Melbourne CBD is great and all (so much Asian fusion) but we all know the cool kids can be found loitering around Fitzroy. But there’s a lot more to the suburb than the clichéd beard grooming fixie-riding image. For starters, it’s home to some of Melbourne’s greatest restaurants. Vegan and veggo, meaty BBQ, Ethiopian eateries and cosy Italian osterias—they’re all here.
So don the flannel, people. We’re checking out the best restaurants in Fitzroy.
Naked For Satan
You all knew Naked For Satan was making the list. Where else can you take in awesome views of the city as you wolf down cocktails of house-infused Opium & Rose vodka and fill your gut with delicious Spanish food? We’ll be ordering the fried cheese and walnut croquettes followed by the slow-roasted lamb shoulder, thanks. And maybe a Crema Catalana just to round things up. Don’t forget the pintxos downstairs too—a painful lesson in the art of small economies.
Smith & Daughters
Smith & Daughters has some of the best vegan-friendly food going around, and has been a Fitzroy standout since 2014. Brought to you by the plant-based minds of Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse, head here for a Latino-inspired feast. Expect fresh, punchy flavours, awesome cocktails, and don’t leave without trying the bean and peach ensalada. And the Horchata vegan ice cream. In fact, it’s all pretty nuts.
Ichi Ni Nana
We’re in the midst of a ramen craze RN (Ramblr, Tokyo Tina, IPUDDO—they’re all getting in on the action) but don’t limit yourself to just one tasty Japanese dish. Get your cute little butt down to Ichi Ni Nana and try a whole bunch of them. We’re talking Wafu-seasoned Wagyu beef tartare with pickled shallots, radish, shiso and croutons, fresh-as-fresh sashimi salads and charcoal grilled king prawn skewers with yakitori sauce. And that’s only the beginning. Finish the night with a drink up top at Upside Rooftop Bar.
Ricky & Pinky
Walk through the entrance of The Builder’s Arms and you won’t find your typical pub. In fact, you’ll cop an eyeful of Melbourne’s most surprising yum cha joint. The masterminds behind Cumulus Inc., Cutler & Co and Supernormal gave us Ricky & Pinky in 2017, and we’ve been grateful ever since. It’s a little classy, and a lot of delicious, with Hong Kong-style dishes like Honey glazed duck, Sichuan pork dumplings and traditional egg custard tarts. Always the right call on Saturday afternoons.
Photographer: Annika Kafcaloudis
Miss Katie’s Crab Shack
Things are gonna get messy. Miss Katie’s Crab Shack started as a Southern-style seafood truck, run by culinary genius Katie Marron. But in 2017 she dropped anchor at a sweet little venue on Smith St, specializing in sticky-finger, claw-cracking crab. All the food is a hit, but the star is the southern crab boil—of course. It’s juicy, it’s sticky, and it’s jam-packed with flavour. Keep an eye out for their weekly Happy Hour drink and oyster specials too. You won’t leave here looking pretty, but you will leave feeling good.
Cutler & Co
Another Fitzroy institution, Cutler & Co. pretty much set the scene for what Gertrude St was gonna become (hint: the scene was classy AF). Andrew McConnell opened this place back in 2009. The idea was to celebrate local produce and execute with flair and sophistication. Think timeless classics like rock flathead with grilled leek, sorrel, Mooloolaba prawns and vermouth. It won’t be cheap, but it will be worth it. A good spot to impress a Tinder date or treat the in-laws.
Photography: Michelle Jarni
Oh Mukka, the fragrant, boozy mistress of our heart. How many cracking nights we’ve had at this little gem, honestly. Mukka keeps the menu pretty authentic, with a focus on solid flavour. Their banana leaf fish fry will have you drooling before it even hits the table, while you can never go wrong with the traditional faves like butter chicken (kitsch, but damn it’s good), chickpea and spinach curry or sweet, crunchy Jalebi. And of course, a spiked mango lassi to wash it down. We told you this would get boozy...
Po’ Boy Quarter
If Miss Katie’s Crab Shack has left you craving another fill of soul food, check out Po’ Boy Quarter, just a few doors down. It’s our go-to spot when we’re craving saucy sandwiches bigger than our face. Eat bowl after bowl of authentic mouth-watering New-Orleans gumbo, or break things up with freshly shucked oysters, popcorn shrimp and a side of pickles. Do NOT underestimate the number of napkins you’ll need at this place. Probably not first date material...
The Rochester Hotel
You might think you know The Rochey, but you don’t know it with Mischa Tropp running the pass. He’s spiced up The Rochey’s food offering with a unique southern Indian menu. We’re talking a tantalizing beef curry with thoran, curd, pickled long melon, rose mata rice and a side serve of papadums. Not for you? How about the Ghee roast chicken with tamarind and Kashmiri chilli? This is pub food on steroids, and we’re completely here for it. Well played, Rochester. Just when we think we have you figured out.
Photography: Annika Kafcaloudis
Little Odessa is a big winner. At this point, saying you like dumplings is like saying the sky is blue—but wait until you try this Eastern European twist. Yep, we’re talking Ukrainian Pierogi, those little morsels of cheesy, potato-y goodness (meat lovers should also try the pork and apple variation). Wash it down with some seriously good wine at this backstreet wine bar. It’s all about sharing the experience of some good grub and grog: turns out vodka and dill were very good to Eastern Europe. Sit back, relax, and let the food coma take over.
Pizzaaa… It’s hard to mess up too badly. But the guys at Bontempo take it to a whole new level. You might know these guys from their sister restaurant, the cult-hit Fratellino in South Yarra. Bontempo is pretty much more of the same: the bases are rested for a full 48 hours, resulting in an airy, fluffy bottom that crisps to perfection when it hits that beast of a wood-fired pizza oven. Our suggestion? The Bont: tomato, melty mozzarella, pulled pork, basil, garlic and sage. Um, yes please.
Yong Green Food
No matter how carnivorous you may claim to be, there’s something to make every mouth water at Yong Green Food. Yep, even you over there, chewing on your T-Bone. With your bare hands. They’ve got Korean-style pancakes with a sticky tamarind sauce, chilli bean nachos, kimchi dragon bowls, and the list goes on. The food looks as good as it tastes, too. Definitely a good choice for the ‘gram. Pro tip? If it’s cold outside, order up a bowl of their vegan udon and a hot sake. Job done.
Peruvian chicken with housemade chicken salt AND dulce de leche soft serve? Holy. Yes. CHE takes it’s name from the Argentinean word for ‘buddy’ and trust us, you’ll be everyone’s best friend if you take them here. It’s a casual eatery from Chef Alejandro (the South American dream behind Pastuso in the CBD). With Peruvian chillies, dark beer and succulent chicken, it’s the perfect group Friday night Fitzroy date. Don’t leave without scoffing a plate of the smoked beef empanadas.
Marquis of Lorne
This ain’t your ordinary pub. Proudly perching on the corner of Kerr and Gertrude, the grazing menu and bar (the perfect spot for a pint after work) has a LOT to offer, including a $45 sharing menu with bites like charred zucchini with buttermilk curd (yum) and a whole roast chicken with mash potato and lentil gravy (the best kind of feed now it’s getting colder). Plus, Marquis of Lorne has a cute rooftop bar. Quintessential Melbourne right there.
Have you even been to Fitzroy if you haven’t been to Vegie Bar? (The answer is no, no you haven’t). Smack bang on Brunswick Street, they serve all the veggie meals, including veggie packed noodle dishes, warm buddah bowls and pizza (which even includes vegan cheese). If you’re feeling a lighter meal, they have samosas, “fish” tacos and even sung choi bao. Don’t go past their sister store next door, which serves vegan ice-cream and sweet treats. Count us in.
Panama Dining Room
You could walk down Smith St your whole life and miss this place. It’s perched up high, a New York-style loft space with views over Melbourne. Panama Dining Room is pretty much a Fitzroy institution. With a worldly menu featuring dishes like gnocchi with pumpkin, olive and feta, or pork scotch fillet with mushrooms and polenta, be prepared for a hearty feast. If you want to go all out, sign up for Chef Ayhan Erkoc’s signature set-menus. Best $75 we’ve ever spent.
Hell Of The North
Now, this is what we call a perfect date spot. With exposed brick walls and a carefully curated menu to match, Hell of the North is really bringing wholesome food to Fitzroy, with tasty creations like pork & gruyere doughnuts, potato and celeriac terrine and Milawa duck breast with braised cabbage. Don’t go past the wine list either...it’s seriously extensive. Save room for dessert too: they’re rocking a pretty gnarly Crème Brûlée.
You can’t miss this place, with the glowing neon sign out front and a line out the door. Shop Ramen is serving up piping bowls of tonkatsu broth that could rival Tokyo’s best (we’ve done the leg-work, so trust us on this one). Vegetarians won’t miss out either. There’s a veggie (cashew milk) broth on the menu, stuffed with enoki mushrooms and carrots. Meat-eaters can munch on grass-fed pork ramen with a soft boiled egg. If you need to line the stomach first, the pork belly steamed buns are a good way to start.
Rice, Paper, Scissors
Did someone say Asian Fusion? Rice Paper Scissors is serving up some of the sweetest rice-paper rolls and southern Asian share plates in town. They opened a swish new sister restaurant in the CBD in 2017, but this is definitely still home base. Definitely order up the duck salad, grilled calamari and steamed pork buns. Even better, there’s a shared menu for $59 which includes five dishes for two people—score! And for dessert? It’s gotta be the Terrarium: Vietnamese coffee mousse with peanut and chocolate soil.
Many will argue this is THE best vegetarian in Melbourne. And we’re inclined to agree. Owned by the Team of Vegie Bar, Transformer focuses on innovative plant-based dining, with treats like slow-roasted tomato tartrate or sweet corn fritter fries with chipotle mayonnaise. If you’re looking for something a bit bigger, try out the fried halloumi with prickly box honey and black olives. Save for when your posh veggo friends are in town.
Photography: Annika Kafcaloudis
Evie’s Disco Diner
When we heard about Evie’s in 2018, we couldn’t believe our ears. A vegan disco diner on Gertrude St? Just wow. We’re talking a dance floor (duh), a fast food menu (loaded fries – hell yeah) AND a whole bunch of 80s references. Expect a killer cocktail list, fermented wine and sodas as well as spiked thick shakes (cookies and cream, anyone?). The menu is fifty percent vegan, with a good late night feed in order. They also run semi-regular disco karaoke nights and queer-friendly Eurovision dance parties. Evie’s Disco Diner: never leave us.
Good African food is one thing the North hasn’t nailed in the last few years. Except for this place. Saba’s is as good as anything you’ll find in Fitzroy. They specialise in handmade Ethiopian banquets. The idea is: order a bit of everything, chuck it in the middle of the table, then go crazy. Think tasty morsels like deconstructed samosas, tekebash’s cauliflower and Biray Kulwa (diced beef cooked with spices). If you’ve wanted to give African food a try (but have zero clue where to start) this place will get you hooked. Highly recommend.
Photography: Annika Kafcaloudis
Chef Ashley Davis’ second endeavour in Melbourne’s foodie jungle is Messer: a seasonal restaurant with wholesome food and drinks to match. Drawing heavily on European flavours, this restaurant boasts a reasonably priced menu (with a two-course lunch setting you back $35) as well as a full degustation. They’ve got it right. Our winner would be the smoked trout sandwich and the salted baked beet ‘carpaccio’. Very good for a fine dining budget date night.
Archie’s All Day
Archie’s motto is good food and good vibes: and trust us, they’re bringing it. With a full day brunch and dinner menu, you can rock up any time of day (or just stay there all day, we won’t judge). Our fave dishes are the pina colada chia pudding (featuring dark rum), the fried chicken & waffles for brekkie and the crispy tofu with Asian slaw or the braised beef short rib for dinner. Park yourself up at the window and don’t leave till the plate is clean.
Image credit: Annika Kafcaloudis