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Earl's Juke Joint

Bourbon Street meets Newtown at this New Orleans-infused, broody bar.
By Ruby Lennon
August 07, 2013
By Ruby Lennon
August 07, 2013

Behind the Betta Meats butchery facade, you'll find a secret but beloved cocktail bar: Earl's Juke Joint. It has been around since 2013 and remained a firm Newtown favourite since then. Owner and ex-Shady Pines head honcho Pasan Wijesana has pulled off the seemingly impossible — soul without kitsch — and given King Street a grown-up bar with a New Orleans edge.

On the spectrum of masculine broody, the Earl's decor comes in at about the 'thick with bourbon' mark — you could be forgiven for swearing there is a haze of cigarette smoke in the air. They have gone with a basic but effective design brief: dim yellow lighting, dark wood and corrugated iron, topped off by faces like Fats Waller and T-Bone Walker looking down at a comfortably eclectic crowd from the whitewash walls. The feature of the bar, is, well, the bar; a goliath amongst bar tops that coolly dominates the space and invites you to take a seat. If you're not so keen on bartender banter there are a few booths at the back of the room, and plenty of side tables if you're after a touch of privacy.

Once you've secured a menu look over the house rules. Rule # 2: 'Don't be creepy' is a built-in conversation starter (or ender) for those on dates. Move on down the menu to the cocktail list, which rotates through eight options every two months and uses native ingredients like saltbush and kaffir lime.

If cocktails aren't your port of call, there is plenty else to love about Earl's extensive beer list, which has taken a turn toward mainly Australian and New Zealand craft. Like the cocktail list, it too changes regularly but has an intriguing roster of local legends Wildflower, Yullis, and Philter as well as craft breweries further afield. Wines take a heavy natural and organic lean, with rare 'cult' drops making an appearance every month.

The only disappointment here was that we didn't get to see Rule # 5: 'If Triumph by the Wu-Tang Clan plays there will momentarily be no bar service. At least for the first verse anyway.'

Updated April 28, 2023.

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