Patrick McGinlay's Internet Tendency

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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


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