The Outdoor MEAT-ATHON: Texas style smoked ribs to Yarraville’s Food Trucks
WARNING: the meaty images contained in this post may cause uncontrollable bouts of screen licking.
In the tradition of my last hunt for Melbourne’s best charcoal chicken, I decided to do the same for lamb ribs and well, my love for all kinds of fat drippin’ meat in general. You know how I do. The criteria for this post was simple foolz: ‘MUUURRRT I chowed down whilst soaking in the sun!’
Some cool joints I wanna highlight in time for our long awaited warmer months are Melbourne’s newest kids on the block being Jardin Tan and Bluebonnet BBQ as well as trusted haunts from the hidden Little Berties (Berties Butcher) to Yarraville’s Food Trucks where they all have one thing in common – alfresco dining areas take center stage plus charred meat of course.
Have you seen the awesome foodie film Chef? Not to spoil the movie or anything, but there’s a scene where the main character and his son make a trip to Austin eventually joining the long queue for ribs and brisket from the famous Franklin Barbeque. I’ve never looked at ribs the same way again. The way the film showcased the passion the ‘pitmasters‘ in Texas had for their art of smoking meat and then the cutting into the meat fresh from the smoker sent me into a tailspin to find something similar in Melbourne. As you may have guessed, there isn’t a plethora of places that do it like they do in Texas but thankfully, Bluebonnet BBQ literally does. Owner, Chris Terlikar, inspired by his time spent in the US learning from the best pit bosses in Texas, wanted to recreate that experience back home and for that, we are eternally grateful for!
Using iron bark, meats enter the smoker (made out of a nightclub smoke machine from Crown Casino!) and are slow cooked to their tender form. Cooking time and temperature is key.
The beef brisket (Ranger’s Valley Black Angus), although trimmed down still presented a good layer of fat and was rendered so perfectly. The blackened crust and the red smoke ring underneath was a sight to see and tasted as good as it looked. As expected, it soaked up all the smoke and was juicy throughout. It certainly didn’t need any of their BBQ sauce. Normally I’d take ribs over beef brisket any day but in this instance, brisket was king.
Tucking into the lamb ribs was an experience in itself, almost ritual like as I made my way through the incredible lamb crackling and then ripping into the juicy meat that all just literally slid off the bone after the first tear. Seasoned well, meat never tasted so good.
And in ma mouth…
With all this protein, perhaps some green sides other than cornbread would have been handy to break things up (the other table’s Brussel sprouts prompted some food envy) but not to fret, there was always dessert. Salted caramel and doughnuts is the ultimate combo in my books. With a fully stocked stomach, I had the best sleep that night. BEST.
Yarraville Food Trucks – Hammer & Tong + Gorilla Grill
When food trucks initially popped up in my hood Yarraville, they were parked on Hyde Street and didn’t really take off. Firstly, they were a out of view from most dog walkers and secondly, for most of us lazy folk, they were too far from the main area. When they were eventually permitted to line themselves on the other side where the Farmers Markets are usually held, everything changed. Even in the colder months, people started queuing up but during summer, HOMEBOY, it turns into a mini festival full of all kinds of folk and every possible dog breed. I’m out at Yarraville Gardens most nights post November.
I’m immediately drawn to all the food trucks grilling meat, so Gorilla Grill is always on the cards. Positioned as ‘American kitchen meets the streets of Asia”, this food truck pumps out all kinds of charred goodness from ribs, pork belly and even fried chicken.
Think Asian style marinated meats paired with a side of slaw and a cob of corn. My ultimate fav on the menu is their Korean pork belly with the ribs coming close. There’s something nostalgic about the way their dishes tastes. I guess it reminds me of our family backyard barbecues where mum would cook up a selection of meats with the majority being pork of course, using a marinade of sweet soy, garlic, lemon, honey, pepper and her secret ingredient resulting in crispy yet marshmallowly fatty edges cooked over burning charcoal served with a side of atchara (my recipe here) aka pickled green papaya.
Another worthy mention is Hammer & Tong. I’ve eaten at their cafe a few times and was hella intrigued when they chose to go down the food truck route. A guy walked passed me carrying with him some food gold aka lamb ribs and I didn’t hesitate to ask him where the heck he got those from and when the words “Hammer & Tong” blurted outta his mouth, I ran. I ran like a pit-bull was on my ass and ordered fast. I needed those ribs. I couldn’t handle the wait. Unlike my Cola Lamb Ribs recipe, these are slow cooked for 12 hours, their lamb ribs are the kind of ribs that are THAT good, you wish you could eat the bone. The meat came off the bone without falling off, which was great as I got to gnaw on the bone a little longer for last meat pickings. The balance between sweet and a lingering spicy note from the sichuan pepper was on point and on that note, I immediately got seconds because unfortunately, I had to share. Geeze!
Get down to Yarraville Gardens to soak up the sun, good vibes and the fatty food. Oh and bring YO dog!
Recently opened, Jardin Tan was on my hit-list soon after it launched. I’m an unmotivated jogger, turned powerwalker (yes, people still do that!) and occasionally, I make my way through a portion of The Tan on my lunch breaks. After such a mammoth task (yes, to me it is), a heavy meal would usually follow of course.
One thing that immediately stands out at Jardin Tan is the incredible design. From what the space used be previously, it has done a 360. Its fresh open spaces merging both indoor and outdoor dining areas flushing in cool breezes from its minimalist garden that surrounds the deck. But apart from the design, you gotta check out all the sweet treats on display. At the time of my first visit, they were all being curated by the friendly chap Shannon Bennet, who personally ensured all desserts were all ‘eye feast ready’. Tempted by the thought of escargot, I asked that it be warmed up so I could make full use of my butter.
Pho with rare wagyu beef was in order and to my surprise, the broth was poured at the table. It came with a crusty roll which I also happily slathered with butter and dipped into the hot broth.
The game changed when a red basket of dem Flinders Island lamb ribs came to the table. For reals, I dropped errthang, even my experimental almond milk I randomly laced with panela sugar, pulled my sleeves up and dived in. Sticky, slightly spicy, sweet and smokey, lamb ribs never tasted so good. Make sure you keep dipping at that sauce – addictive! Next time, I’m only ordering this and a bowl of steamed rice so my life can be complete again.
Little Berties (rear of Berties Butcher)
Typical Melbourne where all the really great eateries are either hidden in a laneway or lack any form of signage! I work right near Berties Butcher and having gone there for years, I had no freakin idea there was my soon to be fav lunch spot right out the back. You have to cut through the car park facing East Richmond train station to get into Little Berties. Ripe for the summer months, Berties Butcher leveraged off the popularity of their fine meats by installing a smoker at the rear and decked it out primarily, with outdoor cafe style seating. I along with my workmates have been happy campers ever since.
On the chalkboard are the changing daily menu items. Ordering is simple – choose one or more meats of the day (pulled pork, beef rib, brisket etc.. all prepared whilst you and I are sound asleep) and one of their tasty sides from slaw, a super food salad to roasted veg. They also do brekkie! Today I went with pulled pork where I built a sandwich with the brioche roll that came with the dish. I may or may not have stuffed it too much deeming it total a photo fail.
Driving around Melbourne in search of the best ribs and charred meats alike was the perfect way to start Spring. Onto the next meat-athon!
Carrot. I get a carrot?!!
Bluebonnet BBQ 187 Johnston St Collingwood, VIC 3066 Phone: 03 9972 1815
Yarraville Food Trucks – Hammer & Tong, Gorilla Grill Corner Somerville Road/ Hyde Street Yarraville, Victoria, Australia 3013 Follow Hammer & Tong on twitter and Gorilla Grill on Facebook for availabilities as they may vary night to night
Jardin Tan Royal Botanic Gardens/Birdwood Ave South Yarra, Victoria Phone: 03 90212111
Little Berties 218 Swan St, Richmond VIC 3121 Phone:(03) 9428 2655