JoJo goes through a bit of a ritual every night before bed. Without fail, she goes through her usual skin care and general night time routine, hops into bed, flicks on the Youtube app on her phone and cycles through all of her food network channels.
This is how she came across Bludso's BBQ and man, when she overheard whispers of San Antone by Bludso's BBQ opening in Melbourne, she couldn't not go.
The girls have enjoyed slow and low Tex Mex in the past and couldn't wait to see what Bludso had to offer Melbourne and so, straight after work that balmy Tuesday night, they left Jo's house in a hurry to meet Grumpy Mate Rich at Crown Towers for what was sure to be a bountiful, smoky, meaty feast.
Crossing Kings Bridge into Southbank from Flinders Street, the girls chatted animatedly about Bludso and LiLi's last American tour. LiLi was essentially on a mission: to order and devour all of the corn bread she could lay her hands on. She'd already filled Jo's head space with tales of this savoury treat. It was the one thing she looked forward to for her first Bludso's BBQ experience... and Jo? It would be brisket and the Ceviche for her.
They were a little worried about lines as San Antone had only opened up the week before and so they asked their good mate Rich to be a doll and stand in line for them. Luckily, even though it was at capacity, there were no lines when they arrived and Rich had managed to pull a booth in the corner of the Restaurant. FYI - they don't take bookings at this time.
We were greeted by an incredibly accomodating and helpful wait staff who walked us through the menu, made suggestions and had light banter with us. She would later become one of our best friends charming us into a couple of drinks and chatting about the Mr Bludso himself and his recent visit to Melourne. Very personable and we sure are a fan.
Here were all the drinks we had that night - granted, the alcohol came with dessert later on.
House Made Peach Iced Tea ($8)
House made peach iced tea, peaches, thyme
Jalapeno Margarita ($16)
Jalapeno infused Tequila, cucumber, fresh lime juice, Agave nectar, Cilantro salt
Watermelon Margarita ($16)
Tequila, watermelon syrup, lime and mint, served on the rocks
The iced tea was interesting and not your typical bottled Nestea iced tea thats for sure! It had a very distinct aftertaste that is hard to describe - you have to try it and see for yourself, but its the thyme that adds a certain je ne sais quoi element to the drink.
We had a really hard time picking entrées which was suddenly made that much harder with the sickening discovery that the corn bread had sold out.
THE CORN BREAD HAD SOLD OUT.
HOW WILL LILI LIVE OUT HER AMERICAN DREAM NOW.
With a sad little bowl of Chilli apparently. Here is what the crew ordered:
Served on a flour tortilla with cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo
Ceviche Crudo ($17)
Thinly sliced kingfish, dressed with olive oil, fresh lime, shaved red onion, cilantro leaves and Maggi sauce
Texas Beef Chilli ($15)
Slowly cooked ground beef with tomato, kidney beans, beer and onion served with sour cream, mixed cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese
First up Ceviche Crudo.
If you like ceviche, appreciate raw fish or like trying new, flavourful dishes, then this right here is for you: the freshest king fish cut into thin strips marinaded in a stunning yet simple blend of olive oil, lime and maggi sauce (yes, that maggi sauce) - it really is all about the fish and oh lord it is addictive.
The waitress recommended that we added a hit of Tapatío sauce to give it a little more body - she kind of knew what she was talking about.
Li built up a fair bit of anticipation thinking about the joy of being reunited with corn bread. Of course she was going to be filled with overwhelming excitement but when she learnt that it had been sold out, she cried a little inside. Still, she decided to soldier on with a fitting replacement - Texas Beef Chilli.
This dish didn't have a wild chilli kick, was mild in taste but was a warming comfort and homely food. What could go wrong with slow cooked meat? Dollop the sour cream, dip that chip and you're ready to go!
The quesadilla was popular with the small group - extremely simple but satisfyingly familiar with the oozy blend of cheddar and Monterey jack cheese with the accompanying dips of pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole.
The star of the show - Bludso's assortment of smoked meats. We decided to go for a share platter with a couple of extras which included extra brisket and an extra sausage.
On top of the corn bread, they had also run out of beef hot links that night, so they substituted the hot links on the shared platter with the chicken, jalapeño and cheddar sausages instead.
Shared Platter - for two ($64)
Beef brisket, pulled pork, chicken, beef hot link, served with coleslaw, mac and cheese and Southern greens
+ Chicken, jalapeños and cheddar Sausage ($12)
+ Beef brisket 200g ($15)
We would just like to start by telling you that it was very hard to be disappointed with anything on this platter. VERY HARD.
Secondly, the meats came with an accompaniment of sauces - you could choose between mild or hot and it's recommended that you have it with everything. The vinegar on the table was recommended for the chicken but we also kind of had that with everything because it was JUST. THAT. GOOD.
The beef brisket was great, smoky but we wished there was more of it!
This chicken WAS great with the vinegar although it was a little on the dry side.
Although there was no sampling of the Beef Hot link, the Chicken, jalapeño cheddar sausage was a more than satisfactory replacement. It reminded the girls of a spicy Kransky and who doesn't like eating cheesey meats?
THIS PULLED PORK WAS TENDER AF - such a crowd pleaser!
Hot or Mild sauce? Why not both?
The girls were on opposing sides to their preferred BBQ sauce. Jo was all for Hot and Li banked on the Mild. Choose your own adventure with this condiment and note it's best served with beef or the pulled pork.
If San Antone is true to form, the Southern greens consist of a traditional recipe from Kevin Bludso's mum involving collard greens. The onion seasoning and garlic are quite prominent and Jo had a nice piece of beef that would have been cooked down in the chicken base.
Pity Li didn't get to have the chance to experience that piece of meat... Jo kept it all to herself!
If there is one food accompaniment to any American meal, it's Mac & Cheese. Whatever cheese the Americans use, the same expectation was bestowed upon this side dish. It's safe to say, whatever cheese used in the Australian variety just didn't cut it!
Li and Jo just looked at each other like this was the blandest thing on Earth. Not that staff recommended it (in fact, they looked at us as though we were insane) but with a dash of jalapeño vinegar, this suddenly became alive! The jalapeño vinegar definitely came to save the day to an otherwise boring dish.
WHY DID WE ORDER DRINKS WHEN WE WERE ALREADY SO FULL? WHY DO WE LIKE PAIN?
Not sure if we were tricked into drinking but as Jo struggled, Li sanctioned her inner bogan to help down both drinks. There was nothing fancy to the watermelon margarita. It's straight forward and you know what you're expecting.
The jalapeño margarita however... WOW! At first glance over the ingredients you might think it's an over powering spicy concoction. It's so subtle on jalapeño and cucumber flavour. The agave nectar hints the right amount of sweetness whilst the lime juice and cilantro salt bring that bitter edge. It is highly recommended by both staff and the J&L team.
For our desserts, we ordered the following:
Sweet Potato Pie ($10)
Red Velvet Cake ($10)
Roasted Banana Cream Pie ($10)
If the food and drinks didn't finish us off, this well and truly did.
Say hello to the Roasted Banana Cream Pie and get very well acquainted with it when you visit because it is a lovely and beautifully comforting dessert - rich and decadent. Not an overly strong banana flavour and it really hits the spot.
The sweet potato pie resembled it's pumpkin pie counterpart. It's laced quite evenly with cinnamon and the pastry base was a well baked biscuit. It was smooth, creamy and a light ending from the meat overload.
Li could have sat there all night just blissfully savouring every bite of potato pie. It melts in your mouth but if they had just warmed this dish ever so slightly, it would have been perfection.
Old mate Rich ended his night with Red Velvet cake. It was by far the sweetest of the bunch and sat heavy on the stomach. If you for whatever reason had a light dinner (let's be honest, it's very unlikely), then this treat is a good ending. If you totally want to annihilate your stomach, then please divulge and live with no regrets. It's your typical Red Velvet cake and doesn't disappoint.
A chance to have proper American food from a world class pit master is something no one should pass up. I didn't set the bar too high just to give myself a surprise.
I can understand the corn bread being a popular item seeing as it's not a common treat in Australian cuisine. There is always next time for sure!
All the meats were smoked to perfection. I cannot fault the level of smokey flavour. My favourite dish however was the Texas Beef Chilli - just love comfort foods and that was perfect blend of meat, sauce and spiciness; mixed with sour cream, cheese and right tortilla chips and I was set!
Hard to choose the best meat off the share platter. The suggestion of the day from our wonderful waitress Stacey was to add jalapeño vinegar to the chicken. OH MY GAWD THIS WAS SOOOOOO GOOD. THANK YOU STACEY! She was right in that the vinegar really brought out the flavours in the chicken and made the meat juicy and moist. Top suggestion! If I had to choose a dark meat as a favourite, I think the pulled pork always wins over my heart. It's a softer meat that melts in your mouth.
The other menu item I was excited to try was the Sweet Potato Pie. I long dream to eat pumpkin pie every day and this is a suitable substitute! Prefer these pies warmed up with the cream or icecream on top but I can't really complain when it's so smooth in your mouth. Yum!
Definitely go here for the customer service as the wait staff are really helpful and offer suggestions at every point. The atmosphere is a good mix of people and it doesn't get rowdy at all. And you can't go past eating one of the smoked meats because that's what you're there for right? I'm not the biggest fan of visiting Crown at the best of times, but this is one consideration to factor in... Always.
I am coming back here again. It's a bit on the pricey side but I got everything I wanted out of it minus a satisfying mac and cheese. If there's one thing you must make sure is part way decent guys, it's the mac and cheese!
I love my seafood, and I love it more when it's raw - or in this case, sightly marinaded. The Ceviche Crudo is fantastic and the fact that Grumpy Mate Rich also enjoyed it (typically does not enjoy seafood), means that other people who wouldn't typically go for fish, let alone raw fish, might like this too!
Quesadillas you can do no wrong with either - go ahead and order it, you've got a few fillings to choose from too.
The platter - smother everything with Vingegar. Not that it needs it, but you will be making a great life choice right there if you did. The pulled pork was my all time favourite, followed by the brisket - but brisket is always a favourite. This tray was great overall but I have enjoyed these types of platters in the past for a better price.
The roasted banana cream pie was soft, velvety and took me straight to my happy place. I could eat that again and again if I wasn't so worried about my waistline or falling into a permanent sugar coma. It is the right degree of sweet and the right amount to gently but swiftly finish you off.
Customer service at San Antone by Bludso's BBQ deserves an award. The staff are very approachable and incredibely friendly. They know that menu back to front and are happy to set you on a food path suited to your appetite, your preferences or whatever it is you are looking for.
Order the iced tea, the ceviche if you want to try something different and the platter. You can't go wrong with any of the desserts and look for Stacey. She is gorgeous and will look after you.
Food and Drink: ★★★★☆
Customer Service: ★★★★★
General Atmosphere: ★★★★☆
Value for Money: ★★★★☆
Food and Drink: ★★★★☆
Customer Service: ★★★★★
General Atmosphere: ★★★☆☆
Value for Money: ★★★☆☆
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San Antone by Bludso's BBQ
Address: Crown Melbourne, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, Melbourne
Opening Hours: 12:00 - 22:00 Sunday - Thursday | 12:00 - 23:00 Friday - Saturday
Contact: 03 9292 6868 (Crown Towers); Website
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