It took about a week for Mr. Crackles to realised they might have miscalculated. Not to put too fine a point on it: but the restaurant actually ran out of pork.
That’s how much Melbourne frothed over this opening. We actually ate the poor guys out of pigs.
People have been queuing out the door for Mr. Crackles, Sydney’s cult pork sandwich shop, since it opened in early June. If you’ve walked down Bourke St. in the CBD any time over the last couple of weeks, you’ve probably noticed the delicious scrimmage outside No. 164.
So the big question: is it worth the wait? How good can a pork roll really be, when you get right down to it?
Well the short answer, having now tried just about everything on Mr. Crackles menu is...yes. Yes, it really is as good as people are saying. Yes, you should get your ass down and try a bite. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
The Crackles story started back a few years ago in Sydney, when co-owners Sam Horowitz and Carlos Justo were working at The Wharf Restaurant. They used to cook up suckling pig sandwiches at staff parties. When they realized people couldn’t get enough, they tested the waters with a market stall...then a store in Darlinghurst. This was back in 2012.
The place boomed, and Melbourne seethed with quiet jealousy like a toddler who doesn’t get the good toys. So this year the boys decided to expand the franchise. And that’s when the social frenzy began.
If you’re popping your pork cherry (that sounded better in our heads), you really shouldn’t stray too far from the OG roll: The Crackles Classic. It’s a foot-long homebaked baguette, stuffed with pickled Vietnamese salad (kinda like a banh mi), drizzled in mayo and topped with tender, juicy, crispy-skinned 5-spice pork belly.
The hardest bit is fitting the damn thing in your mouth. It’s probably not a first date sandwich—you really need to attack this thing to get the most out of it.
Crackles has a range of other rolls, and they’re all excellent in their own way. The Chicken Katsu comes with a perfectly spiked wasabi mayo. The Bogan is exactly what you expect: a beer-soaking mix of crispy pork, chips, cheese, gravy on a soft bun. The Rosemary Lamb carries a generous wodge of 12-hour slow-cooked lamb shoulder, marinated in rosemary and garlic (nice tahini in that one too).
If you’re a fan of loaded fries, there’s a couple of options (we prefer the Bogan Fries over the BBQ pulled pork variety). You can also get regular chips, dusted in chilli or rosemary salt, sweet potato wedges, onion rings and other stuff that would make your cardiologist raise an eyebrow.
You don’t come to Mr. Crackles to lose weight, put it that way. But there are some surprisingly good salad bowls going around. You can pick your roast meat, add some roast veg, then load up the bowl with Vietnamese-style salad. The salad bowls are actually a pretty good option if you’ve got pork cravings but can’t face an entire baguette of the stuff. They’re zingy, porky and refreshing, all at the same time.
From the outside, Mr. Crackles looks like fast food. There ain’t much table space in there, and most people you spot will be perched up at the window, shovelling pork into their mouths at supersonic speeds.
But there’s nothing cheap or slapdash about the ingredients. These guys make everything themselves: from the baguettes and pickles down to the mayo. The pork itself takes three days to prep: it has to be salted for a day, then cooked overnight for 12 hours, then left to dry and cool for another 12, before finally being roasted to an outrageous crackle.
That’s a lot of effort for a single pork roll, but we’re not complaining. We were pretty much sold after the first bite.
That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.
Image credit: Annika Kafcaloudis