In the words of Don Draper, nostalgia is "a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone." That's especially true for comfort foods from an immigrant's homeland. This explains the euphoria among Australian ex-pats over KO Catering and Pies, a mainly-takeout Southie joint specializing in Australian meat pies. For Aussies, finding this savory sealed pastry is like a lonely American stumbling on a hot-dog stand in the Gobi Desert. It's that iconic: a beloved, homely snack absolutely ubiquitous in Australia, famously gobbled at football matches. But can its colloquial appeal translate here? I'd say yes, if you share the British Commonwealth's love of meat and potatoes, thoroughly cooked vegetables, simple sauces, and unaggressive spicing, done with uncommon freshness and quality.
The classic pie ($5.25) features ground beef, onions, tomato, and mild seasonings; 25 cents more adds a bit of cheddar. The Irish-beef-stew pie ($5.75) is filled with slightly spicier chunks of stew beef. The light, flaky, ungreasy crust — using pastry dough from a nearby bakery — is a major asset, and the pies are unsloppy enough to be eaten on the go without utensils. Curried-vegetable pie ($5.25) includes potato, cauliflower, peas, zucchini, and carrots faintly seasoned with mild, British-style yellow curry. Sausage roll ($3.50) is like an oversized pig-in-blanket, a mild, high-quality pork sausage encased in flaky pastry. Fried potatoes in various forms are beautifully done in big portions here, as wedges ($4.75) with sour cream and Thai sweet chili sauce, and fries ($3.50), optionally dusted with chicken-bouillon-flavored salt (for 25 cents — worth a try).
A skillful fry job also graces chicken-breast schnitzel ($5.50) on a good sesame roll, and a heaping order of salt-and-pepper calamari strips ($7.50) with chili jam. Americans old enough to remember Crocodile Dundee and Men at Work can order shrimp "on the barbie" ($8.50), five chermoula-marinated, grilled medium shrimp served on rice with feta, cukes, and tomatoes, or Vegemite on sourdough toast ($3.50), on the breakfast menu — though the salty, tarry yeast-extract spread is decidedly an acquired taste. Other breakfast options include superb corn fritters ($6.75) flecked with scallions and whole corn, served with excellent bacon and an arugula/avocado salad. Classic Aussie desserts include Lamingtons ($2.50), sponge cakes coated with chocolate and dried coconut, and sticky date pudding ($5.50) with ice cream and butterscotch sauce. Beverage options include soft drinks ($1.50-2.75) and good filter coffee ($1.75-2.25). Fronted by its Sydney-native owner's unflagging, easygoing Aussie charm, KO rather lives up to the slang its name refers to, 'ken oath, or as we Yanks say, effin' good.
KO Catering and Pies, located at 87 A Street in South Boston, is open from Tuesday–Friday, 8 am-8 pm, and Saturday-Sunday, 9 am-3 pm. Call 617.269.4500, or visitwww.kocateringandpies.com