The way I see it, there are three Melbourne burger slingers who put all others to shame: Fat Bob’s in Moorabbin, hipster haunt Rockwell and Sons on Smith Street, Collingwood, and La Via, a little-known contender on Glenferrie Road, Malvern.
Set in an industrial estate behind owner Bob Pankhurst’s sign shop, Fat Bob’s exploded onto the scene in 2013, with kitchsy-cool interiors and a no-fuss menu. Bob’s obsession with all things neon has resulted in a dizzying den of old petrol signs, fast-food icons and giant luminescent beer bottles. Don’t let the fact that it’s in Moorabbin lull you into a false sense of security – you’re going to need to book ahead for this bad boy.
Once seated at a curvaceous booth or slightly sticky high top, order up the Jackie O and a side of zucchini fries and you’re good to go. Jackie’s a juicy, dribbly stack of blush-centred beef, fontina cheese, salad, mustard and a tangy-creamy ‘special’ sauce. The Spartan with bacon, barbecue sauce and onion rings is also worth a look in.
Rockwell and Sons sets the burger benchmark on the northside with their double patty smash, a lusty rendition featuring Kraft cheese, a creamy, pickle-spiked sauce, and two patties that have been pummelled on the grill so that some hunks are rare and others flaunt a lovely charry crust. The hand-cut fries with malt vinegar aioli make a worthy partner.
Rounding out this tasty trio is La Via Cafe in Malvern. With its brioche bun, wagyu patty, cheese, sweet pickle and mayo, this neat little number ticks all my burger boxes. The dining room may be lacking the buzz and bravado of the other joints, but hey, at least you won’t have to queue for a seat.
Look out La Via, it looks like you’ve been pipped at the post. Check out my take on 8bit Burgers in Footscray, a clear contender for Melbourne’s best burger.