January 18, 2013
The feel of an American dive bar ... Frankie's Pizza. Photo: Janie Barrett
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Uncle Sam must be proud. Many moons after Australians first turned their backs on Britain and started vociferously consuming and copying American culture, we seem to be desperately mimicking our big brother yonder once again.
A refined strain of Americana has well-and-truly engulfed Sydney, from retro diners and nouveau American restaurants to dude food, picklebacks, Tex-Mex, pulled pork, Pabst Blue Ribbon and wild west bars.
On one side of town there's Hartsyard and the Midnight Special on Enmore Road; on the other there's Stuffed Beaver, Santa Barbara, Shady Pines Saloon and Jazz City Diner.
In the middle comes Frankie's, a cheesy American pizza and beer joint with a retro-Italo streak that is giving the business district a healthy dose of sleaze.
The basement spot has replicated an American dive bar to a T. The walls of the darkened back room are covered with beer-stained band posters, while the front room could be rented out to the owner's hypothetical Italian nephew, Frankie, since it's been done up real nice with plastic tablecloths, old chianti bottles and photos of nonna and papa.
Loud rock music blasts through the speakers and plastic cups of cheap beer are splashing over the counter at great pace.
Big cheese pizzas are lined up, ready to be slid onto paper plates and frisbeed to groups of young guys and girls sitting in booths or playing retro pinball machines for 20¢ a game. It's like a scene from a 1990s sitcom.
A hand-scrawled sign of beers on special is sticky-taped to the cash register each night and features a rotating cast of 30 phenomenal and kooky craft beers from as far as Moylan's Brewery in California, or a $6 Boag's lager for those who want an "easygoing smasher" for the night, as the owner, Anton Forte, says.
The wines include oddballs, such as a great 2008 Santa Sofia Valpolicella classico from Veneto ($11), but the fanciest drinks going around are plastic cups of potent frozen Margarita ($10) or handmade green apple juice with whisky.
Thin-crust pizzas are dished up until closing time at $16 a whole (bargain) or $5 for a slice, dripping with cheese, chilli oil and Frankie's finest salami.
Forte and co-owner Jason Scott, who opened Shady Pines Saloon and the Baxter Inn together, have done such a good job of replicating the sleazy, trashy dive bars of West Hollywood and New York that the ironic hipster recycle treatment would be lost on many people.
It's hard not to feel a slight pang of disillusion at the shameless pilfering of formulae that other countries have authentically and organically moulded through the years.
But, then again, Sydney is a fickle, self-conscious melting pot and Frankie's feels like it will develop its own character in time as the frisson mellows.
The best part about this bar is the refined but raucous hoo-haaing that Forte and Scott have a knack for nailing.
"We've always wanted to do a late-night sleazy dive bar that's just really comfortable and you can go there and hang out and get a bit loose and trashy and drink beers and act like a fool and listen to tunes," Forte says.
God bless America for that.
You'll love it if ... you're over clubs but still want a rowdy night.
You'll hate it if ... Baxter Inn and Shady Pines Saloon are a little too crowded and hip for you.
Go for ... craft beers, salami pizza, frozen Margaritas.
50 Hunter Street,
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- American (US)
- Craft beer $8-$40, wine by the glass $7.50-$12, pizzas $16.
- Monday-Sunday, 4pm-4am
- Jason Scott