The Reverence Hotel
When the Arthouse closed last year punk rockers screamed for a replacement. But they did not expect owners Matt and Mel Bodiam would create something even better out west. With two band rooms live music lovers are spoiled, for more reasons than one. The underrated Mexican menu is proving popular. The slow-cooked beef burrito is a favourite and you'll be battling for a seat on Taco Tuesday, with $3 tacos from 6pm-9pm.
28 Napier St, Footscray; 9689 7088; reverencehotel.com
The Rainbow Hotel
Taking ownership of an iconic pub would be a scary thought for many, but for brothers Adam and Jason King it was just about keeping their local … local. That's not to say there haven't been improvements, with a fully renovated beer garden, a beer list that rivals many and an expanded band area. Sunday afternoons are the best times to see free performances and there'll be a comforting roast with all the trimmings waiting between sets.
27 St David Street, Fitzroy; 9419 4193; therainbow.com.au
Some Velvet Morning
Hosting live music five nights a week in what could be Melbourne's smallest band room, SVM is a tiny space but that just adds to the experience; mainly acoustic solo acts from a myriad of genres perform in front of a dozen or so people. The kitchen is ultra-low maintenance, located at the bar itself. It churns out tasty food designed to be shared, such as pulled pork nachos and charcuterie and cheeses.
123 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill; 9486 5192; somevelvetmorning.com.au
The Public Bar
Plonking Miss Katie's Crab Shack into a pub that likes its music loud has been a catalyst for integration, says co-owner Liam Matthews. "It's great watching people who have clearly never seen a punk band or a grindcore band pop their heads into the band room to see what the noise is and come out with a smile," he says. Daily specials depend on what's fresh at the Queen Vic Market opposite, but it's tricky to go past the crab, fennel and potato croquettes.
238 Victoria St, North Melbourne; 9329 9888; thepublicbar.com.au
The Union Hotel
Who would have thought that this former "skimpy bar" would become the suburb's most family-friendly watering hole? Grab a seat on the footpath or inside and listen to the rolling list of bluegrass, roots and alt-country bands on weekend afternoons and evenings. Then retire to the leafy beer garden for good quality pub grub, including specials such as homemade pappardelle and buttermilk fried chicken.
109 Union Street, Brunswick, 9388 2235, unionhotelbrunswick.com.au