Although uprooting a restaurant and taking it to another city isn’t an easy proposition, chef Shayne McCallum believes the time is ripe to bring his video game-themed burger joint, 8bit, to Sydney. “I would hate for Sydney to think, ‘bloody Melbourne guys trying to take over the scene’, but burger culture is really healthy here; Sydney is going fucking berserk for burgers, so it’s a good time to come,” he says.
8bit first opened in Melbourne’s Footscray in 2014. The plan was to focus on hotdogs loaded with toppings, but McCallum and co-founder Alan Sam quickly realised people wanted burgers, so changed tack. “Footscray was a grungy little store, and it bloody exploded. There were lines out the door just because we were doing something different.”
The duo created 8bit as a nostalgic ode to the neighbourhood fish‘n’chip shop, adding in vintage arcade machines and a soundtrack of hip-hop tunes from the duo’s youth. The burgers carry names like the Zelda (with a chickpea, corn and quinoa patty), after the Nintendo action-fantasy game from the ’80s; there’s a Golden Axe (fried chicken, cheese, sriracha mayo and slaw) named after the 1989 Sega arcade game; and a Fatal Fury (hotdog with a chilli and cheese kransky, cheese sauce, chilli beef and jalapeños) after the 1991 fighting game.
So successful was the format the pair opened two more stores in Melbourne’s CBD, and now their first Sydney outpost at Darling Harbour’s new eat street Steam Mill Lane. “This is our biggest and baddest store,” says McCallum. “It’s massive compared to Footscray and I think it’s looking pretty fantastic.”
The stores all maintain the 8bit blue, yellow and orange pixel design, but each is inspired by a different video game. Super Mario Bros fans might recognise Sydney’s as the castle in the final level of the Super Nintendo game.
The menu doesn’t change though. Ingredients include bacon, American cheese, tart pickles and tangy mayo, and there are never more than two patties. “I don’t want to get into burger politics, but we differ from a lot of people who do massive burgers,” McCallum says. “We don’t go crazy.”
8bit is one of the first venues to open in Steam Mill Lane and the space is bright and colourful. A liquor license is in the works and there are plans to collaborate with local craft brewers such as Young Henrys. There are 130 seats inside and out, and like in Melbourne, there are two arcade machines so you can jump Diddy Kong through barrels with one hand and smash a Golden Axe fried-chicken burger with the other.
8bit Darling Square
51 Tumbalong Boulevard, Darling Square, Haymarket