They say that you are only as strong as your weakest link, and at the Shady Lady, you’d be hard-pressed to find one, which is why its crew has earned the title of Best Bar Team in Time Out Melbourne’s 2020 Bar Awards.
The Shady Lady is a dive bar, but not in the way that Melbourne normally does dive bars; the vibes are sassy and unpretentious, the drinks are cheap, the tunes are from yesteryear, and it’s the place to get rowdy any night of the week (the bar has a strict no-dickhead policy). It’s like your grandma’s house, if your grandma’s a bit of a fabulous alcoholic. Think orange tassel-covered lampshades, blue painted brick, a leather-wrapped bar, disco balls and velour, cabaret curtains. Delightful.
Drinks are fun instead of pensive, so expect frozen cocktails all year round. Lean into the dagginess and order a frozen Piña Colada, which is a perfect blend of coconut, pineapple juice, ice and a generous glug of rum. Is it garnished with a maraschino cherry? You betcha. Margaritas come frozen, on ice or served up, and it doesn’t matter which way you have it, your lime-and-tequila-based cocktail is consistently balanced, never saccharine and always with a half-salt rim. There is also a stable of interesting, local craft brews from Colonial, Bodriggy, Stomping Ground and Young Henrys and a well-stocked back bar that means bartenders can mix up any classic you desire; just ask nicely. Wine is available, but it isn’t the focus, with red, white, rosé and bubbles available by the glass.
Owner-operators Mandyjo Reinier and Georgina Maughan provide more than just good chat and the ability to make a decent drink. Their team have fostered a community who turn up for life drawing, karaoke, fundraisers and nostalgia parties as much as they do for the cheap drinks and $5 nachos, and they encourage you to unleash your inner weirdo. Scared you’ll be singled out? Fear not, the bar team are well known for being alert to creeps and sex pests and aren’t afraid to kick them out. A kickarse bar team who’s also got your back? Here’s to the Shady Lady.