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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toasta3
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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big7

 

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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alwill1

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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