Varsity Bar in Nedlands has been on my to-visit list for ages, fueled largely by pictures of amazing looking burgers & shakes on Instagram. It opened just over two years ago, and is intended to be a true “American Sports Bar”, with food to match – burgers, hot dogs & your favourite bar / snack foods. They have also recently opened a spin off “hole-in-the-wall” burger outlet in Northbridge, Varsity Burgers.
I studied at UWA some twenty years ago and there certainly wasn’t anywhere like this in the area back then, which is probably a good thing or I would have needed surgery a lot sooner. We arrived at around midday on a Saturday and were surprised to find the place was already very busy. And that it was, indeed, a bar…
…with a large variety of booze on offer, including a selection of beer on tap…
…and even Bonehead from Oasis watching the footy.
Luckily enough, we scored a table outside where it was a little more peaceful and less bar-like. There’s plenty of seating in the outside area, including comfy couches so this is a great place to catch up with friends.
Click the picture above to enlarge the menu, but don’t read it if you’re hungry. The only thing I don’t want to try is the “Veg Hoagie” with roasted eggplant & zucchini. Absolute madness. Pretty much everything comes with a side of beer battered chips.
There’s even a kids menu, although I’m not sure if I would consider this to be a “family” type of place.
Drink-wise there was only one (non-alcoholic) choice for me – the “Bacon & Salted Caramel” shake, uniquely served in a Pyrex jug (this is a small ($7) , the large is twice that size for $10).
This was a really nice shake, not too thick but with a strong caramel taste and just the right amount of salt. I couldn’t taste any bacon, and I’m not sure if I just missed out, or whether the name simply trades on the “salt” aspect. I’d have it again, although I’m curious about the “Cookies n Cream” flavour.
Onion rings ($8) are an absolute favourite of mine and I’m happy to see them appearing on more menus around town. These were crisp and some of the lightest I’ve had anywhere.
Choosing from the sides was very difficult, I was tempted to order the Mexican street corn with parmesan & chipotle mayo ($7) and the honey corn bread with brown butter ($5) but my stomach (and common sense) said no. Just as tempting are the chilli fries ($15) with beef chilli, cheese whip, coriander and diced onion, chilli & jalapenos and “hog fries” ($15) with pulled pork, jalapenos, chilli, cheese whip & Carolina BBQ sauce ($15).
One thing that really impressed us was the speed that the food arrived, even though there were plenty of customers.
I really enjoy a good burger, but for some reason they never quite live up to my expectations, and are so often just an assembly of ingredients rather than a whole, food-gasmic experience. This simple cheeseburger, however, was everything I’ve been searching for – I’m not sure if it was the brioche bun, patty, cheese, “Varsity mayo” or finely diced pickles but this thing tasted amazing. Wow. Easily the best “simple” burger I’ve ever eaten – and only $12! And it wasn’t even what I ordered…
I had decided that I was going to order a hot dog, but was struggling to choose between the “Coney Dog” with beef chilli, cheese whip and diced onion, chilli & jalapenos ($20) and the “Devil’s Piggy Back Dog” with pulled pork, Dr Paul’s Devil BBQ sauce, cheese whip & tobacco onions ($20). But then there was the K.C. Grinder with deboned pork ribs, frito strips and slaw ($21)…and the chicken waffle sandwich…AAAAAGGHHH!
I eventually calmed down and decided on the Coney Dog which was a substantial meal and the cost was well justified – there’s plenty of meaty chilli hidden underneath the deceptively-thick cheese whip. The beef chilli wasn’t too spicy, but when eaten with the diced onion, chilli & jalapeno on top there was plenty of heat to go around. Very nice indeed.
We really enjoyed our lunch at Varsity Bar, but it’s not the kind of food or venue that’s going to appeal to everyone. Fine dining it isn’t, and whenever you go it’s likely to be busy and full of students – I wouldn’t dare go near this place at night!
If you enjoy a good burger or hot dog, this is one of the best, if not the best, place in Perth. I can’t wait to go back and try another burger.