Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe. I'll update you with yummy and often free events. Like my photos? I instagram @redbagwilltravel
When I learn't that RocoMamas, a famous South African burger place, was opening in Melbourne, it did raise a question. Do we have room for yet another iconic burger place popping their patties on our city's already over-loaded plate?
But after experiencing RocoMamas' food (and it is a lot more than burgers) and feeling the vibe, all I can say is: Welcome RocoMamas. We embrace you into our foodie fold. Your food is extraordinary. Your edgy concept is perfect for our inner-city food scene and your effervescent staff well tattooed enough. They will feel quite at home as our hospitality workers love wearing their art on their sleeves.
RocoMamas might be a chain in South Africa with a few stand-alone stores in exotic places such as Oman, Mauritius and Nairobi but this flagship Australian store, which only opened on June 16, 2018 has an Australian stamp.
At RocoMamas, you walk into a vibrant creative area with highly polished concrete walls, an open kitchen, where you can see your food being cooked, crazy neon signage, corrugated metal finishes and graphics by local artists Sabine Kahwati.
Their motto: 'You haven't had a real burger until you've tried a "smashed burger" — trust us!'
They are also famous for the freshness of the food with everything, except chips, made in-house daily. This includes guacamole, Hanoi slaw, caramelised onions, Greek salads, FAB (feta, avocado and bacon salad), quinoa salad and an amazing selection of house-made sauces.
Entrepreneur Brian Altriche who started RocoMamas in South Africa in 2013 had two teenage daughters at the time and wanted to create an attractive alternative to fast food based on real food and fresh ingredients.
The burger selections are a huge hunk of the menu. For the meat eaters, there is beef and Southern fried chicken and for vegetarians options including vegetables and cheese bombs. But it is the add-ons that make these burgers so delicious, such as slathers of thick fresh guac, salads, fresh chillies, jalapeno bombs, nachos crumbs, and relishes.
My favourite burger is shown below. It is called the BaconCheeseGuac and has a 150g smash, the crunchiest bacon, Wisconsin Cheddar, tomato, fresh guacamole, onion & RocoMayo. As you can see, there is no stinting on the ingredients and if you want to add another patty, you only pay an extra $2.
Customers can also choose to 'build' their own burgers by ticking items from the burgers menu. You can even give your new burger a name. RocoMamas is all about customisation. But if it is possible to love anything more than a burger at RocoMamas, it would have to be the ribs. There is pork, beef and lamb. I watched them on the grill being basted with flames licking at their tenderness.
You can have wings with ranch dressing, called bubbalo (hot) MOFo (F*Hot) BBQ or with the store's secret flavour. Then there are the six-pack bombs which are round balls that you pop into your mouth where they explode with flavour. These come in chilli cheese, feta or jalapeno with hot sauce or MOFO mayo.
Chicken wings in a special sauce: Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt
You don't have to order hot food here, but RocoMamas is a place where you can certainly add spice and sauciness to your life. You can get chopped up chillis on your chips and when they write on the menu that something is F*Hot, you'd better believe them.
Come cool down time, they have craft beer on tap, cocktails such as espresso martinis and cocktail x (shown below), cider, iced teas, wines and craft sodas. But they are famous for their thick custard shakes, including coffee, butter salted caramel, Nutella, Oreo and peanut butter flavours.
Lively staff at RocoMamas. Photo: Nadine Cresswell-Myatt
Interacting with the staff is one of the highlights in going to RocoMamas. Listening to the accents, they seem to come from all over, including South Africa, Edinburgh and did I detect a French accent but there is enough Australian twang to make you feel right at home.
The hiring policy must be to attract young people with exceptional personalities. They obviously also interact well with each other bopping or singing to the music in the open kitchen. I didn't quite understand their Facebook offer of getting inked until after my visit. What on earth do burgers and tattoos have in common?
But to celebrate their flagship Australian store's opening, RocoMamas have launched a #GetInkedMelbourne campaign to celebrate the diverse individuality of the brand. From 16 June to 1 September, five lucky customers who take a smashing pic of their *tattoo with their smashed burger and share to social media with the hashtag #GetInkedMelbourne are eligible to receive a $1,000 voucher from a tattoo artist of their choice.
After visiting, I know that they are saying that their burgers, just like people's tatts and people in general, are unique.
Being that bit edgy, fun, playful and authentic, RocoMamas will fit right in with Melbourne's inner-city and unique food scene.