Let’s set the scene – it was a drizzly, wintry, Monday night in Melbourne, and it just happened to be our anniversary. Rather than resort to the Monday opening bible I put together earlier this year, her indoors says she has it all sorted. Brilliant. Probably somewhere nice where I might have to don a shirt and try to posh myself up. So when I was told to wear loose, comfy clothing and grab a bottle of wine on my way out the door I wasn’t sure what was in store.
On the scooter we hopped and to Caulfield he headed, that is until I got a whack on the helmet to tell me to stop outside Big Boy BBQ. I had heard of the US diner-style, ‘slow food done fast’ joint a few times before, but I was never in a place to jot the name down for later. That’s why my other half comes in handy sometimes.
We have noticed over the last few weeks that a couple of stateside eateries have been vying to give the Mexican places a run for their money as the eateries of choice in Melbourne. Already Chapel Street has a new burger joint – Jus Burgers (from Perth) – and then there is Burger Joint on Toorak Road, plus a couple around Fitzroy about to roll out (in addition to Huxtaburger). And then there are the hot dog shops – Massive Weiners on Gertrude Street and Phat Brats on Brunswick Street. But hear this – BBQ might just trounce them all.
NOTE – At the moment, Burger Mary and Red River BBQ are holding their pop-up dinners at The Workers Club in Fitzroy every Wednesday, and they are proving so popular you have to get in quick before they sell out. I will be heading down soon to see what they’re doing.
It’s hard to talk about Big Boy BBQ without playing it down unfairly. Yes, you order at the counter and food comes out on trays. Yes there are huge rolls of paper towel on the table for sticky paws and faces, yes you get bottomless soft drinks and can sit in banquettes under a surf board or cartoony posters. But this is better than fast food and canteen-style eating.
Speaking to the team, they understand that there is a common misconception that people equate barbecuing with grilling. The distinction between them is the heat level and intensity of the heat, and while some blog posts have pointed fingers at the lack of overpowering hickory smokiness, the ribs and marinades are too finger lickin’ good to worry about details.
Take a look at the menu. I believe this place trumps Misty’s Diner as it is focused on one specific style of food and portion size isn’t just big for the sake of it. Asking what was their signature dish – we were told not to go past the Kansas City-style spice-rubbed pork ribs. So we didn’t.
The ribs were smoked at a low temperature for 16 hours. The wood for smoking has been specially selected and you can taste it inbetween the spices that jump from the meat. Pictured is only the ½ rack of ribs so if you want space to try the rest of the menu understand that this may be all the ribs you need.
Asking what sandwhich we should opt for – we were pointed in the direction of the Famous Oklahoma Joes “Z-man” Our Way, which consisted of juicy beef brisket, smoked scamorza cheese, fried onion strings and BBQ sauce. Served in a light and fluffy sesame seed bun. We also ordered a side of smoked chilli beef with brisket burnt ends and beans – rich, spicy and smoky. It ended up defeating us.
And now the wine form home comes into the picture. How does $1 corkage sound to you? Yeah, I know. And they give you decent glasses to slurp from.
I am keen to take my Texan friends back to see how they feel about the whole place – but it was explained that this isn’t Texas BBQ, so don’t go expecting exactly the same thing. And if you are on the fence consider the wise words of that mad bastard Anthony Bourdain – “Barbecue is the antithesis of fast food”. You might be tempted to don your stretchy sweat plans, but actually this place is worth getting a bit ‘poshed up’ for.
Oh, and they close at 8-8:30pm – get there early.