I’ve been eyeing out Grease Monkey for a while now, every since I first saw construction begin on the corner of Lonsdale Street and Elourea Street in Braddon, I’ve been wondering what awesome new eatery would join the diverse, extensive and hispter restaurants, cafes and eateries already available throughout Braddon. Wow, I’ve started a lot of posts with that recently haven’t I? Well, Braddon has had a lot of construction and I guess I just have a very simple thought process. Of course, after the construction finished, the waiting game started. But as of last Friday, Grease Monkey opened up for service for the first time and to my absolute joy, Grease Monkey focuses on one of the finest haute cuisines in the world, American food!
The menu at Grease Monkey includes all good things that you would expect to find from any good American joint, including burgers, southern fried chicken, mash and gravy, milkshakes and what not. To top it off and to add an Australian edge, Grease Monkey is also a bar with plenty of beers on tap, as well as wines and cocktails. When we visited during the first weekend, Grease Monkey was only serving drinks indoors, which was a bit of a shame since the outdoor beer garden was awesome but I assume they must be in the process of getting their outdoor licences.
Being a bar and eatery, there is plenty of seating indoors and outdoors, though if you went on the opening weekend, you wouldn’t have noticed because it was absolutely packed! There are a couple of booths indoors for groups and plenty of standing tables, they’ve clearly tried very hard to ensure any horizontal surface can be eaten upon. Outside you’ll find a lot more group seating, plus Grease Monkey has plenty of heating outside so the Canberra cold is remedied a bit. The decor is cheeky with monkeys as the recurring theme throughout the store.
Everything about Grease Monkey looked awesome, from the menu to the decor to the atmosphere. It was really cool and felt like walking into another very awesome and popular restaurant in Sydney, Mary’s. It was so similar that it actually raised a few eyebrows. The menu, from the breakfast options to the different burger offerings to the milkshakes to the sides even the deep fried chicken, everything was almost an exact replica of Mary’s. Then there was the way that Grease Monkey presented their burgers with this cool burger art on the wall (see the above image). Its a pretty cool way of letting people know what’s in the burger right? Well, May’s CBD store kind of has the exact same picture.
If you told me Mary’s and Grease Monkey were franchises of each other, I would not be surprised. In fact, I would be more surprised to hear that they aren’t – that’s how similar these two places were.
I absolutely love Mary’s so I was a little disturbed by this. It also raised my expectations exponentially. As much as I tried to sample Grease Monkey in a completely open and separate light to Mary’s, I couldn’t help but compare back to my good experiences at Mary’s. It’s just hard when the menu items are exactly the same. The deep fried chicken, breakfast options, the signature burger ‘the Greasy’s’ and mushroom burger are exactly the same! I mean, yes every American place probably has these same burgers, sides and what not but probably not to this extent, so comparisons were commonplace for us during this meal.
When the food came out, Grease Monkey’s had unfortunately dug itself into a little hole before we even bit into it. It was competing with some of the best burgers I’ve had in Australia and I already had a lot of disdain for the (at least to us) outright copying of another restaurant. However, after digging into my food, I must say I was left pretty impressed with how it tasted!
We of course ordered the quintessential American classic, the Double deluxe ($17), double beef, double cheese, bacon, Grease Monkey ketchup, onion, pickles, mustard and Greasy’s sauce. Of course this wasn’t the only burger that we sampled at Grease Monkey’s but come on, a double cheeseburger at an American burger place! When we saw it on the menu, we knew we had to get it and we weren’t disappointed! Look at that thing, it looks like something straight from Five Guys in New York!
Not only did the double deluxe look like a delicious American burger, it also tasted like one. The burger had super thick and meaty patties, there wasn’t any spices or crazy flavours in these patties – just good old beef mince with a bit of salt and pepper to keep the meatiness strong. Both patties were cooked just past medium rare, I imagine they were aiming for medium rare but I gave them a pass based on how busy it was in there.
In between the patties, there were two generous slices of melted American cheese that oozed everywhere when you bit into the burger. It was absolutely amazing, the textures, melted cheese mixed with the soft and flavoursome minced beef. To get that level of melt without a foil wrap makes me think the crew at Grease Monkeys were cooking the patties with cheese sitting on top, connecting the gooey cheese and beef patties together.
Outside of the perfect combination of cheese and meat, there were a couple of other elements to this double deluxe which made this the deliciousness that it is. To add to this burger, there was fried bacon. The bacon was done really well, though I would’ve preferred much crispier bacon to give this burger some different textures, but I’m sure a lot of people prefer this softer, fattier and moister version.
My favourite part about this burger is the lack of any type of salad. It’s a cheeseburger, it’s not some frankenburger hybrid where you get a cheeseburger and add some iceberg onto it. Some people attempt those kinds of things and it leaves me shaking my head. This burger has no lettuce, no tomato and absolutely no pineapple or beetroot. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I eat vegetables occasionally, even on burgers, and there have been many times where I’ve gone to Paul’s Hamburgers in Rockdale and gotten a burger full of beetroot and pineapple.
The key difference however, is that Paul’s focuses on Australian burger, not American ones. Grease Monkeys on the other hand is an American burger place, so imagine my surprise seeing their Full Service burger on the menu. I guess I should commend them for attempting to extend an olive branch to our Australian palates, but I do believe it takes a certain kind of cultural unawareness to actually order a Full Service burger. I commend Grease Monkeys for providing the option, but when in an American burger place, you need to order the most American burger and that my friends, is the Double Deluxe!
On to something equally as American but with a little more soul, the Dirty bird ($15) with Southern fried chicken, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and Greasy’s sauce. While the double deluxe ingredients list read like the classic Mary’s burger, it tasted quite different (in an equally enjoyable way). However, that wasn’t the case here with the Dirty Bird. The Dirty Bird actually tasted very similar to Mary’s version of a deep fried chicken burger. I should mention, that this isn’t a bad thing either because the Mary’s deep fried chicken burger was absolutely amazing!
My favourite part about this burger was how absolutely generous Grease Monkey was with the ingredients! Although it tasted like the Mary’s burger, there was just so much more of it. The deep fried chicken was huge, and the meat to bread ratio was absolutely fantastic. Of course, not only was there a lot of it but the meat was also cooked perfectly. The southern fried chicken was super moist on the inside while on the outside it was crispy with plenty of awesome deep fried batter. Actually, it kind of reminded me of KFC chicken, just with a mildler flavour and a more crunchy outer shell.
To bring more flavour to the burger, there was the Greasy’s sauce. I’m sure this is some sort of super secret recipe, so I have no idea whats in it. But when I sampled it by itself, it did remind me a bit of Big Mac sauce and who doesn’t love Big Mac sauce?!
Finally, with all the big flavours, the was a little bit of lettuce, onion and tomato added to this burger. I should be clear that whilst I think vegetables don’t belong on American cheeseburgers, they absolutely do belong on deep fried chicken burgers. The salad helps to break up the stronger flavours of the fried chicken as well as the Greasy’s sauce. There were big flavours, mild ones and lots of different textures. The whole thing in one little burger, pretty awesome stuff.
I haven’t spoken about it yet but all burgers at Grease Monkey’s come with a side of fries. Originally, I thought the burgers at Grease Monkey’s were pretty pricey. I mean, $17 for a burger and its probably half the size of a Brodburger, so I wasn’t super impressed. It’s not value for money or anything and I originally kept thinking back to Mary’s burgers, which are about $10 for the standard and $12 for the more interesting burgers (like this deep fried chicken one). Anyway, when the burgers came out, I realised that fries are included, and that definitely softened the blow a lot. At Mary’s, a side of fries is about $4. This makes Grease Monkey’s burgers on average only about $2 more expensive, which is absolutely fine. You know, the Canberra surcharge and what not.
Our final burger from Grease Monkey, something for the vegetarians, the Nimbin ($15), crumbled portobello mushroom, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and Greasy’s sauce. This burger was surprisingly nice for a vegetarian burger. If you’ve ever eaten a vegetarian burger, you’ll know that they generally don’t quite live up their meaty equivalent. Most vegetarian burgers come with either a chickpea or lentil patty of some kind, which includes some corn, peas and what not. These are normally deep fried, soaked in oil and not really my favourite kind of burger. If you’re lucky or at a nice cafe, their vegetarian burgers normally come with a mushroom patty, like here at Grease Monkey.
I’ve had a couple of mushroom burgers now and this is by far one of the most creative and tasty ones I’ve ever had. What makes this one so unique and tasty? Well, the crew at Grease Monkey have coated a field mushroom in breadcrumbs and then deep fried it. This has so many benefits! Firstly, it adds a lovely crispy and crunchy texture to the burger, which you normally don’t get in vegetarian burgers. If you think about it, there aren’t many crispy elements in standard vegetarian burgers. Secondly, it adds that lovely fried flavour which lets you know you’re doing something good for your belly and lets you know you’re actually eating a greasy, delicious and flavoursome burger. Finally, it also does a great job of containing all the mushroom’s juices. I love the mushroom juice, it adds plenty of flavour and moisture to vegetarian burgers BUT! It also makes the burger really messy and kind of unpleasant to eat. Trust me, you don’t want mushroom juices dripping down your arm as you’re munching into your burger. So its pretty awesome when that doesn’t happen, since the lovely breadcrumb crust is soaking it all up.
Thanks to the deep fried mushroom patty, this burger reminded me a lot of the Dirty Bird burger. The strong flavours of the fried mushroom was complimented and balanced by the assortment of salads, including sliced tomato and lettuce. There was also some creaminess from the Greasy’s sauce and the gooey cheese which was melted and almost infused into the mushroom patty. To be honest, I think the deep frying of the field mushroom also helped to ensure the mushroom patty didn’t get too salty. This was a massive plus for me as I tend to find mushroom burgers can get really overwhelming and salty towards the end. Here, I didn’t really have that problem at all.
As mentioned previously, each burger came with a side of fries which were ‘standard’ cut. That is, not shoestring or steak, just that standard size of fry. The fries here are actually really delicious, and I’d consider getting a side of them all on their own, which I think says a lot, since I already get a decent amount with my burger. I’m not sure if any of you readers are from Sydney, but in Cabramatta there is this big corner with a Red Lea chicken shop on it. This chicken shop serves my favourite fries and it’s all because of this lovely paprika spice mix that’s generously sprinkled all over them. The reason I mention that is because the fries here at Grease Monkey have a similar red powder on them. Absolutely delicious, though I may be a little biased.
On to some of the sides at Grease Monkey’s, first up the Mash and gravy ($3). I enjoy all mashed potato dishes, and this one was no different, especially for $3! When I first took a spoonful of this mash and gravy, I was expecting something super rich, buttery and creamy. Something really artery clogging and unashamedly American. Something where the potato is so smooth because its laced entirely with chicken fat, where each spoonful just slides down your throat. The mash and gravy at Grease Monkey’s wasn’t quite like that, which may or may not be a positive for some, but it was a lot more homely and almost English, if I dare say.
Here, the gravy was super flavoursome and meaty. However, instead of being rich in that creamy and buttery way, it was really peppery. The potato also had a lot more structure to it and for once, I could actually taste the potato! This is very different to my experiences with KFC potato and gravy (which I still love of course) but sometimes it kind of nice to know that what you’re eating used to be an actual vegetable at some point in its life. There was also a good proportion of gravy to mash, which means you don’t end up with plain old mash without the peppery and delicious gravy. We almost ruined this because we were busy dipping our chips into it, but the gravy ended up holding out til the end!
For $3, you get a decent amount of mash and gravy. Its not a lot or anything but between the burger and the chips, we shared a single serving of mash and gravy between a couple of people and it was plenty.
We of course couldn’t help but grab a side of Greasy fried chicken ($12, 3 pieces). So, when I originally saw this on the menu, I was pretty keen to try it out, I love deep fried chicken! Most Tuesdays, you’ll see me in the KFC line. But for $4 a piece, I definitely hesitated. Plus, Grease Monkey is a pretty hipster place, I wasn’t really expecting anything generous. To be honest, I was kind of expecting three chicken wing sized pieces and I think with that kind of expectation, we could only ever really be impressed with what we ended up with.
Well from the above image, you can see that its actually pretty decent. For comparisons sake, the chicken pieces at Grease Monkey’s are about the size of a KFC or Chicken Gourmet chicken. I know its not as cheap as Chicken Gourmet or KFC but hey, that’s what we get for loving hipster food. Yes, there are also four pieces of chicken as opposed to three. I have no idea what happened there, it just came out like that and we definitely weren’t complaining. To be fair, I don’t know if it’s because we got a bunch of drumsticks and they were compensating, or perhaps they decided to show a bit of charity to us. At the end of the day, don’t expect four pieces because I have no idea how this occurred.
The chicken itself was really quite delicious. The best way to describe it is a cross between hot and spicy KFC, and original recipe KFC. An amazing combination if I do say so myself. Have you ever been eating original recipe and thought ‘wouldn’t it be awesome if this was a bit crunchier?’ Or have you ever been eating hot and spicy and thought ‘this would be so good if it had the herbs and spices of original recipe!’ If so, this is the chicken for you! It’s pretty much original recipe but crunchier. I know it’s kind of doing this a disservice by comparing it to fast food KFC, but I’m terrible at describing things and this is the shortcut I’ve chosen. I really enjoyed this chicken, I probably wouldn’t go gaga over it considering it’s $4 a piece, but if you’re someone that regularly pays for Korean Fried Chicken, then you’re probably not going to really mind here.
Finally a drink to wash all the goodies down, a Smoky bacon and maple milkshake ($6). While its not obvious, Grease Monkey actually serves some pretty cool milkshakes. On the menu, there is a little note right at the bottom about the milkshakes but you have to speak to one of their crew members to find out what flavours are available. When we were there, Grease Monkey had two different flavours, this smokey bacon milkshake and a chocolate peanut butter milkshake.
I love a good peanut butter sandwich and what not but when used as an ingredient in sweets and drinks, I find it gets pretty rich and sickly, so I opted for the smokey bacon milkshake. Plus, I think I must have a thing for bacon milkshakes because last time I was at Mary’s, I opted for the maple bacon milkshake. Must be a thing!
The smoky bacon milkshake didn’t quite taste like actual bacon itself, instead it tasted like all of the spices and flavours you associate with bacon, without tasting specifically like bacon. Weird concept I know. In fact I’d say the prevailing flavour of this dish was actually the maple, which came across as cinnamon. Overall, it wasn’t really rich, sweet or creamy, making it a lovely balanced and enjoyable drink that you could rip through easily without even noticing. This is something we did, and regretted, because it was completely gone by the time the food came out.
Don’t make our mistakes, conserve your shake.
There you have it, my visit to Grease Monkey. I must admit, I was very disappointed to see a replica of a famous Sydney restaurant. Ah, I should probably dial that back a bit. It reminds me a lot of Mary’s.
However, at the same time, the food was absolutely amazing and done really well. So, I feel like I must totally applaud the chef and kitchen crew for taking on these ingredients and this known concept and turning it into something absolutely amazing that Canberra sorely lacks.
Will I be back, knowing that its kind of a rip off? Maybe! I tend to take stands against things like this, no one likes a fraud or rip off but the food here was good enough for me to just really really want to eat it again. As someone that has eaten all over America, it’s really wonderful to see American food done right, and that’s what this is, American done right. The food here is actually fantastic and some of the best American I’ve had in Canberra. So if you’re craving some of that good old greasy stuff, head down to Grease Monkeys to get your burgers on.
19 Lonsdale Street, Braddon