This Hidden BBQ Gem Is The Northside’s Best-Kept Secret

By Clare Acheson
8th Jul 2015

It’s no secret that, here at The Urban List, we love American barbeque. Hell, as the team’s resident meat-fiend who’s spent time in the US of A chowing down on some of the tastiest BBQ to be found, my love for southern-style cooking knows no bounds. But we’ll also be the first to admit that, while we try our darndest to hunt down only the juiciest, most tender brisket, the tastiest mac’n’cheese and the sweetest, most perfectly charred corn in town, we’ve been duped by less-than-listworthy American BBQ in Melbourne before. Until now, that is. Listers, meet The Gem Bar and Dining Room—home of the most authentic American BBQ this side of Texas. 

Hidden in the backstreets of Collingwood, The Gem Bar and Dining Room is a celebrated secret amongst lovers of all things slow-cooked and savoury. Headed up by owner Tonino Cordisco, who imported the venue’s Klose BBQ pit from Houston back in 2012 after a trip to Texas, and head chef Tanya Bertino with Alto Priyadi, the unassuming Collingwood pub is home to some of the best American BBQ in Melbourne while still serving up some pub classics. Thankfully, there’s no pretentious meat-speak or ‘no-bookings’ policy (please, God, let that heinous restaurant trend die a bitter death already).  At The Gem, it’s all about genuine southern-style hospitality, great company and incredible mouth-watering food.

The pub itself is a testament to Southern Americana in all its glory. You’ll find bourbon barrels, calf skins, Mexican Día de Muertos artefacts, and artworks celebrating stateside musical legends including Elvis adorning the walls. The hero worship doesn’t stop there, folks—these guys host an incredible annual Elvis tribute night on the eve of the King’s death, and throw Melbourne’s best Day of the Dead party. You want a real-deal rockabilly and crooner night too? You’ll find it right here in Collingwood.

So, asides from delicious local, imported and craft beers, incredible live music, and one of the best Sunday roasts we’ve wrapped our lips around, what’s a-cookin’? If you’re a meat fan, you’d better be hungry because, with everything from pork belly ribs to butter-soft beef brisket on the menu, there is literally NO WAY you can choose to sample just a couple of dishes. Most of what you’ll be eating has been brined, dried, rubbed and smoked in a time-consuming process (which, thankfully, The Gem’s experts carry out before you sit down to eat), but with flavour this good, you’ll be praising their every minute of hard work.

The Gem expanded its legendary Collingwood pub upwards earlier this year, opening three new dining rooms complete with a private bar that are perfect for group BBQ feasts. Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, have mates visiting from out-of-town, or simply fancy an excuse to rip into some American BBQ goodness with your nearest and dearest, it’s the perfect spot for a top-notch feed that’ll leave you drooling for days.

The Gem Bar and Dining Room’s signature beer can chicken is an absolute must. Chargrilled with a tin of beer inside the chicken, allowing the meat to be steadily marinaded from the inside-out, every mouthful of this bird is pure crispy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside heaven. Of course, you’ll find some legendary side dishes, too: Mac’n’cheese topped with bacon crumbs, ranch-style baked beans with crispy brisket ends, Texas fries with jalapenos, cheese spring onions and a dollop of chipotle aioli, and charred sweetcorn doused in house chimichurri—that’s a parsley, oregano and garlic vinaigrette from Argentina, you BBQ beginners!  

If you’re a meat fan who’s in need of a weekly fixture in your diary, we’d 100% recommend the Wednesday evening rib session—a low-key evening of unadulterated BBQ joy centred around the city’s best rib dishes, which change each week, making for a cracking mid-week sesh with mates. They host a bunch of other special events too—keep track of them on The Gem’s Facebook page, where you’ll find heaps of details about menu specials too.

When it comes to finding hidden gems in Melbourne, it really does take a lot to surprise us, and even more to impress us here in our list-loving HQ. But, Tonino and co., we’ve gotta hand it to you. The Gem Bar and Dining Room really IS an American BBQ restaurant that’s worth shouting about. Perhaps not too loudly though…Hey, there’s only so much brisket one smoker can hold!

The Gem Bar & Dining Room also runs a great happy hour—find out about it in Melbourne's Best Hoppy Hours.

Editor's Note: This article is proudly sponsored by The Gem Bar and Dining Room and endorsed by The Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make The Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy. 

Image credits: Nick West for The Urban List

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