Retro burger genius

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Skipping Girl Take Away, 70 William Street, Abbotsford. Phone: 0474 837 612

Skipping Girl Take Away is located a long block away from the hustle and bustle of Vietnamese Victoria Street.

But in metaphorical terms, it’s a long way removed.

As with parts of other intense inner-city locales – Richmond, Collingwood, even Footscray – these back streets of Abbotsford bespeak days of an older Melbourne.

 

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The Skipping Girl shop isn’t 1900s ancient, though when proprietors Eyal and Nolan took it over it had long been unused and was an utterly grimy rathole.

But instead of gutting the place, they peeled back and scrubbed away the dirt, leaving the old takeaway shop pretty much as is/was.

 

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The essential configuration of grill, deep fryer, servery, customer seating, floor coverings and mirrors has been retained.

This fits in perfectly with their gameplan of approaching their food offerings with an old-school ethos that evokes takeaway joints of earlier decades that have over the years ceded quality and importance to newer trends and tastes – but with class and quality way beyond supermarket patties.

 

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They appear to be succeeding admirably, having been open a couple of weeks.

The signs are everywhere – there’s plenty of skipping girl mementos and artifacts.

 

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And there’s not an old-school takeaweay joint on the planet that offers the range of sauces and dressings these guys do.

If there’s necessarily a level of artifice in the marriage of old-school takeaway shop with a contemporary, hip approach, it is done so seamlessly and cleverly that I have no problem embracing it without inhibition.

 

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Especially when the food is as excellent as we enjoy, our selections brought to our table housed in army ration tins.

We choose from the freshly delivered “new” menu (see below), which is split into two sections – “burgers” and “more awesome burgers”.

As you do.

 

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Bennie goes for the Blue Moon ($18), which is the double beef (with two patties, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, Skipping Girl sauce) with blue cheese added.

 

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It’s two-handed dynamite, with the blue cheese coming through strong but in the sense of aiding and abetting rather than overwhelming.

This is a most excellent burger.

 

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I enjoy my fish burger ($15), but feel the delicate flavour of the lemon-and-pepper-dusted blue grenadier is swamped a bit by overt generosity in the pickle department.

There’s not a burger alive I want to eat without pickles, but in this case about half or less of what I’m delivered would’ve been fine.

Still good, though!

 

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Nat is happy with his regular beef burger ($13) with bacon but finds the bun not quite to his complete liking. Too dry, I think.

 

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We share a regular serve of triple-cooked chips ($6).

They’re excellent, especially towards the bottom where the smaller, crunchier ones live!

They’re served with a really fine house-made tomato sauce. Nat reckons it’s a bit like an Indian kasundi – he’s right, but we’re told the sauce also has a homegrown component in the form of wattleseeds.

 

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Eyal and Nolan, who have long histories in the Melbourne eatery/hospitality game, are intent on doing something different.

They’re also having a whole lot of fun.

Check out Skipping Girl Take Away and you will, too.

Skipping Girl Take Away is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-9pm. Cash only though there is an in-house ATM.

 

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Wonderful impromptu Italian

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Pier 71 Bar e Cucina, 71 Pier Street, Altona. Phone: 9398 8598

Bennie and I have an engagement in Altona – the launch party for a new place.

In truth, we’re not sure how – or if – this will work for us.

It’s a week night with school and work the next day, and it remains to be seen whether CTS will get enough of a look-see at the food to generate a story.

We get through the security cordon, stride up the stairs and find that, nope, this isn’t for us – it’s all about people standing around drinking, Bennie’s in his school uniform and we just don’t feel comfortable.

This place will have to wait for another day.

So around the corner we go, still chasing a dinner feed, to throw our lot in with Pier 71 Bar e Cucina.

This turns out to be an ace move on our part, as this very cool Italian has until now escaped our notice, even though it’s been around for a couple of years.

It’s all about casual Italian – something along the lines of Ovest in West Footscray or Mascalzone in Williamstown: Big on pizzas, pasta and salads, not so gung-ho about steaks and pricey seafood.

 

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The place is roughly split into three areas – a communal table at front, what amounts to a long hallway of both booth and table seating adjacent the kitchen/serving areas, and a flexible alfresco area out back.

We eat very well and find the service and timing fine for a busy mid-week night.

 

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Pizza Napoletana ($17.90) is as good as we could hope for – simple, very fine and expertly done.

There’s stacks of anchovies – good for me, not so good for Bennie!

 

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The chips that accompany our “hamburger (Italian style)” ($18.90) are superb – hot, crisp, plentiful.

The fried discs of chorizo atop seem something of an affectation to us, though, and our first conclusion is that we’d be happier if that effort had been put into putting more heft into our burger, which seems rather smallish for the price.

Bennie makes rude comparisons with the burgers we get elsewhere, but after eating I conclude he’s being unfair – because, as is so often the case, this eats bigger than it looks.

 

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And it is indeed in the “Italian style” – the meat is much more finely minced than is the case with burgers generally, be they old-school Aussie or the American style.

It’s a delight with its capsicum, onion, mozzarella and sauce.

We go for it in terms of indulgence by sharing the tiramisu ($10.90, top photograph).

It’s a dreamy, rich fantasy – much stiffer in terms of consistency than we’re used to, the booze-tinged cream a thing of grinning decadence.

Check out the Pier 71 Bar e Cucina website, including menu, here.

 

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Great food, coffee? Industrial strength!

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Container Cafe, 4/2 Roussos Place, Truganina. Phone: 0466 148 762

Across the great swathes of the industrial/commercial west, there seem to be cafes at least every couple of kilometres.

These days, all but the most rigourously old-school seem to make some effort to provide a variety of food.

Some of it is even healthy – salads and the like.

Still, some habits die hard and there are traditions to uphold.

Recently, at the cafe nearest to the Star Weekly Keilor Park office, I saw a trucky being served a mountainous bowl of extremely creamy pasta carbonara.

His pasta was topped, at his request, with a large amount of roast pork – and crackling!

 

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And I reckon most of these hundreds of places would cop complaints if the stalwart potato cakes and deep-fried, nuggety-hard dimmies weren’t on hand.

Despite all this, I am nevertheless expecting something different from Container Cafe, even though it is set in the industrial wilds of Truganina.

This place is being run, after all, by the same crew responsible for the very cool Yarraville cafe Woven, which has been turning out fine tucker for a few years now.

But upon entering the place for the first time, what do I see?

 

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Yup, potato cakes and dimmies.

Turns out, in this sort of joint in this sort of place, some things just have to done.

The Container Cafe lads came to this conclusion during research that entailed checking out the competition for many miles round – and just like that competition, they, too, will be opening at 5am.

But as I look around the “container”, I discover plenty of good signs that this is not just another tradie-style eatery.

For one thing, space dictates that there is no bain marie here – so most everything is prepared fresh.

In a heated display cabinet on the counter, there are Ka Pies!

 

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And alongside the cafe-regulation HP Sauce is a range of hot sauces.

Finally, there is the Container Cafe menu (see below).

Wow!

Plenty of carb/grease standards should they be desired – but plenty else besides, including a hot line-up of burgers and sandwiches with high degrees of Woven DNA running through them.

 

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My southern fried chicken burger ($11.50) is a killer – maybe even the best chook burger I’ve eaten.

The thigh meat is crisp on the outer, and oh-so-very juicy and delicious on the inner.

My outstanding burger is completed with terrific rough-cut slaw, very good melted cheese and pickles.

The crinckle-cut chips ($3.50) are hot and fab, though a tad too salty even for salt-addict me.

 

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The Cuban sandwich is another outright winner – superb value for $10 and getting extra points straightaway for being made with the appropriate, Cuban-style bread.

The innards are wonderfully gooey mix of melted gruyere, pickles, pulled pork and ham.

 

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My cafe latte ($3.50) is beaut.

From what I’ve seen on two visits, Container Cafe is already a hit with workers in the surrounding area – and why wouldn’t it be?

In finer weather, though, I fully expect to see this place attract a wider crowd from a broader area.

There’s a heap of outdoor seating that will make Container Cafe a fine food destination and parking is a breeze.

And the food, and the attention detail and pricing, certainly take care of business in  style.

Though you can get dimmies or potato cakes if that’s your go.

As well, as a post-lunch drive brings home to me, while residential Truganina is still some distance away from Container Cafe, and on the other side Dohertys Road, there is a lot of construction going on, meaning a lot more people looking for affordable good food and coffee.

And neither are thick on the ground in Truganina to date.

Container Cafe is open 5am-3pm Monday-Friday, though that could change depending on demand; EFTPOs facilities being installed this week.

 

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Late-night burger spot rocks

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Danny’s Burgers, 358/360 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North. Phone: 9481 5847

We’ve just seen and heard Bennie’s first major league jazz show – tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders at Bird’s Basement.

It was a thrill to see a jazzman of such stature, someone who has been reaching for sky (and God) for a long time, and even Bennie was impressed.

It was, however, something of a perfunctory show with plenty of empty seats, especially of the pricier variety right in front of the band (ours, the next price tier down, were off to one side but superb).

Perhaps, even with an artist of such calibre, two shows a night for five nights is stretching it – even in a great jazz city such as Melbourne.

In any case, our show was the late one and now we’re out and about on a Saturday night and the obvious question arises.

I ask it: “Burger?”

Bennie nods his head in an eager agreement.

 

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So we head to one of Melbourne’s famed late-night spots – Danny’s Burgers in Fitzroy North.

I’ve been known to hit Danny’s every year or so when the late-night munchies strike.

Tonight, about 12.30am, it’s busy without being crazy, either in terms of patron numbers or their demeanour.

After we’ve ordered, Bennie tells me he, too, has been here – though I have no recollection of such a visit.

Invariably, I’ve found to food to be adequate here – good for filler but not something I’d pursue in more normal hours.

This time, we do much better.

We both order the Double Stack number with two patties, lettuce, raw onion, double cheese and “special” sauce ($10).

 

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They’re winners!

Perhaps, as Bennie opines, the difference is the inclusion of pickles – but these really are fine burgers.

The beef seems more beefy than that I recall from previous visits.

The overall vibe of our burgers is unusually and enjoyably somewhere between the Aussie-style outings I’ve had here in the past and the more Merican-style of the many new-wave burger places around town.

I’m not sure what the “special” sauce entails, though it does seem to be not-your-standard-tomato sauce.

Thankfully.

 

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The chips here are always excellent.

Burgers, chips, two cans of fizz and we’re out of there after grabbing some spare change from $30.

Good deal!

 

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Fishy delights

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Serenity Blu, Shop 4/29-35 Lake St, Caroline Springs. Phone: 8390 1700

A few days after eating at Serenity Blu, a friend asked what there was to write about a fish and chip shop.

Turns out she was not familiar with the new-school F&C joints that have come on the scene in the past decade or so – somewhat in tandem with the similar burger places.

For her, fish and chips meant wrapped in paper and always takeaway.

The places we like, by contrast and featured many times here on Consider The Sauce, are quite different.

So what do we seek or want from flash F&C places?

We want a nice, bright, clean setting.

We expect to eat in-house.

We want cooks/chefs who look like they know what they are about – if they’re dressed smartly, so much the better.

 

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We like seeing a nice line-up of at least a couple of good salads.

We most definitely expect to use real cutlery to eat food that is on real plates (or, in the case of Serenity Blu, boards).

We want to see a good range of seafood available, both grilled and fried.

Most of all, we’ve come to expect to be able to get fish, chips and salad, well presented, for under $20 – that is, at least $10 less than the same meal would cost in a restaurant proper or pub.

Serenity Blu, a new operation in Caroline Springs housed in what was formerly Ocean’s D’Lish, scores well on all those counts.

 

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Though we’re equally happy to see they are enough grounded in F&C tradition to offer potato cakes and chips with gravy!

My mid-week lunch companion is Conan of the Yo India Food Truck, a Caroline Springs local.

As we talk shop and other matters of mutual interest, we enjoy a very nice lunch.

 

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Conan chooses the grilled salmon with chips and salad ($17.50).

The fish is well cooked through but still very good.

 

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My flathead fillet with chips and salad ($16.50) is every bit as fine.

The fish is well battered and cooked, and of a good size.

In both our cases, the chips are good but fall short of great.

My coleslaw – the serve is smaller, by my choice, than would’ve normally been provided – is fresh and lovely.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is Conan’s quinoa/melon/grape salad.

Normally, I’d be suspicious of anything so redolent of hipster wellness, but this really does taste wonderful.

 

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Serenity Blu is the baby of Aydin.

That’s her in the middle, with nephew Tarkan on the left and son Yakup on the right.

Tarkan has previously worked at Nobu and that sort of breeding shows in the food preparation and presentation at Serenity Blu.

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Perhaps I should keep a closer eye on Caroline Springs.

In some spare time I had before meeting Conan, I spied restaurants of the Japanese and Malaysian varieties that I did not know were there.

Then, in the shopping centre proper, I ran into Jacqui The Urban Ma and her kids.

Finally, as I entered Serenity Blu itself, I met Natalie Galea Ahmet.

Natalie runs Garden of Eden Photography, and through that has somewhat accidentally fallen into doing social media work for eatries she has shot – including this one!

It was through contact she made with a Star Weekly colleague that I learned about this new F&C place.

I love how connections work.

 

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Photo: Garden of Eden Photography

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Pork ribs you can afford

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Gorilla Grill, 36 Edgewater Boulevard, Maribyrnong. Phone: 0401 830 800

It’s opening day – or, rather, night – at Gorilla Grill, the bricks-and-mortar carnation of the food truck of the same name.

With the recent opening of splendid Japanese eatery Shinmai Tasty just a few doors away, Edgewater Boulevard has, effectively for the first time, got something of a foodie buzz about it.

 

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The Gorillas are churning out fries, burgers, fried chook and more – some, but not all, with a Korean touch – with rush-hour steeliness.

The place is smokin’.

Those who followed CTS BBQ adventures of the past couple of years – at, say, Smokehouse 101 or Up In Smokemay have noted we have a cost-based aversion to pork ribs.

We love ’em!

But the cost, including bones, inevitably seems out of whack compared to other available goodies such as brisket.

At Gorilla Grill, we feel liberated.

Here, a half rack costs $18 and a full rack $27 – both served with chips.

 

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Hoorah!

Our half rack is excellent and is a goodly sized slab of meat.

There’s a heap of terrific, juicy meat on those bones, the sauce is excellent and the chips are fine, too.

This just about does the pair of us – for $18, it presents as a cracking meal for one.

OK, this is ribs in a fast-food setting, but we do not care.

Lip-smacking good is the verdict.

 

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Coleslaw ($3) is nicely crisp jumble of white and red cabbage daubed with mayo; good but not a knock-out.

 

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I’m so rapt with our ribs that I barely notice our Krusty Burger ($12) with its nice, crunchy chunk of chook, salady bits and bacon, though Bennie gives it a firm thumbs up.

 

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Fine burgers in Footscray

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Burger Business, 230 Nicholson Street, Footscray. Phone: 9396 0368

The talk in our home for a few hours leading up to our Friday night dinner outing is about Indian.

But when the appointed hour arrives and we’re heading for Footscray, I unilaterally change my mind.

Truth be told, I’m not really into chowing down on another Indian meal tonight – we DO eat a lot of Indian and Sri Lankan food.

This is a decision with which Bennie happy to go along with once he realises burgers are on the menu  – obviously, our period of burger burnout of some months previous has abated.

 

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Burger Business is one of two newish burger joints that have sprung up in Footscray – perhaps hoping to tap into the sort of burger-crazed sentiments that have made 8bit such a hit.

It’s on a stretch of Nicholson Street that is quite gloomy at night and not generally famed for its food or street life.

But maybe that is changing – Burger Business joins a handful of African places down here where it WOULD be good to see a more robust street vibe happening.

We have no expectations or knowledge of Burger Business one way or the other.

 

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It looks and feels like its based on a ritzy burger joint template.

Indeed, as we await our meals, I whisper to Bennie: “This place looks just like a Grill’d!”

Hunters & Collectors are blasting from the sound system, duly followed by another iconic Australian rock anthem.

I fill Bennie in on the alternative chorus of the latter: “Don’t bore me shitless …”

Whatever our hopes and expectations, we proceed to enjoy very good burger meals – and leave Burger Business thinking we’ve lucked into cool Footscray secret that comes without the crush of crowds that may be encountered elsewhere.

 

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Bennie enjoys his bacon feast ($11.90) with beef, smoked bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, aioli and ketchup.

 

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But allowed a taste of my chilli burger ($10.90) – with beef, aioli, cheese, roasted peppers, red onion, jalapenos, chilli sauce and lettuce – he happily avows that my sandwich is superior.

It IS bloody good!

The chilli quotient is negligible beyond the pickled jalapenos but all the very good ingredients and condiments – including nicely flavoursome beef and juicy roast capscums – work together to create an excellent burger.

Our small serves of regular fries and sweet potato fries are beaut, the latter having the same crisp exteriors as the former.

Our burgers and fries have been combo-ed with drinks – so our Friday night feast has cost us a most admirable $15 each.

Upon completion of our meals, we are given a small brownie each without charge.

They’re more fudge than brownie and OK rather than wonderful – but still, it’ a nice touch.

 

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