U-S-A! U-S-A! Ok, now that I've gotten your attention, and my patriotism out of the way, onwards to talk about North American cuisine as a growing franchise here in Melb-town.
As a matter of fact, most of our food is as obnoxious as the stereotypes you see on TV (fat, fat, and more fat please). What's more exciting is how that perception is starting to change - and just as quickly as the culinary shift is happening back home. This decade we're bringing a new dinner to the table, embracing our culinary heritage (burger, fries, shake) while also exploring a more sophisticated palate (chicken and waffles). Lucky for you, a few hip Melbourne chefs and foodie scenesters have already picked up on the fact that we yanks might actually be on to something here.
The truth is, we US Americans have been toying around with the idea of our culinary heritage for some time now. American restaurateur Guy Fieri travelled the states in his hit show 'Diners, Drive-ins and Dives' in 2006 and uncovered some of the sketchiest, most unique restaurants the country had to offer. What he discovered, along with the rest of the nation, was that despite its reputation as the fast food nation, American's still cherished the joys of cooking.
Beatbox Kitchen & Taco Truck Various locations - check beatboxkitchen.com
If you haven't already felt the adrenaline rush that is checking Twitter and/or Facebook obsessively in hopes that your local food truck is setting up shop nearby, than you haven't lived. Beatbox Kitchen and Taco Truck are two beautifully constructed food joints you'll find travelling in and around the city that really capture the spirit of the Los Angeles and New York City streets from which they were inspired. Ever the driving culture that we are, food trucks have long been a staple in helping build a modern day America. They haven't always had the best reputation, but nowadays it's totally cool to stalk a food truck. Your taste buds will thank you for it in this case.
Both menus are minute but concentrated in tasty. Try the 'raph' burger for a refreshing take on an old classic or there's a delicious field mushroom burger for vegetarians. Watch out though, you could very well end up a few tacos deeper than you anticipated. The cerveza es bueno!
The Gasometer - 484 Smith Street, Collingwood
This place boasts a vast menu of North American food classics that are very dear to my heart and a few that scare me. One such dish is poutine.
Now, the recipe for this French-Canadian classic goes something like this; chips smothered in gravy and sprinkled withcheese curds. Delicious and possibly deadly.
What's cool about the Gasometer is that the menu is truly eclectic - a mix of southern, Canadian, Jewish, and New York City delights as well as a few all-American staples, so you can't really go wrong when choosing. he dilemma is that there's so much to choose from, the menu doesn't really parade its near-authentic southern fixings, collared greens and mashed potatoes. Throw in a little mac n' cheese and you have a meal unto itself, let alone the course of fried chicken and gumbo - lawd have mercy!
Drinks were delicious, and the ambiance was sleek. You'd have no idea the menu is as ambitious, albeit slightly tacky, as it is. If the hour falls upon you and your taste buds are screaming for a new experience, this joint is definitely falls plan A.
The Gem Bar & Dining - 289 Wellington Street, Collingwood
The Gem features a varied international menu, however some of their bar snacks clearly draw influence from the USA, including the buttermilk fried chicken tenderloins with chipotle mayonnaise. And in exciting news, it's almost 'Tom Waits Time' at this Collingwood local. Come the 23rd of this month, fans of the American song-writing export will gather in celebration of his body of work, over wings, meat loaf and beer, and presumably in bandanas and cowboy boots and anything else the reminds attendees they're at the best dive this side of the Yarra.
Each month the venue has taken to putting on these little extravaganzas with authentic, trashy American food to commiserate, along with the music, their longing to visit. Pictures of Elvis decorate the walls and there's a 'buck hunter's country club' style of décor in the dining room that makes you feel like that scary guy from 'No Country for Old Men' is gonna bust through the doors at any seconds. The ambiance is that authentic.