The winds of change are blowing in the long-neglected bits of Melbourne’s west. Gale force winds. In fact, Sunshine’s favourite new hangout could have been picked up by a tornado from the Northcote-Thornbury border and deposited straight on Glengala Road along with its demographic of ankle-baring, bike riding, tattooed urbanites.
It’s delightfully, daftly incongruous. A former service station, upcycled into a welcoming barbecue joint with an industrial slant but plenty of reminders of its gas pumping days. Praise be to the gods of the western suburbs for humouring no high concepts here but going straight for the pleasure jugular with a canny mix of smoked meats, fat chips and a fridge stuffed full of craft beer.
The most brilliant part, for our money, is the broad beer garden partitioned off from the street by a planter fence, where wooden picnic tables are crowned by cheery yellow umbrellas and kids can roam with minimal parental intervention (all guardians, please note the thoughtful inclusion of a cubby with crafty stuff and books).
It’s the kind of food that’s uncomplicated and all the better for it, and more than a bit like the Australian barbecue riposte to all the Americana dominating the airwaves. At Sunshine Social they cook their chook just like George from the charcoal chicken shop used to do it, before he sold the shop and went into real estate. They deliver good classic Aussie chips (none of those new-fangled fries here) and a stack of ribs in a house barbecue sauce that makes you feel sticky just by looking at it.
They also deliver some excellent dips including the ultra-smoky eggplant and chilli, and carrot with the toasty sweetness of cinnamon, with chargrilled Turkish bread for mopping duties. The kids better learn to love the proper chicken nuggets (made from real chicken!) and they also sport a lunch roll that’s all bits and bobs of ends – it's essentially a mystery meat tour but one you know you’re going to like.
Desserts stick to the Aussie script, conjuring wild milk bar fever dreams with ice-cream sandwiches, and a frog in a pond. Gentrification in this neck of the woods arrives one chocolate frog in jelly at a time.