are decked out in a variation of the very cool Grill’d T-shirts and obviously doing a diligent and enthusiastic job of taking care of their customers.

As this is my first visit – and future ones are likely to be on the rare side – I lash out for something a little bit saucier than my usual burger with bacon.

grilld21

The Hot Mama ($13.50) has beef, roasted peppers, dill pickle, tasty cheese, tzatziki, salad and harissa paste.

When the not-so-young bloke who serves me asks me about chilli preferences, I say mild.

As it turns out, my burger is far hotter than any of the Indian, Thai or Sri Lankan food that it has been my pleasure to eat in the previous couple of weeks.

So hot it leaves my lips tingling.

My plain white bun seems not as fresh as I’m used to getting at Grill’d outlets, so I fear my burger will messily crumble. Happily it holds together quite well.

The cheese element is good in that it actually has flavour, unlike you know McWhere.

The meat component is as tasty as ever for a Grill’d product, although the harissa dominates all.

Cos lettuce leaves are terrifically crunchy, though I detect no flavour of texture of roasted peppers.

Which doesn’t mean they’re not in there – more likely they’re just swamped by the other robust flavours, including a good dose of dill pickle and yogurt sauce.

It’s a typically good Grill’d effort, though no better than their more basic and significantly cheaper burgers.

The snack-size chips ($3.50) are good but not up to the standard we’ve often enjoyed at other Grill’d outlets, such as Highpoint.

They’re only just hot enough and some of them are floppy. I suspect I’ve copped the end of one batch instead of the start of another.

Grill’d does good work, but I suspect I’ll continue to have NIMBY-type feelings about an outlet landing in the heart of Yarraville.

And be warned – a bells-and-whistles meal here pushes the upper boundaries of what constitutes a cheap eat.

My burger, chips and a small bottle of Pepsi nudges above the $20 mark – that’s twice what I paid for an incredible biryani a few days earlier.

Grill'd Healthy Burgers on Urbanspoon

grilld26

grilld25

grilld23

grilld27

Jus Burgers

5 Comments

Jus Burgers, 364 Chapel Street, South Yarra. Phone: 9827 1318

Consider The Sauce is listed with a fledgling social media service called Social Callout, which is endeavouring to connect bloggers with marketers, PR types and folks wanting to talk up their products and services.

I hooked up with this crew not because I’m eager to get my snout in the freebie trough – been there, done that.

It’s more about being open to new story ideas.

But while it’s very early days yet, I think it’s already fair to say there’s not much future in our relationship with this site – so far the “callouts” have been overwhelmingly of zero interest to CTS and the prospects of there ever being any with applications to the west seem nil.

The one that did catch our eye was posted by Perth-based burger outfit Jus Burgers, seeking bloggers to check out their new Chapel St emporium.

So I applied for the “callout” and … nothing.

The “callout” went up again, so I applied again.

Turns out there’s been some gremlins in the Social Callout system, but this time I eventually get an email reply from Melbourne Jus Burgers manager Cory.

When I finally talk to him on the phone, it’s clear we’re on the same page when it comes to bloggers, freebies, marketing and so on.

“There’s no way I expect blogger reviews to be all positive,” he says. “In fact, if they’re anything less than honest, then they’re not of use to us. Besides, if there’s critcism, that’s the kind of feedback we need.”

So on that basis, we’re happy to make a rare foray across the river to Chapel St for a complementary meal (full disclosure below).

In fact we’re quite excited, as the menu strongly hints at good eats to be had at a place that presents as a more tony, ambitious version of the sort of thing Grill’d does.

The line-up of burgers and sides is enticing – see full menu below.

There’s THREE kinds of slaw.

Among the JB boasts are “no frozen food” and “all Victorian”.

And to top it all, one of CTS’s very best pals, food obsessive Nat Stockley, is very much a burger expert – one who has given Jus Burgers the thumbs up!

The place is smaller than we expect, though there is a kid-friendly room “out the back”.

Exposed brick, graffiti-style sloganeering, too-loud hip-hop – it fits right into the Chapel St scene.

But ambiance be damned – we’re here for the food.

Bennie’s wagyu burger earns an instant 10 out of 10, what with its beaut, crispy charcoal flavour and texture – once he’s done licking his chops and fingers.

For like his dad’s excellent roo burger, it’s a truly sloppy handful.

This messy outcome is due to both the overkill in terms of the various sauces and dressings used on our respective burgers and the crumbly Turkish-style buns.

Truth is, though, we don’t care.

It’s a finger-licking feast time, the paper serviettes are of the more substantial variety and there’s plenty of them at hand not far from our table.

Apart from the terrific patty in my burger, there’s a nice spice hit from the “horseradish slaw and goan cuisine green chilli jam”.

Our sides arrive after our burgers, but we don’t mind that, either – even though, predictably, there’s more food than we can feasibly consume.

Chips – very good; hot and crisp.

Onion rings – way better than very good; sensational, amazing, as good as any we’ve had. Ever.

Honestly, these rings are near-perfect, with a mostly grease-free coating that adheres to the onion remarkably well. Maybe, just maybe, they have a touch too much salt.

Spanish slaw (“sherry vinegar, honey and smoked paprika dressing”) – the only blah part of our meal. We expect some real zing and some sharply defined tastes, but get instead a rather bland and overly sweet salad. If anything, the mint and sweet factors remind us of a bland Vietnamese coleslaw.

Would we have paid for our meal?

Yes, happily.

Is Jus Burgers worth a trip to Chapel St?

Yes, just for a different, quality take on the familiar.

Meanwhile, the CTS flirtation with Social Callout and the unease it is causing is leading us to reconsider our whole approach to such matters.

Our meal at Jus Burgers was provided free of charge by the owner in return for a story on Consider The Sauce. Neither staff nor management knew what we were going to order. Jus Burgers has not been given any editorial control of this post.

Jus Burgers (South Yarra) on Urbanspoon

Big slide, little boy, wimpers of fear …

Truckies Drive In Cafe

1 Comment

Truckies Drive In Cafe, 90-92 Boundary Rd, Laverton North. Phone: 9325 1553

There are hundreds of fast-food outfits spread across the industrial wild west, servicing myriad operations big and small, lubricating the wheels of commerce and feeding a mix of blue-collar workers of many kinds and their support colleagues.

I’ve always assumed that they’re pretty much interchangeable and that the food involved is not much good and even less good for one’s health.

So why try this one?

Well, I’ve driven past it many times, so it has become an itch to be scratched.

It’s got the sort of name and something of the appearance of a genuine ‘Merican-style truck stop.

Still, my hopes are appropriately modest.

A good burger would be good.

A very good burger with fresh, hot, crunchy chips would be a bonus.

My more extreme fantasies run to a wise-cracking waitress named Loretta or Rhonda, a jukebox stuffed with prime Merle Haggard and a slice of house-made apple pie a la mode.

And fantasies they are, as I discover when I enter what looks like a routine fast-food place.

But the welcome from proprietor Elias and his crew is warm and welcoming.

They’ve been here for almost the all the eight years an eatery has operated here.

Even better, my dismay at the line-up of already-made and wilting burgers and kebabs is immediately dispelled upon being told that, yes indeed, a burger can be made fresh to my specifications.

My burger is better than good.

The flattened patty is rather lightweight but tastes OK.

The other components – lettuce, tomato, bacon, some raw onion, sauce – are fine.

But the ace in the hole is the top-quality bun – fresh, big and delicious.

The chips are hot, well-done and inhalable.

Even better, there’s HP Sauce on hand in which to dunk them.

Burger and a can of soft drink $6.90, chips $2.

Bargain!

And at that sort of price, requesting an extra patty is quite viable should you want a more meaty feed.

And now some wise words from two of my fellow western suburbs food fans: