When coronavirus shut down the city, Down N’ Out’s CBD burger shop took a near-fatal blow. “Our revenue dropped like 90 per cent, which was just manic,” owner Ben Kagan tells Broadsheet.
Kagan and his business partner Archie Saliba had to come up with a plan. In early May they printed some signs, stuck them on the side of a food truck they rented from their mates at American BBQ Kitchen, and started selling burgers from a Marrickville car park in a quiet cul-de-sac down the street from Batch Brewing Co. In fact, if it weren’t for the music and the scent of bacon, you wouldn’t even know Down N’ Out was there.
“It’s chilled vibes in the car park,” says Kagan. “We’re playing funk, soul, hip-hop – the same as in the CBD. And I’ve got a projector to play ’90s cartoons and this crazy Japanese game show, Takeshi’s Castle. We put them up with no sound and people just love it,” he says.
The menu is the same as at the CBD venue. There’s a double Wagyu burger with American cheese, pickles, onions and a tangy secret sauce, and the perfectly crunchy-but-juicy chicken burger with smoky barbeque sauce and sweet mayo. The hefty sides are meals in themselves: hot wings, chopped salads with mushroom or chicken, and tiger fries (chips covered with cheese sauce, burger sauce and caramelised onion).
When Broadsheet talks to Kagan, the Ultimate Meatlovers special – a Wagyu patty topped with pizza-flavoured mac’n’cheese, bacon bits and hot pepperoni – is also on the menu. “It’s a bit messy,” he says. “You might need a fork.”
Like Down N’ Out’s previous pop-ups, the Marrickville food truck is a short-term arrangement. “We’re just doing a set period during Covid-19 restrictions,” says Kagan. “We’ve been getting a great response though, and we’d love to open a full bar in Marrickville.”
That’s good news for fans of the popular burger joint – and Kagan and Saliba (who also run the annual burger festival Burgapalooza). In February, the federal court found that Down N’ Out had passed itself off as American burger chain In-N-Out, using marks that “were deceptively similar ... [and] likely to cause confusion” between the two companies. The legal case is ongoing.
Down N’ Out Burger
1/17 Barclay Street, Marrickville
(02) 9261 8921
Wed to Sun 12pm–3pm, 5pm–9pm