Mr Big Stuff | The Verdict

By Ella Pleasant
23rd Jul 2014

Folks, there's a new boy in town, and he's sure looking mighty fine!

Tucked down Meyers Place, Mr Big Stuff is Melbourne's hottest new American joint, dishing out fancy soul food and funky tunes to the hungry city hordes. 

The restaurant, named after Jean Knight's popular song, sure has the whole '70s, soulful vibe down pat, their sleek fit-out paying homage to African-American pop culture. You'll also find a DJ perched in the corner Thursday to Saturday, spinning everything from Ray Charles to TLC. The soundproofed walls ensure things only get funkier at Mr Big Stuff as the night goes on.

Now, on to the food. Woah Momma, the food! 

The Mr Big Stuff kitchen, helmed by former head chef of Grossi Florentino, Louis Naepels, pumps out what's best described as American soul food made fancy. Naepels isn't afraid to use the whole animal, either, with small bowls of salty, spicy pig ear 'chips' and honey-glazed sweetbread 'nuggets' up for starters. The menu also features roasted bone marrow with pickles, smeared onto thick chunks of sourdough, moreish ox tail sliders, and a tongue in cheek dish that is, well, exactly that – veal, grilled tongue and braised cheek perched atop sweet potato puree. 

While all the nobbly, wobbly bits are undeniably delicious, we all know one of the greatest tests of an American joint is the ribs, and Mr Big Stuff certainly didn't disappoint. Cooked low 'n' slow and smothered in a bourbon-spiked barbeque sauce, Mr Big Stuff's ribs are melt-in-your-mouth, pass-me-a-bib good. While they come with a side of tasty 'slaw, we suggest you pile your plate high with their mac 'n' cheese (it puts Kraft to shame) and mop it all up with some toasty cornbread. Hot damn. 

The second greatest test of soul food? The fried chicken. You'd better prepare yourselves, because Mr Big Stuff serve theirs atop of waffles. Yes, waffles. Thick waffles dusted with powdered sugar, big hunk-a-chunks of cajun-spiced fried chicken, all topped with a glorious (self-administered) slug of maple syrup. It feels so wrong but it tastes so right. Just go with it. 

Oh, but don't forget your greens! Mr Big Stuff pimps up traditional collard greens big time, dressing kale leaves in a tasty honey vinegar, topped with sweet candied yams and pecans. We ordered two bowls. If only all kale tasted this darn good!

So, as you can imagine, at this point in the evening we were clutching our sides, begging the lord to show mercy on our waistlines. And then we spied the dessert menu. Mr Big Stuff keeps the sweet treats simple, with rum-spiked apple pie and a tasty quince and rhubarb cobbler.  Live large and get both. 

The soulful feels continue with the drinks list. Their fancy, shmacy take on Kool-Aid sees spirits mixed with cold pressed juices, freshly squeezed lemon and soda water, including winning combos like Beefeater gin and strawberry, Jose Cuervo and kiwi, Ketel One vodka with watermelon and, our pick of the bunch, Martel V.S.O.P Cognac with grapes. You can keep your juice a virgin, if you so desire (trust us, you don't). 

Likewise, you're onto a winner with Mr Big Stuff's cold brewed ice teas, served alcoholic or non-alcoholic, big or real big, with a little side jug of sugar syrup so you can adjust the sweetness. Not sweet enough for you? Take on the Egg Cream, a milkshake of sorts with homemade chocolate sauce, cream and soda. Pimp it with spiced rum and you've got yourself a party in the USA.

Fancy, soulful American eats and funky beats in the heart of the CBD. Oh Mr Big Stuff, the pleasure is all ours!

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