Is this Sydney's best burger? Photo: Instagram
Burger joint Jack's Newtown opened early last week and by Saturday it had an hour-long queue snaking down Missenden Road. By Wednesday it had to close for a day and a half because it ran out of food.
Jack's doesn't have a celebrity chef on the grill, nor is it an established brand from Melbourne like Huxtaburger. It's run by a young guy named Jack Fonteyn and most of the staff are residents at St Paul's College, Camperdown.
The Jack's Newtown menu is a short one. There's a $10 cheeseburger with the option of onion and bacon for a couple of bucks extra and an $11 vegetarian number. A tray of fries will set you back $5 and you can wash it all down with a sugar-reduced soda or frozen custard shake.
The cheeseburger of the moment (with bacon) at Jack's. Photo: Callan Boys
Before the day-and-a-half closure, Jack's shut shop early over a few nights because it ran out of product to meet demand. But why the popularity? What's different about Jack's siren call of meat and melted cheese to that any other new burger joint of the past 12 months?
Two words: "Shake Shack".
The American fast-food chain has a cult status among burger fans for its angus beef patties, Martin's potato rolls (soft buns made with mashed potato) and cheese the colour of butter on the turn. As soon as social media word got out that Jack's burgers were "Shake-Shacky" it was on like Donkey Kong.
I tried the burger du jour on Thursday night, rocking up at 6pm and sitting down to eat at 6:30. It's a beaut burger. Rich and delicious beef (Fonteyn has worked with Anthony Puharich at Vic's Meats to create a patty with a pleasing 80:20 meat to fat ratio), gooey cheese and token tomato and lettuce in a soft, warm potato bun. Everything you want in a burger, really. It's not the biggest sandwich in Sydney, sure, so if you really want to Shake-Shack-yer-booty then best order a couple. (Hands up: I've never tried Shake Shack so I can't compare the burgers).
Full marks for the chips; crisp, crinkle-cut numbers instead of a funeral pyre of damp shoestrings.
Online opinion of Jack's has been mixed – ranging from "best burger ever" to "super underwhelming" – but I'm unsure any burger can live up to the anticipation of an hour-long wait (or drive from the Central Coast as one Instagram user did, only to find Jack's was closed).
From my brief chats with the (rather frazzled) Fonteyn, he was expecting to play in the inner west junior burger league for the first couple of weeks, not The Burger World Cup group of death. It's a little unfair to go hard on him in these early stages, if your bun is slightly cold or the cheese isn't melted. (And let's not forget that Burger Project also temporarily closed in its opening week as it struggled to meet customer demand and it had Neil Perry at helm).
Jack's reopens Friday night at 6pm. Check the Instagram account for updates on opening hours.
Jack's Burgers, 170 Missenden Road, Newtown