The Soda Factory is a small bar that opened in early 2013, located on Wentworth Avenue in Surry Hills. I'd been on several occasions and enjoyed the casual, chilled atmosphere and gourmet hot dogs. The Soda Factory is a retro styled bar, which is one of the things I love about it, as well as their themed nights of the week, consisting of Movie Mondays, Dollar Dogs on Tuesdays, Pulp Kitchen on Wednesdays, and Mad Menu on Thursdays.
Neon lights of The Soda Factory's entrance
One of the best things about the bar is the live music played on a small stage, and the gourmet hotdogs, which is what my friends and I often visit for. We had already been to Soda Factory a few times previously, but wanted to check out the Dollar Dogs event on Tuesday evenings, where several of their gourmet hotdogs (usually $10) are available for $1.
Cute retro decor
The few other times we'd been to The Soda Factory, it was always rather crowded, and the small space only allowed for limited seating. On this outing, we arrived early at around 5pm in order to get seats.
The entrance of the Soda Factory is highly reminiscent of an American 50's style diner. It's an open room with no door. The floor is shiny black and white checkered. There's a booth with a cartoon image of hot dog with legs on it.
Dimly lit ambience
The back wall of the entrance is decorated with white and mint green stripes with the words 'Bobby's Boss Dogs' in hot pink neon. It gives the Soda Factory a real air of 50's nostalgia, which is something so different from most other bars found in Sydney. The security guards at The Soda Factory are also some of the friendliest that I've ever encountered in Sydney. Once you enter the room, you then enter the bar through a set of double doors.
Setup of the bar
The Soda Factory is a relatively small bar, and is very dimly lit. The bar is set up in the very centre of the room, with seating areas all around it. Directly across from the bar is a small stage with vintage looking lounges on it. Other times I've been to Soda Factory there has been a live band playing music, but at the early hour of 5pm, there's no live music yet.
On the left side of the bar, there's are a few cushioned booths, and a vintage motorcycle propped up in one corner. Behind the bar, there's a long table with high stools, and to the right of it are classic looking cushioned sofas and chairs. The clientele at The Soda Factory is an eclectic mix of youth, hipsters, and white collar workers. I've never before seen such a mix of different crowds at a bar in Sydney, but it works in this environment. I like The Soda Factory for its quirkiness and charm, and in a short time, it's already become one of my favourite bars.
Dollar Dogs menu
My friend and I arrived at 5:35pm on Tuesday for the Dollar Dogs event. There was already a lot of people occupying space and seating, and we were lucky that one of our other friends had arrived earlier to save a table for us. After we spent a bit of time looking over the menu, I placed an order at the bar for all 6 of the Dollar Dogs, which included The Frank Sinatra, The Buffalo Bill, The Texas Redneck, Bobby's Bogan Dog, The Yoko Ono ($2) and The Don Draper.
Gourmet hotdog menu
As it was very busy, I waited a while for the one of the bartenders to serve me. The female staff at Soda Factory were all dressed in red and white striped tank tops with denim shorts, red headbands and wore bright red lipstick that fit in with the retrospective theme. In the past few times I'd been to The Soda Factory, I'd always received good service, but the female bartenders tonight looked quite harried. I put it down to the fact that they were understaffed on a busy night however. When I returned to the bar to get a drink later in the evening, I was surprised by a very friendly and lively bartender that reminded me of the good service I'd previously had at The Soda Factory.
Raspberry Float - one of my favourite drinks at The Soda Factory.
I also ordered one of The Soda Factory's well known drinks, the Raspberry Float ($14). In appearance it looked like a spider, a drink that consisted of soft drink with a scoop of ice cream. In my youth, spiders were one of my favourite drinks, and the floats at The Soda Factory reminded me of days gone past, and are updated to cater to an adult market.
The Raspberry Float contained a shot of Ketel One Vodka mixed with raspberry syrup, lemonade and had a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the top. It was garnished with a glace cherry to finish. In terms of alcohol, the vodka is slightly difficult to taste through the ice cream and raspberry syrup, so it's more suited for people who don't enjoy a strong alcohol taste.
First page of the drinks menu
I was given a table number for the hot dogs, and went back to our table to await their arrival. They were shortly dropped off by a member of staff. Although the hot dogs were at a much discounted price, both my friends and I were surprised to see that they were much smaller than the usual $10 gourmet hot dogs we'd previously eaten and loved.
Dollar Dogs and Chilli Cheese Fries
Both the buns and size of the sausages were much smaller than the ones we'd had before, although they had taken care to make sure that they resembled their larger counterparts in appearance.
Frank Sinatra Dog
The Frank Sinatra hotdog was the one that most resembled its larger counterpart. It came garnished with a deep fried onion ring, together with lashings of mustard and pickles. The onion ring was crisp and light. It was clear that the Frank Sinatra dog was influenced by the classic American street vendor hotdog, and was quite simple in taste.
The Texas Redneck
The Texas Redneck featured smoked chilli, cheese, and a homemade BBQ sauce. In terms of taste, I preferred the mild spiciness of this hotdog to the simplicity of the Frank Sinatra dog.
Bobby's Bogan Dog
Bobby's Bogan Dog included smashed peas, feta cheese and dijon mustard on top of a lamb sausage. The smashed peas were quite soft, while the feta provided the hotdog with a strong, bold flavour.
The Buffalo Bill Dog
I enjoyed the Buffalo Bill Dog the most. Flavoured with spicy buffalo sauce and cheese, it had a spicy hit of flavour that contrasted with the creamy cheese.
The Yoko Ono
The Yoko Ono Dog, although containing a vegan sausage, was the most expensive hotdog ($2). I heard a customer remark that it was unusual that a vegetarian hotdog should be the most costly, and I agreed. Aside from containing a vegan sausage, the Yoko Ono Dog also had shredded lettuce, vegan cheese and avocado. It was a little bit on the plain side, and wasn't to my liking.
The Don Draper
In addition to the hot dogs, we also ordered the Chilli Cheese Fries ($7). As we were slightly let down by the quality of the hot dogs, the chilli cheese fries was the highlight of our visit. The fries were long and thin, somewhat similar to McDonald's fries, and were drenched in a mild chilli tomato sauce and thick cheesy sauce. They were crisp and lightly salted. It looked like a heart attack on a plate, but we couldn't get enough of it.
Chilli Cheese Fries - irresistible
Overall, my friends and I were slightly disappointed with the quality of the hotdogs at the Dollar Dogs event. On the occasions that we'd come to The Soda Factory, the gourmet hotdogs had been of a superior quality, but along with the greatly decreased price, the quality of the hot dogs had also gone down. All the sausages in the hotdogs we'd had that night had been of a cheap, low quality, and the buns were almost too soft. Some would say low quality would have to be expected since we were paying such a low price, but it hadn't been what we'd expected. That being said, it was still great value for money. We paid $14 for 6 hot dogs and chilli cheese fries, and I was quite full from it. The atmosphere is one of the best things about The Soda Factory, but the small size of the bar can be a downside as it can get quite crowded, and not everyone will be able to find a seat. While we ate and drank for a few hours at The Soda Factory, we also dodged unpleasant looks and snide finger pointing from unlucky customers who stood around like vultures eyeing our table and waiting for us to leave.
Although I probably wouldn't bother coming back to the Dollar Dogs event, I would definitely return to Soda Factory on another night for their regular $10 gourmet hotdogs, chilli cheese fries, and atmosphere inspired by the 1950's.
Where: 16 Wentworth Avenue Surry Hills NSW
Why: Gourmet hot dogs, 50's nostalgia and live music.
Cost: Varies. $1 hot dogs on Tuesdays, $5 menu on Wednesdays while on other nights gourmet hotdogs are $10.
When: Open 7 days a week, from 5pm until late
Good for kids: No
Take away: Yes (but not on Tuesdays)