Where: Benny Burger, 95 Swan Street Richmond
What: The only burger place I know that doesn’t charge extra for gluten-free buns
Who: Hipster Hater
Bloat score: 0 – Living the dream
It was a bloated Tuesday night and all I wanted was an intolerance-friendly meal, which is why I suggested Mahalo Poke in Richmond to Hipster Hater who dares not venture north for fear of catching sight of a fixie. However, upon further inspection, it appeared as though Mahalo Poke had permanently closed! I wondered if it was my veiled comments about the way they’d culturally appropriated an age-old Hawaiian dish that did them in, but in any case, I plan to hate visit this poke place soon to meet the ‘culturally insensitive poke places in Melbourne’ quota on my blog, so watch this space.
There were other options on Swan Street, but between not wanting to get a five-level bloat at Belle’s Hot Chicken and not wanting to hate myself after ingesting a green smoothie at Foxes Den, I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired by any of them. We’d passed Benny Burger, but I wasn’t too enthused by the prospect of a gluten-free burger, so I initially discounted it. Once we’d examined all open eateries between Lennox Street and Church Street, however, my hunger won out, and besides how bad could Benny Burger be?
Not bad at all is the answer; little did I know that Benny Burger was Shannon Bennett’s new ethical burger joint. Knowing that this would be the closest I’d get to dining somewhere curated by the Bennett himself – I shudder to comprehend the bloat score from a degustation at Vue de monde – I happily sauntered in.
It’s a laidback vibe at Benny Burger. You get paper menus from the front counter and happily settle into pinball machine tables-cum-booths set against graffiti-splattered walls or two-seater tables if you’re not lucky enough to nab a booth.
Benny Burger prides itself on being ethical, organic and sustainable. Its menu seems to be a blend of Aussie working class colloquialism – with burgers named ‘The High Vis’, ‘The Tradie’ and ‘The Apprentice’ – and good old-fashioned orientalism, with the predictably vegetarian ‘The Yoga Burger’ promising to ‘add a little Namaste to your day’.
Little doses of Namaste aside, I have a particular weakness for a good chicken burger, and was instantly taken by Benny Burger’s ‘Cluck Off’ – a free-range chicken fillet with bacon, organic cheese, mayo, lettuce and tomato in a toasted handmade bun.
Two things instantly made me happy – the fact that I only paid $16 for my burger and wine because Benny Burger offers half-price burgers on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the surprising discovery that Benny Burger doesn’t charge people extra for swapping out a regular bun with a gluten-free bun. Finally, a restaurant that doesn’t penalise my inability to digest food by charging me extra to eat subpar products.
I wasn’t sure if my chicken patty would be fried or grilled – we don’t need to try and guess which one I’d prefer – but my fears were alleviated when a worried waiter scurried up to our booth to find out if I’d be okay with the deep fried crumbed chicken fillet, despite ordering a gluten-free bun. I sweetly answered with a yes, and they probably thought I was one of those people who fakes a gluten intolerance to make themselves seem more interesting, but I cared not. My dietitian once told me having a fructose intolerance is like keeping a bucket; if you’re mostly following your intolerances, your bucket will remain empty, but you’re in trouble once it starts overflowing. Now I’m prone to overfilling my bucket, but a little crumbed chicken wasn’t going to do me any harm, was it?
The burgers took a while to come, but Hipster Hater and I busied ourselves by bemoaning how screwed we were as millennials who wouldn’t ever be able to afford a house – a pertinent discussion on half-price burger Tuesday.
I was glad I knew Hipster Hater well once my burger arrived – it was going to be a mouthful and it wasn’t going to be a pretty sight from where he was sitting. The glistening, browned chicken patty tasted every bit as good as it looked, and every accompanying ingredient was in the right proportion – from the melted cheese, lashings of mayo and slivers of bacon to the vegetation in the form of lettuce and tomato. The gluten-free bun was almost cake-like in its texture and far from dry with a pleasing sweetness, complementing all its toppings to the tee. I didn’t feel as sick as I normally do after finishing a burger, which may have been a combination of me partially following my intolerances with the gluten-free bun and the fresh ingredients that were used.
Hipster Hater went for The Chang, a burger named after the world-famous American chef David Chang who slammed Australian burgers. Keeping in line with Chef Chang’s criticism, the burger has a fried egg and beetroot relish alongside Blackmore’s Wagyu Beef, local cheese, organic coral lettuce, organic tomato, pickled onion, organic ketchup, mustard and mayo. I’m not sure what coral lettuce or organic ketchup is, but Hipster Hater seemed to like his burger as much as I did and has been telling everyone about it since.
He also ordered a beer that I forget the name of, and noticed that the bartender filled his beer glass from the bottom, due to a nifty contraption at the base of the glass, although in his words, this produced a “beer without much head” which translates to mean “a beer with not enough foam at the top” to average non-beer drinkers like me.
Bennett touts his potato chips as “real French fries made of just potato, oil and salt, not the 19 secret ingredients found on your average fast food chip”. I know this is meant to tout the virtue of Bennett’s potato chips, but they seemed pretty standard, and I kind of like the sound of these 19 secret ingredients.
A long-haired gentleman whom we thought was Bennett himself – until Google sleuthing revealed that he was not – came up to greet us after we’d finished our meal under the guise of finding out how our meal was, but in actual fact was subtly gesturing for us to leave as the restaurant rapidly filled up, so Benny Burger isn’t as laidback as it seems – though it does have one of the best gluten-free burgers I’ve tasted.
Benny Burger is open from 11am to 10pm Sunday to Thursday and from 11am to 11pm Friday to Saturday.