Like a rusted-on barnacle, the ramshackle Olympic Doughnuts van has huddled in the lee of Footscray station for 33 years. It’s a much-loved icon of the western suburbs and as the queues would have you believe, it’s as mandatory to buy a bag of doughnuts here as it is to swipe your Myki.
In his smart white coat, Nick Tsiligiris is the face of Olympic Doughnuts. Always ready with a cheery “yes please”, he fills each crisp yet fluffy doughnut to order with jam from an impressive dolphin-shaped squirter.
From the window of his battered old workhorse, Tsiligiris has seen first-hand the slow sweep of change through Footscray. When he arrived, Vietnamese migrants had begun to replace the older Italian and Yugoslav generation. Now, he says, Africans are arriving from Ethiopia and Sudan. They’re joined by a new wave of young people moving into the area, lured by Footscray’s diversity and vibrancy.
Tsiligiris is adamant that the area is better. The redeveloped Footscray station now dwarves his well-loved caravan. The suburb is shrugging off its “Foot-scary” tag, focusing on its burgeoning arts scene and the rich food culture it offers.
Tsiligiris shops at Footscray Market across the road, where meat and fish are cheap yet tip-top quality and the food court offers both congee and Macedonian burek. Back at his van, the queue is a microcosm of the wider west, from Greek yiayias to Sri Lankan students. The main course may differ but the dessert, it seems, bridges the cultural divide.
Olympic Doughnuts, 51 Irving St, Footscray. 03 9689 4819.