From primo restaurants to back street laundrettes, they have all claimed to offer the best burger in Melbourne. Countless charts and lists litter the food pages, the new flavour of the day mobilising scores of avid burger enthusiasts on reconnaissance missions. Big bearded boys scour the inner suburbs on a meaty pilgrimage to the promised land of double patties, wads of bacon, brioche heaven and coronary palpitations. However, this gourmet Amazing Race might be changing course, saturation point is here and the foodies are looking for new pastures.
These new pastures are not far away. Several vendors have cropped up around the city of varying American themes, offering classic stateside deli sandwiches, with all kinds of influences. Reuben, Cubano and hoagies are all concoctions that mesh meaty heartiness with the ethnic overtones of Jewish, Latin American and Italian foods. The postmodern burger, if you like, is full of refinement, zest and pulled pork.
Mason Dixon is the alpha of the new breed. Tucked away in Collins St Food Plaza, it is run by a real American with due diligence in the culinary world. Garrett Huston is a chameleon-like chef that has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the U.S. sandwich. Dividing his menu between Northern and Southern styles, you get the full spectrum of tastes from Cubano spice to the Reuben zing, all for an affordable price.
Even though they use Yarra Valley free-range, grass-fed meat, their prices are exceptional. Garrett Huston says: ‘What’s amazing is how fast it’s all changed. One week I am explaining what pastrami is, what I mean by pulled pork, what a Reuben has on it (or even what sauerkraut is), and the next week I have customers asking how long the pork or pastrami is smoked, what sort of wood we use or if our sauerkraut is German or Polish. Some know why we call one of our Cubanos Ybor City style! It’s been awesome. I hope that we’ve been part of the discussion or education and that people are really loving our food. We have been very fortunate to have so many returning customers and regulars that are so enthusiastic about what we are doing and about American food in general. They rock. Some even know who the Red Sox are!’
Whilst it is very unlikely that the burger will become extinct, there finally seems to be a change on the horizon, albeit still draped in stars and stripes.