Melbourne’s north side food truck parks: The Food Truck Park Preston -VS- Welcome To Thornbury

These things are popping up like… actually I can’t think of a clean, PG rated, appropriate analogy here. Suffice to say that seven years after Roy Choi and his little Korean taco truck, Kogi, started the food truck craze half way around the world, it is still well and truly going strong in Melbourne, which has fast established it’s reputation as one of the great hipster meccas of the world. And with hipsters comes good food. Sometimes pretentious crap, sure, but for the most part it’s pretty bloody good.

Before the food truck/street food thing caught fire, it was the fancy restaurants that drew the foodie crowds. The Mamasitas and Chin Chins and Fondas, which charged big money for intricate, well thought out, delicious, albeit little dishes, and played off the 2 hour wait for a table as a badge of honour. Those days are just about over, though, with the crowds no longer wanting to wait ages for tiny, elegant dishes; the tide is really turning to the out-of-a-truck street food thing. And ironically (because we all know that the basis of the hipster movement is to do “ironic things ironically” – thank you Anthony Bourdain for the clarification), the lines for this stuff (formerly pleb food) are now epic, too! The great paradox, for me, is that a lot of these people (I’m now referring to the yuppies, not the hipsters) waiting in line for their $12 “Vietnamese sandwich” whilst necking their craft beer probably wouldn’t even think about touching a $1 banh mi made with sans rubber gloves and tongs, and served off the back of a motorbike on the streets of Hanoi… but, I digress.

All of my cynicism aside, with the often excessive amount of rules and restrictions put in place by the local councils (because let’s be honest guys; they’re more about making money than keeping us safe from food poisoning!), this is as close as we’re ever going to get to a “street food culture” in Melbourne, so I’ll take it! Also, the fresh, clean astro-turf and gorgeous, modern touches like the wooden benches and seats are a little nicer than sitting on a plastic crate in a dirty gutter next to rapidly passing traffic. And I absolutely love the idea of a food truck park – it’s so nice and convenient to have it all in the one place!

We’ve been living in the heart of the Northern suburbs for just on two years now (WHAT?! TWO YEARS ALREADY?!?! Wow…), and our timing couldn’t have been better because it is well and truly becoming Melbourne’s suburban food and culture centre. Case in point – one of the main streets within walking distance to our house boasts a Japanese convenience store, a few Indian restaurants, a Halal butcher, a Lebanese bakery, a new-style hipster cafe, an Italian deli, and a good old fashioned Aussie fish and chip shop. All within no more than a kilometre of each other. So when not one, but two food truck parks opened only 3.5km away from each other, and both within a stone’s throw of our place, we were a bit excited!

 

First up in the red corner, we’ve got:
The Food Truck Park
518 High St, Preston
http://www.thefoodtruckpark.com.au/
https://www.facebook.com/thefoodtruckpark

Operated by: The Australian Mobile Food Vendors Group.
These guys are also the team behind the Coburg Drive-In Food Truck Festivals and the Richmond Food Truck Park, as well as numerous pop ups.

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday
12:00 – 2:30pm lunch session
5:30 – 9:30pm dinner session

Great to visit at:
Dinner time – it’s beautifully lit up at night, and big enough that the crowds aren’t too big a problem if you get there not long after opening time.

Vibe: Relaxed, comfortable, like hanging out in a good mate’s backyard with people sitting on the floor when table space runs out, kids running around having a good time. Very chilled out and welcoming.

Food on offer:
Ever changing rotation which you can check on their Facebook page, but some of the trucks that have made an appearance over the last few weeks include:
– Dos Diablos
– Smokin’ Barry’s BBQ
– The Dude Food Man
– Happy Camper Pizza
– Greek Street Food
– The Brulee Cart
– Nuoc Mama
Billy Van Creamy & Manny’s Donut Café, who joined powers to help me create this monster when I visited on opening weekend (a fresh, warm donutella from Manny’s with some of Billy’s peanut butter gelato… and also some of their salted caramel gelato. Because ¿por qué no los dos?)

The Food Truck Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Billy Van Creamy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Next up, in the blue corner:
Welcome To Thornbury
520 High St, Northcote
http://welcometothornbury.com/

Operated by: Maleik Edwards and the team behind Melbourne favourites like Mr Burger, Homeslice and Fancy Hanks.

Opening hours:
Monday – Thursday from 5pm – 9pm
Friday – Sunday from 12pm – 10pm

Great to visit at:
Mid week dinner or a sunny weekend lunch session – but arrive right on opening time because this place gets PACKED! Unless you’re arriving mid afternoon and waiting it out until dinner time, chances of getting a seat for an evening feed are not great.

Vibe: The fancier, trendier sibling of Preston’s park – younger, well dressed crowd, table or nothing (floor sitting didn’t seem to acceptable), fewer children and the ones that were there were sitting quietly at the tables. All very shiny, new and modern, little details all well thought out and beautifully presented. More similar to the friend’s house that you feel obliged to take your shoes off before entering.

Food on offer:
Again, rotating roster available on their website, including
– Mr Burger (duh)
– Mamma Van
– Dos Diablos
– Dude Food Man
– White Guy Cooks Thai
– Greek Street Food
– Gorilla Grill
– Ghost Kitchen, who make THE MOST MAGNIFICENT popcorn chicken you’ve even had the pleasure of stuffing your face with:

Ghost Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

And don’t miss the area on your way in, where Doughboys are hidden away. Because if you miss out on their doughy magic (like the Peanut Buster), your visit was close to pointless.

Doughboys Doughnuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Welcome to Thornbury Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
So, who wins the food truck park war of the Northern suburbs? YOU DO! They’re both fantastic, both very different atmospheres, and both with a lot of the same trucks rotating through. They’re both going to be popular fixtures as Melbourne starts warming up with a group of mates and a few plates of delicious food to share – and now that we’re officially a month into spring and weather is starting to get it’s act together, that’s your weekend sorted, my friends!

On that note, I’ve got a crazy busy work day ahead, after which I’m gonna load my bags into the car, and enjoy a bit of a long weekend mini road trip with the guy I’m celebrating a 5 year wedding anniversary with this weekend 🙂 See you guys back in a few days (possibly for a post-Grand Final day food truck park chill out session)!

Through my eyes: Santa Monica & Venice Beach, LA

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One of the best things that’s come from starting this blog is that I’ve “met” some awesome and inspiring people. I got super excited to read that one of those kindred souls was packing up her life and flying off to LA to start an adventure around the world, and for the past few weeks I’ve been jealously and vicariously following Bec’s adventures on her site My Bloggable Day, while lamenting to my husband that “this girl just packed up and left with her boyfriend, why can’t we just do that?!” Anyway, she had some killer shots on both her Instagram account and her blog of her time in Santa Monica, which reminded me of my time there 6 months ago…

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Sunny Santa Monica. Even in winter. It’s a really beautiful spot, particularly when you’ve had enough of the Hollywood scene and you just want to get out and relax a little. There are still a few of the beautiful people walking and jogging and doing push ups in the park areas, but for the most part, it’s just a beautiful stretch of pier and sand 🙂

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And then, there was Venice Beach. It was like Santa Monica’s cooler, more hipster cousin. I really liked it there, it was like Fitzroy had moved to St Kilda Beach…

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It was probably my favourite area in Los Angeles that we visited, and the first place in the city I’d go back to if I were to return; great food options (like the most delicious peanut butter breakfast I had at Another Kind of Sunrise), heaps of street art, book shops, artists selling their wares along the beach strip, and Abbot Kinney Blvd.

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And the street ballers. Having grown up around basketball courts, there’s something that feels so good about hanging out by the courts in the sunshine, hearing the ball pound against the pavement, the water and street musicians providing the perfect soundtrack for a perfect morning on the other side of the globe…

Eat here: Addict Food & Coffee, Melbourne 

Addict Food & Coffee 240 – 242 Johnston St, Fitzroy, Melbourne https://www.facebook.com/addictmelbourne IMG_7536 I realise this next statement may make me sound like yet another Melbourne hipster, but quite frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. I love a good weekend brunch. Particularly in the Fitzroy/Collingwood region. Yup. Hipster. In my defense, they’ve been my favourite suburbs for a long time now, since I went to uni in the area, years before the hipster revolution. Now I sound like an old hipster. Crap. So, Addict is one of the newer kids on the block, having been around for about a year now. The fact that it’s taken me this long to get there because every time I’ve been past it’s been absolutely jam packed with a line out the front speaks quite highly of it already! Last weekend, we decided to roll out of bed on Sunday morning and head straight on over, hoping that our naturally early rising body clocks would beat the hipsters; we were right 😉 IMG_7529This may be the first coffee shot on my blog – see, I’m not a stereotypical hipster, I hate coffee! My husband used to as well, but he’s converted. Sell out. He said it was really good though, so if you’re a coffee person like 98.97% of other Melbournians, this is a good option. I’m a nanna, so I got a pot of tea. Which I thoroughly enjoyed. But we weren’t there for drinks, we were there for food. And food we ate; there were too many amazing options, so we decided to combine them all with the breakfast board! Clockwise from top right, you’ve got – Potato hash nuggets – Grilled cheese kransky – Cured ocean trout – Perfectly poached eggs – Toast with relish – Even more perfect french toast with berries and mascarpone and berry coulis IMG_7533 This may be one of the best breaky spreads going around. Honestly. There wasn’t a single thing on this board that I didn’t like. Picking a favourite is pretty much impossible too. Actually, it is. I loved everything on there. And surprisingly good value at $32.00 for the words. It would comfortably fill up two normal people. But we’re pigs, and I wanted to try the coconut chia pudding with mango puree and strawberries. So we got that too. IMG_7535 Outstanding chia pudding, the coconut cream was smooth and properly creamy, the mango puree was great, made even better by the little chunks of peach hidden within it. And the puffed buckwheat was the crunchy icing on the chia pudding cake. I know everyone is doing a variation of this, but Addict’s was totally on point. And perfectly sized, too – not impossibly big, not tiny. And the other thing that makes or breaks a place, in my opinion; the service. Absolutely top notch, even with the long weekend craziness. We were well and truly looked after, even my request for a cinnamon-less serving of French toast was fine, and as an even more pleasant surprise, it was not only service with a smile, but service with personality and fun! Some people might not care, they’re just there for breaky, but first thing on a Sunday morning, it makes the world of difference to be served by someone who looks like they’re having a good time, and not pissed off to be helping you! I’m kinda pissed off with myself, though, for having been so put off by the crowds now. I wish I’d visited a year ago when they first opened. I wish I’d been visiting regularly. The weekend is coming up again, which means the hipsters are starting to plan their weekend brunches. Put this place on your list, hipster or not. That said, if brunching with delicious food makes me hipster, pass me the super tight jeans and ironic accessories, and meet me at Addict!

Addict Food and Coffee on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Four & Twenty Blackbirds, Brooklyn NYC, USA (pie & coffee)

Four & Twenty Blackbirds
439 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, New York
http://birdsblack.com

While I was looking at things to do in Brooklyn for this trip, Four & Twenty Blackbirds popped up a few times on websites, blogs and what not. Their instagram is full of gorgeous pictures of amazing pies, with some pretty cool and crazy flavours; among today’s options were sweet potato & apple, and cranberry & sage.

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I chose a slice of black bottom oat pie (all slices USD$5.50 each, whole pies also available) which was pretty darn perfect. Golden, crisp, flaky crust, baked to perfection, with a chocolate cake/brownie-type bottom and the most incredible baked oat filling.. It was sweet and a little buttery, crunchy sugary oats on top, it was sooo good!!

Also grabbed an earl grey tea for me and a latte for husband – USD$12.00 all up for the lot, which was pretty reasonable for such a big piece of pie in such a lovely little hipster establishment! I’m also finding that a good cup of tea is next to impossible to find in this country, so I’m happy to pay a little more for tea that tastes like tea and not like sugary milk. Apparently the coffee was very good, too. More than worth the trip out there, perfect spot for afternoon tea after a long day on your feet!

Four & Twenty Blackbirds on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Cafe Zen Den, Melbourne (cafe)

Cafe Zen Den, Eltham, Melbourne
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cafe-zen-den/524769457609595

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TGIF people!! I’m coming up to my one year anniversary of working a job in the “real” world; as in, Monday to Friday, 9 – 5 type stuff. I spent the first 10 years of my working life in jobs that required early morning starts (5.30am), late night finishes (10.30pm), split shifts and weekends. Every damn week. Last year after a, well let’s call it what it was, a break down, I finally came to a compromise: instead of killing myself working in jobs that I did actually enjoy, but had crappy wages based largely off commission and therefore varied week to week (shit when you have a mortgage and HECS debt to pay off!), rotten hours that meant I was usually working while my husband and friends were not, and serious stress, I decided to take a job that was a bit more boring and not in an area of my passions for a much better pay, WAY less stress and great standard hours which then allowed me to follow my passions (like cooking and writing) in my spare time, as well as being able to save enough money for travel while still being able to pay the bills! Pretty good compromise, I think!

Anyway, the best part about this, is that I GET WEEKENDS NOW!!!!!!! A full 2 days off, EVERY WEEK!!! I’ve NEVER had this before – I’ve worked weekends from the time I started working as a casual in my teens until last year as a 27 year old – insane! I’m also now learning to slow down and enjoy life, now that I don’t have to try to fit all my weekend activities into one morning or afternoon off like I used to. One of my favourite weekend activities now is catching up with a friend for lunch – last weekend it was a long walk around Eltham’s park lands with Sibba and lunch at Cafe Zen Den! We chose it because it’s a favourite place for her, I’d never been, but had heard great things. We also both like to keep active, so we thought catching up over a pre-lunch walk would be nice too, and Eltham is the perfect place being half way between our houses.

Sibba went with the tofu macro bowl ($11.00) – a delicious bowl of goodness – tofu, chickpeas, brown rice, veggies, and the most magnificently flavoured soy infused tahini. It was really good, and incredible value for money; it’s a deceptively large bowl!

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Personally, I’m a big fan of breakfast for lunch, and I’d been feeling a bit off and felt like something pretty simple, so I went with the poached eggs on sourdough with avocado and bacon ($15.00). The toast was pretty small, but other than that, I couldn’t complain! A surprisingly generous serving of avocado and bacon, perfectly poached eggs, happy days! I know bacon and eggs is pretty simple, but it really makes a difference when the ingredients are fresh – you can taste the difference, and that’s what made my lunch delicious.

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The cafe itself was fantastic – really cute little set up, gorgeous art work on the walls (all for sale too, if the wallet can stretch!), beautiful wooden tables and mismatched chairs. It did have the other hallmarks of a hipster establishment too, like the incredible looking smoothies served in mason jars, raw/vegan desserts in the window, and the communal cutlery-and-napkin-in-a-wooden-box set up. But, unlike a lot of hipster establishments, it didn’t have the attitude. It was warm and cosy, the service was friendly and welcoming; there was no elitist, too-cool vibes, which made it pretty great in my books.

The other thing that I absolutely LOVED was the fact that they serve a doggy’s breakfast – for only $3.50, your special furry friend can have their own bacon and sausage breakfast, too! I can’t wait to head back now with Marley, take him for a nice walk along the river, and treat him to some breaky while we eat ours 🙂 too cute! If you’re looking for a brunch spot this weekend, make your way on over to Cafe Zen Den – and if you have another favourite place to brunch, either in Melbourne or interstate or overseas, please let me know – I’m always looking for new places to try, both at home and on my travels!

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Cafe Zen Den on Urbanspoon

Eat here: The Breakfast Club, Melbourne. Again.

The Breakfast Club, Northcote, Melbourne
https://www.facebook.com/thebreakfastclubcafe

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So, as you might surmise given that I’ve written about this place before, I really love The Breakfast Club. We try to get here at least once a fortnight, walking the 6km from our house to eat breaky there, and then the 6km back home to digest. This particular weekend gave us a pretty nice day, so the stroll down St George’s Rd (long as it was) was really very pleasant!

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It’s getting to be a popular little place, particularly with the northern suburb hipsters, and it’s easy to see why. It’s cosy and cute, with kitschy little mismatched salt and pepper shakers on the tables, a gorgeously decorated bathroom, and tattooed, thrift shop-clad staff (this isn’t an insult, by the way – I love their tattoos and am inked up myself, and they’re always so lovely and smiley and friendly, even first thing on a Sunday morning!).  They do have a gorgeous little café area inside, but we have our “regular” spot out the side-way that we prefer. It’s quieter, more private, and nice to be sitting in the fresh air.

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We’re usually pretty boring and order the same thing every time, but my last post was the day we decided to try something different. This weekend past, we went back to our regular order, and as usual, it was perfect.

Poached eggs with avocado on wholegrain toast for me – the toast is amazing, they use good quality avocado and are never stingy with it, and my eggs are always poached to perfection.

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Husband’s usual is the potato croquettes with bacon, avocado, chipotle mayo and poached eggs. Always delicious – can’t really go wrong with fried potato and bacon, can you?

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And because we’re dorks and we can, breakfast usually ends with a pot of tea and cake of some sort. It was brownie this time – it was the size and weight of a small house brick, but we figured it was ok because we had a 6km walk home ahead of us. It was thick and gooey and all sorts of marvellous. Also, the teapots come out wearing cosies, which scores extra points, because I’m a huge dork. Or maybe I’m turning into a hipster. Hmmm…

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With that, we paid the bill (again, around $40.00 for the works), and started the long walk home. So, why go there? Great food, relaxed weekend breakfast atmosphere, lovely staff, and it’s not in any of the big inner suburbs, which means its not packed with pretentious hipsters, just friendly neighbourhood ones! See you next weekend guys, thanks for another top notch breakfast!

 

The Breakfast Club on Urbanspoon