Box Diner is located in the industrial suburb of Fyshwick, 10 minutes south of the CBD. This area is known for its large furniture stores, trade outlets, Canberra Outlet Centre, Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets, auction houses and everything you need for your house, home or car. It is also renowned for its occasional adult shop and businesses behind darkened windows. Other secrets it holds are a few popular cafes and food outlets tucked away amongst the industrial factories, busy with local office workers and tradies.
On the edge of the suburb, you will find Box Diner in the Box Business Centre on Tennant Street. This 1950's-inspired American diner has large burgers and a modern colourful décor which welcomes you in like an old friend. Walk in and be surprised by this hidden local's secret - you will wish you had discovered it earlier.
This welcoming café is open Monday to Friday only, however it is worth tracking down in your lunch break or you are in the area during the week. When my young daughter and I entered for an early lunch one chilly winter's weekday, we were welcomed by a friendly lady behind the counter in her 1950's bright red lipstick and retro American style.
There are two areas in which you can sit to enjoy your meal - in the brightly lit atrium with heaters and fans above to keep you comfortable (photo above), or down the other side of the café with cosy booths and dimly lit tables. On each table is an extensive menu to choose between all-day breakfast items, American favourites, pasta, seafood and a large range of tasty burgers.
Cushioned bench seating and two booths at the far back. Source: Box Diner Facebook
On our visit, we chose to sit in the light-filled atrium under the toasty heater, which was a pleasant spot to sit to watch the comings and goings of this busy diner. It also looked out to the rural farmland across the road, as it is located on the very edge of the suburb with country views. As we sat and waited for our order, we unexpectantly watched a mob of kangaroos jumping along the other side of the fence line - a highlight for both my daughter and I.
At the counter, I ordered a Herbie Burger for myself, which included sautéed mushrooms, alfalfa, fresh tomato, egg, avocado, Swiss cheese and aioli on a brioche bun for $12.50. For an extra $2 it came with a side of chips - exactly what my young daughter had been hoping for. As well as this we added a lime milkshake and cappuccino to get us through the afternoon. After a short wait our meal was delivered and it was as colourful as the diner itself.
My Herbie Burger was a unique combination of flavours and it worked. The runny egg ran out of the burger, the mushrooms had been sautéed with a delicious flavour and the cheese and salad items just topped off the perfect mushroom burger. There is also something about a soft brioche bun that just makes the whole combination even more tasty. With flavoursome chips and drinks, our table was unusually silent as we sat back and enjoyed the food and ambience of this creative diner.
As mentioned, Box Diner is only open between Monday to Friday as its main clientele is local office workers and tradies. This was disappointing to learn as it would be an ideal café to enjoy on the weekend with family and friends. If this retro café was located in the city centre it would be constantly full, with happy diners enjoying their large burgers and American offerings. Now that we have stumbled upon Box Diner however, we will be returning again to enjoy its relaxed vibe and tasty menu.
In its Fyshwick location, down a quieter back street, it remains a local workers secret to brighten up the working week. I'm sure this is just how the locals like it.
Just look for the friendly chook at the front door