Burgers Anonymous Diner
80 Oxford St, Darlinghurst, instagram.com/burgers_anonymous
Main attraction: Burgers, loaded fries and good toast on a busy corner of Oxford Street
Must-try: Hickory fries with cheese, jalapeno peppers, barbecue and ranch sauces
Insta-worthy dish: Blueberry cheesecake waffles (or the quinoa fruit salad with toasted coconut, if you're pretending to be on a health kick)
Gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options: Yes
Coffee: Coffee Alchemy Hairy Chest for milk coffee, $3.50; Five Senses Finca Maputo for cold-drip, $5-$7
Prices: From $5 for toast with condiments, to $18 for the Chuck Norris XL burger
Open: Mon-Thurs 7.30am-3pm, 5.30pm-10pm; Fri 7.30am-midnight; Sat 8.30am-midnight; Sun 9am-9pm.
As an electrician, Michael Pham would dig trenches to transport cables underground and deal with high-voltage electricity. But his overriding concern was about something else entirely: where's the best place to get coffee on the way to work?
He would plan his routes to jobs around which cafes had a good barista or a reputation for superior beans. If there wasn't anywhere worthwhile in the vicinity, he'd skip his caffeine fix entirely.
It's no surprise then, that Pham has swapped substations for serving lattes and long blacks.
His initial venture was Toastie Toast Co, which opened a few months ago in Darlinghurst, using his sandwich press to deliver express packages of goodness – such as macaroni and cheese jammed between well-charred bread. Or sourdough topped with peanut butter, banana slices, a confetti scatter of granola and well drizzled honey.
After he experienced some real estate issues (hey, this is Sydney, after all), Denis Tang – who runs Burgers Anonymous across the road – invited him to take over the burger joint during the day (with Tang still serving the evening crowd).
So Toastie Toast Co moved in and started serving its reuben toasties, croque madames and mac-and-cheese creation alongside the Burgers Anonymous menu of buffalo wings, truffle fries and patty-and-bun combinations. Then Pham decided to disband his Toastie Toast Co approach and embrace the burger joint's American fast food DNA.
Now the venue is called the Burgers Anonymous Diner, with Pham still running the dayshift and serving good coffee – the iced Vietnamese coffee, made with Coffee Alchemy's punchy Hairy Chest blend, is especially great.
The peanut butter, banana and granola toast has survived the transition – which is good news because it's excellent – but now you can get bacon waffles with butter and maple syrup. Or bacon pancakes with extra rashers, if you really want to overdo the pork. There are healthier options, too, such as a summer fruit and chia breakfast bowl with almond milk. Or banana, berries and quinoa dressed with kiwi and lime, and showered with toasted curls of coconut. The new menu additions are by chef Corey Reid, who has worked at two-hat restaurants such as Ester and Momofuku Seiobo. He met Pham while dropping by Toastie Toast Co for coffee and has helped consult on the changes. Besides the healthy touches, he's also responsible for dishes that will test your cholesterol levels, such as the buttermilk fried chicken waffles with sriracha mayo and the strawberry and cream pancakes.
If you've been tempted by the name and want burgers, there are plenty here. There's the Easy-E, a good standard burger with mayo-based special sauce. Many options tend towards the over-the-top and gravity-defying, such as the Chuck Norris XL, a double beef burger which towers with ingredients and is served with a chicken wing spiked on top of its milk bun. Or the vegetarian Peace Out, which has onion rings stacked on a hefty panko-crusted fried mushroom.
The signature Heisenburger, a double-beef, double-cheese number, crammed with all the staples and "crack" bacon – triple-maple-glazed rashers so addictive they evoke Heisenberg, the drug-dealing alter ego of Bryan Cranston on the TV show, Breaking Bad. A mural of his character, in meth-making gear, is splashed across the venue's main wall. The Burgers Anonymous Diner attracts a diverse crowd – police picking up takeaway, young tourists and students, and a constant rotation of drivers collecting orders (this is prime couch-dining food).
Some offerings can underwhelm, such as the wings, but the menu mostly trips off the "what the hell, let's do it anyway" part of your brain that totally revels in junk food. Exhibit A: the loaded fries with smoky barbecue sauce, ranch and melted cheese. One bite of this – or the banana toast or a sip of coffee – and you'll know why Pham doesn't miss working in the trenches.
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