American cuisine has moved far beyond the calorie-filled fast food we used to associate it with, and Melbourne is a great testament to that. Our restaurant scene has a number of American-style eateries—from the casual to the upmarket—where you can enjoy everything from comfort food to sweet pies and vegan sandwiches. Oh, and BBQ meat—lots of it. We’ve rounded up 16 of the best spots for American food in Melbourne—here’s to the good ol’ US of A.
Trunk Diner models itself on a New York-style diner, with a great indoor-outdoor dining area and a menu that’s part classic Americana, part Tex-Mex. For lunch, there are hot dogs like the Hillbilly or Chilli Cheese, plus a menu of quesadillas. For dinner, there’s BBQ pork ribs and buttermilk-fried chicken with sides like potato mash and apple slaw. Make sure you leave room for one of Trunk’s famous sundaes, milkshakes, or maybe both.
Smith & Deli
The ladies behind Brunswick Street’s all-Latin-all-vegan Smith & Daughters recently opened Smith & Deli, a Jewish-inspired, American-themed deli. Here, you’ll find vegan interpretations of classic US sandwiches like the BLT, Club Sandwich and the Reuben—as well as imported vegan goodies, take-home frozen meals and fresh produce and an ever-changing selection of house-made pastries, pretzels and bagels.
Le Bon Ton
Part restaurant, part cocktail bar, part absinthe saloon, Collingwood’s Le Bon Ton has quickly established itself as one of Melbourne’s best American eateries. The kitchen is helmed by the Texas-raised Balleau brothers, so you can trust the authenticity of the pit-smoked meats, Louisiana-style crab cakes and the to-die-for mac and cheese blended with no less than three cheeses—cheddar, Swiss and American.
Miss Katie's Crab Shack
It recently relocated from North Melbourne’s Public Bar to Fitzroy’s Rochester Hotel, but Miss Katie’s Crab Shack is still serving the authentic, southern style seafood it’s known for. As well as favourites like Katie’s Fried Chicken and crab burgers, punters can build their own boil by adding a combination of crustaceans served with boiled potato, corn cobs and sausage. It’s a Melbourne treasure.
Po’ Boy Quarter
A little bit of New Orleans comes to Fitzroy with Po’ Boy Quarter, a Louisiana-inspired eatery from the team behind everyone’s favourite food truck, Gumbo Kitchen. The attention to detail is exceptional: even the tiles out the front are from New Orleans. As for the menu, it’s all free-range southern chicken, freshly shucked oysters and bowls of steaming hot, flavoursome gumbo.
Bowery to Williamsburg
Everything about city diner Bowery to Williamsburg is designed to take you back to those New York subway stations, from the industrial feel to the oh-so simple menu. Sandwiches, classic American sides like mac and cheese, pretzels, 5 & Dime bagels and sweet pies (like pecan and pumpkin) are the order of the day—and unlike most US diners, the coffee’s great, too.
Belle's Hot Chicken
How brave are you? That’s the question immediately posed at Belle’s Hot Chicken, where after choosing your cut of fried chicken (wings, tenders, drumsticks or thighs), you choose your spice ranging from ‘southern’ to ‘really f**king hot.’ There are plenty of sides and sauces to choose from, and on weekends only, a chicken and waffles breakfast dish that you’ll never forget. A top spot for American food in Melbourne.
Anybody’s who’s sampled New York’s pizza speaks about it in hushed tones and with widened eyes: simply, it’s the stuff of legend. Fitzroy’s Shawcross Pizza has been doing a roaring trade in NY-style pizza. They’re sold by the slice (as big as your head) or in 12 or 22 inch pizzas, with toppings like Fat Tony (tomato, mozzarella, basil) and the Notorious P.I.G. (pork sausage, bacon, japepinos, mozzarella, onion, BBQ sauce).
The Gem Bar & Dining
If you’re looking for authentic American BBQ in Melbourne—the real southern-style deal—then The Gem Bar and Dining Room is just the ticket. The Gem’s next-level food is complemented perfectly by the interior that’s decorated with Elvis memorabilia and a fully-grown bull's skull. Go for the beer can chicken (yup, that’s chicken cooked in beer), the bacon-topped mac’n’cheese, the pork belly ribs, and at least two servings of the cornbread—a feast fit for The King himself.
Vegetarians need not apply—as the name suggests, Meatmother is all about the meat. It’s barbecued and served in American-approved generous serves, from the Wagyu brisket to the pork belly rib. The sides, like chipotle slaw and mac and cheese, are worth writing home about. And if you can’t get enough, check out sister restaurant Meatmaiden in the city, which also deals in craft beer and bourbon.
Carlton’s The Beaufort is all about American comfort food—think ribs (pork, beef, lamb), burgers and French fries. There are several vegan options and sides like the unforgettable cornbread doughnut (with maple and bacon glaze). The vibe is rock’n’roll; the décor matches and the Bloody Marys and Whisky Macs may just make this your favourite Melbourne bar.
You won’t find any gas or electricity cooking your authentic US BBQ at Fancy Hanks; just a traditional wood-fired southern style BBQ. It’s this cooking technique that gives Hank’s dishes, like beef short ribs, Carolina-style chopped hog and Kansas-style pork ribs, their edge. There are sandwiches, salads and sides, plus a good range of American beers, ciders and soft drinks. Anyone for Purple Kool Aid?
Fried apple pie with maple, raisins and cream cheese sorbet? Pumpkin donuts with Jack Daniels cream? Nieuw Amsterdam, you have our heart. Amazing desserts beside, this New York-style eatery does a roaring trade in BBQ meat plates (beef brisket, chicken leg, lamb ribs, pork belly) by day, and hearty American-inspired mains by night. Can’t decide? Try the Nieuw Banquet, full of the chef’s recommendations.
Five Points Deli
Carlton’s Five Points Deli has a lot of little touches that will remind you of your last American holiday; not least the house-made potato chips and pickle that accompany each sandwich. The New York-style deli specialises in sandwiches, bagels and burgers (the smoked pastrami and toasted Reuben are among the most popular sandwiches), and the dark copper-clad interior is as comfortable as it is stylish.
5 & Dime Bagels
The menu’s pretty simple at 5 & Dime Bagels. Choose from more than 10 varieties of hand rolled, boiled and baked bagels—like blueberry, salty garlic or dill—and match it with a spread of your choice, from the simple (peanut butter) to the elaborate (bacon maple chipotle cream cheese). There are also sandwiches, soups and even pizza bagels—and you’d be hard pressed to find a better bagel in this hemisphere.
Mr Big Stuff
If you had to describe Mr Big Stuff in one world, it would be ‘soul.’ Smooth soul music greets visitors to the slick restaurant near Parliament Station, while the menu (crafted by former Grossi Florentino head chef Louis Naepels) is all about American soul food: large serves, designed to share. There’s ribs, chicken and waffles and pulled pork biscuits, plus a US drinks menu packed with imported beers and even a Kool Aid cocktail—a little gin, a little grape juice, a little grenadine and a whole lot of enjoyment.
Image credit: Slap Yo' Daddy BBQ