Fancy Hank’s BBQ Joint Melbourne are one of the old hands in the American barbecue scene in this city, and are the place that kick-started our ongoing obsession with this style of food. Having had regular gigs at The Beaufort and also The Princes Park Bowls Club, they have turned a weekend residency at the Mercat Cross Hotel into a permanent operation that serves up smoked meats seven days a week.
We had been keen to try out their permanent location for some time so decided to head over for some ‘cue and brews prior to testing our knowledge at a nearby trivia night.
The decor and feel adopted by most American barbecue joints in Melbourne broadly falls into two categories, a style that uses a lot of metal as an homage to the behemoths used to smoke the meat they serve up, and a more warm, wooden style that would be typical of a saloon in Texas. Upon arriving at the venue the initial feel is more of the former style, quite industrial with a focus on glass and metal, complete with a gaudy neon sign that would be a perfect fit in the American South.
Once we stepped inside and ascended the spiral staircase we found that the main area of the venue balances the industrial frontage nicely with the use of brick and wood resulting a space that creates a relaxed and inviting eating experience. For anyone who wants to simulate the experience of catching your own dinner there is also a video game that tests ones shotgun skills.
The drinks list is solid, with a nine beers on tap including Stone & Wood Pacific Ale which placed #2 in the 2014 Hottest 100 Beers list, and a bottled beer range that covers all of the major styles – we were particularly pleased to see the Love Tap double lager by Moon Dog which is a personal favourite. A decent cocktail list and a selection of wines, all reasonably priced, mean that the libation needs of everyone in the group were well met.
The menu is typical of the Texas barbecue style, with the “big four” (beef brisket, beef ribs, pulled pork and pork ribs) accompanied by beef or andouille sausage and Fancy Hank’s quarter beer can chicken, all of which can be ordered in 100 gram units. Side dishes run the full gamut of Southern staples including slaw, collard greens and mac and cheese. The atmosphere is very casual, with orders both made at and collected from the main counter where individual plates and paper towels (we recommend taking a lot!) can also be acquired.
Feeling hungry, we ordered a tray of meat consisting of beef brisket ($7.5/100g), beef short ribs ($8.50/100g) and pork ribs ($8.50/100g), along with coleslaw and corn bread. Unfortunately they were out of bread by the time we arrived and so the pulled pork and brisket sandwiches were unavailable. We were also provided with two sauces, a more traditional barbecue sauce and a coffee molasses sauce which was a bit thicker and sweeter.
Having eaten meat prepared in the Fancy Hank’s smoker on a couple of previous occasions we were expecting good things and we were not disappointed. The beef rib was the highlight, with the flavoursome meat falling easily off the bone, a good amount of char on the outside and not too much fat. The pork ribs were done in the marinated style (as opposed to a Memphis-style dry rub) were pre-cut which is always appreciated, although the individual ribs were a little inconsistent in terms of flavour and the tenderness of the meat. The brisket wasn’t the best that we have had, the crust was tasty but the meat itself was on the dry side and did not melt in the mouth as we have come to expect. The slaw, done with a light dressing and pomegranate and apple, was a good complement to the density of the meat.
After demolishing the first tray there was general consensus that we were still hungry so we decided to order a second tray with the remaining smoked meats that we had not yet tried – the andouille sausage ($9.50/100g) and the beer can chicken ($10/100g), along with a side of mac and cheese.
Normally we do not tend to go for the sausage when eating American barbecue as they are more of an Australian thing, but the sausage at Fancy Hank’s was definitely the highlight of the meal and has made us revisit our beliefs on this style of food. The flavour was amazing and the meat was juicy, combining perfectly with the coffee molasses sauce. The chicken was not bad but overall nothing to write home about, although we think this is more to do with the fact that this style of cooking does not provide all that much scope to do interesting things with chicken. The mac and cheese was disappointing, it was grainy rather than being creamy and tasted almost like it was made from an instant packet – we would recommend sticking to the other side dishes.
In the end we left Fancy Hank’s BBQ Joint very satisfied (and very full!) and will definitely be back again. The relaxed and casual space is ideal for a meal either preceded or followed by a few drinks – we also suggest partaking in the happy hour ($6 pints from 4-7pm and $10 cocktails from 9-11pm).
Fancy Hank’s BBQ Joint
456 Queen Street
Telephone: (03) 9348 9998
Email: [email protected]
Mon – Sun: 12:00pm to 3:00pm; 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Sun – Thu: 11:00am to 11:00pm
Fri – Sat: 11:00am to 1:00am