On the corner of a street in inner city Sydney, a café marked by its hand-made chocolate opened its doors. This wasn’t a franchise, the coffee was awesome, as was the chocolate. But the place remained ghostly for weeks.
Not long after, and their horizontal sign had changed to ‘NY CAFÉ AND BAKEHOUSE’. Quite quickly, the owners have had no choice but to take their business idea and repackage it in accordance with Australia’s obsession with Americana – and particularly up-market roadside diner food.
Visit a 2016 diner/dive/gastro pub in one of Australia’s cities, and chances are the menu would contain the following:
Monterey Jack cheese
Named after its creator, Californian cheese maker David Jacks, Monterey Jack cheese was a rarity down under. Without going into detail that most of us won’t understand, Jack Cheese is mild, six-month aged yellow cow’s milk cheese that melts well.
In my opinion, this is one aspect of the Americana injection that I welcome with an open mouth.
Our new fascination with classic, towering cheeseburgers bound by sugary buns (whether brioche or close to it), Jack Cheese, decent beef, and quality pickle has helped replace the craving for a McDonalds Quarter Pounder. They may cost $10 more, but you don’t get the immediate cool down and wet foam rubber taste.
No, these cute miniature burgers aren’t the brainchild of Rick Moranis’s character in Honey I Shrunk the Kids. The size is intentional.
Sliders are loosely based on single-serving greasy burgers given to US Navy Seals in the 40s, but were created by the owner of the chain White Castle in Kansas in 1921.
As an hors d'oeuvre for a function or event, or as an invention for children, these suckers would make sense, but I don’t know many men or women who can eat one slider and leave it at that.
I’ve met many a fussy carnivore (including the one in the mirror), which enjoy most meats, barring pork. Something about pork doesn’t sit right with some of us – the very word conjuring images of gelatinous fat.
Mention pulled-pork, however, and these same scoffers will order it in spades. It’s all the best bits of pork shredded beyond recognition, with none of that creamy belly substance anywhere to be seen.
To us Aussies, ordering Jalapeno poppers sounds like something out of an American production; a side that anyone from Vincent in Pulp Fiction to Hannah from Girls might order.
The word ‘poppers’ in itself screams Americana (when not referring to those particular bulbs containing nitrous oxide), and since those of the jalapeno variety have hit the scene, even fast food restaurants around the world are implementing the little nuggets of flavour.
Instead of a 3AM slab of damp foodstuffs where the dog and the bun are almost the same colour, Aussies can now spend up to 20 bucks on an upmarket hot-dog at most of Sydney’s gastro pubs.
Taking it further, if you visit Surry Hills eatery The Soda Factory in Sydney, and you’ve got the choice between themed dogs such as the Frank Sinatra, the Johnny Drama, and their classic Bobby’s Boss Dog, which I hear is delicious but I will never, ever, ever, eat because I refuse to buy into this Americanisation of Aussie food.
Completely unrelated, but if anyone tries The Soda Factory, mind bringing me a take-away dog and wrapping it in a different packaging?
US movies always made onion rings look like the most delicious fried snack around. Even during the heart attack of The Sopranos’ final scene, the fact the family were all picking at onion rings made me hungry.
Now, not only are these battered circles of grease readily available as side dishes, but also are incorporated into actual burgers, as if beef, cheese, bacon, and a sugary bun weren’t sufficiently damaging to the arteries.
KFC-style chicken burgers are everywhere, and gastro pubs often to use the actual phrase ‘KFC-style’ to sell it. Just like the upmarket Maccas burgers, greasy fried chicken, whether in pieces or on a burger, is now an acceptable meal.
Missed the last episode of season 22? Watch it right here: