Joe’s Garage

366 Bruswick Street, Fitzroy
Phone: 9419 9944

Joe’s Garage is somewhat of of a Brunswick St institution. Serving standard cafe fare, it’s usually bustling and it’s enough of a landmark with its neon signage for you to use as a reference point when giving people directions. I had a friend who used to work as a waiter here, back in the old student days, and though it was never amazing food, it was decent, and the vibe was fun and casual.

I haven’t eaten at Joe’s in years, but I stopped in for brunch with some friends recently, and found that things had changed somewhat. First of all, the service was definitely lacking. Yes, it was a Saturday afternoon (which is usually pretty busy for cafes along Brunswick St) and we were seated outside, but we were waiting at every turn, and the staff seemed more interested in cleaning the glass door than getting the bill to us.

The food itself was hit and miss. The miss first: my friend D ordered the poached eggs on toast, which came rather unappetisingly presented (see below) and we had to ask for butter. Butter! Really? Friends J and K both ordered the bubble and squeak, which were served with a poached egg, hollandaise and a hash brown. I’m a huge fan of hash browns, but this wasn’t a hash brown. This was a potato burger. Other than the carb-overload, this dish was pretty appetising, and both J and K were happily sated. I ordered the Caesar salad with chicken, which was pretty good! The egg could have been a little runnier, and I would’ve liked a little more dressing, but apart from that, it was a pretty good salad.

Joe’s Garage is one of those places you go when you don’t know what the tastes of your dining companions might be. I didn’t mind it, but I’m in no hurry to return.

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Smoken Joe’s

680 Mt Alexander Rd, Moonee Ponds
Phone: 9370 4888

Smoken Joe’s is a pretty standard cafe/restaurant of that Blue Train/Automatic/Joe’s Garage vein, with a menu modelled on American Diner fare, plus pasta, plus some bistro food, plus curry (!?!?). They serve decent meals at reasonable prices, and there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the food.

As is usual in one of these places, there are a few things on the menu which are signature dishes, but you’ll find all of the usual suspects on the menu. I tend to find that they’re the best dishes on which to judge a restaurant, so I started off with the steak sandwich. The steak was still juicy and the toast was crisp. Not bad, in my books. Mr N had the chicken parmigiana. He was satisfied, and struggled to finish it all. I’ve got to say the chips were a bit of a let-down; not particularly crispy. I’m also of the belief that either you go shoestring, or you go fat chips. The KFC-gauge should be left to KFC. Well, OK, and Nando’s.

A return visit with other friends led to similar ordering. Mr I had the burger, and Mr A had the steak sandwich, on my recommendation. Both were satisfied with their meals, but there were no songs of praise to be sung. Mr A’s steak sandwich looked even better than mine.

I have been there other times when someone ordered the pasta (ho-hum) and the grilled salmon (a winner, but no photo!) but I’m yet to try their ribs or the surf’n’turf. I love a bit o’ doublemeat action.

Oh, but wait! I lie! There IS something remarkable about Smoken Joe’s. They have these OVERSIZED chocolate crackles and honey joys!!

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Fuel Espresso Bar & Cafe

4 Margaret St, Moonee Ponds
Phone: 9375 4499

I don’t go out for breakfast on weekends as much as I used to. I think living for a while in Viet Nam changed my tastes somewhat in terms of what I like to eat in the morning. I still really miss the fact I could run downstairs from my place and grab a banh mi (Vietnamese pork roll) or some xoi cuc Ha Noi (Hanoi-style sticky rice with chrysanthemum) or even a quick bowl of pho.

So when Mr N suggested we go out for breakfast last Saturday, I wasn’t sure what to get from the menu. I settled on a breakfast pizza, with salami, bacon, mushrooms and spinach. And yes, that IS indeed a poached egg with hollandaise sauce on the top. Given the hung-over state I was in, this pizza didn’t just hit the spot, it nailed it.

Mr N had the (massive) omelette with cherry tomatoes and chorizo. I didn’t try any, but the omelette looked very fluffy, and the chorizo was sufficiently spicy enough to challenge Mr N this early in the day.

The service was quite attentive, and though the meals did take about 25 minutes to come out, they had warned us of this in advance, and it seemed fair enough, as the place was very busy.

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Cheese kransky at Birdman Eating

A waitress mistake (I think) left us waiting quite a while for our food, watching others who had arrived after us receive their food first. Which is always irritating. But once my breakfast came, I forgot abot the wait. The kransky itself wasn’t amazing, and the poached eggs were good, but the apple (and beetroot? rhubarb?) compote as well as the hot potato and cauliflower slaw were great. Another example of why choosing a dish based on the accompaniments/sides is often a good move!

Birdman Eating, Gertrude St, near the corner of Smith st.

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Chicken and Corn Pie with Salad from Avist Cafe

89 Flemington Rd, North Melbourne

Avist is one of the few quality places near my work. They make these awesome homemade pies (well, parcels, really) – the pastry is nicely short, and wonderfully flaky, and the filling is moist, tasty and you can see exactly what’s in it. Big shreds of chicken. Yummo! The salads rotate, but there’s usually an experimental one. This one was pumpkin, potato and carrot, with some rocket etc. Pretty standard, except they (for some reason) had kiwifruit in it. A little oddly sweet, but still very enjoyable.

Grazer’s Plate (for two) at Tusk Cafe

133 Chapel St, Windsor
Phone: 9529 1198

OK, so I was really quite drunk at the time, so I ordered a starter for two as a main for one… but just about everything on this plate was awesome! Highlights: smoked sweet potato dip, saganaki, grilled eggplants, chorizo.

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