Level 1, Crown Casino
8 Whiteman Street
Southbank VIC 3006
+61 3 8658 3441
After a day of roaming Fitzroy and Brunswick, my friends and I ended up at Crown Casino. It’s been a while since I’ve set foot on its carpeted floors and goodness knows why and how we ended up there. It was, however, Easter Monday and a lot of places were either closed or packed out for dinner – maybe we figured that our only chances of snagging a table somewhere without going too far from the city was at Crown.
We ended up at San Antone by Bludsos, a kinda-but-not-really new eatery just around the corner from Village cinemas. Being completely out of the loop when it came to new openings in Melbourne, I didn’t know that this place existed though my dining companions Aaron and Cathy had heard about it. A product of third-generation barbeque pit master Kevin Bludso, San Antone is a new player on the Melbourne American barbeque scene. With restaurants in Compton and Hollywood, Melbourne was San Antone’s third location – and going by how packed it was on a Monday evening, it seems like the gamble has paid off for Bludso. There was a queue to get into the restaurant, but we were lucky just to make the cut for the last empty table.
After having spent the good part of that afternoon hitting the beers, I decided to stay away from alcohol. Instead, I opted for San Antone’s homemade peach iced tea. At $8, the tea was a bit of a rip given that it was rather sweet and one-dimensional; I couldn’t even taste the advertised thyme they added in the drink.
Meanwhile, Aaron ordered the ‘American-style diner coffee’ which was $4 – a laugh because hello, this is Melbourne! This is the land of amazing coffee, bitch! Curiously, the coffee appeared in the dessert menu rather than the drinks menu but Aaron specifically requested to have the coffee ‘served now.’ It took until after we were halfway through our food for his coffee to arrive – and only after three reminders to the staff. As predicted, the mud didn’t taste so good.
We shared a meat platter between the three of us. Although the platter was designed to be shared between two, the waiter didn’t object when that was all we ordered – and it was just the right amount of food to share, too. On the plate was some pulled pork, half a chicken, a chicken sausage and San Antone’s signature beef brisket that had been cooked in Old Hickory smokers on low heat for 12 to 15 hours. They also threw in two types of homemade barbeque sauce (one hot, one not) and some sides: chilli con carne, mac and cheese and slaw.
Oh yes, that brisket.
Unfortunately, I can’t say I was in love with our meal. In most cases, the meat was dry and lacking in flavour beyond smoky but even that was one-dimensional. The only good bit was the brisket, but only because there was just enough fat on the meat to carry the flavour through. I found the sides ordinary too – the chilli con carne was nothing I can’t make at home while half drunk after a night out while the ‘tangy coleslaw’ was anything but tangy. I guess the mac and cheese tasted okay but then again, it’s hard to go wrong with pasta and cheese.
San Antone has hit the jackpot with its mass bogan appeal, but it will have to work hard if they want to steal fans away from the likes of Le Bon Ton, Blubonnet BBQ, Big Boy BBQ et al. San Antone’s initial offerings of authenticity may appeal to begin with, but its dumbed down flavours and price point is likely to deter many from returning.