Nik Rollison, Michael Tripp and David Hales reckon Australia’s fast-food scene is lacking. Specifically, it’s lacking high-quality, affordable options found across Rollison and Tripp’s native USA. With their burgeoning burger chain Slim’s Quality Burger, they want to be Australia’s answer to America’s In-N-Out Burger. And they’re well on their way – they already have three eateries in Sydney, and a further eight in the works for Victoria and Queensland.
While their chips are hand-cut on-site, ice-cream for sundaes and thickshakes is churned in-house each day and they’ve vowed to never let a freezer cross their threshold, their prices sit on the McDonalds and Hungry Jacks end of the spectrum.
“We’re definitely in the fast-food market,” Tripp tells Broadsheet. “We’re directly sitting next to McDonalds, Hungry Jacks, Oporto, Red Rooster, all of that – that’s our market, that’s our target.”
Slim’s latest store – a big, light and airy space on level five in Westfield Sydney – follows its first eatery in Marrickville, which opened at the start of this year, and a second in Mount Druitt which opened in April. While these diners are all in shopping centres, the plan is to focus on drive-throughs and eateries where you can park, order from your car and have your food brought to you. It’s very mid-century Americana (minus the rollerskates).
The design of the new Sydney CBD store also channels the diners of ’50s and ’60s USA. Light-blue tiles wrap the counter and open kitchen, with illuminated signs announcing Slim’s “Real Ice Cream Thickshakes”, and neon signage suspended above. Customers sit on cherry-red banquettes; bulbous light fixtures read “pop”, “gulp” and “chomp”; and a Perspex window looks into the kitchen so you can see your burger being prepped. The plan is for customers at Slim’s drive-through diners to be able to see right into the kitchen from their cars.
The cheapest burger on the menu is $6.50 (for the cheeseburger), with the most expensive ($9.50) being “the works” burger or a chicken club burger. All the beef burgers are made with Angus beef patties. Other options include the “deluxe cheeseburger”, which comes with a beef patty, grilled onion, cheese, ketchup, mustard and pickles; a fried-chicken burger with cheese and mayo; and a veggie burger with vegan garlic mayonnaise.
Fries are similarly well-priced – $3.50 for a small or $4.50 for regular. Victorian-grown potatoes are washed and hand-cut in-house every day, fried with the skin on and sprinkled with pink Himalayan sea salt. Loaded options – including bacon and cheese, and cheese and onion – are also available. “We take the fries very seriously,” says Tripp. “We don’t have any frozen potatoes coming into this operation and we never will.”
Supremely thick shakes come in chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, or kick it old-school with a spider. As the business grows, they’ll start offering more options, including chocolate ice-cream, more shake flavours, extra burgers and chicken tenders with barbeque sauce.
Tripp, who has designed the menu and the processes that keep the kitchen runnings smoothly, says his experience as a chef has helped Slim’s scale up and keep prices down. The Las Vegas native spent years working in his hometown, clocking up time with big-name chefs such as Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon before coming to Australia to open Black by Ezard at The Star.
As for whether those $6.50 burgers are actually any good? Well, yes. The buns are light and fluffy, the patties not too greasy and the toppings are fresh-as. We might just have another.
Slim’s Quality Burger
Level 5, Westfield Sydney, Corner Pitt Street and Market Street, Sydney
Sun to Wed 11am–7pm
Thu to Sat 11am–8pm