Though nothing more than sauce on meat on chips, the AB ranks with the pie floater and the frog cake as Adelaide’s most iconic food.
It is our most controversial delicacy; named something so intensely unappetising that in polite company the dish is always euphemistically called only by its first two letters.
Two competing establishments in North Adelaide claim that they made the ‘original’ version. Their stories differ, and hard evidence seems lost to the sands of time. While we may never know who the true inventor was, there’s nothing to stop us finding out who does it best today.
After asking around, we set out to eat and review Adelaide’s six best ABs. We of ripitup.com.au, being both morally and cardiacally disinclined to undertake the challenge ourselves, recruited Brandon ‘The Meat Man’ Mannarino to do the actual eating.
He seemed ready and willing, but would six consecutive ABs prove to be too much even for Adelaide’s leading meat enthusiast?
If he only knew then the horrors ahead.
FAT CHICKEN, TORRENSVILLE
Fat Chicken is making a name for itself as the home of Adelaide’s finest suburban ABs. On the advice of our resident office foodie, we made their Torrensville branch our first port of call.
Wherever possible in this article, that which might identify bystanders has been blacked out, as in the case of the number plate above. No decent and upstanding person deserves to be associated with the AB without consent.
A regional cuisine speaks volumes about the character of a people. Haggis is a testament to the the thrift and resilience of the Scots, and only the Japanese could devote themselves to an art as delicate as Sushi. What does it say about Adelaide that this is our parochial delicacy?
While the chips exceed expectations, the chicken is unquestionably the hero of the Fat Chicken AB. The meat man describes it as being “of a world standard”.
If eaten at the traditional time (2 AM), in a traditional state of mind (hammered), one could find no fault here. In the cold light of sobriety though, one observes that the lamb is a smidge on the dry side, and that sauces are somewhat overpowering.
Yet, in a heightened state of awareness, one also notices the inclusion of fried onion, which might have been otherwise overlooked. Not offered on any other ABs on this list, the onion was a thoughtful and welcome addition.
SOUVLAKI BROS, GLENELG
Like everything in Glenelg, this AB is expensive. What do you get for your money? Like everything in Glenelg, less than you would have liked.
The chilli sauce is strongly and pleasantly reminiscent of that served at Nandos. It is a pity that the chicken is not of the same standard. The poultry is paltry – a fact not concealed by the garlic sauce, which has been over-applied.
The venture is not without hope. In a reverse of Fat Chicken, the lamb component here is stunning.
Though hardly an AB worth traveling for, if you do find yourself in Glenelg, this will do a satisfactory job.
FALAFEL HOUSE, HINDLEY STREET
Although this was the smallest AB on record, it would have been preferable had there been even less of it. The garlic sauce was thin and watery, the meat was burnt, and the chips were not of a high standard.
Alone of all the ABs, this one came with cheese. While an intriguing experiment, the results prove that even in the decadent mess that is an AB, cheese is excessive.
While the customer service was good, an exemplary dining experience in this part of Hindley Street was never going to be possible. Disorderly British people, over-refreshed even at this early stage in the afternoon, sat at a neighbouring pub/industrial shearing plant, singing out of tune.
The sole saving grace of the Falafel House AB? The chips had chicken salt on them. It added class and complexity, and was a measure which had not been taken by any other AB chef up until that point.
Brandon “the meat man” was beginning to struggle. Luckily, he was approached by a passing fan (Sam, pictured), who offered to help out.
IN ‘N’ OUT BBQ, NORTH ADELAIDE
North Adelaide is the heartland of the AB. One of the few details constant in all competing narratives is that here, somewhere, long ago, the meal was invented by inebriated University students.
This is the land where the Red and the Blue do battle. However, a new challenger has recently emerged on the scene. Will the new In ‘N’ Out BBQ disrupt the duopoly? We decided to take a look at their ‘KB’.
The KB turns out to, essentially, be an AB with different sauces. According to meaty Mannarino however, this is no second rate emulation. The KB had the best meat he’d eaten all day.
Hummus and eggplant sauce were welcome innovations.
Sadly, there was an insufficient meat to chip ratio. The KB, still in its infancy, is reminiscent of a spectacular rookie sportsman. There are flashes of greatness here, but for now it lacks the experience of the seasoned professionals.
Doing it for his country.
NORTH ADELAIDE BURGER BAR (AKA THE RED AND WHITE), NORTH ADELAIDE
Before venturing on to the fifth consecutive AB at the famed North Adelaide Burger Bar, it was time for a cleansing of the palate.
The Red and White make the largest, cheapest, most impressive looking AB you will ever see. It practically has an aura.
By this point in the venture, Brandon had stopped providing coherent commentary. “This is tantric eating,” he replied, when asked about the taste of the spicy tomato sauce, made lovingly made in house.
“I have eaten too much meat,” he explained. “The meat is rotting my brain.”
Strangely though, Brandon said this with a smile. He proceeded to shovel down mouthful after mouthful of AB. It is a testament to the Red and White that even past the point of delirium, their product brings immense gustatory pleasure.
BLUE & WHITE CAFE, NORTH ADELAIDE
The Blue & White Cafe is the ‘other’ original home of the AB. We daren’t get into the politics of the matter, but both proprietors were very convincing when we inquired as to their claim on the title.
That, however, is a story for another time. As Rakim once put it, “it ain’t where you from, it’s where you at”.
Where is the Blue & White AB “at”? Somewhere absolutely magical.
Every element is perfectly weighted against the others. The garlic sauce, in particular, is uniquely and indescribably good. Competitively priced and amply sized, this is disgraceful late-night dining at its finest. The meat man was without words.
And if you gaze long into an AB, the AB also gazes into you.
Weight: 923 g
At the end of the day, the winner is our city’s vibrant food culture. In a more meaningful sense, however, the winners were the Red and White and the Blue and White. They alone were faultless, transcendental AB experiences.
For the sake of deciding a final champion, we look to the stats. The Red and White was, by the smallest of margins, larger and cheaper.
A FINAL, HAUNTING WARNING:
When we arrived at the Red and White, Brandon pointed out to us an old photograph of himself stuck to the cafe walls. It had been taken during an earlier AB eating challenge. The contrast is stark:
ABs have wearied him, and the yiros condemned.
Note: Anybody who wants to call an AB a Halal Snack Pack can go shove it. It's an AB, damn it, and we invented it. Anybody singing the praises of the HSP is committing cultural appropriation.