Long before fast casual was even a thing, Australia’s burger, chook and salad needs were taken care of by neighbourhood chippies. Often run by Greek families, these stores generally did a great line in traditional Aussie burgers, battered fish (flake) and would happily wrap up two bucks worth of takeaway hot chips for you in paper. Summoning their spirit, Inferno Grill in Maroubra is one small business that deserves to win your business back from the flashy-looking fast casual chains.
“We’re just a chicken shop but we make it with a bit of flair,” laughs owner Anthony Parzakonis. He’s downplaying his menu, which runs the gamut from BBQ chooks and salads, to standout burgers, fish, including healthy grilled options, all the way to slow cooked beef that's sold by weight.
Consume the latter on one of Anthony’s own inventions – Greek Nachos ($15). Designed as a clever way of eliminating stale corn chip waste, this clever dish employs crisp pita chips they make in-house, a mound of Greek style salsa, Bulgarian feta and a blob of tzatziki – though the hero of the dish is the hidden strands of slow-cooked beef.
Kicking back with a Young Henry’s Beer ($5) drinking in amber liquid and golden afternoon sun on an al fresco table, I muse the only problem that you're likely to encounter here is deciding what to order. After all, the extensive chalkboard menu boasts six different kinds of chicken burger alone!
Luckily, the lure of juicy pineapple makes the Pig Kahuna ($16) stand out. Inspired by a Hawaiian trip, this burger boasts a double serve of Southern fried chicken, sticky maple bacon, American cheddar, chilli mayo. and acres of fresh coleslaw, all sandwiched inside a not-too-sweet bun. I appreciate the little touches, like the non-greasy chook, the house-made glazed maple bacon (a nod to Anthony’s Canadian wife), and them taking the time to grill the pineapple and gently toast the bun.
The most expensive burger on the menu, the Fatty Burger ($16), is another ode to that Facebook group of burger lovers known as The Fatties Burger Appreciation Society. With four protruding rashers of maple bacon gleaming in the sunlight, glued together with goodly amount of oozing American cheese that cleverly separates the two half brisket, half chuck steak patties, all amped up by two crisp onion rings and a deep fried pickle garnish, this burger looks spectacular. It's rounded out with mayo. and just enough Greek salsa to say you've eaten vegetables. It's a solid burger offering.
For an across the board look – pardon the pun - at what Inferno Grill does well, go for the Greek Tasting Plate ($22). This well-stacked wooden paddle shows off a juicy lamb skewers and grilled haloumi wedges against the expected range of salads, bread and tzatziki, then throws in a little bit of fried. The fat-cut chips and crumbed calamari rings are cooked with a degree of expertise - great as nobody likes rubbery calamari.
Using the experience he gained in high volume corporate cafes including Chicane in the CBD, and Altitude Espresso in Mascot, Anthony has put together a smart menu that makes the most out of a short but high quality ingredient list. He’s even taking on the gelato chains by filling his chest freezer with his own heaped ice cream creations. They’re made by mixing vanilla ice cream with a range of well-known ingredients – from Arnotts’ Tim Tams to Cadbury Crunchies – using a giant dough mixer. Quality Monin syrups help to intensify the flavour of these wonderfully textural dessert creations – I was sad only to have room for a little taste.
House-made, people-pleasing innovations like these remind me of why I prefer supporting the little guy who’s not contractually obliged to reproduce a chain menu. This freedom gives Inferno Grill the ability to rapidly morph and change, ensuring they always represent just what their customers want.
Inferno Grill & Cafe
3/944 Anzac Parade, Maroubra
Ph: (02) 9349 1821