Never one to shy away from the limelight, America is the latest cool kid to make it on the chopping block of Australia’s foodie scene. Offering so much more than hotdogs and curly fries, it’s not just about what’s on the plate; attitudes around foodie tourism are evolving here too. In the same way food trucks in Austin or Creole street food in New Orleans are well worth the trip, outside of Melbourne and Sydney, smaller cities and regions are making the most of their access to fresh produce to lure the hungry crowds.
Get your appetites ready and prepare to drool. Here are seven take-aways from the country who invented the concept.
#1 Keep on truckin’
Want to dine with the best of them without the jaw-dropping price tag? Hail down one of the many food trucks taking Australia by storm. This simple concept borrowed from the US, means no more answering to the man for cooks. You’ll be served honest food by honest people in titchy kitchens with kitchy names – Trailer Made sums it up really.
And don’t think just ’cause the space is limited, so is the menu. Gumbo Kitchen in Melbourne rotates more New Orleans inspired dishes than beaded necklaces you’d receive at Mardi Gras. You’ll have to visit repeatedly to sample the entire collection of battered, fried and pulled-meat Po’ Boys. Oh boy.
The decidedly multicultural element to the food truck revolution is well suited to the melting pot societies of the US and Australia. For a mouth-watering trip around the world, sink your teeth into Rio at Perth’s Comida do Sul, sample the sweet side of France in Melbourne’s The Brulee Cart and for authentic Mexican you’ll find it hard to beat Sydney’s Cantina Movil.
#2 Deep fried is not a dirty word – it’s delicious
Talk to a Texan about the food they eat and watch them go doe-eyed at the thought of fried chicken, fried bacon, fried… well anything. For years you probably associated this with uninspiring fast-food chains, but now the smaller guys have jumped into the frying pan and all of a sudden you have time for that double-fried pork belly burger.
The fried food train is taking off and you can do it in style. Belle’s Hot Chicken is as succulent as it sounds, channelling a little piece of Nashville into every bite. Sydney-siders out there, go get your hands greasy with the all-American experience at the Keg and Brew.
Their heart-racing menu includes buckets of fried chicken and (gasp) a deep-fried twinkie. They have solid daily specials all to be washed down by a pint of craft beer. An insanely good happy hour goes from 5-7pm and includes Saturdays. You’re welcome.
#3 Two yummy things are better than one
One word – “cronut”. Not tied down to any particular tradition when it comes to food the American foodie culture just keeps evolving. The playful Americans see opportunity in every bite. For example: the croissant-donut hybrid originating in NYC. For a long time Australia has been masters of fusion when it came to cuisine, and now you’re experiencing more and more food types merged together in one delish mouthful.
Chicken and Waffles. Yup you heard us, but we’ll repeat it all the same. Americans eat chicken and waffles. Together. As the same meal. And now you can too at Marly Kitchen. Oh yeah, and they put gravy on there too. Don’t want to risk your hard-earned cash on a culinary wildcard? Go on Wednesday to try them for half the price.
#4 Beer drinking is a craft
Gone are the days of a “schooey of New” or “pot of VB”. We’re crafting beer around this country like it’s going out of style. Are we as good as the Americans? Decide for yourself at the Local Taphouse. With a venue in both Sydney and Melbourne, this craft beer behemoth taps over 400 beers per year from all over the world.
Like anything crafted with care, Australia’s best brew houses benefit from fresh country air. Feral Hop Hog anyone? Certainly sounds Australian; but this award-winning ale from Swan Valley is satisfying the fussiest all-American IPA connoisseur. WA’s brewing scene has another strong contender with Matso’s of Broome fame – try their Ginger Beer for a refreshing lunch-time tipple.
He who pines for crafty ale often has to have a few extra dollars up their sleeve. However, if you’re lucky enough to live in Brisbane, the boys who run The Scratch bar will let you BYO food, all in the name of beer of course. Cheers!
#5 Burgers are flippin’ awesome
Spatula sales are at a record high and the grill is hotter than ever as establishments keep pushing your perennial favourite to new limits.
Putting the K in kitchy, Miss Kay’s Burger Bar in Brissy will transport you back in time to the rock ‘n’ roll diner scene of yore. Supersize the experience with the Big Kay’s challenge – chowing down a cheesy five-patty beast to see your mug up in lights on the wall of fame.
Meanwhile in cooler climes, we’d like to introduce you to Mr Burger of Melbourne. He does four renditions of the winning combo with creative names such as Mr Meat and Mr Hot (um, yes please) and is hard to miss, cruising about town in multiple orange trucks.
#6 The timeless appeal of a speakeasy
Who would have thought that the USA’s prohibition on alcohol in the ’20s would inspire contemporary Australia’s nightlife? Helped along by a change in licensing laws, everything cool these days is low-light, on the sly and irresistibly sexy.
Leading the charge is surprise contender Adelaide with its spanking new small bar initiative. With a plethora of these blink-and-you’ll-miss-them bars popping up you’ll be hard pressed to pick a favourite. The welcoming sight of back-lit liquor shelves with a moustachioed mixologist means you’re in the right place. Chihuahua Bar on Peel Street is the place to go for tequila and mezcal enthusiasts.
The Belgrave Cartel has been nailing the speak-easy concept since they opened in Manly Beach four years ago. Cling on to a cocktail and sway to some live blues as you sob over your wife leaving you, your dog getting bit by a snake, etc, etc. Don’t get too depressed, their affordable lunch deals and happy hour are sure to cheer you up.
#7 You get it fast, but it’s cooked real slow
Yes ma’am, we’re talking slow-heatin’, pit-firin’, spit-grillin’ smokey goodness. The way it’s been done in the Deep South for years. They wouldn’t dream of flicking on a gas barbecue in the name of convenience and now plenty of Aussies are following suit. Head on down to Fancy Hank’s if you want to see what patience plus pig equals. They smoke their hog for 16 hours so you get the stickiest, pull-apart experience possible. Race you there.
(Lead image: Richard/Flickr)
Self-diagnosed with extreme wanderlust, Susan has been travelling and blogging about adventure, love and coffee for a decade. She crafted copy for Booking.com in Amsterdam before returning home to Sydney to write freelance and finish her novel in the sunshine.