Forget everything you thought you knew about Frankston dining. This is Humdinger Bar, a classic Melbourne hidden gem that eschews stereotype, and has brought a slice of Fitzroy to our city's south-eastern fringe.
Owners Marcus Ward (of Double Happiness fame) and Simon Burriss birthed Frankston's Humdinger out of a desire to show people it is in fact possible to enjoy good food, good alcohol and good times without having to head into the city. Having opened last October without much ado, Humdinger has slowly but surely managed to do just that, with Business Manager David Renouf explaining that so far, "everyone's reaction has just been, 'wow'."
Humdinger occupies the space that used to be the local's tavern Shakespeare's, and has been reinvented by Figure Ground Architecture – whose recent conquests include Meatmother in Richmond and Pope Joan in Brunswick East – into something stylish and welcoming. When you walk in, you're greeted by a room that looks to be somewhere between a diner and grandma's kitchen, with an eclectic mix of landscape paintings, classic sports memorabilia and an old school hookey board decking out the walls.
While you may be tempted to label Humdinger an American style diner – a predilection encouraged by the small plastic baskets in which the food is served, the array of 'sticky' menu items, and the healthy selection of American stubbies adorning the fridges – it is more accurate to describe Humdinger as a 'dude food pub'. This concept of dude food is rather in vogue at the moment, with sliders, snags and spuds popping up on many-a menu across the city (not to mention the ever enduring popularity of the humble burger in Melbourne culture), and Humdinger has hit a home run with their offerings.
First off, we tried the Sichuan Spiced Calamari with 'minty dippage'. This bar snack was made batter free – the way all calamari should be – and cooked to perfection; not rubbery, not stringy, but just right. Next came the BBQ Pork Belly Sliders, slow cooked with some 'greenies' and crackling. The sliders came three to a plate, a serving size that should have more than enough, but so incredible were they that I could have happily devoured another plate or two. That is, if we hadn't also ordered the Texan Chilli Dog.
Boasting a Gamekeepers' chilli and pork snag with a chilli beef con carne topping and hot sauce and served with shoestring fries, this is a monster of a meal. However, once we decided on a course of action to tackle the beast, there was no slowing down, with the flavours and spices of the meat combining perfectly with the classic toppings of cheese, mustard and tomato sauce. One tip: Humdinger is a hands-on dining experience people, so, with the exception of the salads, it's best to do away with cutlery all together.
Once you've worked your way through the food menu (which also boasts a range of burgers, ribs, wings, and a food-envy-inducing slow cooked pulled lamb shoulder sandwich), there's also a very impressive drinks menu to satisfy even the pickiest of drinkers' thirst. The 'stubbie' selection includes American beauties such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Founders Porter and Brookvale Union Alcoholic Ginger Beer, as well as old local faithfuls Victoria Bitter and Melbourne Bitter, appearing in tinnie form.
There are also a decent collection of quality wines on offer at Humdinger, and an extensive spirit list featuring a range of rums, vodkas, gins and tequilas, as well as an entire section devoted to whiskeys hailing from Scotland, Australia, Japan, America, Ireland and Canada. The cocktail list is currently being perfected, but if you have a hankering for something in particular, don't be shy to ask the bartenders – they're not just pretty faces, but pretty mean mixologists too.
In short, Humdinger is a bar boasting simple dude food done really well. Basic on the surface but packing gourmet depths, this diamond in the rough bar is a place for people who like good food without a side of pretension.
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Image Credits: Tash Sorensen, The Urban List