Knockout burgers

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Maple Leaf Meats, Yarraville Gardens

The initial buzz that attended the arrival of food trucks in the west has long since faded.

Trucks still park at Yarraville Gardens and elsewhere, but they have become for us – and no doubt others – just one of many eating scenarios.

For this Saturday lunch, our post-kung fu, food-seeking rambling finds us parking and intent on doing the “truck thing” for the first time in a long while.

We do really, really good.

 

 

After perusing the line-up of vehicular vittles on offer, we opt – for no great reason and with only modest expectations – for Maple Leaf Meats and their cool, old-school truck/caravan.

I say modest expectations because part of our general disinclination to have any truck with this style of food comes down to quite a few disappointments of the mediocre and over-priced food variety.

The Maple Leaf Meats crew goes a long way towards restoring our faith in food trucks and what they offer.

The menu (see below) runs to barbecue offerings such as ribs and wings, but we’re not up for that kind of full-on meatiness or expense (in the case of the ribs), so opt for the burger route.

 

 

My Maple Leaf Burger ($14) is a very fine production with its cheese, pickles, tomato, lettuce and chipotle mayo.

Had I been paying more attention, and not in such a hungry hurry, I may have noted the presence of caramelised onion and therefore opted for another burger selection, caramelised onions being another offering we often find very disappointing and dull.

Here, though, they’re fine – a plus on what is already a fine burger.

Best of all, the patty is of robust and delicious beefiness.

 

 

Bennie does even better with his Smoked Meat Burger ($15).

In addition to the routine fillings, including in this case mustard, this winner comes with “Montreal smoked meat”.

This turns out to be pastrami, which – we’re told – is a Montreal specialty.

But this is not just pastrami – it’s Really Good Pastrami and there’s heaps of it.

This is not merely a matter of the sort of flavour tingle that a rasher of bacon gives to a burger.

So profound is the smoked meat’s impact that it’s more about creating something wholly new and different.

Bennie loves it.

 

 

In tune with the rest of our meal, the small serve of chips ($5) is excellent – each and every one is hot and crisp.

The best part of an hour later, we’re pretty much in Werribee and getting on with our day.

After a longish period of silent grooving to the car music, out of nowhere Bennie emphatically opines:

“Man, that was a good burger!”

 

Gooey in the centre

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Toasta. Phone: 0407 331 889

When Bennie and I take one of our regular drives around the inner western “coast” – along the Strand and right through to Altona, or the other way around – we have a tradition that when we sight the bay from anywhere near Williamstown Beach we count out loud the number of ships we see “parked” out there.

We’ve developed the same routine when cruising past the food trucks at Yarraville Gardens, counting off and naming the truck as we pass.

But we don’t stop to eat so often these days – the food trucks are just one of the many options open to us all.

But I am keen to check out the Toasta crew and their sangers.

 

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I admire their ingenuity in finding a niche in a tight truck marketplace.

I wonder if they create great toasted sandwiches within the demanding truck framework.

The answer is: Yes!

They key is really good ingredients.

They use Zeally Bay sourdough, which has just the right structural integrity without being too gnarly.

It toasts splendidly.

 

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I go for the Barry, with cheddar, brisket, dill pickle and smokey BBQ sauce for $12.

While my sandwich appears of only modest proportions, I know after one bite it’ll be eating bigger than it appears.

After four bites, I realise it’s a bargain and wonder if I’ll be able to finish it.

I do, but there’s no room for anything else, so I dig the purity of the Toasta menu that excludes fries and other sides.

The dominant flavour is of very good cheddar with brisket undertones, with quite a lot of dill pickle providing zingy punctuation.

Wonderful!

I like, too, how Toasta dispenses with the usual soft drinks, be they the commercial riff raff or fizz of the more boutique variety.

My lemonade house-mixed soda ($4) is real nice.

Just don’t go thinking a Toasta sandwich is in any way more healthy than the burgers, fries, grills or stuff-on-sticks being served up by their food truck compatriots!

Check out the Toasta website here. And, of course, “like” their FB page to know where they’re at.

 

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Kebabs with a difference

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degree2
400 Degree Tandoor Grill, 888 Mount Alexander Road, Essendon.

 

Full moon, start of the weekend, not a care in the world, no alarm to be set for the morrow … the timing is right for a slightly cross-town drive in search of something mighty fine to eat.

We’re headed to Essendon and the 400 Degree truck, which is part of the ever-evolving and growing Melbourne food truck scene but which seems to be making a name for itself away from the usual congregating points and by doing festivals and the like.

We’ve heard good things about what they offer, most notably from our very good pal Nat Stockley.

(We learn, however, during a flurry of messages while we’re ordering and eating, that Nat’s experiences with this crew has thus far been restricted to their chicken tikka box, which he describes as “kind of like a biryani” … no matter!)

 

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There’s two happy blokes in the truck doing the food biz, and another out front playing a sort of meet-and-greet cum security role.

It being 10pm, this is pretty much opening time for these guys.

‘Round about midnight, the clientele no doubt increases in number and drunkenness, so security is probably a good idea.

We’re told, we presume somewhat jokingly, that the security even needs security.

I offer Bennie’s services at a discount but stir up little interest.

 

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Bennie goes the tandoori chicken wrap ($9.50).

He likes it a lot; it disappears in under five minutes.

It tastes good to me, too.

 

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I go the “9-hour” lamb ($9.50), and it, too, is a winner.

The shaved lamb is juicy and tasty.

I like the way the chilli sauce I have chosen mostly works its way down my wrap so the last few, delicious mouthfuls are the spiciest and sexiest of all.

Both our wraps are wrapped in pliable rotis that – along with the Indian-style fillings – really do set the 400 Degree products apart.

It’s been a fine feed.

As we drive home, we discuss the perhaps surprising fact that 400 Degree offers so little by way of extras … such as chips or samosas or curries of any kind.

We conclude that if they went down that path, they would end up being something other than a kebab truck with a difference.

Their simple approach works a treat.

Check out the 400 Degree website here.

 

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Food truck weather

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Big Cook Litle Cook. Phone: 0450 395 344

Food truck.

I reckon there’s ground for considering that phrase as a food style.

You know … Vietnamese, Ethiopian, fish ‘n’ chips, burgers, Indo-Chinese, pizza, food truck.

Like that.

Take, for instance, my rather nice Saturday lunch from a new arrival in the ranks of  Yarraville Gardens truck squadron … Big Cook Little Cook.

 

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Big Cook’s Classic has tandoori chicken pieces, rice, hummus, Big Cook’s salad and roti.

It’s a good feed and I’ve been more than happy to pay $12 for it.

The chicken has good tandoori flavour, the hummus is fresh-as, the roti hot and flaky.

And there’s nothing at all incongruous about various elements of my meal deriving from various parts of the planet.

But it does seem like a food truck meal!

 

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Same goes for my friend’s Smoky Chilli Jam Chicken, also costing $12, with its sticky Indo-Chinese vibe.

I get talking to Conan, the offspring part of the father-and-son duo of Big Cook Little Cook, the name of which was chosen to give them flexibility in terms of not being tied down to a single style of food.

Conan and Raymond are much-travelled and passionate about what they are doing.

Conan asks me what I think about the pricing of the food trucks in general.

The prices of the regular Yarraville truck gang actually seem remarkably consistent.

 

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I tell him I’m sure the trucks are setting their prices very scientifically and where they must – any cheaper and they’d not be in business.

Our $12 meals have been fairly priced.

But the truth is a fully satisfying truck meal of main, a little something extra for, say, $5 or so plus a drink can run to about $20.

Many people, I suspect, compare that with the plethora of nearby regular eatery options that are cheaper and also involve tables and table service.

Still, as the several hundred folks out and about and busily trucking on what feels like the first day of spring attest, the food trucks have certainly found a place in the collective heart of the inner west.

It’s a happy scene indeed!

 

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Food trucks – Altona, Williamstown readers have your say!

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Disclosure – the two reporters who filed this Maribyrnong/Hobsons Bay Weekly story about food trucks in the west are colleagues of mine; I am quoted in the story and the newspaper has used a photograph provided by CTS.

But I confess to being bemused by the comments in the story by the spokeswomen for both the Altona Village Traders Association and the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce.

Of course, it is the job of such groups to promote and protect the businesses they represent.

But the idea of “running food trucks out of the town” seems a little, um, confrontational.

There are places we like to eat in and shop at in both Williamstown and Altona. We will discover more.

But I can only go with what numerous residents and readers from both suburbs have told me in the years CTS has been operating – that while there is plenty of choice, people in general think there is much that is “average”, over-priced or both.

So Altona and Williamstown readers, what do you think … food trucks, do you want them?

 

 

 

 

 

Is there such a thing as too many food trucks?

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how1

The days when the west seemed forgotten or ignored by Melbourne’s developing food truck industry sure seem like a long time ago and a long way away …

Tonight on Somerville Road there were 14 – that’s right, 14 – food truck in operation!

I’ve liked all the truckers I’ve met.

And I like that they like each other.

But I wonder how they can all make a buck in such an intense environment.

Those that I talked to tonight said business was good without being outstanding.

There was certainly a happy vibe in evidence!

And, no, I didn’t partake, having already eaten in Carlton …

Steppin’ Out In Sunshine

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MaDE in Brimbank is a dance and music bash being held in the car park adjacent to Classic Curry and in which we almost always park when making one of our frequent Sunshine visits.

Now, dance is not really my thing, but I end up being very glad I make the effort.

This is another wonderful westie community event.

I spend quite a few hours enjoying it all – from an hour so after proceedings commence, but departing way before the party winds down.

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While on hand I catch all sorts of dancing and other entertainment, ranging from junior hip-hoppers to traditional styles from Africa and Europe.

And there are food trucks.

Actually, there are a LOT of food trucks – they’re so thick on the ground, I wonder how anyone is going to make a buck. Maybe things pick up after I split.

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Given the plethora of food rucks on hand, it is no surprise I bump into erudite and much-travelled foodie Nat Stockley.

Nor is it any surprise, given her “thing” for dance, food and, more recently, food trucks themselves, that I likewise stumble across the Urban Ma and other members of the wonderful family with which only days earlier I had been utterly privileged to participate in an amazing Pinoy family feast.

Wonderful folks!

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From Amy at Trailer Made Food, I secure a serve of fried potatoes with tomato sauce and Turkish sausage ($10).

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It’s a lovely thing!

The spuds are crisp and salty, the sauce is intense and the sausage just right.

But I’m still hungry.

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So I hit the Souvlaki Cart – and hit souvlaki heaven.

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My $10 souvlaki is wrapped in everyone’s fave Greek-style pita bread.

Internally, the lambs cubes are really, really top class and a cut way above the meat found your average takeaway souvlaki.

The only quibble I would have is that the yogurt/cucumber combo could’ve benefited from quite a bit more garlic.

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Turning to mush on NYE

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The Little Mushroom Company, New Year’s Eve @ Footscray Park

Part way through the fireworks ‘n’ music jamboree at Footscray Park, we heard a rumour that Maribyrnong council had resolved to repeat the debut event if a 1000 or so people turned up or the debut.

Well, by our reckoning there were at least five times that many in attendance, so a repeat would seem to be guaranteed.

It was a swell party with a really nice vibe.

But the council may want tweak a few detail here and there, including a closer finessing of the car-parking situation.

We parked in the VU car park but it still took us a while to escape – and that was while the final band, Bjorn Again, was still thumping away with that fat, boring ’80s Euro-pop sound.

As well, the council will be well advised to seriously look at exhorting more food trucks to cater to the masses.

As it was, the half-dozen or so trucks at the party – including the Curry Truck and Mr Burger – struggled to cope.

The lines were very long!

We rather regretted not investing in Footscray rice paper rolls or Vietnamese coleslaw. Next time for sure!

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But we certainly don’t regret partaking of the Little Mushroom Company fare, even if the mushie crew was slow getting moving and we had to wait a while.

We ordered one apiece of the Mexican and Greek mushroom burgers at $10, although we found there to be little that was Greek or Mexican about either.

There was no doubting the quality, though.

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These were really nice sandwiches, the dressings were just right, the rocket was fresh-as and the buns a delight.

I reckoned the mushrooms themselves were a little slight in terms of robust mushie flavour, but they sure were big, meaty and juicy.

Some may quibble at the prices, but $10 seems to us in line with food truck standards and those of festival catering – and a short festival was what this bash very much resembled.

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Music was not high on our list of party priorities, but we really enjoyed the The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra.

We threw frisbee.

It was a hoot meeting a number of CTS pals, including Mr Footy Maths Institute, just as we were all about go “ooohh” and “aaahh” over the fireworks.

And it was fine, too, to hang out with a number of nice young ladies even if I am, for them, not Kenny but merely “Bennie’s dad”.

Best way to ascertain what the Little Mushies are up to is likely to be through their Facebook page.

 

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Post-midnight Braybrook kebab

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Tasty Toasted Kebabs @ Fun Galore, 234 Ballarat Road, Braybrook

Funny, eh, how almost all the palaver about Melbourne’s food trucks seem to imply they’re some cool, NEW thing,

That’s simply not the case – vehicular food delivery systems go way back in Australia, I’m guessing as far back as the horse-drawn variety as opposed to those mounted on internal combustion or steam engine vehicles.

And then there’s Mr Whippy and the kebab shacks that are festooned across the city.

Perhaps in the case of the latter it’s a matter of out of time, out of mind – the kebab shacks don’t come into their own until after midnight.

They’re far from our usual routine, but we’re on hols so the rule book is out the window.

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Our sleep requirements have expanded to fit the extra time available, and – perversely – late nights are perfectly acceptable.

After his father has done with televised sport for the night, Bennie has glommed on to a screening of the 1955 flick The Tender Trap.

We don’t from whence does the lad’s penchant for vintage comics, cars, clothes, movies and so on come.

Sure, his dad and his mum are so inclined, but it hasn’t been forced down his throat.

Yet he’d happily prefer Louis Armstrong over the latest teeny bopper any day, and can equally happily disappear into old-school song-and-dance movies.

So I’m happy to let him suck up an hour or so of creepily sexist Frank Sinatra sparring with husband-chasing Debbie Reynolds – and even rise from the sofa for the occasion when he calls my bluff and quickly proffers an eager “Yes!” to the suggestion of a post-midnight snack.

Then off we go …

We reject one Ballarat Road, ahem, establishment on the grounds it looks rather forlorn and lacks even the most rudimentary seating, ahem, facilities.

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And thus we front at Fun Galore and the kebab shack run by a friendly fellow named Abdul.

He’s been tending this particular patch for six years and runs other shacks on Sydney Road and Flinders Street.

In those six years, he tells us, there have been only a couple of instances of rowdy, drunken or abusive behaviour.

“People are looking for something good to eat so are nearly always polite and friendly,” he says.

That’s certainly the case on the night we visit, with about 20 or so customers coming and going in the 20 minutes we’re hanging around.

These folks keep mostly to themselves.

What surprises somewhat is that in being outright Caucasian, Bennie and I are in a small minority, with most punters being of Asian persuasion, including the Sub-Continental variety, with some representation from Pacific and African parts of the world.

Why should this surprise? This is the western suburbs, this is Braybrook – what the hell did I expect?

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Our chicken kebabs cost $8 and are tasty.

Thankfully, Abdul uses Lebanese-style pita bread, so our snacks are without the significantly greater weightiness that would come with Greek-style pita or Turkish bread.

Our kebabs have been toasted so the bread is quite pleasingly crisp, yet the salad bits inside retain their crispness.

The chicken meat, for mine, gets lost among its fellow ingredients, including plenty of garlic and chilli sauces.

But perhaps that’s no bad thing.

Then it’s home and bed for us.

 

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Happy Campers for the Westies

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Happy Camper Pizza is the brainchild of Footscray couple Remi and Sonia.

Their operation is delivered in an outrageously gorgeous vintage Airstream caravan that Remi tells me was customised by US specialists before it was shipped to Australia.

Their official launch was at Post Industrial Design, very soon to be home of  Pod, as part of Big West opening night event.

Look, I know we recently stated that our enthusiasm for food truck had become more restrained.

But with the Happy Camper I’m prepared to be keener.

For starters, they’re the only truck doing vehicular pizzas in the west.

As you can see from a perusal of their website here, they’re preparing Italian-style pizzas at a cost that is actually below or at least comparable to what you’d pay in a restaurant or cafe.

And AFAIK they are the only food truck operating in the west that actually lives in the west.

I didn’t get to try their goodies on their opening night.

But I’m looking forward to trying them very soon – as we’re very excited to announce that the Happy Camper crew will be joining the celebration that will be the Footscray Food Blog/Consider The Sauce Spring Picnic and announcement and presentation of the inaugural Westies: Dishes Of Distinction awards.

They will be joined by the fine folks from Mr Burger.

And there may well be other trucks in attendance, as the picnic site is directly adjacent to what has become Yarraville’s “food truck strip”.

But of course, this IS a picnic, so you’re all very welcome to BYO.

Footscray Food Blog/Consider The Sauce Spring Picnic,

Yarraville Gardens, Somerville Road.

Saturday, November 30, from 11am.

The Westies: Dishes of Distinction winners announced at noon.

Curry parking

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Curry Truck, Yarraville Gardens

Since the food tuck dam broke about a year ago, CTS has been diligent in checking out and writing about each one that has rolled into our neighbourhood.

With Curry Truck we have – AFAIK – a full house.

I certainly hope so.

Because the truth is, we’re a bit over it.

This is not to single out any individual food truck for negativity.

We’ve not had a bad meal at any of them and have enjoyed many.

Nor has it helped that many of our food truck experiences have not occurred on a warm evenings worthy of a picnic rug and relaxation.

It’s all been rather too brisk and breezy.

Nevertheless, it’s impossible not to make comparisons between what is offered in terms of vehicular tucker and what is available with full table service and eat-in comfort just a few minutes’ drive away.

Perhaps this is a hearty indicator of just how lucky we are in the western suburbs and our ready access to such fabulous foodiness.

And I’m sure the food truck squadron come into its own for such events as festivals and carols by candlelight and so on.

Still, from here on in it’s likely to be a matter of special occasions only.

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I am intrigued, though, to be checking out the Curry Truck line-up, as this is an area of special interest to CTS and one in which the inner west excels.

How will it go for us when there are such wonderful dosas, biryanis, thalis, momos and more available so cheaply on Barkly Street in West Footscray?

As this night’s vegetable curry has already sold out and butter chicken is a no-go area for us, we avoid the $15 twin curry packs with rice, raita and roti, opting instead for a couple of “curry in a hurry” deals with single curry at $10 each.

(To see what is available in $15 thali terms on Barkly Street, see this review of Hyderabad Inn.)

Bennie and I are, in the end, happy to cast our skepticism aside as our curries – beef rendang and chicken tikka masala – are pretty good.

They’re both mildly spiced but evince levels cooking love and devotion that makes them nice curries of the individualistic, homecooked style and a far cry from the sort of curries served up in shopping centre food courts and outfits of the lesser bain marie variety.

Combined with plain white rice, rotis and very good raita, we enjoy them before scurrying home to our living room warmth.

 

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Messy but good

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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 …)

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Test drive for a hip new food truck

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lil nomnoms’ opening launch party, Rubix @ Tetris Studios, 36 Phoenix St, Brunswick

There’s some good and even very fine tucker to be had from Melbourne’s food trucks.

There’s some medicore and crap food to be had, too.

But food is just part of what is going on here.

As we found during last summer, grabbing some choice goodies from one of these mobile vendors and then adjourning to the parks adjacent to which they’ve parked is a sublime delight.

Yet even in mid-winter the many food trucks are hard at it.

The mostly youngish entrepreneurs behind all this activity know it’s about more than food, too.

It’s about creating a buzz, a vibe, a sense of occasion; it’s about branding and hipster-style marketing.

And it’s about creating a sense of anticipation.

It’s routine these days for a new food truck enterprise to start spreading the word weeks and even months before actually hitting the road.

I’ll happily admit to be as engaged with this process as anyone, even if I do wonder at times if yet another shiny new food van/truck blinds me to the fact that better and cheaper fare can often be had at real bricks-and-mortar eateries.

I didn’t, however, find out about Lil’ NomNoms through Facebook.

Rather, I received an email inviting me to their Saturday arvo launch party at a suitably grungy inner-urban venue down a Brunswick dead-end.

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The 100 or so guests who front up on a chilly and wet day seems to be a mix of friends of the business, punters only too happy to get in on the ground floor and enjoy a seven-course feed for $15, and a handful of bloggers invited on a complementary basis, of which Consider The Sauce is one.

Roping in Nat Stockley for “plus one” duty is a no-brainer – he loves this stuff just as much as he digs hamburgers!

Given the venue, I am half expecting the meal to be a sit-down affair.

But no, the food is dispensed from the nicely-liveried Mercedes van and distributed to guests canape-style.

It seems clear after a while that the Lil’ NomNoms’ crew has under-estimated the challenge posed by feeding this many people … at the same time.

They’re working very hard, but the various courses are slow in eventuating.

As well, due to a technical hitch, there will be no pho today.

No matter – it’s a happy occasion, and in the end I try four of the seven courses promised.

So how is the food?

Well, even taking in to consideration this a showcase event and trial run, and that portions sizes, pricing and quality may vary when the van goes public … this is very good food.

In fact, it’s as good as any food truck fare I’ve yet enjoyed in Melbourne – and far, far better than most.

The key is the terrific freshness of the produce used.

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Item: Goi cuong cha gio (rice paper roll with vegetarian spring roll, lettuce, Vietnamese mint, coriander and perilla). Fresh as can be and with spring roll crunch and texture that is as much about sound and sensation as flavour. Wonderfully tightly bound so they stay intact right up to the last mouthful.

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Item: Banh hoi thit nuon (roast pork belly on a bed of cos lettuce, rice noodles, cucumber, coriander and mint). Oh, wow – a vividly fresh and brilliantly textured flavour bomb. Cursing that I only get one of these!

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Item: Goi ga nuong (Vietnamese BBQ chicken salad). Lovely, tender and flavoursome chook over rustically chunky and beautifully dressed vegetables. Again, the freshness is noteworthy.

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Item: Banh mi ga nuong (banh mi slider filled with grilled lemongrass chicken, cucumber, spring onions, pickled carrot/daikon, coriander, truck-made mayo and chicken liver pate). These are good without reaching the heights of the previous three courses we’ve been offered. The filling seems very similar with the ingredients of the chicken salad. Here’s one case where comparisons with any of your local banh mi joints are unavoidable.

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Early on in the piece, Nat and I choose between rubbing shoulders with the gathered masses in the slightly warmer interior or hanging out at the venue entrance, getting cold but having first dibs on the food as it exits the van.

We choose the latter, and meet some fine folks in the process.

They include Henry and Mai, from Roxborough Park, paying guests and foodies to their cores.

These are my kind of food hounds. Why buy a kebab from a kebab shop when insisting on a sit-down plate of meats, salads, dips and more is so much more satisfying? Why get takeaway F&C when eating in helps ensure a repast of far greater excellence?

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And we meet a couple of high-spirited types in the form of Stacy, who I take it is part of the extended Lil’ NomNoms family, and Lil, Point Cook resident and soon-to-be food blogger.

Good luck!

The Lil’ NomNoms’ truck is scheduled to be hitting the streets in a couple of weeks, with engagements at Brunswick Bowls Club among the plans and Maribyrnong one of three municipalities on the radar.

Check out their Facebook page here.

And check out Nat’s handy guide to Melbourne’s food trucks at Urbanspoon here.

Our meal was provided free of charge by the owners. The Lil’ NomNoms crew neither sought nor was given any editorial control of this post.

 

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Food truck mayhem in the west …

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

mr8

mr3

Digging For Fire BBQ

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dig1

Digging For Fire BBQ, Footscray Park. Phone: 0412 718 797

I am not the first ever public customer of the Digging For Fire BBQ food truck.

Nor am I the second.

Nope, those honours go to Carly and Rita.

But that’s OK – I’ll take third place with glee.

Remember when the western suburbs were perpetual bridesmaids in the food truck stakes?

Happily, those days are a fading memory, with the Digging crew – Dave and “Damo” – even choosing Footscray to make their public, “streetside” debut.

The lads are having something of a slow start, so I’ll have to check out the “smoked chilli and cinnamon chicken wings, hot sauce” on another occasion.

And other occasions there are sure to be based on my lovely Sunday lunch.

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Brand new business, inaugural day of operation, first batch of chips – a bit of a gamble I’d normally surmise.

But these “crunchy thick cut chips” ($4) are super. They’re crunchy for sure and delicious dipped in the creamy smooth aioli.

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My “Mary Had A Little Lamb Roll ($8) is good, too.

There’s heaps of meat, and it all works nicely with the various bits and pieces, including turshi, tomato, pomegranate and tahini.

As you’d expect, this comes across as a close relative of pita-wrapped kebab.

Check out what the Digging For Fire BBQ team have by way of menu ambitions at their website here.

But as is the way with these things, Facebook or Twitter is the best way of nailing their location on any given day. Or check out Where The Truck At.

Such is the effectiveness of the food truck/social media dynamic, that as I leave a steady stream of customers is turning up to try out this new addition to Melbourne’s food truck fleet.

 

dig2

dig3

Gumbo Kitchen in Yarraville

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We’ve been slow to getting around to hitting this crew since they joined the influx of food trucks into the west – so tonight’s the night.

A previous encounter in Brunswick had been of an acceptable nature, although I did find the roast beef debris po boy sandwich somewhat on the dull side and not really “as advertised”.

So this time around I have no problem sidestepping the allure of the various po boys such as soft shell crab and shrimp and heading straight for the gumbo.

I’ve experienced some pitiful excuses for gumbo in my time in Melbourne – so I’m delighted to report this is not one of them.

In fact, it’s the best gumbo I’ve had in Australia that I have not cooked myself.

And, the clincher, it’s not some fancy seafood gumbo.

This is the king of gumbos – chicken and sausage.

Nor is there file or okra involved. The chicken is not fried first, as is the case in some of the more extravagant recipes or flash New Orleans restaurants.

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No, this chicken and sausage gumbo ($12) is plain old home-style cooking – the sort of gumbo you might find in any neighbourhood joint or bar in New Orleans.

Best of all, this is not a stew – this is a runny soup, which is as it should be.

There’s a dark roux and stock base, there’s the trinity of celery, capsicum and onion. And, my server Michael tells me, there’s your basic gumbo seasoning such as cayenne, oregano and thyme. And no doubt a few more.

It’s got that great, distinctive gumbo flavour and a nice spice hit.

There’s more than enough chicken chunks and sausage discs. The price seems reasonable enough given the quality of the gumbo.

Although you wouldn’t want to get thinking about the pho available just up the road or the $3 tacos being dispensed at the Reverence Hotel.

Bennie’s been at me for months that he wants to try gumbo, but I simply haven’t gotten around to it.

Next time he raises the subject, and presuming I remain uninspired to do the job myself, I’ll be more than happy to haul him along to the Gumbo Kitchen and say: “THAT’S gumbo!”

 

gumbo23

White Guy Cooks Thai photo shoot

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white21

White Guy Cooks Thai photo shoot, Yarraville Station

Previous posts here and here.

This was just around the corner and about a block away, so I thought I’d pop down just for a look-see – so no big-deal post here.

The shoot was for the RMIT MBA alumni newsletter.

Had me a prawn slider – it was beaut!

However, I stand firm in my affection for these guys – the vibe is great, the food is neat and, I believe, reasonably priced.

As Ms Baklover has pointed out, it’s a fun alternative.

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white23

Mo Jo La Coffee

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mojola1

Mo Jo La Coffee, Cherry Lake, Millers Rd, Altona.

Laurence has been running his coffee service at Cherry Lake since September.

He tells me the business is going fine, to the extent he’s even pondering an extension into food realms.

A carpenter in his previous life, he built his very cool cart himself.

He’s open seven days a week and from around 6am on week days.

That’s when he gets good custom from the commuters; later on in the day there’s an influx of mum with babes and toddlers in tow.

The cafe latte he makes me is terrific – hot and strong.

The business gets its name from Laurence’s daughters – Moana, Joanne and Lauren.

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Over by the lake itself, I get talking to a trio gregarious fishermen.

Vladimir, Paul and Vladimir are all from Altona by way of Slovakia.

They tell me they’re trying catch the pest species carp.

When they then tell me it’s not unusual for the anglers hereabouts to pull in carp weighing six, seven, eight and more kilograms, I frankly and rather rudely express strident disbelief.

Surely they’re winding me up?

So Paul sends me over to examine the contents of a big red bucket at the fishing pozzie of some fellow fishermen about 20 metres away.

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Peering in, I am gobsmacked to see a still very much alive fish that is at least a foot and a half long!

The boys tell me that the carp they catch here make good eating, but that they remove the oily skins and that the fish does have a lot of bones.

One of the Vlads cheerfully informs me that if he were to reveal the secret ingredients of his bait balls, he’d then be obliged to shoot me.

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mojola5

Dos Diablos Mobile Cantina

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Dos Diablos Mobile Cantina, Coulson Gardens, Chifley Drive, Maribyrnong, and many changing locations. Phone: 0413 616 771

Having left home well after the advertised opening time of 5pm, I am bemused to find no sign at all of the sexy red Dos Diablos truck.

(Confession: I did misread it badly – see comments below!)

Either they’re running awful late or I’ve completely misread the Facebook notification of tonight’s location.

After circling Coulson Gardens several times, I’m about to head home when the red beast trundles into view.

OK, I’m happy to cool my heels while get they get things rolling.

As I wait, and a few other customers drive up, I ponder the challenges of this food truck game that has made a significant impact on the westie food scene in a short span of time.

I doubt very much it’s as easy as it may appear from an outsider’s point of view.

And I wonder how scientific the various trucks get about choosing the right locations.

White Guy Cooks Thai seemed to get it just right on the night of our accidental meal with them in Seddon – a small park with heaps of shade and seating and a playground for the kids.

Coulson Gardens goes one better as it has toilets.

The Dos Diablos folk can’t do anything about the stinking hot weather, though there is a breeze coming off the river.

I know this park and the surrounding area teem with people on weekends, but I wonder how they’re going to go on a week night. All the customers I see during my visit with them arrive by car, so there are no casual, walk-up punters.

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The Dos Diablos menu is tight and succinct.

All three varieties of taco cost $6 each.

My carnitas is spicy, salty and tasty, and although the pork shows few signs of the advertised “slow-roasting” it is still fine.

The vego is more humdrum. I usually love black beans, but these seem awfully boring. I love food without meat, but can quake when confronted with the horrible spectre of “vegetarian food”. This gets pretty close.

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My small “papas fritas (seasoned fries)” are not my kind of deal at all. They’re chewy and heavily coated with some sort of variation of chicken salt. I can imagine some people thinking they’re crash hot, however.

The “Diablos ketchup” looks just like your regulation tomato sauce but is nicely spicy.

It’s been a satisfactory meal, but I suspect I’ve just found there are limits to food truck allure.

A serious appetite, for example, could go four of these tacos no problem – and that would start to get into significant cash output.

But I’ll continue to adore the concept and most assuredly enjoy the occasional outing with Bennie, even when the food doesn’t score top points.

After all, a sunny evening in a park, by the river or on a beach has a lot going for it all on its ownsome.

 

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dos1

Random thoughts …

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random1

This is my top, No.1 all-time favourite Christmas present of 2012.

So obvious!

So affordable!

So efficient!

So easy to clean!

Thanks, Bennie!

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It’s gratifying that my boy seems far more “connected” to his breakfast now that he’s eating from a batch of our muesli that he made all his own self.

Tonight – lentil soup a la Bennie!

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A lot of people seem to be enjoying the arrival of food tucks in the west.

We have yet to sample the wares of Dos Diablos, but have noted with pleasure the regular “sold out!” notifications posted by the team from White Guy Cooks Thai on their Facebook page.

On Friday night, we had a supreme example of just what a pleasure and a boon such an operation can be.

No photos, no taking of notes, no seeking of information – just a feed for a tired but otherwise very normal family.

With dad returning from a return to work and subsequently tuckered out, we’d picked up Greek salad makings for dinner, but really … not in the mood to cook.

We’d just turned into Gamon St from Charles, when Bennie yelled out: “White Guy Cooks Thai!”

A quick application of the brakes and a U-turn later and we were parked in front of the White Guy truck and ready to rock.

Hainan chicken and mango salad, with heaps of pomegranate seeds, for him.

He loved it, opining halfway through: “I’d like to know how to make this!”

Green vegetable curry with rice and coleslaw for me.

Quite spicy, light, delicious, with green beans, potato, pumpkin, eggplant and more.

A fantastic, affordable meal, the timing of which could not have been better.

How have your food truck experiences been?