What’s the busiest time for a restaurant? 7pm? 7.30pm? Maybe even 8pm? At Mr Crackles it’s 3am. Walk past Oxford Street’s Asian-Australian pork-roll shop on any weekday afternoon and it’ll look like most takeaway shops – a small counter, a soft drinks fridge and an overhead menu. It’ll be filled with a couple of school kids, some tradies and the occasional bike courier.
Walk past at 3am on Saturday and it’s an entirely different scene – diverse crowds queuing as tightly as a conga line, and a street filled with bleary-eyed folk euphorically devouring boxes of audibly crunchy crackling sheets, heavily chicken-salted fries, and Vietnamese baguettes stuffed with crispy-skin pork belly.
When owners Sam Horowitz and Carlos Justo ditched their fine-dining plans and opened Mr Crackles in 2012 it was much livelier around Oxford Street than it is today, but Mr Crackles didn’t get so popular just by staying open late. The main reason they churn through a tonne of pork a week is because they serve exactly the kind of easy-tasting, salty and fatty food people want to eat post-midnight, but at a much higher quality.
While most neighbourhood sandwich joints make their sandwiches hours before serving them, the Mr Crackles team chops and assembles everything to order. That means the pork belly in the classic sambo is juicy and tender enough to cleanly bite through, and the 12-hour braised lamb shoulder, in a roll with tahini, rocket and caramelised onions, is far from the dry roast meat of old-school Australian sandwich shops.