Cafe 51

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I had been wanting to visit Cafe 51 in South Melbourne for some time now. However, their daytime only hours prevented this from happening. There has been quite a buzz on social media about what they were doing. Initially I was sceptical, as they seemed to be from the “bigger is better” burger challenge mould. But, curiosity made we wonder… more and more.

South Melbourne is not a long way for me, but it was a happy day when I learned they were opening in St Kilda, just a short walk away. Not only that, but they would be open nights! That was it. “Get in early,” I said. So it was, that in the first week, I found myself burgering at Cafe 51.

The fitout is clean, but minimal. No fuss here. Burgers are the game. Pity the fact there is no coffee or booze, but there is a massive selection of burgers on offer. After careful consideration, I choose the “Dirty Bastard.” Seemed like the perfect reward for the 14km run I had just completed.

This is a straight up value proposition. For $12, I reckon you would struggle to beat it. They are bringing massive calories to the masses; at affordable prices. That said, the quality does suffer. There is nothing special to note about the burger (other than the size and value). The soft, white bun struggled to contain the rivers of grease and juices pouring out of the 2 large patties. A nice package, but lacking in finesse and attention to detail.

Despite my misgivings, there is no doubt that this place is set up to put the “dude” in dude food. The crowd was loving the over the top creations. Not my thing, but who am I to judge. Finally, a halfway decent burger place in St Kilda!

Cafe 51 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Royal Stacks

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This place has got the vibe. The setup is pretty simple, but in a good way. It doesn’t try too hard to be something it’s not. Simply screams burgers; fast food. I like it.

It was always going to be hard for Royal Stacks win my favour. I came here directly from a visit to The Burger Project, where I was blown away by the quality of the beef. A hard act to follow. But, just like a quiet achiever; a plucky underdog, they won my heart. Now, I’m not going to suggest these 2 places are in the same league. They should not even be compared.

Royal Stacks is a very good attempt at creating a classic burger joint. There are some things in here that will be very familiar to those that grew up with fast food – that being everyone! A sparse, simple interior, perfect for a quick bite burger experience. Efficient service. Soft drink dispensers in the dining room, for an all you can drink sugar death. Burgers on trays.

A simple, small burger was called for here (second burger for lunch after all). And this seems to be the forte here. No frills. No fuss. A simple cheeseburger that has been carefully thought out, and executed brilliantly. Nothing stood out as the best ingredient. They all worked together in harmony to create a very satisfying experience.

There is nothing fancy here. It’s almost like they created this place as a way to take a swipe at McDonalds. To laugh directly in their face and say: “this is what you could have done if you were smart.” I would not say that Royal Stacks is a burger destination. However, if I was craving a burger after a night of one too many brews, I would go out of my way to get myself here and savour the perfect late night guilty pleasure.

Royal Stacks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Burger Project

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In case you thought burgers weren’t popular in Melbourne, you need to check this place out at lunchtime. Brand new, only just opened, and the place was packed. Granted, there was some fanfare surrounding the much anticipated first Burger Project to make it’s way to Melbourne… But, damn this place was busy. Naturally, they have the whole system down pat, and were able to deal with the constant influx of burger lovers without breaking a sweat. Seating was a little sparse though. In all, I think I waited 15 minutes for my burger to arrive. Not too bad really, I was expecting much worse.

Neil Perry (of Rockpool fame) has staked his reputation on the quality of the beef in these burgers. In the same way that the Rockpool burgers focus heavily on the provenance and quality of the beef, Burger Project sings loud and proud about the Cape Grim beef used on their burgers. I have to say, without a doubt, there is no way to overstate the deliciousness of the beef in this burger. It is everything here. Perfectly seasoned. Cooked to perfection. I’m lost for words. Utterly sensational. To die for.

The rest of the burger does have some significant flaws though, in my opinion. The bun was powerless against the great beef patty overlord, that swamped it with juices and exerted it’s dominance from every angle. The sauce was not a prominent flavour, although to be fair, let that beef flavour sing. Really, who cares about anything else (Seriously, why spend big dollars on a steak, when this is available for under $10!). They could have served me just the patties and I would have been grinning from ear to ear.

It’s unlikely that there would be any change to the choice of bun here. It’s a pity, because that is really the only thing that stands between this burger and perfection. At the end of the day, it’s all about the meat, and this burger reminds me of that brilliantly. Thank you Cape Grim. Thank you Neil Perry. Thank you Burger Project. I will be back… many times!

Burger Project Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Belle’s Hot Chicken

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Time for some more fried chicken goodness. This week’s flavour: Belle’s Hot Chicken!

This place had been on my list for a long time, but I’d just never quite made it there. It’s got quite a rep as one of the standout chicken joints in the inner north. They immediately made a bad impression with their beer list. Granted, my taste is certainly not the same as your average Fitzroy local. But, Coopers Pale Ale or Kronenburg on tap, and then Melbourne Bitter and Pabst Blue Ribbon in cans. Can you please tell me why there is not enough demand in this place to stock one decent beer?

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The chicken eased the tension somewhat. A deliciously crisp coating of spiced flour was incredibly satisfying. Perhaps a little too close to KFC flavour for my liking, but it certainly does bring back some childhood memories of how fried chicken should be. A lifetime of visiting the Colonel has taught me to expect a soggy, greasy mess. Not the case at Belle’s. The classic slice of white bread on the base made sure the integrity of the crisp coating was maintained properly by soaking up any excess grease,

Chips; nothing to write home about. Pickles; delicious. Mississippi Comeback sauce; wasn’t a standout. In all a satisfying experience, although I could not help but wonder if my trip north of the river could have been better spent on some of the other fine establishments in this area. If I lived around the corner, I’d be happy to pop in every now and then. But as a destination, I say don’t bother. No doubt this conclusion will not trouble them in the slightest…

Belle's Hot Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Mocha Jo’s Burger Bar

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Well this was a bit of a disappointment, I have to say. Glen Waverley has a couple of decent burger options available. In order to compete, this new hole-in-the-wall burger joint would need to be on point. Unfortunately everything about this burger was average, or below.

The real disappointment came from the patty. After spruiking the 600 day grain fed Wagyu used in it’s preparation, that meat better sing. It fell so far short of the mark, I would go so far as to say that it had an unpleasant taste. I expect a level of creaminess from the fatty Wagyu meat. But, this patty had nothing. Slightly tough, slightly dry, and a horrible taste. The aftertaste made things worse. There was perhaps a little too much pepper and salt in the mix. And this is coming from a guy who tends to over season food. The salt police would be gagging, let me tell you.

The other elements did not shine. Not one bit. The bun had a nice sheen to it, but it was too soft and offered nothing to the flavour profile. The bacon was cheap, and the “MJ’s” sauce sparse. If you want to name a sauce after your burger joint, then use the stuff, please! Can’t comment on the taste of the sauce, because there was so little of it, but this could have saved the burger, taming the meat and rounding out the flavour. I’m really not sure though. Think there was something fundamentally wrong with the patty.

Salad and cheese were meh, and really don’t warrant a mention at all. So sad that there is nothing here. Please go 100 metres down the road and get your burger fix at YOMG. You will not be missing anything at all.

Mocha Jo's Burger Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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