An Ode to Brunswick, Melbourne

In Australia

I’d like to introduce to you what’s known fondly as The Brunswick Trap. It’s that conversation at 5pm on a Friday about what you and your mates should do that evening, going through the list of options and deciding, yet again, that you’d rather just stay close to home. It’s that Grand Night Out to Collingwood or the CBD or St. Kilda, hopping about a bit, and moping until you’re back in your Brunswick local for a nightcap. Brunswick isn’t just a place to live with everything you need a stones throw from your door. It’s a place to nest. It’s got the full range of broke-as to high rolling activities. It’s beautiful and old and falling apart. It’s filled with people who care about their vegetable gardens and chat with their neighbors. So here’s an entirely uncomprehensive list of what to do around Brunny.

Coffee in Brunswick

Well duh. It’s Melbourne. You’re a caffeine addict and why shouldn’t you be?

  • DIY: If you want some of the good stuff at home, go to Code Black Coffee Roasters for some in-house delicious beans. Go for the 3056 if you’re drinking some good ol’ Brunswick pride, or the Finca El Faldon as a delicious Colombian roast.
  • Broke-As: Ok you love going out for coffee but really shouldn’t be spending your money on it. Go for the Green Refectory. Because yeah, coffee costs pretty much the same everywhere. But come on, you’re going to get a pastry with it if you’re sitting down. Grab the fresh-outta-the-oven scones with homemade berry jam and housemade heavy cream for $2. Or of course, any of their incredible cakes in the front display that greet you from halfway down the block. My favorite is the chocolate cheesecake, but I won’t argue with any of them. Maybe even give their beetroot salad or lamb and veggie soup a go. Green Refectory is probably my all-time favorite of Sydney Road cafes. It’s open until 7pm, has varied seating, and all of their food (breakfast, lunch, and everything in between) is mouthwateringly delicious, well-sourced, made fresh, and significantly cheaper than the same thing elsewhere.
  • Treat yo self: Steam Junkies. Deliciously strong coffee in a little café right by Anstey station. Be warned – it has an aesthetic bicycle and typewriter, and quinoa is on the menu multiple times. The building itself is pretty nifty, as one of the newer apartment complexes which has tried very hard to be as eco-friendly as possible.

Brunswick’s Weekday Happenings

  • Every other Monday is spoken word poetry night at the staple Senegalese bar Oussou with an incredibly supportive community. Or, chuckle with (and sometimes at) amateur local comedians at fortnightly Funny at the Brunny.
  • Tuesday is free movie night at The Penny Black (with $4 pizzas and free popcorn).
  • Wednesday is free trivia at the Victoria Hotel, and has a pretty solid variety of categories.

I Need Things

We sometimes need to buy, trade, (or nick) things. It happens. You’ll find some bigger labels down Lygon in East Brunswick, and there is Barkly Square, but almost all of Brunswick is small and independent retailers.

  • Broke-As: The op shops are second to none in number along Sydney. Vinnies, Salvos, and Savers to name a couple. There are smaller, more curated ones as well. But one of my new favorites is the Brunswick Flea which is one Sunday a month in the Howler parking lot from 9-1. There are plenty of $1 bins to be found, and a good haggle can go a long way. If you need new housewares Hot Potatoes near Barkly Square has you covered.
  • Treat Yo Self: Melbourne designer Kinki Gerilinki has set up shop on Sydney. Dejour Jeans are made-in-Brunswick and Brunswick Bound is an excellently curated bookstore.  The London Drum is a gorgeous tea and coffee store, with tea towels self-proclaiming you a Melbourne Coffee Snob. Their French Earl Grey is pretty incredible.
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Live Music in Brunswick

There is never, ever a shortage of live music in Brunswick. In fact, Melbourne as a whole hosts about 3,000 live music performances every week.

  • Broke-As: So many to choose from! Check out what’s on at The B.East on Lygon, The Brunswick Hotel, the Penny Black, or the Retreat. Most places that do live music also have late-night DJs so you can dance around and get down with your bad self.
  • Treat Yo Self: The Spotted Mallard has fantastic gigs that generally cost an entry free. They’re completely worth it if you’ve got the cash. Howler is another great paid venue, with a gorgeous interior and full bar. Last time I was there, an amateur magician roamed the tables with card tricks.

Dinner & Eats

  • DIY: Well obviously cooking at home is cheaper than going out. But maybe give one of the various ethnic food stores a go. Mediterrenean Wholesalers at Blythe has a huge selection of Italian imports. Grab a few salads or some falafel from Tabet’s Or bring your own containers to get a huge selection of organic dry goods from The Source
  • Broke-As: Edinburgh Castle on Albion has a $12 kangaroo steak, three veg, and pot of beer/glass of wine deal on Monday nights. Sort of the only reason to go to Edinburgh castle but it’s a great reason nonetheless. Bridie O’Reilly’s on the corner of Brunswick Road and Sydney is a very average sports bar, but it’s got $4.50 parma every day. Yep. You read that right. It’s no Mrs. Parma but it costs as much as a coffee. And if you haven’t tried a halloumi burger at the Charles Weston ($10 on Tuesdays) you’re missing out on a very important food craze. They’ve also got a ridiculously large leopard print couch and a fireplace.
  • Treat Yo Self: Shinwa Izakaya, part of the Izakaya family, does not disappoint. And if Naked for Satan thinks they’re the only pintxhos place on the map, Basco will certainly put up a fight.

The Brunswick Hangover Cure

  • This would not be a Brunswick list without A1 on it. A1 is where you go to find happiness in the morning after a long night out. It’s where you smell cheese pies come out of the stone oven and know everything will be ok. It’s where you get a cucumber and labne pizza and refuse to share it.
  • Two Little Pigs. It gets crowded and noisy which is not always ideal for a hangover morning, but their pork rolls and duck fat fries will make your mouth very happy.

This is only a teeny list compared to what’s out there. Grab a mate and go explore!


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