The Palace Hotel
When Billy the resident pub dog almost died in July, hundreds flocked to the bar to give donations for vet bills. He lived, thankfully, and you'll find him sunbathing in the spacious beer garden, where groups fill days devouring hot Buffalo wings and pints of quenching brews from one of the 11 craft beer taps. The burger, which doesn't skimp on the spicy dill pickles, has also become a suburban favourite.
505 City Road, South Melbourne; 9682 3177; thepalacehotel.net.au
The Yarra Hotel
Reopened in April, the Yarra Hotel's expanded beer garden is one part of its allure. There's the grand fireplace built by ''Johnny the Scot'', one of the residents living upstairs, and through the open door at the rear, mechanic Jimmy hots up old postie bikes. Like the decor throughout the venue, the menu has a retro feeling with a modern twist. Think vegetarian scotch eggs or corned beef on macaroni and cauliflower mash. Live tunes throughout the week.
295 Johnson Street, Abbotsford; 9417 0005
Five storeys up with glimpses of gothic-inspired churches and historic theatres, the temptation to focus on the view and not the menu is a rookie mistake. Alumni from Anada opened Bomba in September and, as you'd expect, it hits the mark with simple, excellent food, such as Coffin Bay oysters and prawn pinchos. At night, lighting is turned low, as couples sip on custom-made cocktails and are bathed in soft rays from the nearby office buildings.
Level 5, 103 Lonsdale Street, city; 9077 0451; bombabar.com.au
It took almost three years for co-owner and architectural engineer Brendan Brogan to transform a 100-year-old woolshed into Brunswick's newest outdoor space. ''It's a blend of the soft timbers and harsh steelwork, with lights soaring through the building canopy and plants surrounding you,'' he says. The concept brings the outside in. Locals snack on Asian-inspired food such as kangaroo and wattle-seed spring rolls or pulled-pork bao pillows.
7-11 Dawson Street, Brunswick; 9077 5572; h-w-l-r.com
Named after the 100-year-old coral tree that hangs above this former synagogue, Trunk's courtyard recently received a facelift and nearby workers have noticed. Groups can now sprawl out at circular communal tables, which surround Ficus hillii trees that had to be craned in. A new summer list of cocktail jugs goes down well with the US-inspired menu, which features wagyu patties in brioche buns, and did so years before many others.
275 Exhibition Street, city; 9663 7994; trunktown.com.au