One of the most eye-raising and hotly-hyped new additions to Big Day Out was their new culinary offshoot – Chow Town. Based on the same attraction which is part of American festival Lollapalooza (run by the BDO’s new business partners, C3 Presents) – the concept is designed to bring top-notch food into the festival environment.
So, in each of the Big Day Out’s pit-stops, six of the best eateries in town set up shop to provide punters with festival-friendly samples of their most famous dishes, along with new ones designed especially for the festival. With a hungry stomach and a bit of downtime between bands, I got my Matt Preston on, and sussed out Chow Town’s offerings in Melbourne.
RB’s Fried Chicken
Fried chicken taco w/pickled cabbage, lime mayo & salsa Roja – $6
Maybe it was because it was around 3.30pm in the arvo and I hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast, but my ‘entree’ for the day was a real hit. The crumbed chicken was tender and juicy, and the salsa and mayo complimented it perfectly, providing a real flavour without being too hot or overpowering. If there had to be a downside, it was probably the soft taco shell (the contents could have easily fallen out if you didn’t hold the thing together). But that’s just being real picky. Awesome first dish, and despite being relatively small, it kept my hunger bay for at least an hour while I went and saw bits and pieces of Death Grips and Jeff The Brotherhood.
Red Hot Chili Burger – $10
I’ve heard people rave about this Collingwood hotspot and their basic-but-awesome burgers for months now, so I was very eager to check them out. And even before I took a bite, they got full marks in the service department, smartly pre-preparing a few burgers and having them ready to go as soon as you handed over your cash. For someone who has stood waiting in a line just to get to the counter for five minutes, and was then expecting to then wait a few more minutes just to get my dish, this was a real refreshing change.
Based on the theme of the day, and cause I love hot stuff, I went for the Chili burger. Presentation wise it looked a tad sloppy, but the contents and taste were far from it. The jalepanos, pickles and sauces all blended together great and didn’t set my mouth on fire, while the other condiments (cheese, lettace and tomato) tasted fresh as well. And the beef patty, despite not being massively thick, was superb quality too, much better than something you’d get at your typical fast food outlet. The hype is justified.
South Melbourne Market Dim Sims – $2 each
In the mood for a bit more fried goodness before desert, I scoffed down two of the South Melbourne Market’s famous gigantic dim sims. If you’ve had them before, you know what I’m going on about and how good they are – if not, basically they’re just mega dim sims produced at a special store at the South Melbourne Market, sometimes sent elsewhere to other fast food joints around the city wanting to sell them. The two I had weren’t overcooked, which was a plus, and tasted pretty solid with some of the Chili and Peanut sauce which Golden Fields had sitting on the counter.
Peanut butter and chocolate ice-cream sandwich, with salted caramel – $6
Just looking at the title of this dish made me drool. Upon receiving it, it looked a tad small, but the presentation was good, with a nice slice of ice cream in between the ‘bun’ and the caramel source oozing off the side.
As for the taste, wow. The sugar bun was fluffy and fresh, and the three ice cream flavours all tasted incredibly smooth and rich in the right places. Anyone who has a sweet tooth and didn’t try this – you missed out. Big time.
Mocha coffee – $4
Coffee isn’t exactly a festival staple. But, given the overcast weather, and the fact that I was en-route to the D-Barrier for The Killers and Red Hot Chili Peppers, I figured a caffine fix from another of Melbourne’s most-hyped outlets wouldn’t hurt. While St. Ali’s coffee came in a funky cup designed especially for the BDO (they really should have turned it into a re-usable take home thermo-mug), and the blend was real smooth, something tells me the barista forgot I was after a Mocha. I could hardly taste any chocolate flavouring in my drink. Nonetheless, the drink did its job and provided a really nice way to finish off my Chow Town eating experience.
Well done Big Day Out – Chow Town was definitely a hit in my books, and certainly an attractive alternative for the “older crowd” which the festival is now supposedly trying to market itself to. I was certainly very happy to have spent $30 or so on the dishes I sampled at Chow Town as opposed to three or four dried out burgers, wraps or other items from the regular stalls. As long as the prices remain steady, and the dishes don’t become too overly complicated, I can see Chow Town definitely expanding and earning more love from festivalgoers in the years to come.