520 High Street Northcote, Victoria 3070
|Opening hours||Mon-Thu 5pm-9.30pm; Fri-Sat noon-10.30pm; Sun noon-9.30pm (bar open later; burgers til 1am Fri & Sat)|
|Features||Bar, Licensed, Outdoor seating, Family friendly|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
Food from a truck is fun, at least until you're balancing beer and burger while wondering if there's a prize for licking sauce off your elbow. Food from a truck tastes great, especially if it's a pleasant day and you're not having to use your taco as a shield against whipping wind. Food from a truck feels special, if you get in before the "sold out" sign goes up and the vendor turns off oven and starts up engine, leaving you hungry and eating dust.
Welcome to Thornbury is a permanent food truck park in an ex-auto yard that's gone from car vendor to carb vendor. Each day up to six trucks drive in and cook up in a sprawling indoor-outdoor premises, licensed for 700.
As a concept, it's brilliant, the brainchild of a consortium of food truck owners. In reality, it's great too, delivering van-eating upside without most of the messy downside.
Find a feed that takes your fancy then locate a perch in the shed-like interior or outside on tiered wooden benches. When it's busy, of course, it's back to food truck situation normal and you'll be standing around with sauce dripping down your arm – except that these trucks can't escape and there are toilets and a bar.
The mood segues from urban paradise to rowdy beer garden to retro diner to taco flashmob. Depending on the hour, you'll find Baby Bjorn-wearing new parents blinking in the headlights of Melbourne life, younger barhoppers wondering why all the babies are there, cocktail-jug-wielding school mums on a night off, and random hipsters bemoaning the fact that the ramen truck isn't around (unless it is, in which case they'll be orating about the "rhythm of ramen" for the not-quite-hipsters in their party). The crush of kids and dogs can make for interesting on- and off-leash encounters, especially around cocktail hour when some parents mistake the fence for adult supervision.
There's more green than you'd think in this concrete paddock: hanging baskets are strung across the bar and, outside, there are trees in large pots and saplings planted optimistically into the asphalt. Even so, shade is at a premium so play it sunsmart.
The menu depends on the daily schedule (it's on their website) but I like Lil' Nomnoms' Vietnamese rice noodle salad, Digging for Fire's pulled pork couscous and Super Taco's chipotle beans. Coming up there's everything from burritos to Brazilian, churros to crepes, plus jaunty jaffles.
The drinks list stays steady: the Full Tanq gin fizz is the refreshing pick of the cocktail jugs.
Car parking sucks but bike racks, the 86 tram and Croxton station make arriving easier. And arrive they will, because Welcome to Thornbury is clever and different, easygoing and fuss-free, and it makes the prospect of a baking northside summer bearably cruisy and tasty.
Rating: Four stars (out of five)
ATM on site; some trucks accept MC V eftpos