Crazy. Silly. Those are two words that Dan Rodriguez throws around when discussing the thought process behind opening a new hospitality venture during a pandemic. Dan already has two businesses under his belt (highly regarded cocktail joint Canvas Club and opulent two-level lounge bar Electric Avenue), so adding a third at this point in time does seem like madness on paper. For Dan, though, any opportunity to build up the Logan Road precinct he’s operated within for a decade is worth pursuing. On Friday September 4, Dan and his business partner Adam Pykett will open Mr Badger’s, a charming deli, bar and eatery located within the same Woolloongabba strip as Dan’s other boozy ventures. The venue, nestled within the building formerly home to Brother International’s printer shop, houses a concept that is best described as old-world New York meets early-1900s Brisbane – an homage to a bygone era now resurrected in Brisbane’s inner south. Mr Badger’s underlying concept – from its throwback style and timeless offering – had been rattling around Dan’s brain for a while, but it was only until Dan and Adam were approached to take on the space that the vision truly took form. The duo, both family men, were eager to create an accessible daytime venue that added to and elevated Logan Road’s overall culinary offering. Dan and Adam were also keen to open something lockdown proof – a spot that could still operate via takeaway in case their after-dark watering holes were shuttered temporarily. Mr Badger’s is just that – an eatery for familial units to come in and enjoy a leisurely lunch, a grab-and-go treasure catering to time-poor locals and also a casual nighttime haunt perfect for a quick tipple before sauntering off to one of the street’s nearby restaurants.
Mr Badger’s shares Canvas Club and Electric Avenue’s old-school aesthetic. Dan and Adam – both fans of vintage ornamentation and decorative palettes inspired by antiquated time periods – have drawn conceptual and design inspiration from the rich history of the suburb around them. Mr Badger’s takes its namesake from Joseph Stillman Badger, chief electrical engineer and general manager of Brisbane Tramway Co. who helped establish the tram system that terminated in Woolloongabba. This colourful past gave Adam, an accomplished carpenter, enough fodder from which to visualise and construct the space. When we say construct, we mean it. Adam fashioned or had a hand in building nearly every facet of Mr Badger’s depot-inspired interior, from the sturdy furniture to the structural centrepiece, which is a replica of Joseph Badger’s tram, the Palace – the 100th tram to be built during the transportive method’s heyday in Brisbane. Guests can dine inside the tram car, with cushy leather booths giving it a sense of regal opulence while memorabilia offer glimpses into Brisbane’s bygone era. In a display of shrewd resourcefulness, other fixtures – such as the back bar and deli cabinet – were sourced second-hand, creating a cosy lived-in feel to go with a sense of blast-from-the-past magic.
The culinary offering at Mr Badger’s is flexible, approachable and crafted from goods sourced from local producers and suppliers. A deli cabinet near the entry houses an assortment of cheeses and smallgoods that make for incredible grazing fodder alongside a glass of wine, while pastries from Banneton Bakery around the corner are a sublime choice to go with a cup of specialty coffee – the beans here are supplied by nearby roaster Black Sheep Coffee. Adam, once again proving that he is a man of many talents, has taken the lead on Mr Badger’s menu, which draws cues from New York’s deli and bistro scenes. A small breakfast offering (think assorted pastries, house muesli with yoghurt and a continental breakfast) makes way for a a range of deli bagels and a six-strong selection of sandwiches, which sees Banneton’s bread and bagels from NYC Bagel Deli stuffed with an array of enticing fillings. Sink your teeth into a smoked-salmon bagel with dill cream cheese, a chicken club sandwich, Reuben, South Philly cheesesteak sandwich or the Mr J. Badgers – a hearty handful boasting meatballs, Napoli sauce and provolone cheese. When Mr Badger’s opens at night, the menu once again shifts to offer a range of snacks (waffle fries, spicy sardines, duck liver pate, meatballs and more), deli plates and five kinds of rectangular Detroit-style deep-dish pizzas, topped with the likes of pepperoni, barbecue chicken and meatballs. Little ones can tuck into the kids menu, featuring spaghetti bolognese, mini meatball subs and chicken nuggets with fries. In a few weeks Mr Badger’s will also debut a butcher component to its menu, adding three sharable options (lamb shoulder, roast chicken and steak – all accompanied by sides) to the nighttime menu. The drinks list here is tight, with a curated range of local craft and mainstream beers, a punchy array of Australian wines and a small collection of bottled cocktails (pre-concocted over at Canvas and Electric Avenue) available.
Mr Badger’s officially opens on Friday September 3. Operating hours, contact details and other important info can be found in the Stumble Guide.