An expansive menu full of burgers, wings, hot dogs, ribs, and indulgent desserts – why it can only be yet another American diner. Working in their favour, Brooklyn Depot Burgers & Brew have already proven a hit up the coast, the second best-known-for-burgers brand to be born in QLD only to expand down to Sydney (the first being not-too-distant Surry Hills neighbour Ze Pickle). Like Ze Pickle, it’s been a move readily welcomed by locals as well, seeing as those who regularly make the trip up north have been begging for it to be brought down to the harbour city for some time.
Brooklyn Depot is much what you’d expect from an American diner, though a bit brighter than usual. Rather than the moody, industrial aesthetic, there’s an energetic mash of bright murals paying homage to the New York borough, whether it be symbolised in the subway-style special menu or the confusingly hidden (it’s near the male bathroom) portrait of Jay Z. There’s also a mural of Beyoncé (who is from Texas) though Foxy Brown would have been a smarter choice since this is Brooklyn themed. There’s no Big Daddy Kane or Biggie either, but it’s clear that the hip hop slant many associate with the famed New York neighbourhood isn’t the focus here. While I’d much rather hear “Warm It Up, Kane” pumping out of the speakers than awful pop-house covers, niggling nuances are negligible with food this generous.
If you’re in a group it’s tempting to go directly for The 3 B’s ($36), a Brooklyn BBQ board with a selection of the kitchen’s most popular meats, including chicken wings, BBQ pork ribs, pulled lamb shoulder, Depot slaw, “cowboy caviar” (which is just fresh salsa), and toasted brioche. You may be able to swap into some other meats; for my visit the regular chicken wings became the sweet Pimped Chicken Wings (otherwise $12) which is served in a choice of three styles – sweet BBQ, spicy buffalo, and crispy southern fried.
So how are the meats? The ribs have plenty of tender meat on them but the basting is spread on too thin so the flavour isn’t as rich – some people like it this way, some don’t – the pulled lamb shoulder is dry and only worthwhile sitting on top of those lightly toasted brioche slices with some salsa. The crumbed BBQ chicken wings are the star here, but it needs something rich like the thick ranch that comes with the buttermilk Harlem Chicken Tenders ($12), a separate side that’s well worth ordering as a shared starter.
My suggestion: skip the platter and order up separate meat options.
While I could take or leave the meat platter on any subsequent visit, one thing I wouldn’t neglect is the fantastic basket of Garbage Fries ($10), loaded skinny fries dressed up with diced bacon, onion strings, cheese sauce, and frickles (fried pickles). You can opt to spend the same amount and douse the fries with beef chilli cheese, or even some cheese and gravy (poutine style) but going ‘garbage’ is a good approach. Loaded fries usually run the risk of getting all soggy under those fatty ingredients, but these ones stay crispy and golden, a blend of strong flavour and strong texture that’s as addictive as any loaded fries I’ve come across in the area.
There are 13 burgers on the menu (not including a monthly special – which for August is a mac’n’cheese burger) which is a step away from the usual trend of doing just a few things but doing them well. Whether all the burgers are of the same quality remains to be tasted, but the two I managed to try certainly spoke well enough for the kitchen. First there’s the Donnie Brasco tribute Fuhgeddaboudit! ($15) which is instantly recoginsable from the long syringe filled with chilli sauce sticking out of the bun – it’s filled with your choice of mild, medium, hot, or “fuhgeddaboudit”. Between the milk bun is a grass fed beef patty (cooked Medium by default), beef chilli, American cheese, an onion ring, and chilli relish. The sweet relish is the dominant taste here and it’s as if this is a spruced up version of a sloppy joe (it sure is sloppy), the main difference being your chosen level of heat. Out of the two burgers, this one would be my pick.
The Outta Towner ($14) is nice for something different, with a grass fed beef patty, provolone cheese, sliced premium steak, roasted green peppers, caramelised onions, and cheese sauce. The opposing textures between the chewy, pepper steak and the tender patty may seem awkward at first, like a hamburger has just went and interrupted a perfectly fine Philly cheese steak, but the flavour is outstanding.
Other burgers that roused my interest were the Wisenheimer ($13) with slow cooked pork belly, green apple slaw, and truffle mayo, the Depot Burger ($15), an obvious signature with two patties, double American cheese, hickory smoked bacon, grilled pineapple, oak leaf lettuce, tomato, and special sauce, and the Filthy Pilgrim ($15), a busy burger built with turkey breast, homemade gravy sauce, a roast potato and garlic patty, melted brie cheese, herbed stuffing crumble, and cranberry mayo.
Desserts are your typical unhealthy American sweets. My guest and I were brimming with food from the BBQ platter, fries and two burgers, so we settled on sharing one Caramel Pecan Chocolate Brownie ($11), filled with freshly baked caramel, topped with ice cream, and dressed with crushed pecans and a drizzle of salted caramel sauce. You’ll struggle to finish this one after a round of fries, meats, and burgers but it’s worth saving room for, thick sugary caramel sauce and all.
A nice but modest beer list (down a few Brooklyn East IPAs) and a long list of signature cocktails and spirits can help you chase all that food down. There’s also a bunch of milkshakes and some American sodas for those not in the mood for alcohol.
With delivery and take-away on the cards (there’s a convenient take away section located the front), Brooklyn Depot is a nice addition to the Central side of Surry Hills, bringing a decent American diner to a street already brimming with worthy options, including Mama’s Buoi, Dove & Olive, and the soon-to-be-open Porteño.
Brooklyn Depot Burgers & Brews
Address: 65 Holt Street, Surry Hills, 2010 NSW
Contact: 02 9211 2255
Hours: Open 7 Days – 11am ’til late