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!!
It’s a hot hot summer here in Brizzy and I’ve been roaming in search of even hotter eats. Tourist, yes-absolutely, but I’m not just settling for any fish n’ chips, people. I’ve done the research and tried the tucker around Brisvegas, and am bringing to you some of my faves. Whether you’re in search of a quick coffee, nice dinner or just to satisfy your sweet tooth, this list is a good place to start.
If you are looking for a (slightly crazy) yum and fun restaurant where you can eat “little bundles of happy” (the famous gyoza), Harajuku is your spot. Modeled after a traditional Izakaya (old skool Japanese bar with food), Harajuku incorporates all things yum, fun, and happiness. The wait staff greets you with an enthusiastically happy greeting (war-cry?), and you will hear it if someone is having a birthday… so will the neighbors. Big appetite? No worries, as they say at Harajuku, if you are like the Japanese salaryman with “appetite big like Godzilla,” you are invited to order again and again, and share with a friend. J
Insider’s tip: all the gyoza are actually delicious- the lemongrass chicken is particularly flavorful, and you MUST, I repeat must, try the NUTELLA gyoza with vanilla ice cream. Whoever invented hot Nutella wrapped in dough is my hero.
Sure, Brizzy isn’t quite as coffee-obsessed as Melbourne, but it does take its joe seriously. Aptly named Espresso Garage is a rustic hole in the wall serving up a variety of delicious coffees; a great place for your morning caffeine fix, and while there’s no room for seating inside, they have plenty of tables outside to relax and enjoy a snack. A plus: the food options, ranging from buttered raisin toast to “The Big Breakfast,” are oh so slightly-more reasonably-priced than what seems to be the typical for Aussie cities, so you’re not leaving with a hole in the wallet. EG is right in the heart of South Bank, nestled in between the vibrant and quaint Stanley Market and Little Stanley streets, and a 5 min walk from the South Bank boardwalk along the river.
Insider’s tip: (applicable to all Aussie coffee stop-offs)- if you order an “ice(d) coffee,” don’t go thinking pike place on ice; there is a 90% chance you’ll wind up with a dollop of ice cream in your joe. If you want to avoid this, just add “without ice cream, please” to your order – to be sure because hey, ya just never do know.
EDEN GARDEN INDIAN CUISINE
If you happen to be craving Indian and you are nearby South Bank, look no further than Eden Garden. I found this place by a rather circumstantial google search, and though there are many Indian restaurants throughout the CBD and even several in close proximity to Eden Garden, it was rated with the most stars, and the food was true to the ratings. Boasting delicious traditional “home cooked” style food, this place claims the “best naan in town” (they surely must have the most flavor options), and to top off the experience, is themed in a fun cricket décor, with cricket balls wedged into one entire wall of the restaurant.
Insider’s tip: try the veggie ‘chaat’ samosas, and the garlic naan!
This chic and fun Italian restaurant with a view of the Brisbane river lives up to its name; “Popolo” means people, and this place is all about friends, good food, and good vibes. A mix of indoor and outdoor seating creates a warm and friendly vibe, and creatively delicious Italian fare tops off a pleasant evening. Though an excellent place for people to come together, it is cozy to visit as a solo traveler and diner, and you will feel completely at ease. The menu strikes a balance between innovation and “the good stuff” that you know and love, and expect to find on a vaguely Italian menu.
Insider’s tip: for a simple dose of goodness, try the pumpkin ravioli!
Whether to stuff something sweet in the mouth of a whining toddler, impress a tinder date, post to your snap story or simply revel in the magical sugary overload that is Doughnut Time, this place is sweeping Oz – and it may not be a coincidence that they are serving up some of the easily most instagrammable bundles of sugar (and joy) in the nation (world?) Where do I even begin- there’s too much goodness here and in an effort to not get carried away, let’s stick to the basics. Amazing doughnuts, covered in deliciousness, with even more craziness materializing in the form of oreos, crumbles, sprinkles, M&Ms and other goodies atop these little monsters. You could probably close your eyes and play doughnut roulette and still walk away with a grin on your face. Don’t forget, D.T. does milkshakes as well! Sadly, I was informed that they stopped topping their shakes with mini doughnuts (sniff), but they still load them up with an excessive amount of sugary fun to get you through whatever it is prompted you to intentionally seek out that much sugar in the first place.
Insider’s tip: Don’t go too soon after dinner, so you can maybe order 2? … idk, you know the drill, people.
JIMMY’S ON THE MALL
If you get caught wandering Brisvegas well past sunset, or maybe even going for a late swim at Street Beach pools and you suddenly get hungry, what are you gonna do? Head on over to Jimmy’s on the Mall for your late night (or even early morning!) fix. I am actually not too well versed in the late night eats scene of Brisbane, but I was personally struggling to find a place to eat dinner one evening after I was told by restaurant after restaurant that they had long closed their kitchens or were only open until 10:00PM. A few places keep their doors propped until midnight, sure, but Jimmy’s? OPEN 24 HOURS!! This is no haphazard solution to your Thursday night drunchies, though; Jimmy’s is a lovely two story stand-alone restaurant in the middle of the Queen St. Mall, close to the heart of Brisbane’s CBD. Think comfort food, with a short but sweet menu offering a happy range of plain ol’ good tucker that will keep you happy and of course, save you from going to bed hungry!
So go on… start munching!!!