Back on the burger beat

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Beats Burgers, 255 Keilor Road, Essendon. Phone: 7018 3501

Blinking, hesitant, we are back in the world.

But not with any great confidence or elan.

We reckon we’ll be cautious for quite a while, preferring places we can get in and and out with a minimum of fuss and in which the distance thing is a given.

And that’s cool as it’s pretty much our regular routine anyway.

Beats Burgers has been on our radar for a while, but we’ve ended up here today somewhat haphazardly.

Having hit Bennie’s favourite comic shop in Moonee Ponds and picking up some groceries for the week ahead, we just kept on tootling up Mount Alexander Road and turned left.

 

 

Beats Burgers is a spacious place and, happily, there is just one other table occupied.

The walls are festooned with street-style art, with beats on the sound system close enough to the Roy Ayers we’ve been playing in the car to make a nice fit.

We eat good.

 

 

The chips are excellent – hot, crisp, yummy.

But I wish we’d been asked about yay or nay to chicken salt.

 

 

The Beats Deluxe burger is fine – just a good, straighahead beed burger with tomato relish, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles.

 

 

The Chicken Houston is a definite step up in class.

It’s even simpler – just fried chicken, chopotle mayo, coleslaw and pickles.

But the chook chunk is wonderfully crunchy and teams up real well with the slaw.

Value for money?

We’re a bit half full/half empty on that score.

Our lunches have been combo deals – the burgers, chips and cans of soft drink for $20 each.

In some ways that seems a little steep, especially in regards to the beef burger.

But OTOH, it’s generally in the going rate vicinity for such burger meal deals.

We’ll happily step inside Beat Burgers when we’re in this neighbourhood again.

 

Double banger

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Angie’s Kitchen, Shop 75, 21-31 Hall Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9939 5821
Macelleria, Shop 74 Moonee Ponds Central, 21-31 Hall Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 8441

Periodically, we find ourselves in Moonee Ponds and, more specifically, on Puckle Street.

And it’s then that we wonder: “What the hell are we doing here?”

It’s all a perfectly OK retail/eating precinct – and we love scoping out some of the gorgeous real estate between Puckle Street and, say, Highpoint on our way home.

But by and large, when it comes to the kinds of food that sets our pulses racing, the neighbourhood is, well, just average.

But there are hot spots.

We continue to love shopping, when we’re in the area, at Fresh On Young – the subject of the second ever CTS story.

More recently, on Hall Street – on the other side of Puckle Street from Young – there is a food flourishing going on, one we make the most of with twin winning lunches at adjoining newcomers.

Both Angie’s Kitchen and Macelleria front Hall Street, but are part of the wider Moonee Ponds Central retail/food/services set-up.

 

 

The colour scheme, fittings and all-round general vibe in Angie’s Kitchen make it feel like the kind of place you’d be very comfortable taking your gran.

But there is some real serious, delicious and keenly priced Chinese food going on here – and it’s all produced and created in house from the ground up.

As we takes our seats, we are entertaining thoughts of trying up to a handful of the many dumplings featured on the menu (see below) – and chicken feet.

We lose out on the chicken feet.

“They wouldn’t work in Moonee Ponds,” we’re later told.

Meanwhile, we mention to the staff member serving us that we’re used to ordering (and eating) Chinese roasts in combos of two or three meats, accompanied by rice and bok choy – as we’d enjoyed the previous week.

Yet this option is not open to us at Angie’s Kitchen.

No problem, we’re helpfully informed – just order the mixed roast platter ($30), a small serve of greens with oyster sauce and a bowl of rice.

So – big change of plans – that’s what we do.

The photo of the mixed roast platter at the top of this story does not adequately convey the generous size of the portions – nor their outright deliciousness.

Oh boy, oh boy – this is fabulous stuff!

And this is quite a different setting from that in which we more normally enjoy this kind of food, but we revel in it.

The portions of duck and barbecued pork are chunkier than the norm, but nevertheless excellent – and, for the most, juicy and tender.

The roast pork pieces, including their crackling, are quite delicate.

 

 

Our small serve of mixed greens ($9.80) is purpose made for accompanying the roast meats and does the job admirably.

 

 

The roast/greens mix makes for quite a substantial lunch, but we cannot resist the temptation of trying the steamed BBQ pork buns ($6.20).

 

 

These, too, are superb, with wonderfully sticky and sweet fillings.

We’ve eaten like royalty so have no qualms whatsoever about the $49 price tag – it seems like a bargain.

 

 

When I first heard about Macelleria and its slogan – “The Butcher That Cooks For You” – I was skeptical.

It sounded a bit gimmicky to me.

We discover that, to some extent at least, that feeling is warranted.

 

 

Customers can and do buy meat from Macelleria to take home – but mostly this a steak/grill joint (one of four in Melbourne) with a display cabinet.

But what arouses our curiosity, impels us through the door and – eventually – finds us taking a lunch-time table is the menu item that is the half rack of beef ribs (menu below).

Based on our previous experiences with the bigness of beef ribs, a half rack with a side salad and mash for $24.90 sounds like a fine deal.

 

 

The dining room is a lovely, airy place in which to lunch and watch the passing parade on Hall Street.

 

 

Bennie is the lucky punter who gets to order and enjoy the beef ribs.

It proves to be excellent.

The ribs aren’t as big as many we’ve enjoyed, but plenty big enough for lunch.

The meat and its rosemary and garlic marinade are terrific.

The side salad is beaut and the creamy mash also fine – though so voluminous is the latter that Bennie falls quite a way short of finishing it.

 

 

My own bangers and mash is a much more modest outing, both in ambition and price ($17.90).

The finely ground beef snags are very flavoursome and the mash the same as that which adorned Bennie’s ribs.

But the high point of my meal is the rich, perfect onion gravy.

 

 

I bolster my meal with a serve of coleslaw ($7.90).

This proves to be a mistake.

For starters, Bennie’s side salad would’ve sufficed for both of us.

And this slaw is just OK – in fact, it’s a bit drab.

 

Burger defies expectations

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YOMG, 17-19 Pratt Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 8548 9577

Burger places – or, rather, burger franchises and chains – seem to be sprouting up like weeds.

Perhaps a move to a semi-official CTS non-coverage of them is due.

And the non-eating of their food, too.

 

 

YOMG in Moonee Ponds – the chain’s sixth store in Melbourne – seems at first blush less likely than most to arouse our curiosity and burger lust, with its cutsie slogan in pink neon, blandola fast-food look and a name that is more about yoghurt than meaty fare.

Certainly, Bennie was very sniffy when we ambled past a few weeks back.

“I don’t think so, dad,” he snorted.

But an experienced burger hand of our acquaintance has suggested that, in this case at least, appearances and all-round vibe are no indication of burger merit and that YOMG is well worth a try.

So, flying solo, I give it a whirl.

 

 

Nat Stockley is correct – this is some pretty good stuff.

From the menu (see below) I choose the Howler ($12.50) with its excellent beef patty, cheese, lettuce, onion, pickles, jalapenos and habanero mayo.

The added bacon is also excellent, but costs $2.50.

Some of the protruding lettuce leaves are a bit bruised, giving them a dirty look, but overall this is a good, two-handed burger – nothing world-beating, but solidly enjoyable.

The chips ($4.50) are hot and fine – but they’re been profusely sprinkled with chicken salt or one of its kin.

Not my go.

Combining burger, bacon, chips and a can of soft drink nudges my lunch cost above the $20 mark – but I guess that’s the going rate these days.

Don’t be tempted to pay even more by going with one of the pay-for sauces, as there’s a good supply of chilli sauces away from the serving counter to be had without payment.

 

Episodic poultry

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Chicken Episode, 522 Macaulay Road, Kensington. Phone: 9593 9929

Chicken Episode lives in premises that previously housed a long-standing Indian eatery in Kensington, right next door to Kensington Food Hall.

A younger sibling for an identically named restaurant in St Kilda, Chicken Episode is a tributary temple to pop culture, Korean style.

There’s what seems like thousands of rubber chicken in here.

 

 

And meme-like humour abounds.

I’m tempted to suggest this would be a cool place to bring bored or easily entertained teens – but some of humour on the table place mats is a little on the raunchy side.

Along with fried chicken and myriad burgers, the menu (see below) features some Korean comfort food such as bibimbap.

We can live with the kooky surroundings, but it’s the food that interests us.

We are a little wary.

That’s because we’re dropping in early in the week, early at lunch hour – not, in our experience, the best of times to interact with deep-fried food.

So how do we go?

Well, part truly excellent and part just so-so.

 

 

Bennie’s supreme chicken burger ($14.87) looks a little on the sad sack side.

He likes it well enough and tells me most of the ingredients – including sweet chilli sauce, melted cheese, tomato, ham, caramelised onions – are of a perfectly acceptable standard.

But he finds the chicken coating to be more of the soft kind found on battered fish, his final verdict being that his burger the kind of thing he’d expect to get at his now former high school.

The chips are excellent.

 

 

Unsurprisingly, he is frankly envious of my lunch.

And so he should be – it’s very, very good.

The solo deal, costing an amazing $14.50, consists of the same excellent chips, four pieces of fried chicken, a side serve of coleslaw AND a can of soft drink.

The chicken pieces are ungreasy and wonderful, the coating crisp and powdered with white pepper.

The coleslaw is fine and just the right size for such a meal deal.

 

 

Unfortunately, the coleslaw includes a tine from a plastic fork.

After this too-crunchy ingredient is pointed out to the staff, we receive an apology.

And that’s good enough for us – we never make too much of an issue out of such things or make a play for having the bill waived and/or a freebie future meal.

It will be interesting to watch how Chicken Episode goes on Macaulay Road.

We’ll happily return for more of that fried chicken.

 

Aussie burgers supreme

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Not Just A Burger Cafe, 30 First Avenue, Sunshine. Phone: 9310 1568

Over the years, Consider The Sauce has fallen into the habit of comparing and contrasting burger styles.

Between the new wave – for want of a better term – and old-school Aussie burgers.

We’ve done this without ever detailing just what the differences are.

So how does this work?

New wave – American style, hipster, trendy?

A thicker patty; flasher dressings; perhaps barbecue sauce of some sort.

And sometimes a whole dill pickle – perhaps even skewered to the top of the bun.

Aussie style?

A thinner, wider patty, sometimes involving meat of a questionable quality, sometimes frozen – or so we reckon.

Dressings: Chopped iceberg lettuce; perhaps beetroot.

Even an egg or – God help us – pineapple.

 

 

Always in this imperfect delineation effort is the feeling that we have also been talking about quality – meaning less of it in the Aussie renditions.

Well, at Not Just A Burger we find we can happily dispense with such dull figuring.

The burgers are just plain great.

Improbably, Not Just A Burger Cafe is located in a neighbourhood  in which we would never have reason to look – a back water of light industrial action off Sunshine Road, about right opposite J.R. Parsons Reserve and the silos.

We heard about this place and its work via Sunshine Locals.

Paul and Maria (pictured above in pre-lunch repose) are on to a good thing here – they service the many local workers, but are also a building a reputation for night-time fare and deliveries.

This a bare-bones tradies place that offers many of the usual food choices (see below).

But the burgers are where the action is at.

And Bennie and I could not be happier with our lunches.

 

 

We both go for the N.J.A.B. Inferno ($12) with bacon added.

It’s all terrific – lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion, with jalapeno slices, N.J.A.B hot sauce and some Sriracha deftly combined for the just-right degree of heat.

Yes, the meat is thinner and wider in the Aussie fashion, but it tastes of real-deal beef.

My choice is regular bun.

 

 

Bennie opts for brioche.

Ha!

I can imagine various smarty pants quipping that the presence of brioche here marks this place as not a true Aussie-style burger joint.

Who cares, though, when the burgers are this good?

 

 

The crinkle-cut chips ($4) are fine and hot. We are provided a serve of Sriracha for dipping.

 

Burger bounty

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5 Districts NY, Unit 5/2 Thomsons Road, Keilor Park. Phone: 9193 6616

A black and rather brutal-looking building in a brand new industrial estate in Keilor Park may not seem like a place for some choice eating.

Bennie certainly thinks that’s the case.

So he is surprised – truth be known, I am, too – that 5 Districts is actually doing quite brisk trade during a Monday lunch session, humming along straight after AFL grand final weekend.

That Monday lunch business and a close watch on this new establishment’s social media in the past few weeks would seem to vindicate management’s commitment to this location – it’s a winner in a broader neighbourhood obviously crying out for just such a venue.

 

 

There’s a lot of room inside, including a variety of eating spaces, communal tables, stools and chairs.

The upstairs/outdoors area is already a hit at the wind-down end of the week with locals and employees of the many nearby businesses.

Based on an early menu seen by CTS while getting up a preview story a couple of months ago, we have been expecting a much more lavish menu including dude food heavyweights such as ribs and fried chicken.

Instead, we discover the menu (see below) has been pared back for the settling-in period.

That’s fine by us – burgers it is.

 

 

Bennie’s Piggy Smalls ($17) – with heaps of excellent shredded pork and equally generous quantities of apple slaw – is a doozy and goes down right fine.

 

 

In some ways, my selection of the place’s basic burger – the County Classic ($14) – is even more impressive.

With beef, cheese, bacon, leaves, tomato and “Districts special sauce”, this is your regulation burger done very well.

The fine cow patty, excellent, is surrounded by be equally good ingredients.

Nothing flash – just sturdy, tasty simplicity.

 

 

We find sides of fries with our burgers ($4) are good rather than great – it is very early in the week and the day, so we refrain from being too judgmental.

We do enjoy dunking our fries in the various hot sauces available – and find a tub of the mildly-spiced, house-made concoction as good as any of them.

5 Districts NY gets the thumbs up from us!

 

Bar won

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Littlefoot, 223 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9396 1282

What an ornament to Foostcray Littlefoot has become.

Was it the first bar to set up shop in Footscray central?

I think it was.

In the years since, it has been joined by a bunch of others – and they all appear to have something of their own to contribute to the local scene.

But Littlefoot continues to set a high standard – not only in food and drink, but also through deep immersion in the community through live music (beyond covers), a plethora of DJs and all sorts of “special” events.

As well, Littlefoot continues to carry a kitchen, unlike most of its neighbouring bar fellows. The Cheeky Pint, a few doors away, also cooks.

We are happy to accept an invitation to take the new winter menu for a run (see full disclosure below).

On this night, Team CTS consists of myself, Bennie, Justin and Will.

We eat well and deeply, coming away happy and satisfied.

Some of the tucker is right there in bar food mode – the sort of things you’d be happy to get a bite of if you were imbibing at Littlefoot anyway.

But some things we think are on another, higher level – making Littlefoot a food destination in its own right.

 

 

The charcuterie board ($25) is a good starter for us – tonight we are hungry lads.

It’s mix of  sour, salty, oily and chewy would also be an ideal light meal for two.

 

 

The DIY taco board ($18) is a hit – the undoubted highlight that elicts admirational comments all round.

The fours fish pieces – snapper – are superbly crumbed and deep-fried, holding together beaut even under the strain of taco construction. The flesh is both firmish and delicate.

Of the bits and pieces, it’s the red cabbage that adds tangy contrast. It’s is joined by guacamole, jalapenos, lime and swathes of fresh coriander.

This is a bargain – and zooms into Great Dishes of the West reckoning.

 

 

Just as expertly fried are the mac ‘n’ cheese croquettes ($12) – this is glorious stodge. Could’ve done with a bit more seasoning, IMO.

 

 

My friends seem a little less enamoured of our two burgers than I.

Perhaps we’re all a little burgered out?

But I reckon they’re both good, solid efforts.

The burgers are available in three modes – Littlefoot, Wild West and Bulldogs.

The beef burger ($20) comes in Bulldog garb of cheese, pickles, red onion, pickle, lettuce and “special burger sauce”.

This handy handful is accompanied by good chips.

 

 

If anything, our jackfruit burger ($20) is more noteworthy for the simple reason it offers an alternative to lentil patties and the like.

It’s done out in Wild West style – and that means a zingy combo of jalapenos, sriracha, caramelised onions, mustard, cheese, tomato and lettuce.

 

 

Another flavour hit – of the snacky variety – is provided by the lip-smackingly good edamame ($7) with garlic and black pepper.

Beer food supreme.

 

 

Unfortunately, amid this avalanche of food, the nachos ($14) and the fries loaded with pulled pork and slaw ($16, not pictured) get a bit lost.

Perhaps at another time with liquid redreshment in hand?

(Consider The Sauce dined at Littlefoot as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We were free to order whatever we wished. Littlefoot management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

 

Happy times at Burger Heights

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Woven, 175b Stephen Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9973 5926

In the past year or so, Bennie and I have enjoyed some good/OK burgers.

But, we confess, it’s difficult to recall any that have had us pumped up with unbridled enthusiasm, burger lust and fired-up determination to return to the scene of the crime with haste.

Perhaps we have become dulled by average products written about with what will serve the informational needs of our readers in mind, rather than our own immediate burger gratification?

So today, after the regular Saturday kung fu outing, we are trying an experiment – going somewhere we like and admire.

Somewhere we trust to turn on a truly great burger for us.

Woven has made a happy home of the area on Stephen Street and a good distance from the throngs of the village.

Previous posts concerning this fine establishment are these days so long in the tooth, I’m not even going to bother posting links.

Woven has not, however, become a regular haunt for us, save for occasional road coffees.

But we do keep an eye out for its specials on Facebook – and it’s one of them that is our mission today.

We are not disappointed.

Our matching double chipotle cheeseburgers come with two Black Angus beef patties, double American cheese, double bacon and chipotle/lime slaw in milk buns.

Dear readers, do not blanche at the admission fee of $25 – they are worth every cent.

All is terrific, even if the cheese is overwhelmed by a bevy of surrounding and strong flavours.

The slaw has just right amount of spice kick.

And our burgers come with twice-cooked, hand-cut chips included.

Now THAT’S a burger.

Yes.

We’re told the Woven burger specials list burgers change on a pretty much fortnightly basis, though a more orthodox burger is a menu fixture.

 

Burger doubleheader

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Slider Diner, 82 Charles Street, Seddon.
Fugu Fish Bar, 11 Wests Road, Maribyrnong. Phone: 7015 8733

In handful of months, Consider The Sauce will turn nine.

Much has changed in that time for western suburbs food talk.

A few westie-oriented blogs have come and gone, while the coverage in the MSM and other media outlets based on the other side of the Maribyrnong remains haphazard and selective.

Yet it seems to me the tempo of ongoing discussions about western suburbs food has actually increased.

I attribute that to the enthusiastic embrace of a plethora of community Facebook pages right across the west.

It’s a regular thing to see posts and photos of new places opening (and closing) and long threads of comments responding to recommendations for pizzas or coffee or vegan tucker – and much more.

For that reason, I long ago realised that aspiring to cover everything that is happening – and being eaten – across the west is the stuff of nervous breakdown.

So we go our merry way – and enjoy immensely, and participate in, the broader conversations.

For instance, very few of the bars that have bloomed in the inner west in the past few years have received coverage here.

And it’s for that reason that Slider Diner was not really on our radar.

Just another burger joint, hey?

But visit it we do when our Seddon eating destination of choice turns out to be closed.

That’s a fine outcome, for we enjoy Slider Diner.

 

 

Located in the premises formerly occupied by Ajitoya, the place is done out in nice and bright retro diner style.

And the slider angle?

Well, that seems to be all about the availability of half-size burgers in a menu (see below) dedicated to classy fast food – with a few twists along the way.

Usually, half portions cost significantly more than half the full price.

So Slider Diner deserves much kudos for the fact its “sliders” cost precisely half of their full-portion equivalents – and they’re generous to boot!

This means an individual customer can enjoy some diversity without paying a price in terms of quantity or money.

 

 

Bennie is well pleased with slider cheeseburger ($7) and kim cheezy ($7) with crunchy fried chicken, kim chi slaw, smoked cheddar and gochujang sauce (Korean red chilli sauce).

My fish burger ($15, top photo, not available in half size) is damn fine.

The deep-fried rockling fillet, juicy and flavoursome and meltingly tender, is accompanied by lemon dill mayo, lettuce and just the right quantity of finely sliced pickled onion.

 

 

We are utterly incapable of ordering the likes of burgers or gyros without also summoning chips.

But all we want is a taste, really.

So we wish more places would offer said chips in appropriately sized – and priced – portions.

Slider Diner does just that for $5.50 – though these are just OK.

Will we return to Slider Diner?

Yes – quite possibly to build a meal out of sides such as chicken wings, popcorn chicken, Tex-Mex corn cob, truffled mac n cheese and pulled pork doughnuts.

 

 

“Dad, your patty looks like it’s a frozen one!”

Such is Bennie’s gloomy visual assessment of my wagyu burger at Fugu Fish Bar.

A fresh-faced fish and burger joint, Fugu is located at the nexus of Hampstead and Wests roads, a few blocks from Highpoint and in a long-standing small shopping precinct that houses another dedicated burger joint.

This is an area undergoing rapid change as more and more people move in.

We both “combo” our meals for $3 extra, so my burger deal clocks in at $17 with the addition of coleslaw.

My burger is better than indicated by Bennie’s scorn – but it’s acceptable without being memorable.

The coleslaw is outstanding.

 

 

Bennie is happy with his southern chicken burger ($15 with chips), even though it appears a little crumpled.

The chips are OK. Just.

 

 

On an earlier, reconnaissance visit, I enjoyed my blue grenadier with chips and coleslaw, the latter again superb.

The little things count!

In this case, I was not offered a combo set-up so my lunch costs more through the addition of $6 worth of salad on top of the $12 for the classic fish/chip deal.

The fish was bigger than it looked at first glance and good eating, though the batter was a bit doughy.

Fugu has been recommended to us by friends/readers, so we are disappointed to be a little underwhelmed overall.

If we lived in the area, we’d be regulars, for sure – in the process, getting to know the menu and what really sings.

 

 

Fish, chips, excellence

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Batterbing, 60 Douglas Parade, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 1227

Batterbing is located in a Douglas Parade premises that has been home to fish and chips for a long, long time.

Decades, I’m guessing.

Can any Williamstown readers tell us?

In any case, these days – under its newish name – it’s being run by John McMonagle, whose work we loved so much at Dough! in Newport.

His Williamstown location is superior – it’s handily placed for more drop-in and foot traffic.

And that’s great – it means more people can enjoy the super work being done by John and his team.

The place remains very much an old-school fish and chip shop, with rudimentary dine-in facilities – a bench and stools inside, a few tables and chairs on the footpath outside.

But none of that matters.

Here be made – and happily consumed – what are, in our opinions and experience, the best fish and chips in the western suburbs.

(Matched mind, you, by Ebi in Essex Street, Footscray – very different style, equally fine outcome.)

The Batterbing art starts with chips.

Here the potatoes are hand-cut and tumbled – and are wonderful.

Real spuds make for hip chips.

I go with my never-fail arrangement carried over from the Dough! days – now officially called Combo for 1 ($15, top photograph).

Those chips, a handful of tender calamari rings and a nice chunk of juicy, delicious and expertly deep-fried blue grenadier.

So very fine!

Unlike Dough!, there are no pizzas at Batterbing.

But there are burgers – so we take one of them for a run, too.

The Lil Jerry Seinfeld – is there some in-joke I’m missing? – is a doozy.

Crisp and deeply tanned deep-fried chicken thigh is joined in burger harmony by just the right amount of slaw and mayo in a purple bun.

Like all the Batterbing burgers, it comes with a side of those chips – and that makes the $13 entry fee a dead-set bargain.

Regular burgers, too

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Upsize Burger Bar, 2/234 Barkly Street, Footscray.

Consider The Sauce – leastwise, the senior partner thereof – has no truck with burger towers.

Well, no truck with the eating of them.

But I confess to being intrigued by these burger equivalents of skyscrapers.

Which is just as well, because my Facebook feed regularly features photos of such things.

But, nope – if it cannot be grasped in two eager hands, and/or requires a knife and fork, not interested in eating.

Though I suspect, if Bennie was given free rein, he’d be right into exploring what seems little more than macho posturing to me.

In that regard, I accept I am in some sort of minority and that there is widespread interest in, and fandom of, this particular burger cult.

Upzsize Burger Bar is catering to it with panache, with many sorts of flamboyant arrangements – including using donuts  and mac-n-cheese as buns!

 

 

The in-house photos illustrate some of the more conservative options available.

On the place’s FB page are to be found many spectacular examples of high-rise burger architecture.

The Barkly Street joint is something of a temporary exercise.

It’s open on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays – and only for three more weekends (making its last day Sunday, November 25).

We are happy to explore Upsize to the extent of their regular burgers – and we enjoy doing so.

 

 

My Basic B ($14) is a good, solid, workmanlike burger.

It has two beef patties, American cheese, “FCM sauce” and pickles – and goes down fine.

 

 

Bennie chooses the chicken equivalent for the same price.

He likes it.

The chicken is crisp and the slaw delivered in appropriate amount.

We both much enjoy that the pickle slices are so plentiful that they constitute a strong flavour component, as opposed to the usual mere whiff.

 

 

The regular order of beer-battered fries is very generous for $5.

They’re good.

But remind me that a CTS story on this particular genre of chip will be the go come my Christmas break.

Where do they come from?

How much beer – if any – is actually involved?

And are they actually re-constituted spud – and thus the potato equivalent of chicken nuggets?

 

Meal of the week No.44: Smokehouse 101

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As it’s always in a state of constant prowl, food-wise, CTS doesn’t drop into Smokehouse 101 (101 Rosamond Road, Maidstone) as often as we’d like.

Because we like it lots that the place keeps on going about its happy neighbourhood joint business away from the often fickle, hipsterish glare that attends other establishments that specialise in barbecue across Melbourne.

But we are in the house this Thursday to check out one Smokehouse 101’s regular specials – the Thursday night $5 burgers.

Bennie had taken them for a run the previous week with a pal and has been most adamant that CTS pays an official visit.

Oh, well … OK, if you insist.

 

 

So what’s the deal?

And is it any good?

The answer: Yes.

The Thursday burgers are available in beef, southern fried chicken, pulled pork and brisket.

Extra patties are available for the first two named for $3 a pop.

But we go a different route, ordering one each of the burgers on offer.

All are dressed the same – with coleslaw and good, sliced, crunchy pickled cucumbers.

I make that point because in the same week CTS bought a jar of pickled cucumbers – as recommended by the salesperson at the deli in which I was shopping – and they turned out to be soggy and tasteless.

Straight into the rubbish bin they went.

The little things count!

 

 

Likewise, two thumbs heartily hoisted for the most excellent house-made and toasted buns served by Smokehouse 101.

The meat in our four burgers?

Just fine in all cases.

Though Bennie and I agree that the straight-up beef burger is the best of the bunch.

It is, of course, possible to buy burgers elsewhere for $5 or less if you want to go mega-franchise.

But those aren’t burgers like these are real burgers.

Though here it will pay to keep things in perspective and real – these ARE $5 burgers, so you won’t be getting a two-fisted hunka chunka meal, or not by ordering a single burger anyway.

Early on our Thursday, there are only a couple of other tables taking advantage of the $5 burger deal.

But we’re told it can get busy later on in the night, with queues out the door not uncommon.

 

Golden Mile burgers

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Burgies, 226 Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 8742 2792

Burgies in Hopper Crossing is a sibling to one in Campbellfield.

The photos we’ve seen suggest an outdoor and rather rustic operation, so we’re not at all sure how we’re going to go on a sunny Sunday that is also windy and chilly.

 

 

After scoping the place out, we relax … having discovered that while orders are indeed processed outside, right next door is a big, warm and rather inviting dining room, its fittings seemingly niftily constructed from packing pallets.

Cool!

And whatever the meteorological challenges of ordering and dining amid the glorious tack of the Golden Mile, the place is doing very, very brisk business.

This is a popular joint.

The happy staff members are cheerful, chatty and efficient; the wait times about what you’d expect.

We order, pay and settle in for what we hope will be a good burger repast.

The menu and its lowish prices suggest solid and satisfying – and that’s pretty much how it goes for us.

 

 

The chips ($4.50) are orthodox, hot and good.

 

 

My Kefta Burger is definitely the big winner of our meal.

It has lamb patty, cos lettuce, caramelised onions, pickles and “humus sauce” – and it’s beaut, especially given the $9.50 price tag.

 

 

Bennie is less enamoured with his Flaming Burgie ($11) of beef, cheese, cos lettuce, tomato, jalapeno, tomato sauce and chilli salsa.

The parts are of sufficient quality, but he finds the sum to be just average.

He even utters the dread phrase “frozen patty”.

Now, I hasten to add he has no factual detail at hand to back up such a slur, but it does convey something of the meh moments he has with his burger.

 

 

So for him, the highlight of our Burgies sojourn is his caramel biscotti gelato thickshake.

When/if we return, we may well order from the chicken burger list, as a poultry pair we observe being consumed at the next table look pretty darn good and better than either of ours.

Cool burgers; heaps of parking

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Burger Freaks, 656 Somerville Road, Sunshine West. Phone: 0403 595 189

Cruise up the outer end of Somerville Road of a night and you’ll not find a lot open.

Just about all the many commercial operations of many kinds have shut up shop until tomorrow.

Sure, some of the freight places work way outside 9-to-5 routines.

But the tradie-style cafes on almost every block are most certainly not open.

But Burger Freaks is.

 

 

Roshan Altendorff has been running Burger Freaks for about three months, with the daytime trade all about the local, hungry workforce.

Come night-time, though, it’s all about burgers – and home delivery. Burger Freaks is on both Menulog and Uber.

But why sit at home – and gamble with the fickle travelling ability of burgers – when you can pay a visit?

The Burger Freaks dining area is as unadorned – and virulently non-hipster – as you’re likely to find.

It gets points from us for that – but it would all be for nowt if the food isn’t up to scratch.

It is.

 

 

The chips ($4) are good and hot.

The Mate (top photo) – with beef patty, cheese, caramelised onion, beetroot, bacon, lettuce and BBQ sauce – costs $10.50 or $14.50 with chips and a can of drink thrown in.

It’s beaut.

 

 

The California ($11.50, $15.50) – with beef patty, double cheese, double bacon, BBQ sauce and American mustard – is a bit more flashy.

But just as good.

These are both really admirable and enjoyable solid, no-fuss burgers with nicely charred and good-quality meat.

 

 

As well as burgers, this place sells a revolving range of frozen meals for $4.50 and $5.50 depending in size, as part of the UrCommunity – Feeding Australia Meal Deals project.

They run to curries, pasta, stews and the like.

Burger Freaks is open for evening dining every night except Mondays.

See the Burger Freaks website, including menu, here.

 

God, what a cool cafe

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Apollo Cafe, 109-111 Hawke Street, West Melbourne. Phone: 9329 0990

What an intriguing neighbourhood is West Melbourne – with its haphazard mix of small worker cottages, more stately two-storey homes, old warehouses and, inevitably, some new apartment action going on.

For all that it is tucked away, if you live here … the inaccurately named North Melbourne station is your rail stop and, with a bit of a walk, Vic Market is your local shopping.

And, of course, CTS is happy to bestow upon West Melbourne honourary western suburbs status.

You know it makes sense – just look at a map!

Melburnbians of all stripes and locations should be grateful that West Melbourne has pottered along at its own pace while other locales that rub shoulders with the CBD – Fitzroy and Carlton in particular – have changed so much.

But the modern world is catching up with this backwater – at that means, among other things, more places are opening that seek to fulfill the eat-drink needs of locals.

Among them is Apollo Cafe.

It’s housed an ancient, gorgeous old building that’s been owned and operated by the same family for more than a century.

The most famous of its residents was the Mighty Young Apollo, Paul Anderson, whose name adorns the building to this day.

The cafe is run by wife-and-husband team Cassie and Russ, formerly of Carter Smith Devlin and Co in Williamstown.

Their punt to stay open all Easter appears to have paid off, as on the sunny, lovely Monday we visit, the joint is jumping.

Earlier in the day, I had spotted the day’s special on Facebook – lamb shoulder with mashed potato, roasted carrots and snow peas ($23) – and dutifully issued a mental memo to myself: “Mmmmm – that’ll do me!”

And so it does – it’s all excellent.

About 80 per cent or more of the lamb CTS eats these days comes from Somalian eateries, the rest from various Mid-East places.

So the Apollo lamb is, by contrast, austere in terms of seasoning.

But that lets the flavour of the wonderfully tender meat fully star.

Mashed potato at our place means rough-chopped spuds – real rough, more like what is called potato salad in some parts of the US.

Seasoning? Just salt, pepper and a dollop or two of olive oil while the potato is still steaming, blistering hot.

So the mashed potato that accompanies my lamb shoulder is another contrast – an enjoyable one, though not something I’d want to do too often.

This is smooth, rich mashed spud that is enlivened texture-wise by a scattered handful of roasted hazelnuts.

Is the $20 cafe burger a “thing”?

Yeah, we reckon so.

And the Apollo Cafe version is sooper dooper exemplar of its type, so much so that Bennie – whose burger it is – and his father happily concede that the above photo simply does not do it justice.

Its simplicity – beef, cheese, a couple of onion rings, bacon, lettuce – lets the sublime, high-quality flavours flow.

It’s a lot heftier than the above picture suggests and the chips are excellent.

During an earlier visit, as guests of management (see full disclosure below), Bennie revels in the beef meatballs on creamy truffle polenta with tomato-basil sauce, and shaved parmesan ($19).

It’s both sophisticated and rustic – and Bennie wipes the bowl whitely clean.

Not being so hungry, I order the poached chicken sandwich with truffle duxelle, which is normally served with eggs benedict and vintage cheddar for $18.

It’s all fine and fresh, though in hindsight I overtly envy my son’s meatballs!

On both our visits, our coffees have been perfect, hot and strong.

Check out the Apollo Cafe website here.

(For the first of two visits, Consider The Sauce dined at Apollo Cafe as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We ordered whatever we wanted. Apollo Cafe management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

Korean fried chicken and a whole lot more

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Be.K, 3/21 Edgewater Boulevard, Maribyrnong. Phone: 8596 4292

Be.K looks like the kind of cafe where you’ll get a good coffee and a decent breakfast.

Those are available, but as we discover – on a Saturday lunch visit for Bennie’s birthday – there’s much more going on here.

A glossy colour photo menu runs from ritzy breakfast dishes through to sangers, Korean fried chicken and on to luscious Asian desserts.

A simpler printed list has more breakfast items, a couple of burgers, ribs and tempura prawns.

 

 

The place is done out in simple cafe style and business is quite brisk – especially on the outside tables.

Notably, Be.K’s advertised opening hours are seven days a week – until 11.30pm.

 

 

Papaya salad with prawns is pricey at $20.90, but the quality is there.

The veg components are fresh and crunchy, the dressing tangy and the head-on prawns are a fresh-grilled delight.

 

 

Bennie enjoys his pulled pork burger, with chips and costing $17.90.

Served in a beetroot brioche bun, it’s generously stuffed with meat, slaw and pickled cucumber.

I’m surprised to hear him adjudge it a rather modest good, as – going by my taste – it’s definitely among the better versions we’ve had.

The chips are fine, but the chicken salt-style seasoning they’ve been daubed with is way too sweet for me.

 

 

Deb’s sanger is described as “Philly cheese steak sandwich” ($13.90) – fans of that American classic would no doubt be bemused.

But it work on its own terms, the thin-cut meat making it easy to eat and the onions and other veg, cut wok-style, are fine.

 

 

Of the four varieties of Korean fried chicken listed, we opt for the original.

We get five pieces in our half-chook serve ($16.50).

Oh boy, this is great stuff – simply terrific fried chicken, unoily, hot, perfectly cooked and moan-out-loud delicious.

Just as good are the accompanying house-made pickles of onion, celery and more.

A little sweet, not too sour and a whole heap of crunchy – excellent!

 

 

The birthday boy goes for it by ordering bingsu of the nutella banana variety.

His is the $10.90 small rendition; there are medium and large versions available.

Blimey!

He loves the refreshing base of shaved milk ice.

But, yes, he pours the side serve of condensed milk right over the top right from the get-go.

 

 

His dessert is the very epitome of richness restraint when compared with the Vietnamese coffee tiramisu ($8.90).

With its dark chocolate and crunchy granola (at first I thought it was pecans), this would puzzle tiramisu purists.

But we reckon it is sinfully, explosively awesome.

We’ve had a fine time that has been in no way diminished by a certain degree of distraction in the service department.

But we are a little bemused …

No fault in two of our initial choices being unavailable. If anything, that’s a good sign indicating brisk turnover – and it meant we end up ordering the fried chicken, and that turned out to be a very fine thing.

But my coffee is brought to a table covered – really covered – with chicken bones, empty receptacles and soiled serviettes.

My sincere question about the precise nature of the vegetables used in the wonderful pickles is met with stony-faced recalcitrance.

More broadly, despite there being what appears to be half a soccer team of staff scurrying around the place, we do find it difficult a few times to make eye contact or attract attention, even resorting to raised hands and waving arms before approaching the counter.

Right on time @ Braybrook

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Braybrook Stn, Shop 23, 65-67 Ashley Street, Braybrook. Phone: 9005 1977

Central West shopping centre, perched on Ashley Street, has long seemed to struggle to build a character of its own.

Along with a couple of supermarkets, it has a variety of servicable traders.

But there often seems to be a revolving cast of empty shops, both in the centre proper and in the surrounding hub.

So even as the parking lot invariably seems quite full, there never seems to anything particularly memorable about the whole place.

And – until now – that has been true, too, for the food situation there.

But this fine new cafe is most worthy of being a food destination.

 

 

Apparently run by the same folks who operate a similarly titled establishment in Northcote, Braybrook Stn is offering casual cafe dining that is classy and affordable.

The menu (see below) runs through breakfast and lunch, with some dishes easily capable of doing duty as both.

Wasabi milk chicken soba noodles ($18, top photograph) are rather spectacular and delicious in every way.

If the “soba” nomenclature and pickle signal Japanese origins, the dish also sports something of a green curry vibe suggesting another Asian country.

There’s plentiful amounts of tender sliced chicken and broccolini in there, along with green onion, ginger and turmeric.

My suspicions about the wisdom of adding of poached egg to such a bowl are wiped out in dramatic fashion by the perfect “poachie”.

It all works and has nice-and-mild spice kick!

 

 

Orecchiette ($17) works just fine as a warm salad kind of dish.

The asparagus and broad beans are wonderful, with cherry toms providing random blasts of sweetness and contrast, with mint and chilli assisting.

It’s a very dry dish – with nary a trace of the menu-listed salsa verde – that is nonetheless a light delight.

My cafe latte is on the strong side and of the top grade.

According the joint’s Facebook page, Braybrook Stn is open on Thursday and Friday nights; it is also on Uber Eats.

 

Nice to meet CTS reader Viv and her pals, looking oh-so-chic despite lunching straight after their Sunday run.

 

Yarraville cafe tastes fine

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Mantra Studio Kitchen and Bar, 10A Campbell Street, Yarraville. Phone: 0419 329 936

The location and setting of Mantra is both a surprise and just right: In a light industrial enclave way over in the Yarraville back waters near Francis and Hyde.

Inside, the warehouse has undergone a gorgeous cafe transformation.

There’s lots of space, high ceilings and plenty of room to grow.

Which makes me think that Mantra will continue evolving to become something of a multi-faceted community asset.

In the meantime, there is food.

Very lovely food.

The menu (see below) runs to breakfast items such as sweet corn fritters, breakfast ramen and jasmine rice pudding.

Lunch choices range from a falafel burger to what sounds like a delectable salad of heirloom carrots, beetroot hummus, dukkah and sweet potato.

CTS visits twice within a couple of days and has a swell time lunching.

The service is cheerful and efficient and the wait times good.

 

 

Visiting on my own for reconnaissance purposes, I go with the wagyu burger with chilli relish, cos lettuce, tomato, baco and fries ($24).

Now, $24 is quite a lot to pay for a cafe burger in these parts.

On the other hand, this is a terrific specimen of the burger art.

Simplicity is a virtue here.

It’s a two-fisted joy, juicy and redolent somehow of Middle Eastern seasoning.

The chips are good, though those on the outer reaches of the mound are barely luke warm and the rest could be hotter, too.

 

 

For a return visit of the family Sunday lunch kind, Deb gets the same burger with an equally agreeable outcome.

Here, though, she substitutes the regular fries with crumbed eggplant chips.

They are superb.

And hot.

 

 

I’ve already seen enough – and eaten enough – to rather wish the “poke bowl” fad fades away with some haste, seeing as it widely seems to be an excuse for slopping mediocre ingredients in a bowl and charging richly for it.

The Mantra Bowl ($18), by contrast, shows how it should be done and how good such an offering can be.

The ingredients are top-shelf in every way and – just as importantly for this kind of meal – they are beautifully arranged in the bowl with skill and talent.

Rice ‘n’ black beans, heaps of robustly crunchy pickled cabbage, several kinds of mushroom, bean sprouts, tender asparagus – and even a trans-national touch through brown baba ganoush and flatbread: All wonderful, alone and/or together.

 

 

Bennie muchly enjoys his BBQ duck waffle with mango chutney, lychee gel and grilled asparagus ($23).

The meat is juicy yet nicely chewy, though it seems to me his meal would benefit from a greater sauce/liquid component.

He disagrees.

Apart from the  breakfast and lunch routines, Mantra is already happily experimenting with Friday evening events of the “beer and dumpling” and “beer and sliders” variety.

There is some parking available right outside the cafe, while the surrounding streets are subject to time limits.

Be careful!

Check out the Mantra website here.

 

Pub ribs rock

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Commercial Hotel, 111 Watton Street, Werribee. Phone: 9741 2322

Tootling down Watton Street looking for a carpark, I am bemused.

But not nearly as bemused as Bennie and Deb, his mum.

At issue is the nature of our destination – seemingly the sort of pub that would normally struggle, and fail, to gain the attention of CTS.

A confession: I have been seduced by the nice Facebook pictures of the Commercial Hotel’s food, these featuring occasionally in my feed because of the joint’s links with the Werribee Bears rugby league outfit.

I’m not diehard fan of the club, but did venture down there for a couple of games last season.

Even if the pub at hand would normally fall out side CTS paramters, we are – as ever – upbeat and hopeful.

Truth is, had I twigged the Commercial is a pokies venue, this adventure almost certainly would have been stillborn.

Happily, the pokies are well away from the dining room – out of sight, out of earshot and out of mind.

That leaves us to happily enjoy the old-school ambiance.

The Commercial’s dining room feels – from the carpet up – just like a country pub.

As we expect, the menu (see below) is studded with the sorts of dishes routinely found in such places.

But there’s a few nice wrinkles in there, too.

 

 

Deb goes the roast pork dinner ($13).

It’s a beauty, with a heap of good vegetables and more than enough highly porky and nicely cooked meat.

She loves it; the plate is clean when she’s done.

Not just a fine roast dinner, but a bargain as well.

 

 

For Bennie, it’s the pulled pork burger ($20), which tastes a lot better than it photographs.

Oddly (perhaps even weirdly), the pulled meat appears to have been formed into a pattie.

It tastes good to me and he enjoys it.

But it’s fair to say Bennie has just about had it with pulled meat of any kind in burgers; me, I’ve had it with pulled pork period.

So often so mediocre!

 

 

It’s a subjective judgment, but for me the stars of our collective choosing are my BBQ baby back ribs ($33).

There’s two good-size rack pieces in there.

The meat is tasty and tender, and comes from the bones with ease.

I know there’s people out there, for whom gnaw is the desired and happy norm, who will think that no recommendation at all.

Still, for me this is a fine BBQ meal, the pricing of which can put some of the specialist BBQ joints in the shade.

The ribs are handily abetted by a fine slaw.

Really, the only disappointment of our Commercial outing is the chips Bennie and I are provided.

They’re OK – but also under-done and under-salted.

Check out the Commercial Hotel website here.

 

Joyfully juicy

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Bird & Burger, 9 Napier Street, Essendon. Phone: 9090 7265

Bird & Burger lives in a premises long previously occupied by a similar operation with different management.

But this new lot are doing more than maintaining the location’s chicken shop tradition – they’re doing so splendidly.

Here be fast food that really is fresh and delicious.

 

 

The interior is mostly black and white, with eat-in seating options down to stools and a bench on one wall and a handful of snazzy ottomans facing the front window and another bench.

There are, however, tall tables and more stools outside.

 

My heart sinks a little when I see the plastic cutlery atop one of counters, fearing these useless tool may be served with my chicken.

But no!

Not only am I supplied with metal cutlery, my meal is presented on a black platter, with chips and coleslaw in similarly angular bowls.

It all looks marvellous.

Tastes that way, too.

The chips ($3.95) are hot, liberally salted and fine.

The admission price of $6.50 for my coleslaw seems, at first blush, a little steep for what I’m thinking is just a side dish to a chicken meal.

But here’s the thing – it is worth every cent.

In fact, I’ll call it right here and now – this is quite possibly the best coleslaw I’ve ever had in a chook shop.

Made mostly of red cabbage, and boasting subtle whiffs of tarragon and dill, it is well dressed without being sopping, has crunch yet is pliable – and is 100 per cent wonderful.

My chicken falls into the “Yes, It Can Be Done” category.

That’s right – even the very heart of the breast meat is as juicy as the rest of it.

My half bird ($10.50) is marinated in the mild chilli sauce that is chosen from a list that also includes lemon and herbs, crunchy creamed peanut and outback BBQ.

All is beaut and succulent.

 

 

The classic beef burger ($12.50) comes from a menu that includes two other beef burgers, five chicken burgers and a lamb edition.

Our burger’s lettuce, tomato, red onion, tomato relish and herb aioli are joined – upon request – by excellent bacon for which no charge is levied.

The beef patty is nicely charry and superbly seasoned with – I’m guessing here, as the staff mumble something about “top secret” when quizzed – oregano and other goodies.

Every aspect of this burger is an outright winner.

If CTS used points, I’d deduct one for the fact that this burger is such a gloriously messy handful that I resort, in the end, to eating it with a knife and fork.

But in this case, I care not because everything is just so damn tasty.

Bird & Burger is a fine establishment.

CTS metaphorically clicks its heels as it saunters back to the car.