Is Melbourne done with its love of American eateries?

Is Melbourne done with its love of American eateries?

Burger and Chips
Words by Bianca O'Neill

It seems we’re falling out of love with US fare.

There was a time in Melbourne when burger joints and American BBQ restaurants ruled. In response to the rise of the healthy eating movement, which delivered egg white omelettes and acai bowls aplenty, Melburnians seemed to dig their heels in a few years ago and say, “nope – we’re meat people”.

Casual eateries like Fancy Hanks and Rockwell and Sons were seen as quintessentially ‘Melbourne’, delivering US-style fare with huge cult followings. Flash forward to 2019 and Rockwell and Sons has closed, while Fancy Hanks is reworking its menu, moving away from traditional American BBQ flavours.

When Rockwell and Sons announced its closure, its cited waning enthusiasm for its current menu, despite plenty of customers still flocking to the restaurant.

“It wasn’t a financial decision,” co-owner Casey Wall told Good Food Guide. “It’s run its course… it’s not how I want to eat anymore.”

Similarly, Fancy Hanks has fallen out of love with US fare. Last month I attended a relaunch of its menu – previously an icon of American BBQ in Melbourne – and was surprised to find a huge range of inspiration across countries like Greece and the Middle East.

Fancy Hanks still calls itself a ‘BBQ restaurant’, of course, but this time around the mac n’ cheese has been replaced by dishes like lamb ribs with pomegranate, burnt eggplant and za’atar, or grilled octopus with an unusual ‘nduja vinaigrette and rouille.

Speaking with one of the owners on the night, he too expressed that he believed diners wanted more than your standard BBQ basics – and was excited about the new direction for their menu.

Perhaps Melbourne tastes are changing – or perhaps their palettes are looking for something more complicated than brisket and BBQ sauce. But either way, I’m excited for what’s to come.

Follow Bianca’s food journey at @yummelbourne.