Five years ago – heck, only three years ago– Enmore Road was little more than a quaint capillary branching from the throbbing heart of Newtown.
Non-locals might visit for a theatre gig, Faheem's fish tikka, or a late night post-pub Oporto mission but that, for the most part, was it.
Now the road is pumping, alive and a lot of fun – no longer a sister strip to big brother King. It seems impossible for any more food and drink venues to open on Enmore Road (where are they all fitting?!) but every week another hot new joint throws open its doors to an eager public. Keep 'em coming, we say.
Bars and pubs
All right, do you have your drinking shoes on? Good. Then let's begin.
Heading west from Newtown Station and The Town Hall Hotel's "not-your-night-tonight-mate" security guards, the first place to visit for a hard-earned thirst is The Midnight Special. This low-lit rock'n'rolling bar loves to shine a light on local and international live acts from the dirty blues/punk/country cloth and will make you a mean negroni and meaner hot dog to enjoy with it. Further on down the road is The Secret Garden, beaut for local beer in the afternoon and dance music DJs in the evening.
Cross at the traffic lights, stroll up a few doors and you'll find The Gretz, where what might be the ugliest, brickiest facade of any building on Enmore Road hides what is also the suburb's finest boozer. Here you can snack on bites of fresh seafood, listen to Bob Dylan and enjoy a minimum-intervention wine or maximum-deliciousness cocktail.
Keep meandering up the hill and you'll eventually pass the Queen Victoria Hotel, purchased in 2015 by Justin Hemmes' Merivale Group. Currently closed for renovations, when it relaunches in April, punters can expect a pub designed for locals with Cantonese-style barbecued meats and dumplings from the high prince of pleating, Eric Koh (ex-Mr Wong, Tim Ho Wan).
Now, a lot of people think Enmore Road finishes at the Warren View Hotel (a true-blue pub with cold schooners and a sun-dappled beer garden) but travel down the hill towards Marrickville and you'll soon run into Vic on the Park. It jumps with live music on the weekends and the bar does a roaring trade in local beer from Young Henrys and Willie the Boatman (you can also play basketball in the carpark). Also note The Grifter Brewing Co exists in an old laundromat next door to the Vic and its tap room is one of the best town, with a pub-style pool room, Australiana knick-knacks, wild native flowers and even Aesop handwash in the loo.
Hartsyard was one of the first restaurants on the strip to turn food fans' heads when it opened in 2012. Its owner and chef, Gregory Llewellyn, is famous for his super-crunchy Southern fried chicken but it's worth exploring the menu further for joys such as handmade maccheroni with crab and garlic butter. Take a hop and skip across the road and you'll likely find yourself at the buzzy Rosso Antico. It does the best Naples-style pizza on the strip and is killer value to boot – particularly the house wine at $15 a carafe.
The handsome, elbow room-only Osteria di Russo and Russo is a pricier Italian excursion but still beaut bang for buck and a six-course chef's selection feast will set you back just $69 (and the chef in question is Jason Saxby, recipient of The Good Food Guide Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year award in 2011). And almost two years after Good Food reported the Porteno crew had its sights set on the old Marie-Louise Hair Salon, Stanbuli is now open for business. Former Porteno senior chef Ibrahim Kasif is at the helm here, serving Turkish-inspired delights such as stuffed mussels with fragrant spiced rice and charcoal-grilled octopus, in a beautiful white and blue-tiled room.
The real raja of Enmore Road cheap eats is Faheem Fast Food. The Pakistani and Indian fluoro-lit diner has long been a favourite haunt of students, families, couples, singles and anyone with a love of top-value, high-flavoured curries and kormas. For the uninitiated: tandoori chicken. This is all you need to know.
Enmore Delicious Roll is nearby, where super-friendly staff serve one of the best and freshest phos in the inner west. The store also lives up to its "Delicious Roll" promise and there's more quality banh mi action to be found at Great Aunty Three. Another Vietnamese eatery, Chao Ba, is set to open in February, turning Enmore Road into a hot zone of rice-paper rolls and pate.
The Stinking Bishops features magical shelves of creamy, soft, hard, mouldy, blue and surface-ripened cheese to take away or eat in with a whisky on the side. The fromagerie is also worth a visit for lunch or dinner, when you can get a proper pork pie with house-made Branston pickle or slow-cooked lamb shoulder with labna, pomegranate and fennel.
If you're hankering for a sweet something-or-other, Doughbox Diner serves big American calorie cowboys such as pancakes, sundaes and waffles in a setting straight from an early Elvis movie (there's burgers, hot dogs and savoury crepes, too). We're also big fans of the chocolate desserts at Shenkin Kitchen and even bigger fans of its shakshuka at breakfast or lunch. Elsewhere on Enmore, there's a wide choice of baklava and Turkish ice-cream at Hakiki, and Cow and Moon still has punters lining out the door for a scoop of its almond affogato, awarded world's best gelato in 2014.
The new queue on the block is at Bovine & Swine, the minimum-frills barbecue joint by former Vic's Meats pitmasters Wes Griffiths and Anton Hughes. It's open from 6pm until the smoked beef brisket, chopped pork and ribs are sold out. You can be sure the boys will sell out each night, too. Almost as much as you can be sure the menu at Faheem's will never, ever change.
Finally, for decidedly less meaty meals, Sadhana Kitchen caters for raw, vegan, and gluten-free good times (it even offers a seven-course raw degustation on Friday evenings).
Do you like coffee and love baseball caps? Head on down to flat-brimmed hat shop Lidz for Campos, cronuts and every type of Cubs and Cavalier cap you care to imagine. For a long black without gridiron televised in the background, visit Silverbean for Sacred Grounds organic coffee and all-day American south-style breakfast (good morning, cajun lamb and black-bean burrito; goodbye, hangover).
Stone Ground Espresso is reliable for a strong macchiatos and an atmosphere that feels like Nanna's hugs, and Black Market Roasters is where one drops in for summer crumpets with mascarpone, seasonal fruits and honey along with coffee made with freshly roasted beans (it gets our vote for the best black stuff in Enmore).