Lots of Sydney pubs are throwing out the rule book when it comes to pub dining. We’ve got pubs like the Green Lion and the East Sydney Hotel going vegan; high-end Chinese happening at the Queens Hotel; and venues taking a one-way trip to fancy town, like the Buena. But when we’re talking about a counter meal there’s certain criteria that need to be met, and none of them involve mud crabs, flower garnishes or facon.
Firstly there should be burgers. Ideally a classic beef number, a jumbo buttermilk fried chicken edition that you’d need to dislocate your jaw to eat, and something for the veggos. The Erko guys don’t slack in the meat-free department – their mushroom and halloumi burger is juicy and salty with a sweet kick from roast capsicum and extra dressing from a herb aioli. There should also be hefty platters for hard-earned hungers, like a parma and a steak.
Once you’ve locked down the classics (which they have) you can start to get a bit experimental. Maybe you want to try and mix a cheeseburger and burrito as a special and call it a burgerito (silly and fun) or perhaps you just want to focus on one particular offering, like low and slow smoked meats. It’s a proposition that’s certainly earning a lot of fans for the Erko, which is rammed at dinner time any night of the week.
A platter of smoky, tender brisket comes with a side of coleslaw that doesn’t try and waterboard your cabbage with mayo – thank heavens – plus two little hot rolls and sweet barbecue sauce. It’s $28 but could easily feed two. As could the pulled pork plate. Prefer everything with fries? They’ll put that same pork to work as the star of a poutine. It won’t make you skinny but it will make you happy.
The Erko gets top marks for chatty, personable staff; a swift kitchen and tables designed for groups over couples. Lucky too, because there’s a real community vibe here and you’ll likely run into a mate and need to draw up another chair while someone else hits the bar for a jug of Stone and Wood Cloud Catcher that hits you with sweet apricots on the nose and a bitter hoppy finish that will reset your belly after an-all American feast.