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The Best Bars in Brunswick

From karaoke joints and Afro jazz haunts to cosy aperitivo bars and quiet cocktail dens, here's where to drink on Lygon Street and Sydney Road.
By Kayla Larson
October 24, 2018
By Kayla Larson
October 24, 2018


From karaoke joints and Afro jazz haunts to cosy aperitivo bars and quiet cocktail dens, here's where to drink on Lygon Street and Sydney Road.

Walking from one end of Brunswick to East Brunswick can well and truly take more than an hour — so it's no wonder that a bounty of bars have blossomed to quench the thirst of foot-weary travellers and locals alike. There's practically something for every night of the week: karaoke, sharp-shooting on a round pool table, Afro jazz for sweating out the Sunday blues, or mid-week cheeseboards to impress your date. So leave the car at home, and make sure to hop the best of Sydney Road and Lygon Street's bars.

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    Gospel Sundays, DJs in front, gigs out back and mini golf tournaments have all won Howler a place in our howling hearts. But these are only some of the many facets of this openair garden bar that have set our souls ‘a fire. Monday comedy nights at Howler are also what got us through the dark, dark winter. Plus, it’s the place where chip dreams come true. The togarashi fries (served with kewpie, tonkatsu and pickles) go amazingly well with the eclectic beer list, or as a side to one of the burgers (pleasing all tastes with beef, chicken, tofu or haloumi options). Save your pennies and head in weeknights for a killer special.

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    Atticus Finch

    The heartiest cheese board our tums have ever been served. Squeeze through the front doors on a Tuesday and order the $30 special: five cheeses (ossau-iraty ewe’s milk, roquefort ash-wrapped goat’s, triple cream brie, washed rind taleggio, blue) served with a rustic pais-carignan blend fermented in a wooden pipeno. This place has so many nooks, that any comfort can be found — snuggle up in a leather booth in the front bar, or find a stool in the expansive courtyard out back. On Fridays the DJ decks come alive. For those looking to test their heckling and snookering prowess, there’s a shed out back with pool table.

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  • 8
    Dunning Kruger - CLOSED

    Vinyl and vegan pies, oh my. This dimly-lit cocktail bar is hard to miss if you’re strolling by Lygon Street’s top-end — purely because most patrons would find it hard to resist the salutatory bellow from barkeep and owner Gene Mills. Coming from solid hospitality beginnings, Mills and partner Courtney Tuul (the pie-making extraordinaire) launched Dunning Kruger under the humble guise of what they could achieve. And at only 12 months young, they’re winning solid accolades for their intuitive and experimental offerings, proving the affect they’re having on the scene.

    Thursdays the decks are anyone’s for the taking, so BYO your records. Match your evening out with a slice of homemade apple and rose pie and glass of Toji white sake.

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  • 7

    Any local knows the best Sunday night in town is the thriving, sweating, glorious mess that is Bar Oussou. Termed Africa’s home away from home, this cosy bar on Sydney Road draws some of the finest jazz and world musicians to Melbourne’s north. For a break from the boog, sneak past the thriving dance floor, through the mood-lit cushion room and find yourself in the leafy courtyard hideaway. Cold nights are no match for the roaring fire that dances to one side — and to the other, where the Oussou kitchen, dishes up pizza and French Senegalese food such as thiuiou, a spicy red sauce lamb with vegetables and rice. For those looking to stretch their pipes, head in on Tuesdays for the open-mic night.

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  • 6
    Bar Romantica

    Sultry late nights that welcome early mornings are best started and, well, finished here. The vibe is Twin Peaks-esque, with an interior fitted with valentine-rouge seats, heart-shaped tables and a swooping bar that offers plenty of wine-sinking space.

    Bar Romantica’s kitchen works to the seasons, sourcing local organic produce. Snack on a plate of fresh radishes with smoked cashew butter (trust us, it’s the butter of the gods) or the Pizza Romantica (throw on the ‘nduja if you’re a spicy salumi fan). Journey to the belly of this institutional late-night bar and you could find yourself swaying to a live Radio Romantica set – broadcast by online radio station SkyLab.

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  • 5
    Sig. Enzo Aperitivo Bar

    Finally, the ultimate place to read a book whilst waiting for friends. Sig. Enzo is a sneeze away from the main drag and run by the Mazzone family: a daughter-father duo that make you feel most at home. Small bites mean fried stuffed olives and arancini, while a larger plate of burrata will satiate the beast. Make sure to nab the booth under the 1950s-style lights (not dissimilar to the Pixar lamp for the uninitiated) which offer enough illumination for page-turning affairs that don’t detract from the classy bar you’ve found yourself in. Beers are from WA’s Gage Roads and make an easy happy hour choice. Finish off your pre-evening with a grappa. And if you’re around on a Sunday arvo, the bar does aperitivo hour from 1.30pm. It’s just $20 for a drink (choose a beer, wine or spritz) and permission to graze on the snacks on the bar all afternoon.

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  • 4
    Amelia Shaw

    A venue quite commonly missed — even by those of us who’ve been strolling by for nearly a decade — is Amelia Shaw. Tucked just inside of Brunswick’s Retreat Hotel, and named after the hotel’s first 1842 female licensee, Amelia Shaw boasts several upstairs rooms that transport you into the 1920s prohibition era. It’s also the perfect place to take any pool shark aficionado. Why? Because it features a wonderfully confusing circular pool table. Patrons can visit this unique cocktail bar and salon on Friday and Saturday evenings. However, the space is regularly booked out for functions, so check its Facebook page before dropping in.

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  • 3

    It’s the little things that count at Eydie’s — like the 1950s water jugs and glasses that make you feel classy, and the repurposed vinyl presses, salvaged from Brunswick-based Zenith Records and now serving as drink coasters — that give you them jazzy, ethical feels. Eydie’s is a favourite among hospitality workers for its late-night happy hour (we’re talking $12 negronis, 9–11pm), and its secluded garden courtyard that works seasonally, thanks to gas heaters and part roofing. In terms of food, ask for the local list. Eateries nearby deliver most of your cravings, and Lygon Street has plenty.

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  • 2

    Don’t quit your choir troupe just yet, but do start oiling up those vocal cords and head to Brunswick’s best bar for practicing your solos. The set-up means you can make mischief with old and new friends, as the bar keeps the mics and song lyrics open to the public.

    The crowd is an eclectic, supportive bunch, who’ll choose anything from pop to heavy metal, so once you’ve finished dancing and shouting your finest rendition of ‘This Must Be the Place’, follow the piano lane to the beer garden for a spell. The bar has an all-day kitchen that serves vegetarian and vegan fare — so there are plenty of excuses to stay until both voice and bar run dry.

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  • 1
    Uncle Joe's

    A disco ball spins in a courtyard toilet with kaleidoscopic squares dancing off the walls where Patti Smith stands, hand reaching for her shirt collar. In the bar, David Bowie looks down, quietly observing the musical jives from the decks below. The barkeeps and mistresses float about with ease, as dirty martinis are shaken, and wood-fired Lebanese pizzas delivered through a crack in the courtyard fence from neighbouring Mankoushe. Uncle Joe’s is quite rightly, an easy add to your Lygon Street crawl. Take your date, take a mate, or take a visiting relative and show them what a nice, welcoming community you’ve found yourself in.

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Top image: Bar Oussou. 

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