Friday 11 November 2011

Burgers of the North

Ever since The Age ran a piece on the new wave of pop-up food vans in Melbourne, I've been meaning to check one out.

This is how it works. Each day the van's operators tweet its planned location that night. It might be placed next to a park or on a main street, but either way it'll be in an inner-city location near public transport.

For some reason the two I'm following, Beatbox Kitchen and Taco Truck, seem to hug the inner north rather than crossing the Yarra River. Presumably the grungy streetscapes of Brunswick are a better fit than the delicate facades of Albert Park, and I suspect the local councils in the north are more relaxed about permits for that reason.

Yesterday afternoon the call came, or in fact the tweet: "@beatboxkitchen: Dinner outside mr wilkinson, lygon st east Brunswick from 6pm". A little cryptic, but it turned out Mr Wilkinson was a bar at 295 Lygon St, East Brunswick.

I was slightly puzzled by this location - it was on a tram route, so easy to get to. However, I knew the footpaths there were average width and lined by shop fronts. Where would people eat, exactly?

The answer turned out to be quite clever. When I got to the burger truck's serving window, I saw this:

As people ordered, they were asked "Are you eating in the bar?" The van had formed a friendly arrangement with Mr Wilkinson - burger buyers could sit in the bar if they liked; and naturally, they tended to buy a drink while there.

This was the same methodology I followed. After placing my order, I went in and bought a schooner of Kirin ($5), then took it outside and used it to save a spot at the bar's narrow streetside stools while I waited for my burger. The resulting combination of beer and food looked like this:

My verdict? Very tasty. It was a simple burger ($11) but better quality than you might expect from a roadside van, with cos lettuce, a spicy meat pattie, crunchy onion, tomato and cheese. And the bread roll was soft, but not sweet and unyielding like a mass-produced hamburger bun - it had some welcome density.

The fries ($5) went cold too quickly, but that's always the danger with fries rather than thicker chips. The spicy mayo that came with them was good.

As for the atmosphere, it was a great vibe on a balmy spring evening, with people spread between the van and the bar and in a burger-induced good mood.

My next assignment - if I choose to accept it - is to track down the Taco Truck.

You can find Beatbox Kitchen's latest location at


  1. Very good review of a great idea. Just cringed a little at the 'fries' though... Americanisation strikes again!

  2. I don't think of fries as particularly American - they're "French fries" after all, and the way the van serves them up is in that Belgian style with mayo or sauce on the side.

    I'm not keen on them simply because they're much thinner than chips and therefore go cold much more quickly.

    I also occasionally have an issue with food places specifying chips in the menu which turn out to be fries when served. Two different things IMO.

  3. Or, thinking it over, did you cringe because you thought I was using the word 'fries' instead of 'chips'?

    Definitely intended 'fries' to indicate those long thin deep-fried potato strips which American fast food chains have popularised here, to distinguish them from the thicker traditional 'chips'.