After much deliberation, here we present to you the ultimate eating guide to Fitzroy, from vegan pizza to high-end establishments and everything in between.
Whether you’ve been busy shopping on Gertrude Street or relaxing at one of Fitzroy’s best bars, you can rest assured knowing that there’ll be a delicious feed waiting for you on the other side. To make the most of this buzzing inner-city suburb, we suggest hopping on the 96 tram and taking a tour from south to north.
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The best restaurants in Fitzroy
Melbourne, meet your new favourite snacking spot, where a seafood-centric bar menu offers breaded abalone with tonkatsu sauce sandwiched in the kind of high-GI white bread your doctor warned you about. There are oysters so screamingly fresh you wonder if the rest of the Melbourne restaurant world is being dudded, and Padron peppers flashed in sherry vinegar play their sinister game of Russian roulette.
The Rochester Hotel kitchen shifted gears mid 2018, rewriting its standard pub menu to one focused on Southern Indian flavours, with chef Mischa Tropp drawing inspo from his mother’s homeland. Now your pub dinner comes with restaurant-style service where waitstaff know Kerala from Kashmir, and swiftly wipe away evidence of the city’s flakiest parota (layered flatbread) and crisp chilli-laced poppadums.
Head chef, Kah-wai ‘Buddha’ Lo takes on Asian flavours and European technique – evidenced by his take on the perennially daggy American-Chinese favourite known as General Tso’s chicken, here done with crisp-fried quail and little pouches of braised lettuce stuffed with jasmine rice, red capsicum, diced chicken and water chestnut, like a tribute version of san choy bau. Another mash-up comes by virtue of the suckling pig – two perfect slices of crackle-hatted porky goodness with slippery ho fun noodle and a fine dice of prawn, water chestnut and garlic chives, like a Cantonese-accented surf-and-turf.
Red Sparrow is the brainchild of co-owner and chef Michael Craig, last seen at vego Mex joint Trippy Taco. Together with his partner and Red Sparrow co-owner Shelley Scott, Craig (who is vegan) has spent innumerable hours perfecting his very own mock cheeses and meats, spurred on by the dream of enjoying the simple pleasures of pizza, chips and beer like everyone else.
Veganism just got less preachy, more peachy. Owners Mo Wyse and chef Shannon Martinez are now pushing Italian vegan eats like "oxtail" ragu and creamy, slightly sweet ricotta on pizza fritte at this new punk of a Fitzroy diner. Diehard curd lovers: prepare to be impressed.
You'll need return trips to go through the menu at restauranteur Andrew McConnell's chic Gertrude Street wine bar. Sitting next door to Cutler & Co (and sharing its vast wine cellar) means Marion can lay claim to being the best-stocked wine bar in the 'hood.
Saba’s offers up authentic Ethiopian food using only 100 per cent teff flour in their gluten-free, coeliac safe kitchen. All of their food is gluten free, so you can pick from the whole list. Their menu includes a range of traditional Ethiopian food such as their dinish (potato, cabbage and carrots cooked in turmeric and other mild spices), ful (spiced, stewed fava beans with boiled egg and feta), birsen (split red lentils cooked in a medley of Ethiopian spices), and tel (slow-cooked goat).
Don’t expect a bandana toting crew screaming ‘irasshaimase!’ when you walk into Pat Breen and Lydia Wegner’s soup joint. These two are ramen renegades, who roll their buckwheat noodles in a pasta maker and are pushing an eclectic mix of Japan’s favourite soup, Chinese-style pork buns, frosty shakes and caramel pie. Party down.
The tiny bluestone building on the corner of Napier and Kerr Streets in Fitzroy has had a few businesses pass through over the years, mostly average cafés that couldn’t last long enough to warm the hearth. But now that wine and espresso bar Napier Quarter has moved in, we hope this charming spot has found its forever venue.
Melbourne’s having a bit of a Middle Eastern moment. In a bright little shopfront where the memo about hip-hop being the only soundtrack with street cred has definitely landed, we have Just Falafs bringing seriously good falafel and all its zesty bandmates to North Fitzroy. Opened by a mother and son with well-thumbed passports and runs on the board in the local industry, it’s the eatery the suburb needed.
Run by brother-sister team Kate and Cameron Reid, Lune Croissanterie sees lines snaking out of the store nearly every day that they open and their pastries fly out of the shop by noon most days, but does Lune really cut the mustard? In short, yes. Created in a climate-controlled lab, Lune croissants are almost mathematically perfect: crisp and golden with visible layers of delicate pastry.
Fancy eating at Vegie Bar? Then get in line. The 20-year-old establishment is so consistently busy that it’s walk-in only for tables of fewer than six, and waits of an hour or more are not unheard of. Fortunately the staff have a well coordinated system for getting diners in, seated and out again. Names are taken upon arrival, numbered cards assigned and the ravening hordes directed to a very pleasant courtyard, with a large sheltered area and (crucially) a cash-only bar.
Southern-style fried chicken has nailed the eating zeitgeist, but the crew at Belle’s Hot Chicken have turned it into an extreme sport. If you want to simulate the experience of having your head blown off while angels sing the tunes of the Wu-Tang Clan, head straight for their "really fuckin’ hot" chicken. It has a body count. It’s a crazy juke joint of a place, taking over the former Belle’s Diner with its fancy-Scandi timber fit-out.
Industry Beans is situated behind Rose Street Artists' Markets and next to a boot camp studio, and they’re as serious about coffee here as Captain Pain next door is about a regulation push up. Attentive staff hand you your bible as soon as you take your seat: a fifteen-page coffee menu featuring single origins from as far afield as Honduras, El Salvador and Burundi. Go the Honduras single origin through the AeroPress. It's like jumping into a hydrangea bush – floral and just a little bit spiky.
Here, amidst the '70s orange tiles and bamboo benches your corn tortilla tacos come out packing a jammin’ combo of chilli-spiced and grilled tofu or black beans with thick slices of avocado, mozzarella cheese, and a fresh tomato salsa. They need a little salt, but squeeze on some extra lime and as much El Yucateco habanero hot sauce as your face can handle (not much), and hot damn! You have yourself a pretty convincing reason to climb on the meat-free wagon.
Sisters Seon Mi and Seon Joo Lee, vegetarians from meat-loving South Korea, established Yong Green Foods in late 2009. Adapting elements of Korean, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Mexican and Italian cuisines into a unique menu with an emphasis on raw and wholefoods, the restaurant was an almost instant success.
Until Tora Dumplings arrived on Brunswick Street, we didn’t realise that Fitzroy had been missing a dumpling house for years. Sure, China Red offers some with their Chinese barbecue, and Ricky and Pinky do Hong Kong-style yum cha classics, but what we missed was a restaurant that revolves around Shanghai-style dumplings. The menu at Tora is short by dumpling house standards but those in the know head straight for the house specialities, signified by the tiger logo next to the menu item. Do yourself a favour and order the pork and prawn wonton dumplings with a peanut and sesame sauce.
This takeaway spot provides plant-based treats: we're talking soft serve, gelato and cakes, plus maca fudge bars, matcha almond tarts and bounty bites. On the drinks menu, you'll find spiced mylks, cold pressed juices, smoothies and thick shakes (all vegan, of course). The best part? Girls and Boys is right next door to Vegie Bar, which means you can grab the perfect after-dinner sweet treat after feasting on hearty vego meals.
Jimmy Grants is Masterchef judge George Calombaris’ fancy souvlaki shop. It’s a bar, diner and takeaway in one where you can get ouzo for a fiver, hammer huge fresh salads full of almonds, barley and citrusy handfuls of rough cut parsley, or get a baggie of slow roasted lamb to go.
Everything coming from the kitchen at Duke of Kerr is deceptively simple, expertly cooked, seasonal and just damn delicious. If you’re feeling more lunchy, the Duke’s burger is always a good option but the fish of the day is a tasty flex of the team's culinary muscles.
For a tiny venue that has no menu, no booze and no meat, competition for diner real estate is astoundingly fierce. The menu is verbal and has been the same for many years, earning dishes like the chickpea bake and dips a legendary status. For $23 or $28, you'll get a vegetarian spread that is one hell of a bang for your buck.
The Town Hall Hotel features steak as its bloody (or medium rare) beating heart, padded out with a bunch of traderne dishes keeping the interest quotient trending upwards. Steak aside, there’s good stuff coming off the redgum fired grill here. Humungous tiger prawns, cooked to that alluring state where the flesh is still gelatinous and the heads totally suckable, buried beneath a sweet vinegar-dressed avalanche of cherry tomatoes, baby capers, lemon zest and herbs. Or whole buttery flounder, the flesh coming away in big pearly flakes, the dark skin its own realm of delight.
Need a drink?
Fitzroy has come a long way from its bohemian beginnings. While the northside suburb is still in touch with its edgy side, it's now better known as a hub for bars of all stripes. Punters hitting the town will find sleek cocktail bars, intimate whisky bars, and wine bars open any day of the week. We've picked out the best of the bunch, the Fitzroy drinking dens that never fail to bring the goods, from world-class cocktails to pints of craft beer. Up for kicking on until the wee hours? Work your way through the best 50 bars in Melbourne or check out our favourite pubs.