A self-described purveyor of fine drinks and good times, Mr Wow has quickly become a fixture on Smith Street since opening only in 2012. With that impressive moustache and an enviable perch above the busy Fitzroy thoroughfare, his emporium — as the name suggests — mixes old time debauchery with bocce, modern classic cocktails and a bit of a party.
Descending from the same line of cocktail-oriented bars that includes the CBD's Lily Blacks, Double Happiness and New Gold Mountain, Mr Wow's brings all the laneway mystique and drink making prowess into a casual, inner-north setting. Not taking itself too seriously, but still producing a killer liquids list, drop in for a pre-dinner drink or return afterwards to let things get a little out of hand.
Drinks are intricate, but not too fancy; cocktails are elevated to next-level status with token ingredients such as pop rocks, fairy floss and blue pearl dust, but slapped together Smith Street-style in jars and jugs. Order a Fire Breather of tequila, strawberry rhubarb compote, chilli tincture and lime and you'll be given a kick either from the chilli or the sparkler that comes as garnish. Cosy up with a friend or a date — Wow's makes for a good mid-week date drop in — with a jug of Pimm's or an Ol' Paloma (cocktails $18; jugs $30).
The bar itself is well stocked with both alcohol and non-drinkable knick-knacks. If you don't fancy anything listed, the bar staff are happy to go off-menu to quench your thirst or your hankering. Just after a beer? That's fine too. We suggest grabbing a can of Bia Ha Noi ($7) and heading out onto the enclosed balcony in good weather for to make the most of the buzzing street below.
If you were thinking that the only way this could sound any better was if the word fried chicken appeared, well you're in luck on that front too. Setting up their food truck in the courtyard that connects Wow's to downstairs sister bar Los Barbudos, Jabili's Kitchen provides the two bars with modern African street food. Jabili's special Kenyan Fried Chicken is available on Monday nights only, but you can still hoe into snacks like harissa char-grilled prawns, Tunisian lamb shoulder tacos and Moroccan veg sliders (all $5-10) any night of the week. Rich and spicy, you better be ready to lick your fingers clean.
Combining street food, good drinks and a place to get a little bit loose, Mr Wow is a purveyor of all things northsiders love. And what he's selling, we are happy to be buying.