Melbourne’s dining scene is world-renown for its exceptional quality, diversity and the sheer passion of locals who love it so much they’ve been labelled ‘foodies’. While over the years various areas of the city have been labelled food meccas or hotspots, there’s a new kid on the block that’s set to steal the crown.
Footscray epitomises everything Melburnians love; a mix of the old and new, a diverse culture and incredible food. From long-standing local favourites to the latest Instagram-worthy new guard, Footscray is a foodie’s paradise. The rich cultural heritage of the area is influenced by South East Asian, European and African cultures, combined with modern Australian flare.
Footscray is home to one of Melbourne’s most lauded American-inspired eateries, Up in Smoke. Setting itself apart from run-of-the-mill barbeque joints, Up in Smoke is home to an impressive $20,000 smoker which burns overnight, gradually smoking pork, brisket, ribs and sausages to perfection.
Co-owner Shayne McCallum is a local trailblazer in the area, having started successful burger joint 8-Bit Burger, which has expanded to a second CBD premises. McCallum describes the menu at Up in Smoke as “Amercian-ish”, as their approach is not strictly traditional.
Patrons can expect to sample such delights as fried mozzarella sticks, smoked hot wings with ranch dressing, or for the extra ravenous, The Big Tray – a selection of pulled pork, brisket and chicken sausage served with chili mayo slaw, ham hock greens, milk buns and pickles.
Just 200m down the road is Bad Love Club, a brand new ‘boozy bakery’ with a coffee and jaffle bar. The bakery opens from 6am, with locals lining up to grab a Sensory Lab coffee with a breakfast jaffle or 5 & Dime bagel. At night, baked goods drawn from old family recipes are served alongside elaborate dessert cocktails.
The design is fun and colourful – think American diner with a twist. Owners Sarah Ryan and Damien Shaw enlisted BOarch for the fit out, which features popping pink walls and channels a Southern California meets 1970s Australian vibe.
Local produce is also a key consideration for the family that run Café Lalibella, a small-scale Ethiopian restaurant with plenty of charm. Serving authentic Ethiopian fare, locals and visitor alike come together in big groups to eat from a communal plate the traditional way – with their hands. It’s a fun way of eating the delicious injera, a large pancake-style sour bread, topped with fragrant stews and curries which are soaked up by the bread.
For those seeking something more classic, Footscray’s Plough Hotel, built in 1868, has long been a local icon. Owners Joe Setaro and Tony Adamo are passionate about providing down-to-earth hospitality and quality produce to the Footscray community.
The menu features classic pub favourites, including share plates, pizzas and winter roasts in the chilly months. The simple dishes are elevated by a focus on home-made and local produce – all sauces and preserves are made in-house. The drinks list favours regional Victorian wines and craft beer makers, with the intention to support smaller producers. With both a bistro and a dining room, The Hotel is the perfect spot for families, couples and large groups alike.
It’s clear that Footscray’s local charm has captured the hearts, and stomachs, of food lovers Melbourne-wide, and will continue to do so for some time to come.