Lester and Earl… a place to get barbecue and booze at Palm Beach

lester and earl, palm beach, the gold coast
Jennee used the interweb super highway to locate another American style barbecue joint for us to try at the Gold Coast, so indeed we did drive there to consume said smoky sustenance from the hickory tainted pits.

Looking up a Lester & Earl from the carpark out back
Looking up a Lester & Earl from the carpark out back

After what would’ve possibly been a half days journey by horse and cart, we pulled into the exit of the car park and parked our vehicle. The pulling into the exit was not because I am big and tough and don’t even give a fuck, but merely because I wasn’t wearing my glasses and don’t see the very best.

It was now time for me to get excited. Game on.

I will probably return to become great friends with that bar
I will probably return to become great friends with that bar

Now, I’ll let you in on a little moderately widely known fact about me; I get excited by the whole eating experience. Like, really excited. Like, I get excited like the new age hipster who has just found himself a solid supply of organic hand-crafted artisanal rocks to compliment his recycled wooden pallet shabby chic open plan lounge room/bathroom motif. One thing that really does not excite me though, is the new age hipster who has just found himself a solid supply of organic hand-crafted artisanal rocks to compliment his recycled wooden pallet shabby chic open plan lounge room/bathroom motif. Those people cannot be my friend. I fricking kid you not (yeah. Like top knot. Great pun, me) that shit is absolutely rife up here right now… I fear we may need to cull shortly to thin out their numbers purely in the interest of protecting the species as a whole, for soon there will not be enough hand-crafted organic chia seed, kale and tumeric loaves to support the population…

I’m probably going to get in trouble because I said I don’t like something. It’s not very nice if you say you don’t like things. It is generalized, pigeon holed, bigoted malarkey… but I did it… and you may need to prepare yourself for the scenario where I don’t actually recant my comment even one little bit…

But it could probably be said that we are not here today to discuss my uneducated social commentary, but rather to discuss the lunch we had at the comparatively new (compared to say, the beach and shining white sand that are mere meters from its doors) serving-all-things-southern-and-soulful establishment, Lester and Earl.

A bit of the menu
A bit of the menu

To start off with; great name folks. Really good. Now, moving on…
Root beer
Root beer

We were seated and quickly ordered some drinks. I ordered a root beer because I though I was a cowboy. Root beer tastes kinda funny but kinda nice to me, so I drank it all up. There was a bit of confusion with the other drinks but it was all sorted out fairly quickly which is good but… I’ve read quite a few reviews from peeps who weren’t really happy with the service here so maybe writing the orders down as they come from the mouths of the people, even if that’s just for the bigger tables, might be a better start?? Don’t get me wrong, I’m as impressed as the next guy if I can order 8 meals and it all hits the table as requested but, well, that just aint always the case… jus’ sayin’.

We ordered the ass out of what I thought to be a good cross section of what was on offer; beef short rib, pulled pork, buttermilk fried chicken, the American Classic burger, ‘slaw, collard greens and mac ‘n’ cheese.

Some of the goodies we put in our faces
Some of the goodies we put in our faces

See, that is a pretty good cross section.

When we ordered the chicken our waitress apologized and told us the wait was going to be 15 minutes. Her apology would have been better spent on something else worth apologizing about, like maybe her damn cheeriness, because I really didn’t consider that to be a wait. I was pretty sure I didn’t come to lunch at a fast food chain restaurant and I knew for a fact I have taken longer than that for my morning “movement”. Maybe the people are just in more of a hurry up here…

The food came, we ate, and we were happy.

That burger
That burger

The burger was a highlight, as was the smoked short rib and the pulled pork. Pulled pork with Carolina mustard sauce is quickly becoming one of my favourite things in the world… my family is still first though, but pulled pork could take the top spot on a really shitty day though. And I reeeeallllly loved those waffle cut potato things, they made me feel like a child and I want to put them on my own restaurant menu. Fucking tasty, not-every-day-food, fried goodness. Oh, and I almost forgot about the smoked jalapeño and bacon poppers – soooo damn good, but if they were jalapeños the chef must’ve used some kind of spice removal kit on them because, much like a snake playing a soccer match, they didn’t have any kick at all. But, they were just so effing tasty I had to let it slide. The ‘slaw was good with a little Asian influence, and the mac ‘n’ cheese was indeed cheesy and maccy ☺
Mac'n'cheese
The pickles and collard greens were possibly the only thing I didn’t enjoy the heck out of. The pickle was a wedge of onion. Now some things just go together and I NEED some pickles with my barbecue, full stop … it’s kinda like Sunny without Cher, gypsies with out trinkets or a certain Victorian football club without a drug scandal. And the greens? Well they were a little too beef stocky for me. I like them to be a little more chicken stocky and bacon or smoked sausage smoky.
They have refresher towels so you can clean your beard and/or face afterwards. This made me very happy and the rest of the family very less embarrassed
They have refresher towels so you can clean your beard and/or face afterwards. This made me very happy and the rest of the family very less embarrassed

It was still a pretty damn well arranged little symphony that’s fo’ sho.

All in all a damn good lunch in a nice spot over looking the Pacific Ocean and the beaches that stop said ocean from enveloping the Gold Coast. Next time I will try a little later in the arvo so I can get stuck into the bottles of stuff they have at the bar!

Those not-quite-jalepeno-but-still-really-tasty-poppers that I almost forgot about
Those not-quite-jalepeno-but-still-really-tasty-poppers that I almost forgot about

Lester and Earl1097 Goal Coast Highway, Palm Beach

The Empire Café and Burger Bar, Mullumbimby… a really nice place to eat a burger

the empire cafe and burger bar mullumbimby
This place is doing the town of Mullumbimby a service.

It has brought to town a cracking range of burgers so that the local burgerfiles may be satisfied. And I’m sure it has done many other good things for the town to boot – fed a lonely puppy dog or mowed lawns for the elderly or something like that, just because the people who were working in the place seemed like they would do that sort of stuff. They just seemed genuinely nice and like they actually gave a fuck about how your stupid day was going or if you were enjoying your meal. When we arrived at 11am to realise that lunch started at 12, we told them no worries but we would come back in an hour when lunch (and the freaking burgers that I had driven out here to eat) were ready to get into my face, and then do you know what the young lady behind the counter said? Probably not, unless you were one of the three folks sitting along the wall, who had their faces deeply embedded in their laptops… but I don’t think that was you… well, I don’t think it was… Well what that young lady said was this; “You can order off the lunch menu now if you want”. I did want. I did want very much and I was very thankful for the offer. That is certainly something that could be called a textbook definition of hospitality.

The menu looks almost exactly like this
The menu looks almost exactly like this

I feel like I should be taking a bit more piss out of something these folks did, but I gotta tell you, everything about these peeps was just nice. Sure it was starting to seem like they may be part of some kind of alien worshipping cult, but I was going to give their burgers a go none-the-less. I was liking this place a whole heap by now, but it was way past the time that I needed to be finding out if their Grazza McFilthy Mouth winning service was backed up by premium product!

“Zorba the Greek” ($13) for Dr Chris, the boys both ordered “the Wolverine” ($14), I hooked into “the Drover” (the name of a burger. I did not try to hook into the actual drover as he seemed like he wouldn’t really be a broke back mountain type of guy) ($13) and then I grabbed some onion rings and sweet potato wedges ($4 each) for the family… or mostly for myself.

The Wolverine. What a fricking beast!
The Wolverine. What a fricking beast!

“The Wolverine” was indeed a beast that was almost enough to leave a permanent scar on my children… almost. Although it did not come with retractable hand knife things, it did indeed come with a beef pattie, bacon, fried egg, caramelized pineapple, cream cheese, beetroot, tomato and lettuce. This thing stood tall and proud and it was not going to take shit from anyone that’s for sure. I don’t know if I was more impressed with the burger or the fact I had to fight my kids for a bite, but it was damn impressive either way. Truly a beast!

Dr Chris, who you may remember from “I’m not an actual doctor but I’m more than happy to take a look for you” fame, or possibly from the “A Current Affair” exclusive, or even from the fact that he is my dearest Jennee’s birth father, gave his lamb burger the tick of approval, although he said he was yearning for a bigger chunk of meat. Now, I’m not sure if he’d gone totally off-subject or if he was still referring to the meat in the burger but that shredded lamb would’ve done me fine.

Bloody younger generation and their damn trendiness *waves fist in air like crazy old person*

That Drover
That Drover

“The Drover” was perfect. Yeah, I know, that’s what she said. Everything I need in a burger was held between the cheeks of that decent bun; well seasoned beef pattie, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, chilli jam and chipotle mayo. So damn good.

I washed my burger down with the best sweet potato wedges I have quite possibly ever eaten and a few different condiments to lube them up a little for the journey to my belly.

The best sweet potato wedges with the third best onion rings
The best sweet potato wedges with the third best onion rings

OK, the question of everybody’s lips; the onion rings. You know the humble onion ring is a pretty touchy subject around these parts but, well, I’m always going to give them a go. They were OK but they were more of a thick batter ring than an onion ring. I did not send them to the lab for testing but that batter was waaaay to thick for me to find too much onion in there, so they were kind of forgettable which is probably why I kind of forgot about them. I know that you may think that I have some kind of onion ring hex on me with my luck lately, but I’m sure they will come good soon…

I don’t even know how I found out about this place but I’m sure it was an accident. Actually, that is a complete lie. I do know how I found out about this place and I know it was an accident.

The story goes like this; Jennee was scouring the guide for the Mullum Music Festival (a pretty good reason to head to Mullum in itself) when she came across an ad for these guys. She sent me a pic of said ad and then I went here. That is it. I love a short story!

Nom nom chomp chomp
Nom nom chomp chomp

So yes, the Empire Burger Bar has done the little hinterland town of Mullumbimby a very generous service.

Go there so I may sleep well tonight for I have spread the good word.

Empire Café and Burger Bar Mullumbimby

Bayger Gourmet Burgers, Byron Bay… still delivering the goods

bayger burgers byron bay
It had been quite a while since we had visited our ol’ fave, Bayger Gourmet Burgers in Byron Bay. Bayger is a bit of an old dog in a world of young pups when it comes to the local gourmet burger scene and we were keen to suss out if they were still delivering the goods and cocking their leg all over the place, or if they had become incontinent and spent all day in bed licking their own gear…

The storm clouds rolled in from the south as we headed into “the Bay” to rekindle this old friendship. Storm clouds in the middle of spring! That did not deter us though.

The sky bellowed like the stomach of Thor himself was rumbling after he had eaten one too many shrimp surprise from the all you can eat buffet. It was sounding ominous that’s for sure, but still we did not falter.

It rained (and I am always a little suspicious when the bright blue skies of spring are smothered by the fluffy grey harbinger of wetness. Yes, the fluffy grey “pocket rocket” battery powered woman’s accessory if you will…) as if Thor was indeed displeased with me. Displeased with me. And I have no idea why. I mean, in the last two weeks I have sacrificed three perfectly good goats… three goats… I don’t know… it’s between me and Thor I guess. Needless to say, we soldiered on.

We made it to Bayger and promptly ordered our meal as we were quite hungry, but we are always pretty quite hungry it is true.

Rolling with the big dogs and getting the hell into my face
Rolling with the big dogs and getting the hell into my face

Not a single one of our number could go past the Bacon & Cheese ($12.90);
Prime beef, crispy bacon, melted cheddar cheese, salad & BayGer sauce with your choice of wholemeal, light sourdough or Turkish bun. We all added the chips and home made lemonade meal deal option for an extra $2.50, and we also had the beer battered onion rings with garlic aioli* ($5).

The burgers here are both delicious and tasty. The patties are well seasoned, juicy and just cooked past medium, I had the Turkish bun which was indeed Turkish bun like and the salad makes the burger appear to be healthy, which it probably almost is until we had the bacon and cheese option. I’m not sure what is in their Bayger sauce but it kinda tasted like it was mayonnaise with chopped pickle… maybe not, but it still worked well on their burger anyhow.

Come here
Come here you sexy effer

The shoestring fries were a nice change. I don’t see them around a lot anymore and they are quite possibly my second favourites after the crinkle cut chip. Crisp and damn tasty, covered with some kinda special seasoning and perfect for carrying condiments to my mouth just like a good chip should be. Good chip. Good chip.

The home made lemonade (which has a drop of rose water I think) is cracking. I seriously crave that stuff as much as I crave the burgers. I crave it like I crave just one day free of stupid people. It is deliciously refreshing and once again gives your brain the impression that you are being healthy! They even gave us free refills, which mad me feel extra special and like this place even more. I am a seriously fickle mother fucker and that is the sort of shit that is going to have me coming back for more.

Very, very tasty
Very, very tasty

Now this is the part of the really good report card that I never like. I know I am not a teacher and Bayger is by no means my student, but that is the best analogy I can come up with so that shall be how we roll today. The onion rings. No good. The batter was almost rubbery. I don’t know why, but that’s how it was. Onion rings are some of my favourite things (along with unicorns, fluffy bunny rabbits and waterfalls made of that kick-ass home made lemonade) and I really think they aren’t done well often enough. That is what I reckon people.

And I will tell you this for free; these guys are still rocking their OG styles. Great burgers with a bit of a healthy aspect to them, loaded with local produce and washed down with awesome home made lemonade. Bayger are indeed still rolling with the big dogs and delivering what your burger eating face needs… possibly as long as your face doesn’t really need onion rings, that’s all. This place is still well worth the visit for the rest of its offerings!

Click here to save yourself the time it will take you to type Bayger Gourmet Burgers Byron Bay.

*I love it when people call aioli “garlic aioli”. Aioli literally translates to garlic oil. Garlic garlic oil is funny. It’s like that whole ATM machine or PIN number thing. I know, I should just leave people alone.

Byron Burger Australia, Byron Bay

byron burger australia
As we approached Byron Burger Australia my first impression was that it looked like what I thought a burger bar should look like and that made me happy. It had seats and tables, really happy staff who seemed genuinely happy to be at work, a grill to cook burgers on, and a menu that declared that many of the ingredients that would be cooked on the aforementioned grill were sourced locally. Bang on! The only thing missing was beer, but I was happy to let that slide and grab myself the southern white trash teeth-rotting standard – the Mountain Dew. Yep, I did the Dew.

I feel I need to say that I do not often “do the Dew”, but every time I do it reminds me of a joke…

There’s these three woman (of whatever race, colour or creed you decide they should be because I am certainly no racist or hate mongerer, just a regular guy of whatever other race you want me to be… I think I need to go now) talking about their lovers… heard it? I don’t even care… anyway, they’re talking about their lovers – comparing them to soda. The first woman says “my man, my man he is seven-up… because he has seven inches and they’re always up”. The second says “well my man is Mountain Dew… because I always need a mountin’, and he always do”. Then the third says “well my man, my man is Jaaaaack Daniels”. The other two in unison, “girl, that ain’t no soda pop, that’s one damn fine liquer”. She says, “I know”.

But these here pages are not all about the jokes people so let’s get back to the food, and more specifically, the onion rings.

You might get to see the postman ride past from your seat...
You might get to see the postman ride past from your seat…

They had crisp crumbed onion rings on their menu, which I can tell you now is enough to make me crisp in certain regions of my anatomy, but when I tried to order them they were out. Done. And it was only 11:45am. There was something amiss with that whole onion ring situation but I soldiered on…

The burgers arrived and those nice peeps behind the counter of this fine establishment must’ve known how to make it up to me because the burgers had a guindilla stabbed into them like the tribesman’s spear into the head of the visiting Englishman. Guindilla = happy Grazza! Anyone who doesn’t know of the guindilla is probably also incapable of using google so I feel it is my responsibility to inform you that it is in fact a pickled chilli of the Basque Region, and also damn tasty!

Tasty tasty tasty
Tasty tasty tasty

As were the burgers.

Grilled local beef, seasoned perfectly, gently held aloft by the right amount of salad and a tasty bun, and the addition of a big fat slab of melting blue cheese on mine (the Byron Burger with Blue Cheese, $14.50). A good burger indeed!

The boys both opted for the Tropical Lighthouse ($14.90) with all the usual culprits plus bacon, cheddar and grilled pineapple. I tried a bite of this bad boy and it made me very happy inside my belly. In fact, I will return one day to eat one of these burgers all to my self.

Look at that guindilla just begging me to get in there
Look at that guindilla just begging me to get in there

Chips for the table were perfectly cooked and crisp, and if I remember correctly they were only 4 bucks. Yeah, 4 bucks. I love a bowl of good chips for 4 bucks!

We left happily satiated and thanked the Northern Rivers region for giving us another worthy burger joint… in that same leaving process we also notice that they had a $12 meal deal with a burger (your choice of the Surfer Chick or Byron Burger with Cheese), chips and drink which seemed like a pretty damn common sense option and one I would definitely be back to take advantage of… but let’s face it, at the end of the day the cracking burgers were going to be plenty enough to get me back.

Well played Byron Burger. Well played indeed.

Great wall art by Fabien Fuego
Great wall art by Fabien Fuego

Byron Burgers facey is just a click away

WilliamsBurg, Lennox Head, NSW – A really really good place to go to eat a burger.

williamsburg lennox head
A new burger joint within the distance that I may ride my donkey from my house and not need to use public facilities on the way is the type of thing that is going to get me excited. I also get quite excited by midget porn … and midget wrestling… just midget anything really. Or should I be saying little people? Small people? I don’t bloody know. Somebody hook a brother up with the low down eh.

So,
1. New burger joint
2. Close enough to our house
3. Got a bit of a weird little thing going on in my brain where it feels like there is a few of those aforementioned little people in my brain and they are trying to punch their way out from the inside. (I’m not sure what the heck happened but I do remember going to our good friends wedding, having a beer, owning the dance floor and the microphone, having another beer, groping the bride’s mother, or was that the father? Yep, definitely the father. Had another beer, paid way too much for a taxi home, had another beer, retired gracefully to bed, woke up with said pain in head. Best I can deduce with nary the capabilities or funds needed to purchase a junior detective’s kit so I may take the investigation further, is some bastard did something to my brain while I was sleeping. Not cool… not cool at all)
4. New burger joint
5. They have deep fried pickles

That little list meant that I had 5 reasons to get my ragged ass out of bed on this day, and take that same ass for a leisurely drive through the winding roads that make up these back hills of the far north coast of NSW, and what a journey it was.

The burger menu looked like this
The burger menu looked like this

We found WilliamsBurg perched quite aptly on the corner of William St and another street that I can’t remember the name of (but if you’re super curious it is the one that runs along the beach front) in the little beachside town of Lennox Head and with that I found my self a new reason to go on and dare I say, love. We made our way inside, sat down, looked at menus and ordered some stuff… pretty much the things you would expect of someone going into a restaurant…

There was plenty of booze to choose from including local new kid on the block, the Top Shed, amber liquid on tap (but I will be honest and tell you that my face did choose an apple and guava juice due to the pummeling it had taken from old matey booze the night previous), and then there were the burgers. These burgers were almost godly. They could’ve almost done themselves more justice by calling the place heaven… if that wasn’t the shittiest name you could actually call anything except actual heaven… These guys truly know how to treat a piece of meat (nudge nudge, wink wink). This place should be the template for what a gourmet burger joint should strive to be – a well cooked burger put together with a slew of local ingredients produced by some of the regions finest, and the sides to back it up. I don’t know if I am conveying this point successfully but I think these guys make REALLY EFFING GOOD BURGERS.

That burger coming down from heaven to go into my face

After visiting WilliamsBurg for the first time recently I declared on other social media that there was not one single thing about my experience that I did not love, which was almost entirely true, but then I just remembered the mayonnaise. The mayonnaise was not as excellent as every other thing I tasted. The mayonnaise tasted kinda like some eggs and oil emulsified together (which we as a reality cooking show watching public know is a damn good start, right?) but then it didn’t seem to have too much else in it… like mustard or vinegar or seasoning. But that was the only little thing, like the only little thing. Yeah, I could have let it go, but I didn’t get the moniker “the mayonnaise nazi” by letting things like this slide 😉

Back to the good stuff.

“The William” with a few onion strips

Seba and I both went straight for the jugular of “the William” (beef patty, bacon, double cheese, lettuce, bacon jam, special sauce and deep fried pickles $16) which was without a doubt the best burger I have ever eaten in my life and the benchmark to which I will measure all burgers from here on in, and I do believe that’s all I need to say about that. (PS Laura’s Mess, something similar to this will be going down at the burger challenge my friend)

Jennee opted for “the Moocher” with it’s beer battered local fresh fish (today it was blue eye cod), ‘slaw and tartare sauce ($15.5). simple and delicious… or simply delicious… or something.

I didn't really get any pics of anything else because I was too busy having the time of my life with this sexy thing
I didn’t really get any pics of anything else because I was too busy having the time of my life with this sexy thing

Obi just wanted chips, which is highly unusual when there’s a burger on offer, but you know what? This was one of those days that if one of the kids want to have just chips for lunch, they can have just chips for lunch. So we got those chips, which were so crisp and tasty and just damn good, and we also got some crispy battered onion strips of awesome just to round it all off.

We all left so very very satiated and possibly a little smarter and better looking, the healing qualities of a damn fine burger fully realised.

I will go back to WilliamsBurg very soon. In fact, I feel that if it were just a wee bit closer, I would go there very often and very quickly turn into a red bearded Elvis type character.

Corner of Williams St and Pacific Parade (yeah I looked it up for you), Lennox Head, NSW. Go there now

Burger Buns a la Stephane Raynaud’s “Gourmet Hotdogs”

burger, burger buns
I have had burgers before, not in the biblical sense, but a good burger is something I like to eat on a regular basis. It is not about the weather, or a mood thing, or to do with religion, I just like to eat burgers… straight into my face hole.

During my last twenty years on this earth I have certainly cooked a few of these one hand delivery, covering all food groups, suductively shaped, alluring, tasty little morsels and if you’re keen you can find a recipe for one in a heap of different places on this blog. I would suggest typing “burger” into the search bar in the top right corner of this page. Or, alternately, go to someone else’s better blog and type “burger” into the search page on theirs.

But today it isn’t about the burger. Much like the sexy all-male review sans the sweaty middle-aged women and fifty dollar notes, today it is all about the sweet, buttery buns.

This recipe was handed to me from Stephane Reynaud via his book “Gourmet Hotdogs – How To Dress Your Dog With Style” which was gifted to me on my last birthday by great friends and, without even close competition, my favourite will-they-ever-actually-be-married couple, Mark and Kate, who bought (or possibly stole… I saw no receipt…) it from a bookshop, the owner of said bookshop having purchased it from a book wholesaler. So that is how I have come to be in possession of this sweet milk bun recipe… and it was a cracker. Kinda brioche-y, but not.

I’m trying the straight ol’ milk buns next to see which I prefer… who cares? I know.

The book. There's some mighty fine looking hotdogs in here too
The book. There’s some mighty fine looking hotdogs in here too

Just after the second proving, all dressed up ready for the oven
Just after the second proving, all dressed up ready for the oven
Out of the oven. Nothing wrong with those buns
Out of the oven. Nothing wrong with those buns
Burgers grilled over coals are damn good burgers
Burgers grilled over coals are damn good burgers
Especially when they have cheese and bacon on top
Especially when they have cheese and Cromwell Farms bacon on top
It looks like my burger is trying to eat the pickle. It's not though, because it is a burger
It looks like my burger is trying to eat the pickle. It’s not though, because it is a burger

(I kinda stuffed up the measurements a little because the acid was just starting to kick in, so what I’ve ended up with is a cross breed of his milk buns and sweet milk buns. Deal with it)

SWEET MILK BUNS a la STEPHANE REYNAUD (sort of)

1 sachet (7g) yeast
200ml lukewarm milk
400g strong flour
50g castor sugar
75g softened butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
Sesame seeds
• Add the yeast to the lukewarm milk
• Combine all ingredients and kneed until smooth and elastic to form a compact ball. Cover with a damp cloth and allow dough to rise for 1 hour at room temperature
• Punch the air out of the dough, shape into six pretty evenly sized rolls and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover with a warm damp cloth and let them rise again at room temperature for 1 hour
• Glaze with egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds, then bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 15 minutes
• Slice it open and fill it with whatever it is you like to put on a burger