If you thought that Melbourne was anywhere close to smokehouse saturation point, you were wrong. The barbecue trend continues in all its meaty glory, with the latest addition drawing carnivorous punters even further west, to Footscray.
Up in Smoke is the new venture from 8bit's Shayne McCallum. Having conquered the tastebuds of this burgeoning foodie suburb with drool-worthy burgers, he's now decked out a prominent industrial space on Hopkins Street, stuck in a huge Yoder Frontiersman smoker and is serving up the smoky spoils nightly, from 5pm until they run out.
The asphalt beer garden fronting the 60-seat eatery is as big as the space within — an ideal spot for a drive-by ribs fix and craft beers with the crew. Inside, it's all black walls and booth seating, with that majestic smoker sitting behind glass and bathed in almost angelic light. It's responsible for the parade of meat sailing from the kitchen, nestled in tacos, wedged into hefty sandwiches and teamed simply with pickles, a milk bun and a duo of sauces on enamel trays.
You can avoid too much decision-making and opt for The Big Tray, loaded with brisket, sausage, a mound of pulled pork and two sides ($42), or you can build your own meaty adventure. Pork ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender ($28) and brisket is handled just as well ($16). Match them with some of the punchy chilli mayo slaw ($5), or decadent, crunchy-topped mac 'n' cheese ($6) and you'll be in smokehouse heaven.
If you've got any spare room in that belly, be sure to sample the smoked hot wings ($10), or one of the tacos ($5 each). The seafood number is a fiesta in its own right, filled with polenta-crumbed prawns, avocado, corn, black beans and a zesty lime crema.
Alongside the meat, the other big drawcard here is a stellar booze offering. A sharp little wine list straddles the line between approachable and interesting, while craft beer fans will go nuts over both the tap selection and the bottles in the fridge. Right now, you can team your brisket with a Fixation IPA ($6.50 pot) or go a little left of centre with Bad Shepherd's raspberry wheat beer ($7/$14/$26).
Come for the meat and stay for the stuff you wash it down with. Whether you live in the west, the north or the east, this is one Footscray gem worth checking out.
Images: Renee Stamatis