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The Best Pubs & Bars on Sydney Road, Brunswick

Let’s start this guide with some important context; I was born and raised for 30 years of my life in Adelaide, South Australia. Then, I moved to Melbourne for a little more excitement, and I now LIVE on Sydney Road, a road with more venues, bars and pubs than Adelaide combined.

This is somewhat of an over-exaggeration (I still love you, Adelaide) but also somewhat not. Sydney Road, Brunswick, has everything you need, from live music venues to bars and pubs that map out the perfect night out on one street. I’ve been to every single one of them at this point, so let’s dive into the best spots to check out next time you are in the area.

a chilli margarita sitting on the bench

Joey Smalls

I stumbled into Joey Smalls one night almost by accident and stayed there until it was time for the doors to close. This is another small bar that is deceiving from the outside. What begins as an old-school Americana milk bar feel with booths in the front turns into a small beer garden with DJs spinning late into the night and a very active dancefloor.

The DJs have a particularly exceptional taste in music, and you’ll often hear a mix of soul, funk, house and hip-hop. Huxtaburger provides the burger menu, and if you pop down on a Thursday night, you can munch on one while taking part in board game night, exploring Joey’s impressive collection of games with your friends.

Contact: (03) 9041 9135
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The Brunswick Green

The Brunswick Green is entirely unassuming from the exterior; in fact, even as you walk through the doors, you still won’t believe what the venue has to offer down the hall. I am, of course, referring to the huge beer garden that lives at the back of the space. I’ve waltzed many friends and interstate visitors into the Green and out to the beer garden, only always to be met with the same shock at how large this bar actually is.

The massive beer garden is engulfed in tropical plants, rustic picnic tables, blue stone and old bricks, making it feel more like your grandma’s garden than a bar (you can even bring your dog). The Green is one of the many spots on Sydney Road that hosts live music in its front room, and there are plenty of cosy spaces inside the venue, decorated with memorabilia and random kitsch to sit and enjoy a cocktail. The Brunswick Green has a lot of character and charm, and you’ll happily drink here with your friends into the wee hours of the morning.

Contact: (03) 9381 2413
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a burger, fries and beer sitting on the table

Miss Mosses

Another very dog-friendly spot along Sydney Road is Miss Moses, which is part bar/eatery and part bottleshop! With a vast selection of burgers and sandwiches (check out the vegan eggplant bap), this spot keeps things laid-back with chilled local live music and a quaint outdoor area for those who want something quieter than the tables out front.

They have a very popular quiz night every Tuesday where you can win a lot of free beer, and for two hours every Saturday, their ‘Bottomless Brunchwick’ will have you eating and drinking as much as you want and way more than you need.

Contact: 0413 225 404
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Daddy Bar

I was hesitant to even put Daddy Bar on this list as it is one of my personal favourites, and I like the fact that it is somewhat unknown. However, that’s not very cool, so let’s share the love and knowledge of this tucked-away little gem. Technically just off Sydney Road (on Blyth Street), this nifty little watering hole is a relaxing space perfect for pre-drinks before bar-hopping the rest of the main drag or somewhere to spend all night if you want to relax and converse.

In the afternoon, you can sit by the open frontage and people-watch as you make your way down their inventive cocktail list or discover a range of boutique brews you’ve likely never heard of before. The staff are chilled out, the vibe is relaxed, and all are welcome.

Contact: Facebook
Website: Instagram
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a cocktail in someone's hand

Bar Oussou

The latest bar open on Sydney Road (from Thurs-Sun, at least) is always Bar Oussou. Not only is it the last bar standing, but it is also always packed full of people dancing the night away. Why? Because every time the doors open, the bar hosts some of the finest live World Music you can find in Melbourne.

Don’t believe me? Just walk past and peer through the window; the stage is at the front of the venue, and the small dance floor will be full. Honestly, some of the best (and latest) nights I’ve ever had have been here. Once again, there is a beer garden out the back, but between the live music area and outdoor section, you’ll find large, cozy communal seating spaces that look like you’ve stepped into Aladdin’s living room. Finish your big night out here; you won’t regret it.

Contact: (03) 9384 3040
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Red Betty

Red Betty is another if-you-know-you-know venue that I am breaking some unwritten Brunswick code by including in this list. A bar that is primarily a music venue, it was once a magic theatre (the wallpaper represents this) and can be found in a laneway just off Sydney Road.

The stage, once reserved for magicians only, now hosts a range of local bands from indie to post-punk and DJs that cover all genres. You can also catch spoken word performances, plays, and comedy. If you want a very intimate space where everyone is laid back, and the creative culture of Brunswick is alive and well, grab a cocktail or locally-brewed beer from Red Betty and enjoy the show.

Contact: 0412 811 872
Website: Instagram
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The front doors of the Bergy Seltzer

You’ve heard of hole-in-the-walls bars; well, at the Bergy Seltzer, bands literally play in a hole-in-the-wall. At least they did, but more on that in a second. The Bergy is my favourite dive bar in Brunswick, there is always interesting music to be seen in this tiny venue, and as is somewhat customary on Sydney Road, you can pop out the back to enjoy a small beer garden.

At the time of writing, The Bergy is one week away from launching its brand-spanking-new bandroom, which is located right next door to the original venue. This will be significantly bigger than the current hole that bands willfully squeeze into and another awesome live music spot to add to Sydney Road’s already impressive list; I can’t wait!

Contact: (03) 9380 9790
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The Retreat Hotel/Amelia Shaw Bar

The Retreat Hotel calls itself the home of live music in Brunswick, and a strong argument can be made that this is factual. The massive pub has two stages, unsurprisingly the biggest beer garden on Sydney Road and a secret cocktail bar called Ameilia Shaw, which you can book for private gatherings on the upper level.

If you want the classic pint-at-the-pub experience, head to the Retreat, where you’ll always catch great local acts, followed by DJs until 3am every Friday and Saturday night. You can also grab a quintessential pub meal and enjoy it on the tables out the front as you watch the rest of Sydney Road go by.

Contact: (03) 9380 4090
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Edinburgh Castle Hotel

When I first moved to Brunswick, the Edinburgh Castle was the first pub I visited, as it was my local. So it holds a dear place in my heart and is the perfect spot for a catch-up with mates and something delicious for dinner. The extensive outdoor area (some may even call it a beer garden) is super dog-friendly, and you’ll often catch some great live music on the outdoor stage while you bask away with a beer.

Play some pool inside or head along to their legendary quiz night, where you’ll have the chance to win an illuminated Jesus picture that will catch on fire if you leave it plugged in for too long. It sounds like something you wouldn’t want, but I’ve literally seen people choose it as a prize over a carton of beer. Everyone wants light-up Jesus, and there are multiple designs to choose from (I have two of them).

Contact: (03) 9386 7580
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The Cornish Arms Hotel

If you partake in the way of the vegan, as I do, you will want to know about the Cornish Arms because it is home to the best vegan pub food in Melbourne (I’ve done extensive research to confirm this). The Vegan Souvlaki is my go-to, but there isn’t a single misstep on this delicious menu. Enjoy your meal out in the mandatory large beer garden or within the pub, where the atmosphere is always electric.

The second awesome thing about the Cornish is the fact that it’s home to the best rooftop hang on Sydney road. If the weather permits, I strongly recommend an afternoon of drinking in the sun on the Cornish rooftop gazing off at the skyline of Melbourne’s CBD in the distance.

Contact: (03) 9380 8383
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