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BY ADAM WAJNBERG
February 28, 2003
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Time was, you could walk down Chapel St. and not be
bombarded with cookie-cutter outdoor cafes and coffee shops and stores
with anime-esque mannequins sporting enormous heads like some sort
of antipodal, fiberglass New Orleans. Of course, there's still a good
time to be had on that particular boulevard, so long as you stay between
Dandenong and Malvern Roads. The "Windsor End" of Chapel
is still a decent place to hang out, with comic book shops, tattoo
parlors and DVD stores dominating the landscape over fruitier fare.
And now, you can even get German bürgers.
There are some things in life that are by their nature,
funny. Christianity is funny. Cancer is funny. German people and things,
are, by default, funny. I guess I find them funny because these 3
things are responsible for so much death. Burgers are not quite as
funny, but when you consider that they probably cause cancer and now
you can get bürgers that are German, this makes for some funny.
Christianity will have to sit this one out.
Kringelburger exploded on the landscape at some point
within the last six months and has had all the impact that one could
expect of a single german-burger restaurant. My friends and I received
no end of pleasure from saying "Kringelburger" in bad German
accents every time we passed by, vowing to eventually stop in and
try one. Months passed, and the leaves that are green turned to brown,
and yet we still had not subjected ourselves to "The Kringe"
as no-one calls it. So then we did. The experience is summarized in
the opening line of the next paragraph.
HOLY FUCKING SHIT THESE ARE GOOD BÜRGERS!!!! was
what we didn't say, but we certainly did enjoy them. The place itself
is annoyingly German-kitsch, striving hard for a bier-hall look, which
is hard in the middle of a sunny Melbourne summer. The tables are
like German bier-hall tables for dwarves, and they look like you'd
reduce them to splinters if you tried banging your fist on them and
yelling a hearty "Provost!" Beer mugs adorn the shelves
in stark contrast to the fish and chip shop like setup behind the
counter. The one saving grace of the interior was the fat wooden chef.
We debated over whether or not they got a typical Italian chef statue
and gave it wire-framed glasses, or whether there's a place you can
buy German wooden chef statues. We figured the latter, and that they're
manufactured in Belgium, which ended the other debate we have over
how it is exactly that Belgium maintains a working economy.
The menu was admirably spartan- no chips, no dips, no
lattes, no tapas, no gelati- just different variations of mëat
in kaiser rolls with salad, and pancakes. I tried the Kringelburger
itself -- a sausage pattie with cabbage, mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup.
It was surprisingly big for $3.80, certainly bigger than anything
you'd get for that price at a Scottish burger store (like McDonalds,
or Haggis McHaggis's Old Timey Burger Joint). They come wrapped in
foil, looking like some sort of colon-seeking missile. Upon unwrapping,
you realize you have just bought a food item that has been made from
fresh mince, with salad that was bought at an actual grocery and wrapped
in a chewy, slightly crusty roll that doesn't contain mostly sugar.
It's quite good. Not pants-shittingly good, but good. I'm not a big
burger fan as it is, having read "Fast Food Nation", the
2001 book that closely examined the fast food industry and it's effect
on American (and world) culture. In fact, I stopped eating red meat
regularly after reading that. Kringelburger reminded me that hamburgers
don't have to be junk food, that they can be made well with good ingredients
by independent operators.
While I certainly wouldn't recommend Kringelburger for
breakfast lunch or dinner, I would certainly recommend it as a "now
and then" food, like potato chips or paint. They make for a nice
treat and break up the monotony of truffles, dom-perignon and roasted
swan that normally passes for the typical Aussie dinner. Wash it down
with a portello (why can't I get a 2-litre portello? It's delicious!),
and you got yourself a good, tasty meal for under 6 bucks.
My only complaint? It's not called KringelBURGHER. That
would heighten the Germanitude of the place.
Kringelburger: 3 stars
Subway: 2 stars
Nando's Chicken Sandwich: 2 and ½ stars