I’ve recently been told (albeit by local Melburnians) that Melbourne has not only the best coffee worldwide, but has food that is unrivaled in Australia and elsewhere. For me, Melbourne seems to evoke a sort of Portland, even San Fran at times city vibe, but when it comes to the food space, we are definitely talking Chi town Michelin star level, San Fran’s Marina district, Manhattan’s foodie hotspots… this place knows how to eat. With only a few weeks under my best roaming Melbourne’s art-drenched alleyways, let’s be honest… I’ve been mostly concerned with where my next meal is coming from, and tried to eat my way around some new corners of the city. Here I share with you a few of my favorites from my recent wanderings.
Queen Victoria Night Market
While during the day, the Queen Victoria Market is a permanent installation, selling a range of things from tools to fresh produce, the night market only emerges in full force on Wednesday evenings throughout the summer. My visits to Melbourne have fortunately been during February and March, right in the middle of a lovely, warm summer. The night market is absolutely one of my favorite things to do during the week, and a wonderful way to experience some of Melbourne’s true local color and culture. The market is huge and offers an insane variety of food (and trinkets, for after-dinner browsing), so bring a BIG appetite. You will find cuisines at the market ranging from thai street food to greek, to BBQ. Just get involved in everything.
*All time faves: you must try the Running Bull Sangria (it’s a market favorite), and the mixed meat platter from the BBQ place (I forget the name, but you’ll know what I mean; it’s a booth that sells nothing but BBQ meats, including ribs, pulled pork, and sausage). If you only eat one thing at the market, you must must must get Taki’s Balls. As their slogan states, “we don’t break em, we make em!” Taki’s hot, delicious balls are covered either in sugar or Nutella, and trust me, you want them in your mouth right now.
Moroccan Soup Bar
This is an absolute MUST visit while in Melbourne. Nestled along St. Georges St, in an inconspicuous corner of Fitzroy, the restaurant peeks out from behind an unassuming façade, with a few tables and chairs bordering the sidewalk outside. MSB opens most days of the week at 6:00PM sharp, and trust me, you want to arrive at 6, or a few minutes earlier. I made the mistake of taking a stroll down St. Georges as I had arrived too early for opening to a still and quiet restaurant, completely closed… but when I returned around 6:02PM, the entire restaurant was already packed. By the time I had finished dinner and left, there was a waiting que actually bunched up in hipster clusters down the sidewalk. After 6pm, a small section of St. Georges in Fitzroy teems with life, happiness and laughter as friends and families come together to share in the joy of good food and vibes to be had at MSB. If you expect that you will need some time with the menu because it is simply too difficult to decide; everything looks so delicious… you’re wrong. You’re in for a surprise, or several. One of the restaurant’s defining characteristics is its renowned verbal menu; yes, spoken. You either choose the big buffet, or the bigger buffet, and they bring you the food after accommodating for any food allergies you may have. As you’ll notice from the signs, décor and overall ambiance, the restaurant is a fierce defender of all things just, right and fair and brings these messages to each and every visitor. If you have an open mind and are hankering after some of the most delicious Moroccan food (probably outside of Morocco and in the world), make time for MSB, and bring a big appetite!
YUM. Located smack in the middle of Fed Square in Melbourne’s bustling CBD, Chocolate Buddha boasts a view of the open section of fed square, including the outdoor TV screen, amazing architecture in all directions, and is less than a 5 minute walk from the riverbank. Chocolate Buddha offers a delicious Asian fusion menu, and I would simply recommend ordering as much as you think you can eat; everything is delicious so try some of your comfort favorites and something new on this fun menu… In retrospect, perhaps the restaurant gets its name from the chocolate spring rolls which are simply a must-try (is that even a question).
Five Points Specialty Coffee and Bagels
This cozy little café is centrally located and is a convenient and perfect spot for coffee and bagel lovers (ME!) to grab a bite for breakkie or a midday coffee to and from whatever the day in Melbourne CBD may have in store. A wide array of bagel options, from healthy and fresh to bacon and egg style, all the way through to Nutella, peanut butter, banana… you get the idea. The coffee, as most is in good ol’ Melb, is of course delicious.
Riverland Urban Beer Garden
“Urban beer garden” is an excellent way to describe Riverland, as it captures the essence and vibe of a picturesque waterside café, along with the funky menu and comfort food offerings (think delicious BBQ, pulled pork sandwiches and plenty of fries) of one of your classic favorites. It is a fabulous go-to for a nice meal with a view, a good place to relax from the hustle and bustle during a long day of exploring, or a lovely place to simply sit and catch up with a friend or loved one as you watch the boats float by.
The Fair Trader Café & Bar
This funky eatery in downtown Melbourne is for the lovers of all things healthy, fresh, and organic. This is not to say Fair Trader is some vegan-exclusive, hippie dippie establishment with lamas out front to greet you; businessmen and fitness freaks sit side by side in this bustling café/restaurant, and it is a great place to meet friends, have a friendly and chatty lunch, or get some work done, if you don’t need absolute quiet. The menu offers quintessentially delicious Aussie (Melbourne) fair, featuring the classics like smashed avo, salads, sandwiches, with a menu variety that should suit just about anyone.
Disclaimer: Degraves Street should simply have its own category as “best places to eat in Melbourne” – straight up. All of the cafés and eateries along this fabulously cozy laneway off of Flinders Ln downtown Melbourne are amazing, delicious… need I go on. If you are looking for a place to eat, drink, (shop), chill… whatever – my go-to is the Flinders Lane area, and Degraves St. must have every possibility for yummy food options. RMB sits at the entry to Degraves, so has an open view down the lane and the tables outside provide an optimal perch for people watching. The menu is classic, with a wide variety for both breakfast and lunch options, ranging from a delicious take on smashed avocado toast, featuring a little spice and smoked salmon, to salads and sandwiches.
How could you not love Mockturtle. Not just another hole in the wall on Degraves St., Mockturtle is funky, unique, and just plain cute. From its tiny two-person booths inside the café, to its menu scrawled in chalk along the boards outside, to its delicious coffee, Mockturtle is a solid go-to for coffee and food along Degraves. Brunch here is fantastic, with both traditional fare, as well as fun and sugary-sweet items that you should probably just go ahead and try… because there’s always tomorrow to start your “diet.”
Indeed, another classic of Degraves Street, but it is one to even give Doughnut Time a run for its money! (You should still go get a doughnut, anyway). Delicious coffee, quaint vibes… baby cupcakes. What more could you possibly want on an afternoon stroll through downtown Melbourne. Hit up Little Cupcakes before your next weekend tea party, girls night in, or perhaps even your snuggly picnic in the park!
(Yes, Hash). Officially “Hash Specialty Coffee & Roaster,” # is a vibrant and quirky café and restaurant on Hardware St. The menu offers a classic range of delicious meals and snacks, with a beautiful and funky twist. For example, # porridge is adorned with a lovely array of flowers, nuts, and seeds so that it really looks like the porridge fairies would eat. You MUST try the fairy floss hot chocolate; as it sounds, a tall plume of sugary fairy floss (cotton candy, for us Americans) is served in a mug, looking a bit like one of those 90s troll-dolls fell in too far. Alongside in a chemistry beaker comes hot, silky rich chocolate liquid. Now, get your cameras at the ready and go ahead! Watch the fairy floss melt away as you pour the chocolate over, and try not to get too distracted as to miss the mug!
Oli & Levi Café
This is one of those places that truly embodies the Melburnian culture (or one of the cultures, anyway) of taking coffee really, really, seriously – but delivering it with an air of effortless sophistication in a rough and tumble atmosphere. To outsiders, the café appears to be a hipster hotspot, but it’s so much more than that. This place has transcended hipster, or was hipster before hipster existed, however you may explain it. There is one wooden table inside where you are welcomed to sit and enjoy your small breakfast snacks and expertly-crafted coffee over the but it may be reasonable to not expect a seat at any given time, simply because the place is so small.
Naked for Satan
This. is. a Melbourne CLASSIC. Dark rooms with antiquated wooden furniture drenched in red velvet, curated heurs d’oeuvres on toothpicks, and yes I’m getting there… a certain level of nudity. I’m not going to tell you where, or how. Just go and see for yourself. Don’t worry, it’s nothing too crazy; in fact, NFS is arguably the coolest hangout spot (shoutout to the epic rooftop with a complete view of the Melbourne skyline) in the city! It is a favorite of locals and visitors alike, and you must spend at least one (hopefully sunny!) avo sipping a craft local beer or one of the Naked for Satan specially-flavored vodka infused teas up on the roof.
Bimbo is at least a must-see, if not a must-visit, during your time in Melbourne and is an obvious destination if you find yourself in Brunswick. Just up the street for our fave Naked for Satan, Bimbo is its very own brand of weird- you’ll quickly see why. From the giant plastic baby doll suspended from the façade of the building high above the heads of wondering passerby, to the famous $4 PIZZA after 7pm, and all day on Sundays. Shit gets a little weird (what am I saying, it was already weird to begin with) in Bimbo… in a good way.
Go-to foodie areas for when you’re in town:
Queen Victoria (Night) Market
Degraves St, off Flinders Ln
Hardware Lane (and Street)
Brunswick (walk the length of Brunswick St.)
Go on people, the coffee isn’t going to drink itself!!