...food, that is. Good ol’ American soul food. Can you think of a better way to celebrate The Soda Factory's 1st birthday than by expanding its menu? Michael Chase, Soda’s co-owner and Executive Chef, can’t either.
The Soda Factory is the kind of story that American rom-coms are built on. Over a year ago Graham Cordery and Michael Chase were working separately in the music industry. “Graham was promoting clubs and had a CD out and a mutual family friend referred him to me to distribute his music,” says Michael. “So I called him up to chat and we were like, ‘Let’s meet face-to-face.’”
Now, here’s where things start to get a little Knocked Up-hazy. Michael believes it involved a Toni Childs concert, a post-concert drinking date and a helluva lotta booze. “Graham says he thinks he’s never been that drunk in his life and I’ve definitely never been that drunk in my life. So it was an instant bond and we were best friends from that moment on.”
They discovered they lived an apartment block away from one another, started exercising together and as their bromance blossomed, began to toy with the idea of opening up a venue together where they could marry their mutual love of music with a love and knowledge of food. So when the space at 16 Wentworth Ave, Surry Hills opened up, naturally The Soda Factory was born.
It’s retro quirky meets underground speakeasy. On the outside is a takeaway stand and a pink-lit sign saying "Bobby’s Boss Dogs". Walk through the hidden door and you enter an unexpected lair of plush seating, American diner food, alcoholic milkshakes topped with cream and candy striped straws and a soundtrack that could include anything from Jerry Lee Lewis (one of Michael’s faves) to Jimmy Cash, to early Elvis Presley.
Wednesdays gets packed with punters clawing for its Fat Bubba’s Chicken Wednesdays’ $1 hot buffalo wings, but it’s nothing compared to Tuesdays with its Dollar Dogs special.
The guys know that Sydney’s a pretty tough city to live in if you want to go out without breaking the budget, so this is how they’re serving the people. Bless.
The Soda Factory now has more Americana food than can fit a football stadium… not that we tried.
The vibe: Hipster, ‘50s retro.
Ideal for: Late night munchies, hotdog fiends, swinging cats.
Favourite cocktail: Pink French Muskateer, $18.
Pick of the menu: So many to choose from, but the crowd pleaser of our evening was the World Famous Mac and Cheese, $8
What else is going down? There’s something on almost every night: Mondays screen free movies, Tuesday serve $1 dogs, Wednesdays serve $1 buffalo wings, Thursday is $12 cocktail night and Fridays and Saturdays have live music.
Their lovechild reached a milestone in February, celebrating its very first birthday with an epic night of partying and high-fiving, but more importantly, a new and expanded Americana menu.
Renowned for its American-inspired dawgs, the duo felt it only fitting to progress into a more American diner type outfit this year. “Graham and I were in America last October and I said to him, ‘Let’s see what we can do coming into being a year old. Let’s put more of a food offering. I mean, hot dogs are great and they’re part of our branding, but let’s give people more options.’”
Let’s give them BBQ ribs (totally amazing by the way), cheeseburgers, the works. “But let’s make it quirky,” says Michael. So taking the same philosophy as they did with the dogs, they let each region’s cuisines inspire the menu. Kentucky fried chicken in metal buckets lined with red checked paper were added. So were cheeseburgers and mac and cheese spring rolls, burgers with American cheddar and special Soda sauce, kick ass hot buffalo wings with blue cheese dipping sauce and this amazing-fantastic invention called: chicken and waffles.
It was something Michael discovered after being taken by a mate in LA to a ‘50s diner where waitresses said, "Hey, darlin’" and what they served you could only be defined as "soul" food. This includes the curious combination of chicken and waffles. Yeah, Graham wasn’t sold at first either. “What? Chicken and waffles?” was his response when Michael said he was adding it to the menu. But Michael was adamant: “I said to him, ‘dude, trust me on this. I know it’s really whack, you being from the UK wouldn’t get it, most Australians wouldn’t get it, but once you try it, it’s like one of those badass things that is just so good!”
It’s since become their signature dish.
But this bromance doesn’t end here by any means. While Michael says their focus Soda-wise is making sure the new menu and food go out right, the couple are also secretly trying for a second baby. “We’re looking around,” confirms Michael. “By no means are we in a rush, but we’ve got some ideas. We’re not ruling any area out, but personally I like Newtown and Surry Hills best.” Ultimately, it’s just got to feel right. “With Soda, we saw it and knew exactly what we wanted to do with it. With the next place – as soon as we walk into the room, we’ll be like, yes, this is it!”
The Soda brood is expected to grow within the next 12 months. Watch this space, we’ll be dropping in to say our congratulations when it does.
In the meantime, here's a little something to get your stomach excited for your next trip to The Soda Factory...
Taste by State: where The Soda Factory's menu is from
The Soda Factory is the great American road trip for the tastebuds. We’re not just talkin’ your Southern fried chicken-esque Americana, we’re talkin’ the whole American enchilada from Mexico, to Memphis and into New York. Eat it.
1. Tortilla chips and dip: Now this is the real Mexicano straight-up tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole.
2. Johnny Drama hot dog: “‘Cos LA is close to Mexico and has such a Mexican influence, we put guacamole with bacon.”—Michael Chase, Exec. Chef
3. Californian crunch salad: Because wannabe Hollywood types don’t eat. Or, if they’re anything like Penny from Big Bang, can’t afford to eat.
4. Uncle Bud’s Popcorn Shrimp: No news on who Bud is, but man, does he do these seasoned pops of goodness well.
5. The Fats Domino dog: “We named it this because Fats Domino is from New Orleans and we put a gumbo in it because that’s traditional to that region.”—Michael Chase, Exec. Chef
6. Southern fried chicken: KFC eat your heart out. Soda’s confessed it’s stolen your secret recipe, but on the upside they’re keeping it tight lipped. Those herbs and spices have got to be crack.
7. BBQ bite size pork ribs: It’s all in the sauce ya’ll, that sweet, Texan BBQ sauce.
8. Texan redneck hot dog: Soda says “be ready for a standoff” ‘cos these Texans are loaded and ready with smoked chilli. You talkin’ to me?
9. Chicken and waffles with maple syrup: “Dude, trust me on this. I know it’s really whack and most Australians won’t get it, but once you try it, it’s like one of those badass things that is just so good.”—Michael Chase, Exec. Chef
10. Buffalo wings: surprised these hot and spicys are a New York invention? Us, too. Don’t know how you eat them, but in NYC they go down with carrot sticks, celery sticks and a blue cheese dipping sauce. And that’s just the way Soda makes ‘em too. Pop in on Fat Bubba’s Chicken Wednesdays for $1 buffalo wings to see how it’s ‘supposed to be eaten.
11. Pretzel crusted calamari: Oh New York, how do you come up with such things?
12. The Frank Sinatra: “Representing the New York street cart is this New York hot dog: frankfurter, American mustard and onion rings.”—Michael Chase, Exec. Chef
13. Mac ‘n’ Cheese: While originating from France (it’s true!) the humble mac ‘n’ cheese is an American staple. It’s seen many - if not all - students through college. Soda’s taken it to gourmet levels - dressing top-quality macaroni with delicious brie cheese. Stacks healthier than this, is that’s for sure.
Address: 16 Wentworth Ave, Surry Hills
Opening Hours: Monday to Wednesday 5pm-late, Thursday 5pm-2am, Friday and Saturday 5pm-5am, Sunday sleeping