Greg Pappas, owner of Andrews Hamburgers, is no stranger to celebrity customers.
Inside the small shop that is Melbourne’s most renowned burger joint, one wall is filled with autographed photos of stars of stage, screen and the footy field; regulars old and new who just can’t get enough of Andrews’ traditional hamburgers.
Celebs like Ron Barassi and Matt Preston peer down extolling the virtues of this Albert Park institution which gets taste buds tingling a good 50 metres before you walk in, with the smell of sizzling onions, minced beef and smokey bacon wafting down Bridport Street.
As usual, trade was brisk last Saturday as customers lined the counter, licking their lips in anticipation of devouring what are widely acknowledged as Melbourne’s finest burgers, but then one order arrived that Greg says he wont forget in a hurry.
“It was the middle of the lunch-rush and two girls from a hairdressing salon nearby came in and asked us to make up, our biggest burger with ‘The Lot’, then asked if I could take it to the salon.
“They said it was for someone special.”
‘The Lot’ – Andrews’ signature dish – is a whopping beef patty, heaped with fried onions, melted cheese, shredded lettuce and cabbage, and draped with a fried egg and generous slices of bacon, all held together in toasted sesame seed bun. It’s a burger not for the faint-hearted.
Piping hot and carefully wrapped in a paper bag sporting Andrews’ retro logo, Greg went off to make the special delivery.
Once inside the salon, the presence of security guards (obviously not waiting for a shampoo and set) suggested just how important the hungry VIP customer was.
“I walked in and there was the Prime Minister of Australia getting her hair done.
“She said she’d heard fantastic reports of our burgers and the story of the shop. She was lovely, just so nice – really super warm and friendly.”
The story Prime Minister Julia Gillard was referring to, is indeed remarkable. The business dates back almost three-quarters of a century to 1939.
Greg’s uncle Andrew Georghiou took it over in 1957 and passed on the Albert Park landmark to his nephew ten years ago.
“The recipe is the same now as it was in 1957,” says Greg, who graduated from RMIT with a degree in business marketing and has worked in the shop on and off since he was 14.
“As long as you keep the standards up and keep giving value, customers just keep coming back. Nothing’s ever frozen, it’s always delivered on the day. It’s about traditional ways of doing things.
“I put our success down to agapi – love,” he says. “People who come in here always leave as friends.
With Andrews Hamburgers now ‘by appointment’ to the PM, for the Pappas clan it’s business as usual.
“We’ve had lots of famous people rock up, but I don’t usually notice them because they’re just friends, part of the family.”.