Ode to Smith Street – Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Ode to Smith Street

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

There is, in every town or city that you visit, the nagging feeling that you aren’t getting the real story. The act of observing, just as in quantum physics, alters the state of the observed. What are things really like in this place? Where does the fakeness end and the realness begin?

And there’s a great deal of phoniness to wade through in Melbourne. St. Kilda is for the bleached-blonde, boob-jobbed crowd that secretly wishes they lived in Sydney. Brunswick Street is full of yuppies lamenting the loss of their grunge days. And Lygon Street is for middle-aged tourists who don’t know any better (Psst!: just because they speak Italian doesn’t mean the food’s any good!).

So if you’re in Melbourne, and you’ve got a hankering for a taste of the authentic, hop on an 86 tram and come on up to Smith Street, Collingwood.

Smith Street is the real thing: ungentrified, struggling, a little bit grungy, working its ass off to cook good food and please customers. Sure, the soup-mobile stops here to feed the homeless, and you may have to ignore a beggar or two, but it’s worth it to find some of the best, and best value, eats to be found in Melbourne.

Here are some places to check out:

Wabi Sabi
94 Smith Street

Think sake with dreadlocks. This place is great – funky decor, fantastic Japanese food, and an unbeatable price. Go for the for the set menu, which includes a main with rice, seaweed, and a side order. Make sure you book ahead for the weekend – this place fills up fast!

Las Vegan Bakery
22 Smith Street

For many years Las Vegan has been a wholesale bakery, pumping out the most mind-blowing vegan cakes, muffins, and savouries. They’ve recently opened their doors to the lunchtime crowd (take-away only), adding yet another wonderful morsel to the Smith Street “Foodie Trail.” If you’re there during the holiday season, be sure to check out their Christmas fruit cake, too!

Doctor Java
87A Smith Street

Except for the muffins (from Las Vegan, of course), they don’t do food, just coffee. And what coffee! All organic beans and organic milk, this place is tops. Sit and stare out the window as the 86 tram squeals around the corner, and stare at the funky Smith Street foot traffic as it ambles by. Best cappucino in town.

Goshen
189 Smith Street

This is classic, chili-lovin’ korean food that pulls no punches – they even make their own kimchee. The bibimbop and beef stew are mouth (and bowel) tingling good!

Soul Food
273 Smith Street

Sorry, Yanks, this ain’t biscuits ‘n’ gravy. Actually, it’s some of the best vegetarian nosh in Melbourne. If great salads, lentil soups, and a fantastic breakfast menu appeal, check this place out. The coffee is good and some of the cheapest you’ll find, and their morning muffins easily rival Las Vegan for the best muffins on Smith Street.

Organic Whole Foods
277 Smith Street

If you’re coming up to check out Soul Food, take a peak in their sister health food shop just next door. All the usual suspects are here, from fresh tofu to bulk beans and rice, even organic chocolate. And if you’re looking for a place to stay, the room share notices in their window are a great place to find like-minded people.

Vilom Thai
357 Smith Street

In a city full of excellent Thai restaurants, Vilom Thai really stands out. Their curries are mind-blowing, and the coconut rice alone is to die for! Cheap, and they do take-away.

Arcadia
193 Gertrude Street

For classic Aussie cafe food, this is the place to go. No tourists here, just locals slurping up great coffee and chowing down on toasted sandwiches, omelettes, pancakes, and an everchanging list of lunch specials. They don’t do dinner, though – make sure you get in before dusk!

Lambsgo Bar
139 Greeves Street

Just a few steps west on Greeves Street is the Lambsgo, run by Kiwis and a reminder that some puns just don’t translate into American English. This groovy bar has beers from every corner of the planet, and then some. They close at two on the weekend, but if that cramps your style, there are the usual assortment of clubs and kebab shops nearby to keep you going till dawn!

If you really want to check out the food scene in Melbourne, grab a copy of The Age’s Cheap Eats Guide. At $20, it’s the budget gourmet’s guide to eating well – and cheaply – in Melbourne.

You will never eat so well in your life as you will in Melbourne – and nowhere so well as on Smith Street. I guarantee it!

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