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)!

Eat here: BARRY, Melbourne (cafe)

BARRY, Northcote, Melbourne
http://barrycoffeeandfood.com/

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High Street, Northcote. Man, how it’s changed… I took dad out for dinner at Seoul Soul a few weeks ago, and he was amazed that an area that was so crappy when he was my age was now the place to be, full of quirky little hipster cafes and boutique stores, second hand bookstores and shops full of vintage tea cups and dresses. An area that you couldn’t have paid a young couple to live in 20 years ago is now completely unaffordable for said young couples. It’s one of my favourite areas of suburbia, starting up at Ruckers Hill (home of many a great food truck, like 1090 Burgers, and also home to this killer view of the city) and dropping down right to the end of High St where you’ll find Barry.

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I’ve been to BARRY a few times with my lovely best friend E, but hadn’t yet taken husband along. Thought it was time to fix that, so we took a recent weekend visit. When you go, expect a possible wait – BARRY is always busy! Don’t be put off by this – there’s a good reason for it.

They do an amazing breakfast, and the menu is full of fresh, healthy ingredients; lunch is much the same. Favourite dishes of mine include the Californian Superfood Salad (below) which I’ll most likely order again the next time I visit, because it’s amazing, and also cucumber & gin cured ocean trout. This time, I thought I’d try something a little different, dishes that weren’t quite so “health conscious”, and we ordered two dishes to share…

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Wagyu beef burger: with pickled cucumber, cheese and onion rings, plus chips and chipotle mayo ($19.00). This was surprisingly nice! It was a simple burger, soft bun, great cheese and absolutely loved the onion rings. The chips were the huge winner though – perfectly cooked, the best mayo I’ve had in a very long time; husband agreed.

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Eight hour lamb shoulder with pomegranate, mint, cumin labne, pickled onions and cauliflower rice ($18.00). The lamb was phenomenal – so tender it fell apart at the fork, the mint and pomegranate were perfect, and I loved the cumin labne! The cauliflower rice was a bit meh, but the rest of it was amazing.

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BARRY also makes a killer coffee, according to those in the know, as well as stocking a beautiful selection of cakes by the counter. It’s a big place, but always packed out, and the staff work like machines to ensure everyone is happily fed and caffeinated. It’s also consistent – I’ve eaten here numerous times, and the standard has never dropped, which I think is a big reason for BARRY’s continued popularity. Make sure you stop by for a damn good breakfast/brunch/lunch – it’s always delicious at BARRY!

Barry on Urbanspoon

 

Eat here: 1090 Burger, Melbourne (food truck)

1090 Burger (food truck)
https://www.facebook.com/1090BURGER

Hamburgers have always been my favourite food, and much to my utter and complete joy, the burger phenomenon that began to take Melbourne by storm a couple of years ago is still going strong. My general allegiance has always been pledged to Beatbox as my all-time, all round favourite basic burger, and the double smash from Rockwell & Sons would have to take out my favourite “dirty” burger (read: dripping with melty cheese and grease and sauce and everything I love. Dirty is NOT a bad word here!). I didn’t ever think I’d find a hybrid so perfect. 1090 Burger, where on earth did you come from, and where have you been all my life?!

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This little gem of a food truck is a regular in my northern ‘burbs (thank the burger gods), and compared to a lot of it’s competitors, it really doesn’t stand out at first glance. It’s a plain, unadorned truck, that might be mistaken for any other parked truck in the area, were it not for the crowd of people on the lawn beside it with picnic mats, beers, dogs and burgers. Like all good food trucks, the menu was small but impressive – I always like to try the signature on my first trip to any burger place, so I went with the 1090 Burger ($8.00) which was made up of bun + patty + cheese + lettuce + tomato + onion + mustard + mayo + ketchup + fairy dust. At the last minute, I noticed bacon on the menu for an extra dollar. My hands were tied. Give me bacon, too.

The burgers came wrapped in plain white paper, in a simple brown paper bag stamped with the 1090 logo. I loved that; simple is good. I carefully unwrapped my little gold nugget, and it was up there with the absolute best looking, most picture perfect burgers I’ve ever seen. It was burger porn.

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With beautiful looking burgers come high expectations, and I’ve lost count of the amount of pretty burgers I’ve eaten that have tasted like crap, so I tried not to get my hopes up. Totally unnecessarily so. This was the burger of my dreams. It was all the best parts of my favourite burgers combined. The holy trinity of mustard, mayo and ketchup was perfectly proportioned, and didn’t lead to soggy buns (thankfully, because the burger bun was perfectly soft with just enough crispness to hold it together). Flavour of the beef was just about perfect, cheese was melted magnificently and the bacon was crisp and so very good. Just the right amount of lettuce and tomato, and I know it seems like a random point, but best onion I’ve had in any burger. I don’t know what it was or where it came from, I just know it was several types of delicious.

Honestly, there really isn’t much else to be said. I think 1090 Burger just soared to the top of my list. To be certain, I plan to chase down the truck again next week, and possibly the week after. Quality control, you know.. Also, they often park up at Ruckers Hill in Northcote, and I mean, how much better a view can you ask for?! Anyway, believe the hype, this burger is beyond amazing, my new fave, and if you’re not already on social media trying to find it for dinner over the next few nights, then you need to have yourself examined.

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1090 Burger on Urbanspoon

Shop here: Terra Madre, Melbourne (health foods)

Terra Madre (health food store)
103 High St, Northcote, Melbourne
http://home.terramadre.com.au/wordpress/

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I’m lucky enough to have this little piece of heaven not too far a drive from my house, which makes me a very happy camper. Terra Madre is one of the most crazy busy stores I’ve ever been to, and they were selling all things organic, special diet friendly, vegan, natural and eco-friendly way before it all became hipster and cool.

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It’s the most gorgeous little place; actually, no, it’s not little at all. It’s just packed so full of merchandise and buyers, that it feels smaller than it is! They have an amazing range on sale (I’m coming to that…) but what most people don’t realise is that they also run a clinic from the store! They have practitioners that you can book appointments with who cover the whole spectrum of health and wellness, including:
– Herbal medicine
– Naturopathy
– Homoeopathy
– Kinesiology
– Massage therapists
– Reiki

Prices, practitioner profiles and appointment information can all be found on their website!

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Back to the store itself… the old wooden floorboards creak under the feet of the high levels of human traffic, and every nook and cranny is filled with so much goodness. Some of the things you can find are…
– an enormous range of gluten free flours
– organic, locally grown fruit and vegetables
– eco-friendly cleaning ranges- free range, organic and biodynamic meats
– chemical free skincare and beauty products
– dairy products that range from full-cream to lactose free to unhomogenised and everything in between
– supplements and superfoods
– dried fruits and nuts, raw, toasted and activated
– soooo much more I can’t even start to list them!

My personal favourite, however, is the tea section. I love tea. You guys should all know this before. If you don’t, type “TEA” into the search box to your right, and you’ll see what I mean! Anyway, the tea section. It’s amazing. It has everything. EVERYTHING! It is also one of the only places I know that sells one of my favourite teas, the delicious stuff from the English Tea Shop. And it’s super cheap here!

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It’s one of my favourite places to shop in the suburbs; if you find yourself in the area, maybe after a delicious breakfast or brunch at the Red Door Corner Store or the Breakfast Club, do yourself a favour and stop in for a box of tea, a bag of cocoa nibs and some fancy, delicious breakfast muesli!

Eat here: Gypsy Hideout, Melbourne (cafe)

Gypsy Hideout, Northcote, Melbourne
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gypsy-Hideout/

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For those of you playing along at home, husband and I took a lovely 10km walk last weekend, which was punctuated with photo stops (the results of which you can see here!), which ended at Gypsy Hideout for lunch.

There’s no way to put this diplomatically – Northcote has been overrun by hipsters. And I couldn’t be happier. An insane amount of cute little cafes have opened up on High Street, which are primarily inhabited by bearded men who button their shirts all the way up and bespectacled women writing in notebooks, vintage jars filled with water sitting on the school-desk like tables. I’m really happy about the hipster revolution, because you can be whoever and whatever you want to no judgement. Nerd has become cool again; ironic, because I was picked on for being a nerd soooo much in my younger years. Apparently that’s kinda cool now. Anyway, back to the hipster food.

Not a bad menu in this place – they seem to cater mostly to your coffee addicts and breakfast/brunch crowd. The lunch menu looked pretty delicious too – lots of sandwich type options, with the opportunity to go gluten free or vegetarian, naturally.

20140615-164849-60529316.jpgHusband went with the club sandwich, and I went with the BRAT, below (bacon, rocket, avocado and tomato with kewpie mayo on a brioche bun).

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It was really good, actually. The insides were delicious and plentiful (unfortunately that meant a lot of it kept sliding out!), and the brioche was magnificent – it’s a rare and spectacular bun that doesn’t go soggy under the weight of all that it held. It was a really good sandwich, but at $16.00 I felt it was very overpriced for something I could have probably prepared myself at home for a lot less money. Husband’s club sandwich was basically the same, with the addition of fairly bland and dry grilled chicken. He was pretty disappointed.

I think this place would do a great breakfast and wouldn’t mind going back for some smashed avo on toast (it looked really good!), and the coffee selection looks phenomenal (I’m not a coffee drinker so I can’t judge personally), so I’d say it’d be worth going back for that, but I don’t think I’d go back for lunch in a hurry at those prices!

 

Gypsy Hideout on Urbanspoon

Through my eyes: perfect old buildings of High St, Preston/Northcote

I’ve been sick with the flu for a week and a half. Second case of the flu in a month. It’s kicking my ass. I’ve also not really exercised in this time. This is ridiculous for the girl who usually works out 6 – 7 days a week, including an hour before work every morning at 5.45am. In my defense, I was also a personal trainer for 8 years, a martial artist for around 15 years, and once you get into those habits, its hard to get out of them!

Husband and I usually go for a pretty long walk (around 12km on average) most Sundays to and from a breakfast or brunch spot. Last weekend was the first time in over a week I’d had the energy to actually do anything, and also the first time it hasn’t really been raining in a while, so we decided to head out for a walk and a feed. That review is coming up soon.

In the mean time, I quite enjoyed my time being let lose for a 10km walk in the fresh air, and noticed for the first time that there are some really beautiful old buildings along High Street, spanning the Preston and Northcote suburbs. A lot of them now have shiny new signage for new businesses that have popped up, but there are still hints of the good old days to be seen. More still have that retro, vintage, gorgeously run down and dilapidated look to them. They’re all little bits of history, though. Here are some snaps I took and played around with on the VSCOcam last weekend…

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