Level 1, 77 Liverpool St
Sydney, NSW 2000
If you think the name Down N’ Out sounds familiar, you’re not alone. But despite ruffling some feathers with a name that some consider too similar to the famous American burger chain, In-N-Out, Down N’ Out is more than just a clickbait-y name. What started out as a pop-up store became so successful that they now have 3 locations around Sydney, and credentials across pretty much every ‘best-of’ list, a visit to try out their burgers seemed in order.
Yet despite taking their inspiration from a fast-food chain, Down N’ Out is anything but sterile. Hidden up some very insalubrious stairs is a dive bar with plenty of character. A row of retro arcade games and pinball machines are crammed into one corner, and every available surface is covered with throwback paraphernalia. I was especially fond of the amount of Pokémon and Simpsons merchandise, and the reruns of classic anime played on the wall-mounted TVs. Combine the sucker-punch of nostalgia with the smell of grilling beef that hit my nostrils the moment I stepped inside, and I was sent into overdrive before we had even sat down.
The Single ($12) is what they recommend for first-timers, and although I’m mighty tempted by the addition of bacon and jalapeños, I stuck with what I was told. This is a solid, fast food-styled burger that ticks all the boxes. Soft bun? Check. Fresh salad? Check. Hearty beef patty? Check. A great burger sauce? Check. There’s nothing unusual about this sandwich, but a straight-up cheeseburger is what I want most of the time, and this one is especially good. The only thing I’d change is to have the patty a little pinker, as it edges a bit towards dry at points, but the generous mess of sauce is more than enough to compensate.
The chicken burger is usually an afterthought on most burger menus, but as there are only 4 options here (3, if you consider the single and double as variations of the same), the Chick’n ($14) can’t really afford to be slack. It rose to the occasional brilliantly, with a chunky piece of chicken breast coated in a tingly mix of southern-styled spices, then fried until there are plenty of crunchy, nubbly bits, whilst the centre stayed juicy. Served simply with shredded lettuce, mayo, and a sweet BBQ sauce, this is a classic chicken burger that doesn’t play second fiddle to its bovine counterpart.
I usually like to order onion rings when I see them on the menu, but I just couldn’t resist the Tiger Fries ($7), aka their version of the famous animal-style fries. And now I totally get why they have a cult following. The crispy shoestring fries, topped with cheese sauce, grilled onions, and lashings of burger sauce, are just insanely addictive. Each bite is creamy and fragrant, with just a hint of tanginess from the secret sauce to cut through the richness. Give me a triple serve and let’s just call that a meal.
After eating my share of burgers over the years, I find myself gravitating back to a more simple sandwich. All the enormous burgers filled with crazy ingredients may be good fun for a bit, but I find that all they really do for me is detract from the simple pleasure of meat and cheese between two buns. Down N’ Out goes back to basics in the best way possible, with a focus on doing the classics just right. Mind you, they do have a more adventurous weekly special, but if you’re finding yourself a bit jaded by the surplus of gimmicky burgers on the market, Down N’ Out feels like a return to nature (in the greasiest way possible).
Rating: 14.5/20 – down with it.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.