Fast food may be speedy, but it doesn’t have to be mass produced or unhealthy. These local favourites have plenty of character and flavour, quality ingredients, and you don’t have to worry about being charged a fee or paying a minimum on your credit card. Yep, that’s what we call convenience.
Back in 2011, the Huxtaburger crew brought high quality hot beef (no chicken or veggie burgers) and cold beer to the burger lovers of Melbourne. And despite expanding their empire to the far reaches of Ringwood and adding grilled chicken breast, spicy bean and quinoa patties and sliders to the menu, they’ve still managed to keep things simple. Their original Smith Street eatery is packed every night of the week with hungry northsiders smashing the classic ‘Huxtaburger’ made with grass-fed beef, cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickles and the holy trinity of mustard, mayo and tomato sauce. Don’t skimp on a side of chips on the side with chipotle salt and a schooner of ‘Huxtabrew’ by Holgate Brewery.
Last year, 8bit’s original ‘8bit with Cheese’ nearly took out first place in Time Out’s Battle of the Burger. It was no surprise given the cult following that this Footscray institution has gained over the years (and that was before they opened two CBD venues last year). With a design influenced by American video game culture, 8bit offers American fast food favourites to match: think chilli cheese fries, hot dogs and peanut butter milkshakes. For those with Donkey Kong-sized appetites, there’s the Double Dragon burger, with double the beef, double the cheese, double the bacon and a generous lick of 8bit’s secret sauce.
We’re going to make a controversial call here and say that we like the new St Kilda location of this vegetarian Mexican joint even better than the original Fitzroy cantina. The mustard-yellow palette and assortment of bright knick-knacks on the walls recall the southern Californian taco shacks that inspired Trippy’s founder Simon Fischer to open his own version in Melbourne. Tacos are made with fresh corn tortillas and filled with spicy chargrilled tofu or black beans – but the best choice you can make is the tofu asada burrito, filled with tofu, goat’s cheese, salad, salsa, guac and a squeeze of fresh lime. Pair that with a bowl of well seasoned Trippy fries and a frosty Pacifico beer and you’re doing Mexican street food right.
George Calombaris has proved that he’s a MasterChef in more ways than one. Several years ago, the TV-famous chef branched out from Greek fine dining and casual restaurants to a series of cheap souvlaki joints. Rest assured that Calombaris’s top-notch souvas taste just as good as lunch or dinner than they do at the end of a big night; the Bonegilla souva – made with charred, pillowy flatbread – is stuffed with hot chips, juicy hunks of lamb, rotisserie chicken and mustard aioli.
After years of slinging burgers to hungry Melburnians from his food truck (designed to look like a giant beatbox, obviously), food truck pioneer Raph Rashid opened a permanent joint on Sydney Road last year. Not one to mess with a winning formula, Rashid has kept things simple on the menu. The Raph burger is all about the pink beef pattie with a caramelised crust, topped with cos lettuce, tomato, onion, cheddar and Stereo sauce (mayo, dill pickle, cayenne and lemon juice). Beatbox’s shop-only menu items include a $6 cheeseburger and its veggie counterpart.
Anyone who dissuades you from driving to Epping for a burger hasn’t tried the Laurie Dee. The signature hot sandwich from this old-school burger joint is exactly what a classic American burger should be: a fresh minced patty, caramelised onions, melted cheddar, tomato, lettuce, pickles and rich ‘Special ‘D’ Sauce’. The majority of ingredients are made in-house here, including the thick frozen custard that’s used in Laurie’s range of shakes and their ‘Concrete Mixers’, where the custard is topped with your choice of anything from warm chocolate fudge and honeycomb pieces to shortbread crumble and real strawberry sauce. Arrive hungry.
These guys are pushing some big flavours from their tiny hole-in-the-wall shop near the beach in Brighton. Make like Samuel L Jackson and order the Royale with Cheese – a winning combo of beef, cheese, onion, lettuce pickles mustard and mayo (basically a much tastier Big Mac made from real food). The gluten-averse are catered for with a bun that gets the texture just right (which is no mean feat), and pescetarians are covered with a crisp battered fish burger with house slaw, tartare sauce and avocado. The Brothers share their space with Lickings Ice-Cream, making this the perfect takeaway spot if you’re heading to Brighton Beach for the afternoon.
Last year, Neil Perry joined the multitude of top chefs opening high quality cheap eats restaurants with his chain of Burger Project eateries. It’s a bandwagon we’re glad he jumped on. Living up to Burger Project’s ethos of “fast food, slow values”, Perry ensures that his chefs cut, mince and hand-shape their Cape Grim beef patties every morning. The traditional southern fried chicken burger is given a Japanese twist with fried free-range chicken topped with coleslaw, pickles and katsu sauce, and for the vegetarians, crumbed confit mushrooms are covered in melted cheese. Complete the haute burger experience with a light, refreshing house Pilsner made in Victoria.