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The outside of a historic Adelaide pub at night
Photograph: Supplied/Norwood Hotel

Adelaide's best pubs

Here are the best pubs in Adelaide for a beer, food and ambience

Written by
Tara Nash
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They call it the City of Churches, but a different kind of temple is nearly as ubiquitous in the leafy boulevards of Adelaide town. Grand, 19th-century pubs are everywhere you look, with open-air balconies, impressive facades and fascinating period details. It’s an architectural feature many other capital cities lack, and something that makes Adelaide an especially joyous city for anyone who loves to raise a pint glass.

The cornerstone of Adelaide’s nightlife, top pubs continue to nurture the city’s live music scene. They are places to go for a casual date or a big family catch-up, an intimate dinner or a lively blow-out. Some of them prioritise South Australian wines, beers and liquors; others showcase pizza, steaks or a stunning burger. Here are some of Time Out’s favourites.

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The Grace Emily Hotel is everything you’d want from a pub: incredibly laid back, grungy and welcoming. As one of the historic pubs of the city’s West End, it was established just three years after South Australia was settled in 1839, and known then as the Launceston. Today, the pub’s reputation hinges on its commitment to live music, a staple most nights of the week that landed the Grace an induction into the South Australian Music Hall of Fame in 2017.

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The Astor’s biggest strength is its function rooms available for hire, ideal spaces for a parties, conferences and other events.  The more intimate Adelaide Fringe shows are staged in these rooms and there’s often live music too. That’s not to say the Astor is not a great spot to catch up with mates over a beer or a decent cheap pub meal – on-street dining lets you enjoy the passing parade of this city fringe location.

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The building is old – dating back to 1848 – and has been a pub since 1876. There’s marble tiling, red jarrah floors, a bottleshop, and outdoor spaces with wooden booths and tables. As well as pizza the menu has pub classics, burgers, nibbles, a chef's selection which includes handmade gnocchi, chicken breast and steak, as well as some Italian desserts such as panna cotta and affogato.

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The Irish certainly know how to have a good time, and continue to do so at the Norwood Hotel, a heritage-listed hotel on the Parade. Locals gather here to catch up over a beer at Finn McCool’s Irish Pub, the venue-within-a-venue. There is a wide range on offer, including, of course, Irish lagers and Guinness, as well as a mixture of local, interstate and international wine and spirits. Pop in 4-6pm on a weekday and you can get a pint for $6 ($6!), or come in on a Sunday for the $15 roast.

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Located on the busy main strip of North Adelaide, the Archer is the watering hole for students who populate the neighbouring residential colleges. There’s a front bar, a dining area and a beer garden as well as a spacious large balcony featuring books and oil paintings. It’s in homage to the venue’s history – first built in 1849, the historic building changed from a library to a pub in 2002. A special Gin Wall has more than 50 gins, and the menu boasts that famous South Australian dish, the pie floater – an upside down pie served in pea and ham soup with tomato sauce. 

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Established in 1851, this pub – affectionately known as ‘The Welli’ – has been a long-time favourite of the area. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer up views of the greenery in Wellington Square. In the warmer months, the retractable doors open up, which makes for some lovely alfresco dining. The pulled pork burger comes in a really soft, toasted bun, with coleslaw and chips – delicious, tender and juicy. The menu offers an extensive list of entrees, including salt and pepper crocodile, South Australian oysters, pickled octopus and sharing options.

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The craving for a witbier and a steaming pot of mussels with chips is a hard one to resist and the Belgian Beer Café 'Oostende' is the place to indulge these characteristic lowland pleasures. Go the classic moules marenières (mussels cooked in white wine, garlic, chilli, tomato and parsley) and get your frites on the side – with mayonnaise, naturally. More than 80 local and imported beers span dark ales, pale ales, lagers, abbeys and trappist beers. The bartenders here take the Belgian thing seriously, with the famous ‘nine-step pour’ process that culminates in ‘trimming’ the head of your pint or half pint with a knife.

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This exquisite building has been a Rundle Street landmark since the early 1880s, becoming the much-loved pub the Austral in 1898. The 2020 renovation hasn’t diminished the pub’s history; instead, the new look honours the heritage with character and ornamental archways. There is also more room for live music, something the pub was famous for in the 1980s and ’90s. Try the Austral burger, a juicy medium-rare beef patty, lettuce, tomato, cheese and a bitey pickle. The chicken parmigiana is just as impressive, with some really tasty cheese and napoli sauce.

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Dating back to 1853, the Crown and Anchor is full of character, just like its patrons. Often dubbed ‘the Cranker’, the pub thrums with live music all through the interior, which is covered in signs and stickers. Comedians perform at Cranker Comedy on Tuesday nights – entry requires merely a donation. If you have a craving for carbs, upstairs is Midnight Spaghetti, which offers delicious pastas like their famous Spaghetti Assassina (caramelised spaghetti, tomato, From Blammo hot sauce, basil and stracciatella); starters like fried Jeruslam artichokes and panzanella; and a couple of classic Italian desserts.

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Gluten-free dining: it may not be what you’d normally expect from a pub, but the Alma specialises in it, with more than 30 gluten-free meals on the menu. Local AFL stars Mark Ricciuto, Taylor Walker and Rory Sloane are part owners of the pub, which naturally has a big screen for the game. The three of them take turns hosting a family bingo night on Wednesdays with general manager Simmo. There’s also trivia every Tuesday. 

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