After nine years running food trucks (first with Preston Market taco van Cornutopia, then ice-cream sandwiches with My Two Mums) Ellie Marin felt it was time for something different – something less mobile.

“I just liked the idea of running water that you didn’t have to fetch with a bucket,” she says with a laugh. “I got the biggest, crappiest shop with cheap rent and did a lot of the things myself or just upcycled. I bought the entire kitchen from Subway when it was closing down.”

Instead of subs and footlongs, Marin and her team are whipping up fried-chicken burgers and loaded fries at Fried Hustle, just a few blocks from where she used to operate Cornutopia.

The fried chook comes three ways: as a serve of nuggets or tenders, or as a thick fillet in a burger, Every piece is brined in buttermilk for two days, then dredged in flour and spiced breadcrumbs before being dropped into the fryer. Tofu – the alternative used for the vegan burgers and nuggets – is treated the same way, with soy buttermilk instead.

The namesake burger – fried chicken; pink coleslaw (made with beetroot for a little sweetness); pickles; house mayo; and spicy sauce in a toasted bun – is the specialty. The Princess is a no-frills chicken burger with lettuce, cheese and mayo, while the Snugs is an ode to the Aussie with beetroot, pineapple and smokey barbecue sauce.

To snack, there are loaded chips with mozzarella curd and gravy; tofu nuggets; loaded chicken nuggets with housemade sriracha honey and chipotle mayo (cauliflower is the vegan substitute); and southern fried cauliflower. There’s also a rocket, green bean and toasted-almond salad and a tomato-basil salad.

My Two Mums is out of action in the colder months, but you can get its ice-cream sandwiches here instead. Scoops of blood orange, rock-salt caramel and dark chocolate ice-cream (from Everest Ice Cream in Reservoir) are squished between two choc-chip or double-fudge cookies.

Drinks are local, too – there’s natural vino from Jamsheed and Fin Wines, with Moon Dog World covering beers.

Fried Hustle was slated to open on March 23 – the day after restaurants and cafes were limited to takeaway service only.

“We didn’t even have takeaway menus or packaging,” Marin says. Her attention was diverted to her food trucks (managing the imapct of gigs and events cancelled left and right), but in mid-May she finally opened Fried Hustle.

Close friend and designer Caitlin Perry of Setsquare Studio (which is behind Very Good Falafel, the forthcoming Sense of Self and Perth’s Billy Van Creamy) helped Marin transform the old pawn shop with warm hues and timber accents. Terracotta tiles, lilac tables and mustard-hued banquette seating match the terrazzo benchtop near the back, while plants from Marin’s own kitchen dot the space.

“We’re casual dining, but at the same time I don’t want to have the fast-food vibe,” Marin says. “I want people to know that when they come here they can eat well.”

Fried Hustle is takeaway-only during Victoria’s stage-four lockdown. Order online.

Fried Hustle
346 High Street, Preston
0422 246 637

Sun to Thu 11.30am–9pm
Fri & Sat 11.30am–9.30pm