Far from hosting muscle car get-togethers, Ryan Lane sees another use for the iconic former site of Harry’s Diner: an American barbeque bar and restaurant. Together with business partner and chef (or “pitmaster”, as he prefers) Michael Cameron, Lane is bringing smoked meats to Newmarket Road with Proof BBQ & Booze.
It marks a return to hospitality for Lane, with his love of barbequed meat, American whiskey and craft beer jolting him out of a short-lived retirement from the industry. He plans to seat almost 100 guests in the new space (60 inside and 40 in a beer garden out front) and deliver something akin to the service and attention to detail he became known for during his six-year stint as venue manager at The Gresham.
We’re still talking about a venue in the middle of a car park here, but Lane says the fact it’s in the suburbs only adds to Proof’s appeal. “You can walk the dog, smack two or three schooners with a barbeque and go home,” he says.
A small back bar will focus on range of American whiskies, most of them not previously available in Australia, Lane says. He’s contributing a bunch of drops from his personal collection but still intends to include crowd-pleasing favourites. The whiskey will sit alongside 15 craft beers (served by the bottle or can) and two rotational taps, and a 12-strong cocktail menu.
For food, Cameron will smoke all his meats on-site using ironbark and fruit woods, turning on the three smokers as early as 5am. The same menu will apply throughout the day and include traditional American staples such as shrimp grits and burnt-end chilli beans. The meat will come by the pound and include half and full racks of pork ribs, and half-chickens served with Alabama sauce. Vegetarian options will include salads, a portobello-mushroom burger and watermelon ham.
Lane and Cameron will serve all this across much longer hours than other venues in the area, with the kitchen staying open late every night. “Harry’s was open until 7pm,” he says. “We’ll trade until midnight, seven days.”
The opening date? July 4, of course.
Update: Proof's opening has been pushed back due to delivery delays. Ryan Lane says to keep an eye on the Proof Facebook page for updates.