Feedback Cafe, 31 Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 1955
Bad impressions can linger.
Feedback Cafe has been around for what seems like forever – certainly as long as we’ve been in the west and hanging out in the village, and certainly long before we’d ever heard about food blogs.
Management changed about five years ago but we’ve been slow to re-frequent the place.
We didn’t have what you’d call rotten times at Feedback back then, but a certain charmlessness in both food and service terms meant the place fell into the “prefer others” category.
Following more regular visits in recent times, a beaut lunch Bennie and I enjoy there has us wondering why we haven’t made Feedback Cafe our Yarraville home base all along.
The music really, really helps.
Those recent visits have mostly been made to a soundtrack of greasy, swinging, rocking old-school ’40s and ’50s rhythm and blues.
For our Monday lunch, Bennie and I are serenaded in a different way – by troubadour Michael Hurley.
Hurley is part of a brilliantly crazy musical tribe that also includes the Holy Modal Rounders and Jeffrey Frederick.
Fully embedded in American music traditions, but always standing slightly, hilariously, magically apart, this whacko crew also includes my good Kentucky pal Gary Sisco.
During our lunch, I Facebook message Sisco to tell him we’re enjoying his mate Hurley while dining and that the music-crazed Feedback crew have even been known to enjoy a Holy Modal Rounders-themed week.
Now THAT’S cool.
Sisco had his own album, Sisco & Pals the End of the Trail, released through the Jeffrey Frederick website a few years back.
The album is still available there, as are heaps of other releases by these folks.
The site is chockers with memorable, incredibly funny hair-raising tales of the tribe’s history by Sisco and others.
And like Sisco, I reckon the 1976 album Have Moicy, featuring Hurley, Frederick and the Rounders, is an outright masterpiece that stands with the very best Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry or any other American genius you can think of has ever come up with.
OK, on with the food!
The feedback lunch menu (below) has a decided American south/south-west slant without getting too precious about it.
That’s a bit like the way the decor and general atmosphere go their own slightly scruffy, comfy lived-in way in a nice contrast to the increasing hipster-sheen of Yarraville and Seddon.
The staff, too, have that slightly scruffy, comfy, lived-in look. (Joke!)
As I did on my previous visit, Bennie orders the pulled pork po’ boy with slaw and chipotle BBQ sauce ($10).
It’s fresh and crunchy, and he likes it, but hankers for a more robust BBQ flavour.
And he frankly, rudely ogles the popcorn chicken po’ boy a lovely gran is attacking at an adjacent table.
It DOES look real fine!
My hillbilly chilli of chipotle, stout and puy lentils with corn chips and sour cream ($11) is unlike any chill I’ve ever had.
There’s no red beans, for starters!
But with the sour cream, a lesser amount of cheddar and some salsa, the beautifully cooked lentils make for a satisfying lunch.
The corn chips are the same quality brand we always have around home – that’s a good thing!
After a couple of stupendously fine cafe lattes, I remark to Bennie as we amble up Ballarat Street that my beverages have completely alleviated my back pain.
That’s not true, but they’ve sure made it more bearable!
(PS: I saw the Holy Modal Rounders live on Haight Street, San Francisco, in 1977!)