Rather than heading to a fancy bar with a menu you need to run through Google translate, it can be nice to find a spot that’s casual but full of character. Bar Josephine is exactly this. The place is decked out with quirky bits and bobs — random ornaments and old books sitting in box shelves, posters adorning the exposed brick walls, along with vintage-framed paintings — and mismatched furniture that gives the place a retro charm. In the beer garden, you can enjoy your craft beer surrounded by some impressive street art. It also hosts board game nights with prizes — perfect for trivial pursuers and Jenga champions. For a bar that’s equally as inviting but has a more modern vibe, check out Mr West. There are 24 taps that are not only reserved for beer and cider but also wine and cocktails. It also recently opened up its own bottle shop stocking beer, wine and spirits, including Australian labels as well as obscure international drops. If you find something you like in the bottle shop that’s not available at the bar, you can buy it and pay a corkage fee to enjoy on the spot.
Step inside Rudimentary, and you probably wouldn’t guess that it has been constructed from three shipping containers, although it’s quite obvious from its doors and exterior. Why a shipping container? Desmond Huynh, the owner of the popular cafe, wanted to create something sustainable and ensure that if the cafe had to relocate, the structure could be taken, too. If its loyal customer base has anything to say about it, the cafe and the community space won’t be moving out of Footscray any time soon. The simple menu packs a punch, using fresh produce and sustainable processes. Outside, you’ll find another effort towards sustainability — the garden. It has a dedicated area reserved for the Rudimentary chefs to get creative, by planting the ingredients they want to plate up. So, what’s for brunch? Expect classic dishes with a twist. Try the Rudimentary take on a favourite by ordering the leatherwood honey crumpets that come with ricotta, fig and hazelnuts.
Topping many a Melbourne burger list is 8bit, and the Footscray digs is where it all started. You’ll notice the retro arcade-themed styling before you even set foot inside, and if this gets you excited (we’re looking at you, original Nintendo lovers) then just wait till you browse the menu. We love the Golden Axe burger that comes filled with perfectly crispy fried chicken, topped with cheese, Sriracha sauce and slaw. Looking for vegetarian options? The 1 UP mushroom burger has your name on it, as does the Zelda, which has a tasty chickpea, corn and quinoa patty. Fun names aside, the burgers are big, juicy and nail the burger-to-sauce ratio — no soggy buns around here! It’s little wonder 8bit is a Footscray favourite.
T. Cavallaro & Sons offers something unexpected from the inner west, an area that’s commonly recognised for its top-notch Asian eateries. Originally founded in 1956, this family-owned Sicilian-style patisserie, has well and truly made its mark on Melbourne. If you want the city’s best cannoli — those delicious pastry tubes filled with custard or ricotta — this is the place to find them. Order one, or one of the other Italian pastries or biscuits on offer, along with an Italian-style coffee while enjoying the charm of what has become an institution of Melbourne’s west. If you’re after something more substantial, head to Nhu Lan Bakery and tuck into a tasty Vietnamese-style sandwich or roll. The bahn mi is brimming with the fillings of your choice (barbecue pork is a crowd favourite), and at around $5 a pop it’s kind on the hip pocket, too.
If you like one-of-a-kind fashion, you’ll get pretty close to it at Perfect Splash where art and fashion collide. Run by sisters Annabelle and Alana Kingston, this boutique stocks styles from emerging designers that are produced in small runs. Perfect if you don’t want to be seen wearing the same thing as another person at the party. The Kingston sisters, who have backgrounds in painting and photography, also design pieces for their own label, Paradise Structures. Expect experimental, attention-grabbing pieces in natural fabrics and original prints. Be sure to check out their range of playful jewellery and unique homewares, too.
There’s no better place to find a bargain than at a market and Footscray is home to a gem — Footscray Finds Market. Running every third Sunday of each month from 8am to 1pm, March through May, Footscray Finds attracts stallholders selling everything from fashion and homewares to fresh produce and handmade treasures. Spend the morning perusing the stalls to see if you can find that one-of-a-kind fashion item or rare vintage record while tucking into something delicious from the food trucks. Regulars include the likes of Cobb Lane bakery, Biggie Smalls kebabs and Copper Pot Restaurant. After you’ve sifted through the weird and wonderful bric-a-brac, check out the produce and pick up some fresh fruit for a healthy snack to enjoy during the remainder of your stay in Melbourne. You’ll find the market in the Footscray Library car park.