Nestled between a petrol station and the cluster of hair salons at the bottom of Enmore Road, the Midnight Special is just what a Newtown small bar should be. It's cool but unpretentiously so, and its unassuming facade has stood the test of time for locals since opening back in 2012.
For those living outside the 2042 postcode, the Midnight Special is worth commuting to Newtown for. Inside it's all Americana, soul and rock 'n' roll, from the traditional folk song the place takes its name from to the checkerboard floors. Music comes courtesy of '50s, '60s and '70s vinyl, but on any given night expect local DJs to spin anything from Hawaiian war chants to Cleveland protopunk.
Venture beyond the front room and you'll find a couple of spacious booths. For those traveling in packs smaller than four, though, the best option is to plonk yourself right at the bar where a specialty cocktail list awaits. Among our favourites at the moment are the Tennessee Rose (vermouth infused with T2 tea, rose vanilla syrup and topped with prosecco) and the Smoke on the Water (smoked jalapeno tequila, cointreau and agave). Most of their cocktails are vegan-friendly, too, with the usual egg white foam replaced by aquafaba.
For food, the bar has been rotating regular pop-ups in its kitchen, with the likes of Alfie's Kitchen, Daisy's Milkbar and Bovine & Swine all taking up month-long residencies last year. Another of these is Lu Lu's, who hooked you up with their specialty tamales in October 2017 and March 2018. Their tasty West Coast Mexican fare must have won the hearts of locals, because Lu Lu's will take over full time as of October 15. Expect their signature 12-hour chipotle pork shoulder or slow-roasted sweet potato with Oaxaca cheese tamales, served with pico de gallo, charred corn salsa and cumin lime sour cream (available in vegan form). While you're at it, try the fried mac and cheese with Old Bay and Cheezel dust and the New Orleans-style muffaletta sandwiches.
Interior Images: Tamara Dean
Food Images: Nash Ferguson