Photo by Linda Xu
Looking for somewhere to grab a drink or a bite in Melbourne? Well, let’s be real: you probably won’t be looking for long. This Australian city is packed to the gills with cafés, bars, restaurants, dives, markets, stalls, food trucks, and holes-in-the-wall (hole-in-the-walls?) that cater to nearly every budget, style, and preference. Finding a great bar or café in Melbourne is like finding hay in a haystack.
But, since you asked (er, came here to read this post), and since I spent nearly seven months in the city, and since the entire point of this blog is to share my opinions with anyone who can stand them: here are my top choices for bars and cafés in Melbourne — whether you’re after a sweet snack, a full-fledged meal, or just a good ol’ day-drinking session.
Chuckle Park – Melbourne CBD
A trip to CP is mostly about the decor and atmosphere, which are top notch. The staff was always laid-back, friendly, and approachable. Drinks-wise, they serve an assortment of beer or cider in cans, a few wines, and cocktails in individual or large shareable sizes.
Chuckle Park doesn’t have a lot of food options, but the few dishes they serve are pretty freakin’ delicious; the meatball wrap was a particular favorite, and the small menu includes a couple of vegetarian items. I wouldn’t take a group there for dinner, but if you pop in for a few and find yourself peckish, you won’t go hungry.
Just after sunset in downtown Melbourne
Il Fornaio – St Kilda
I hope I’m not insufferable about it, but I’m a wee bit picky about my coffee. Not so much the beans themselves as the preparation. I worked my way around New Zealand and Australia as a barista, including the months I spent in Melbs — which means I went to work every day and made my own coffee, to my exact specifications, and paid nothing for it (money-wise, anyway; my blood, sweat, and tears were another story). It’s definitely not hard to find good coffee in Melbourne, but it’s still nice when you find a spot that consistently delivers, like Il Fornaio.
The café is located just outside of the “main” area of St. Kilda, on a residential street, so it’s a quiet and relaxing place to sit in the sunshine. The menu is fun, in a cheesy way, and they offer fresh and simple options for breakfast and lunch.
Looking down over one of Melbourne’s many laneways
Black Cat – Fitzroy
It’s got an old dive-y vinyl kind of thing going on, and you can order great pizza there (they don’t actually make it, but they’ll have it delivered for you, which is good enough for us). They have an awesome and relaxed outdoor area, and the staff was always great. But I won’t lie: the number one reason we consistently returned here? Monteith’s on tap.
Monteith’s is a New Zealand brewing company that produces my favorite cider ever. Black Cat regularly switched out which Monteith’s beer they offered (our first visit, they had Original Ale and later, Golden Lager) but luckily, the Crushed Apple Cider was always a constant. It was the perfect drink — and place — to while away a warm and sunny afternoon.
View of Melbourne from the Queen Victoria Market
The Workshop – Melbourne CBD
To be fair, it’s a little bit difficult to find, given that it’s above a bookshop and you have to know it’s there, or you’ll walk right by it. But now that I’ve put it on this blog, you have no excuses.
Besides the cider, the Workshop is worth visiting for their awesome “patio seating” — in quotes because it’s kind of a “weird not-quite-outside-but-well-ventilated area,” perfect if you’ve got a mixed group of smokers and non-smokers. Gone are the days of waiting for all your friends to come back inside! You’re already there, and outside too! SCIENCE.
Oh, and they do live music and stuff, sometimes.
Rooftop reflections near Flinders Street Station
Little Cupcakes – Melbourne CBD
Little Cupcakes is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a café that sells little cupcakes, as well as coffee, tea, and sometimes other baked treats, like cookies or brownies. In addition to “normal” cupcakes, they offer a variety of vegan and gluten-free options.
You can check out their current flavors on their website or social media, but I recommend just going to see what they have that day — the earlier the better. The cupcakes are baked fresh every morning, and popular flavors often sell out.
LC has three locations in the CBD; the one on Degraves Street is usually the most popular (read: busiest). The café on Queen Street will probably be quieter (emphasis on probably; don’t @ me).
I’m no longer in Melbourne, but to the best of my knowledge, all these places are still up and running as of July 2017. If you head to the city and find out any of them have shut down, taken on new and terrible management, or stopped serving Monteith’s Crushed Apple Cider, I deeply regret it, but you’re in Melbourne — you’ll find somewhere else to go.
Note: I am not affiliated in any way with the places listed in this post.
Looking for more Melbourne? Check out my picks for the best day trips from the city.
Any photos not attributed otherwise are my own.