Jacqui Gal

Oz, you like it

Beat the heat with some chilled Aussie eats. Our writer—yep, she’s Aussie, mate—takes us on a tour

Read this article at metromix.com

Why do Australians add a slice of canned pineapple, beetroot and a fried egg to their burgers? Some might travel 19 hours to the bottom of the globe to seek an answer, but savvy New Yorkers know they can speculate on this mystery over cold beers and kangaroo skewers, right here in Manhattan.

What’s more, during these clammy summer nights, when heavy European fare might not appeal, it’s good to know there’s a smattering of Australian bars and restaurants around town. Since it’s so warm in Oz almost all year round, rest assured these restaurateurs know just what to serve you, when everything comes with a side of humidity.

Over the last decade, as the number of Australian expats has grown—authorities estimate there are 20,000 in the Tri-state area—so has the number of establishments serving Aussie “grub” (which is what we call food Down Under).

Of the two established by Sydney-born Heath St. Clair, first came The Sunburnt Cow (137 Avenue C at Ninth St., 212-529-0005). With its lively bar and open-roofed outdoor cave area, the Cow is a popular Alphabet City venue, boasting a menu that makes good use of the grill. There’s also a variety of tempting sides, like crispy polenta with basil, or corn-and-crab ragout. Of course, you could sample the aforementioned burger with the lot, and try asking one of the Aussie-accented staff, “Why is this so?”

St. Clair’s newest venture, (153 Rivington St. between Suffolk and Clinton Sts., 212-253 5311) is an upscale Sydney-style fish-and-chips shop, which deftly showcases the Australian affinity for freshness. The menu features Barramundi, snapper and weekly specials, alongside a raw bar and a good number of non-fish offerings.

You’ll usually find a few Bondi transplants there, gazing lovingly at the life-size panoramas of their beloved Bondi Beach, which cover the walls. However, there are also plenty of New Yorkers who return time and again for the laid-back vibe and unfussy food. Ordering the crisp potato scallops is an absolute must.

Meanwhile, back in November 1999, when most New Yorkers would have squirmed at the notion of eating kangaroo meat, two brothers and a mate from back home opened Eight Mile Creek (240 Mulberry St. at Prince St., 212-431-4635), the first restaurant of its kind here. Split into three zones, the upstairs restaurant has tablecloths, candles and a classy menu to complement the extensive, and predominantly Australian, wine list.

The downstairs sports bar screens rugby, cricket and Australian football, while serving the right Australian beers (think Coopers and Boag’s, not Foster’s) and more casual fare, like kangaroo skewers or a sampler of mini-pies. On a historical note, it was downstairs at the Creek bar where Russell Crowe had a few drinks before heading back to the Mercer Hotel to famously throw a phone at an unsuspecting employee. Finally, there is also an upstairs patio, which offers a glimpse into the Australian beer-garden experience, and is the site of a weekly charity barbecue.

Head across the street and you’ll find Ruby’s Café (219 Mulberry St. at Spring St., 212-925-5755) a tiny space with great coffee and plenty of salads, burgers and sandwiches for less than $10. For a typical Aussie dessert, try the sticky date pudding (unfortunately, they sometimes run out of the stuff).

Newest on the scene is Nelson Blue (233-235 Front St. at Peck Slip, 212-346-9090), and although technically not Australian—in geography and good food ethos—it’s pretty close. Sumptuous green-lipped mussels, lamb and venison sausage are flown in from New Zealand, along with 80 percent of the wines here (the rest are from Chile, South Africa, Argentina and Australia). Since the after-work crowds have already begun to pack the bar from Wednesdays to Fridays, try coming on other nights if you’re seeking a mellow dinner.