Melbourne is going through a bit of a love affair with dining al-van-o.
Following an explosion in the concept that began making waves in LA a few years, Melburnians now know to scan Twitter to find the best options for cheap, tasty, quality roadside meals.
This is an ongoing list of a few of my favourites:
It all started with Raph.
I first heard about Raph Rashid and his Beatbox Kitchen about a year back. This dude was rolling around Brunswick, tweeting out his location and serving up quality burgers for those lucky enough to find him.
Replicating for the local market a concept already proven overseas, Raph took something notably “uncool” – mobile food vans (traditionally the mainstay of dim sims, two-dollar chips and the Royal Easter Shows), and through a focus on quality produce and scarcity created a trend that has now spawned a number of imitators.
Beatbox oozes as much cool as a Flinders Lane-facing stool at Cumulus, but you can’t just rock up at 6:30 on a Tuesday and queue for a table, to get your hands on a Raph Burger and some Stereo Fries you’ll need to work a bit harder. Raph and the crew Tweet and Facebook out their location only a few hours before service, meaning you never quite know if you will be able to fulfil those cravings. This also leads to a packed out crowd where ever the van might rock up.
The key to Beatbox’s success is more than just the cool factor. These burger are seriously good. Like best in Melbourne good. Raph is rumoured to have studied the art of the burger for years before perfecting his product, and it shows. A Beatbox Burger is guaranteed to the juiciest, most satisfying burger you have ever experienced.
Where to find them: Raph churns out his magic across the inner North near the parks of Brunswick and Northcote.
What to order: This one is easy. Grab a Raph Burger, a side of fries (with Stereo Sauce) and a can of Coke (full strength only, thanks)
After finding success in Beatbox, Raph has recently branched out with a second truck dedicated to south-of-the-border fare.
Taco Truck serves (predictably) a range of tasty tacos including fish, chicken and potato. But be warned, you won’t fill up on a single taco (a pity, since they’re $6 each), so best try a Taco Plate ($12) consisting of two tacos (you’re choice), a handful of corn chips and as much hot sauce as you can handle.
Where to find them: Taco Truck mostly follows Beatbox Kitchen haunts around the Inner North. Check Tweets for the usual locations
What to order: Taco Plate with chicken and fish tacos ($12) and a lime jarritos (Mexican soda).
Le Sausage are a couple of new kids on the food van circuit serving up gourmet snags at a festival, park, or event somewhere near you.
This isn’t your average Bunnings saturday morning sizzle, out of the red van you’ll find snags packed with pork & chilli, pickled cabbage, cornishons & dijon mustard, or lamb and rosemary, with dill youghurt, rocket, red onion and sumac, and even (for you vegos out there) marinated and grilled zucchini, with caramelised onion and japanese mayo. All at a very reasonable $8.50
Where to find them: Le Sausage operate mostly out of Northcote and Preston
What to order: I challenge you to go past an Italian Job: Pork & fennel sausage with napoli, tasty cheese, caramelised onion & parsley.
Last on our list is Gumbo Kitchen. On the road since December last year, Melbourne has taken a shine to Gumbo’s brand of New Orleans comfort food, Po’Boys.
What’s a Po’Boys? Think deep fried, popcorn shrimp, crispy lettuce, tomato, Cajun spiced remoulade and Crystal hot sauce all packed into a fluffy bread roll.
Feel like something different? How about Slow braised beef debris on chunky fries with cajun remoulade and pickles. Inspired by iconic New Orleans Po’ Boy bar, Domilises, in the Uptown district
Where to find them: Again, inner North (Thornbury & Northcote), but you can also do with the smart people do, and rock up at Lux Foundry in Brunswick after-work each Friday for a Po’boy and a cold beer
What to order: Start on a Po’Boys and work your way through the menu.