At this stage, the American bar concept has had plenty of airplay here in Melbourne — but don't go thinking you've seen it all. The newest addition to our ever-growing collection of US-inspired drinking destinations, Prahran's Silverlake Social, is doing things a little differently.
Neon-drenched, tinny-slinging dive bar this is not. Nor is it sporting a Southern-style saloon fitout, cowhides or a Texas twang. Instead, owners Thomas and Nicholas Welch have come up with something that's crisp, contemporary and a destination for standout American booze.
The Chapel Street space bears little reminder of its past as a Chinese restaurant, with timber curves and banquette seating more reminiscent of an upbeat American diner. Perched above the jam-packed back bar, a big screen's dialled into the latest USA sports action, while a pool table takes pride of place right by the front door.
The food menu leans to the South and is packed full of comforting flavours, from the beer snacks, burgers and burritos, to the BBQ-style sides. A classic cheeseburger comes loaded with juicy beef, American cheese, pickles, cos lettuce, and a drizzle of special sauce ($14), while tangy Buffalo wings ($14) are the ideal accompaniment to a hoppy Stones IPA ($12-18) and some big-screen NBA action. Even the vegetarians are spoilt for choice, though the joyous mess of three-cheese macaroni, black beans, and truffle oil ($10) requires little in the way of decision-making.
Not only did the brothers cut their bar ownership teeth at Greville Street's White Oaks Saloon, but they've introduced Melbourne to some very cool US booze through their importing business, High Spirits Beverages. And it's that game that wins them some serious brownie points here at Silverlake. The tap rotation — which is thanks to co-owner and beer afficionado Byron Barrowclough — runs to a crafty assortment of USA-made brews, showcasing top drops from Sierra Nevada and Brooklyn Lager, alongside less ubiquitous beers from the likes of Deschutes, and loads more interesting gems in the fridge.
But it's on the cocktail list that the Welch brothers' flair for unearthing exciting USA products really shines through. First up, a rotation of three tap cocktails will introduce twists on the classics; right now, it'll likely find you sipping a well-balanced, tequila-infused Negroni. Then, a selection of signatures gets crafty with some artisan booze you won't have seen much on home soil before, including Fruitlab's clever liqueurs, some funky bitters, and great small-batch stuff, like Brooklyn Gin. The Yellow Smoke is a gutsy mix of mezcal, pineapple, and Serrano chilli ($15), while the Stetson Hop appeals to whisky and beer lovers alike, with its blend of bourbon, hop liqueur, and orange bitters ($15).