Despite the intense BBQ culture in Australia, they are not BBQ snobs when it comes to eating out (eating in is a different story). Australia has come to embrace the cuisines and cultures of its mixed population, from Korean to South American, and as far as I'm concerned this is a great thing. One of my favourite things about Australia, and Melbourne in particular is its amazing mix of traditions and influences that enrich its urban fabric. In this post I'll take you through some of my favourite foreign BBQ practices as adopted in Melbourne.
Melbournians LOVE American BBQ. Not the stand around the grill in the summer family ordeal, that they can do just as well (probably even better) themselves. More like the deep south smokey food-for-the-soul BBQ that requires long hours of prep. They even have a festival dedicated especially to their love of American BBQ.
In the last twenty years BBQ joints have popped up all across the CBD and inner suburbs, providing melt-in-your-mouth slow-cooked meats to the Australian masses. Here are my top three.
My personal favourite is still Fancy Hank's mostly because it was the first one I went to. Back when I went there it was still located at the Mercat Cross Hotel beside the Queen Vic Markets. At that point it still had its old rustic charm and you could sit and eat your brisket and hushpuppies at wooden benches on the rooftop. That was back in 2014 when Doughboys would make regular trips to the establishment allowing you to fulfill your craving for smoked meats and sugary bakes in one go. Nowadays the venue is less fun, but the menu has expanded and the food is served on real plates rather than just a tray with some plastic containers. Also they have given their bar an upgrade, and Blue Heaven's rooftop is well stocked and staffed. Another benefit of the new location is that you can book a table, meaning you can take all your friends there to celebrate happy occasions or to eat away your sorrows. Yum!
If you are the kind of person who likes watching your meat cook then Bluebonnet Barbecue is the place for you. With a lovely beer garden and ever changing daily specials to look out for, this is a great place for your weekly/monthly/... (I don't know how often you people go out) casual get together with friends. Everything I have ever tried there is great. Plus you can go for a walk up and down Smith Street after eating and delay the inevitable food coma by browsing the shops and street art. Extra benefits are Loretta's, the award-winning bar next door, and the Bluebonnet foodtruck that you can book for events. Graduation BBQ, wedding BBQ, christening BBQ... the options are endless!
Finally for the BBQ joint you can bring your in-laws to, Le Bon Ton. My parents are perfectly happy eating from paper plates with plastic utensils, but not every situation calls for that level of casual eating. For a business dinner or more formal event, Le Bon Ton is the perfect combination of fancy and delicious. It is decorated like a tasteful saloon, bringing in a hipster Melbourne vibe with its exposed brickwork and cutting board serving platters. Unlike the other two places on this list, Le Bon Ton has a more traditional restaurant menu, with pre-proportioned dishes rather than a construct your own BBQ meat mountain system. It's absolute menu winner has to be the Southern Pride menu, fit with some all american favourites like onion rings and fried chicken as well as ample smoked meats. You might want to get some of it in a doggy bag to go lest they have to roll you home.
Writing this post has made me ridiculously hungry so time to rummage through my fridge for a snack.
Remember these are just my favourites, there are plenty of others to try out dotted around the city.