Remember when Thornbury was the fringe and a suburb you could afford? Well, congratulations early adopters. Gentrification got here faster than anyone expected. Thornbury's recent revival has helped transform the once-drab High Street into one of the city's longest – and most buzzy – culinary thoroughfares. From specialty butchers and organic grocers, to aperitivo bars and craft brewers, it's the place to be.
The far north end of High Street is shaping up as a legit foodie precinct and this recent addition adds some fiery Iberian warmth to the offering. Breakfast swings both ways (Spanish or Aussie cafe style), but from there it's Espanol all the way, baby. Try the aromatic carrillada (ox cheek braised in pedro ximenez) or go all out and order a flight of five tapas and five matching sherries.
921 High Street, Thornbury, 03 9484 8554, chato.com.au
Chato tapas bar in Thornbury. Photo: Arsineh Houspian
The best thing about this hidden neighbourhood gem might be its obscurity. Located in a sleepy residential pocket, this quaint little corner shop is a midweek haven for mums and heaves with everyone else on weekends. The menu winner is the sauteed mushrooms and crisp hash browns, served with cauliflower puree and truffle oil. There's good coffee and a great kids' menu, too.
128 Mansfield Street, Thornbury, 03 9480 5953
The pikelets served at Jerry Joy restaurant in Thornbury. Photo: Craig Sillitoe
Originally opened as a holding bar for nearby sibling venue Umberto Espresso, this cosy Italian baretto (little bar) has since come into its own as a solid destination. Bypassing uptight coolness in favour of friendly Italian ease, Joanie's elevates aperitivo hour to the next level. Visit on the first Sunday of each month for a bottomless apertivo snack spread like no other.
832a High Street, Thornbury, 03 9480 5774, joaniesbaretto.com.au
Joanie's Baretto mines the Italian tradition of "great ingredients treated simply" in food and drink. Photo: Supplied
Some argue that Joseph Abboud's "inauthentic" Middle Eastern pizza isn't actually pizza, but clearly those people haven't tasted it. For the rest, it's "Who cares? This is awesome". The converted warehouse vibe is relaxed, the beers are craft (from Abboud's Hawkers label) and the pizza sublime. The Golden Terrace slays it: chewy, charry pide base with aromatic minced beef, fresh tomato, chili, lemon and toasted almonds.
Rear, 774 High Street, Thornbury, 03 9484 0173, themoorshead.com
The Moor's Head's pizzas may be "inauthentic", but who cares? Photo: Supplied
When Louise Zelencich and her partner Casey toured New York and northern Italy in 2013, they returned home to Thornbury inspired. Swanky cocktail bar Pallino is the result – and the influences are obvious. Late-afternoon aperitivi are served Veneto-style with a gratis bowl of crisps. If you're hungrier you can order pizza from nearby Moor's Head. Italian-style snacks and bocce in the courtyard, too.
790 High Street, Thornbury, 03 9484 7968, pallino.com.au
Bocce at Pallino Bar and Bocce. Photo: Supplied
A trip to this bustling indoor market and deli is a delightful window into Thornbury's past. The deli is basically Mediterranean Wholesalers goes to Athens' stocking excellent Greek delicacies such as kefalograviera cheese and thyme honey, Ion chocolate and even Greek laundry powder. You'll find a butcher, a baker, a nut shop and a dirt-cheap fruit and veg section too.
8 Clarendon Street, Thornbury, 03 9484 1991
Style versus substance? This bright and airy corner cafe wins on both fronts. Led by sisters Claire and Libby Cairns, you'll find neighbourhood nods aplenty, with Velimirovic smallgoods on the menu and chairs from a vintage furniture shop down the street. Nab a sunny terrace spot, order coffee (it's Proud Mary) and try the dark chocolate waffles with vanilla mascarpone, poached pears and espresso maple syrup.
731 High Street, Thornbury, 03 9484 3904, shortround.com.au
House-made butterscotch waffles at Short Round, Thornbury. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
Behind the blue door lies Thornbury's most rollicking late-night bar, where the cocktails are great, the licence is late and DJs spin right through to the wee hours. Sure, there might be bigger, shinier boozing options along the strip but if service and vibe matter, Trumpy trumps it. Chef Michael Sutcliffe's Euro-accented menu delights too.
646 High Street, Thornbury, 03 9480 0012, trumpybar.com
Umberto Espresso Bar
When Marco Finanzio and his papa Umberto opened their little restaurant in 2010, this stretch of High Street was a dead-zone. Umberto's is now the number one go-to for locals who want a decent feed without having overthink it. A simple bowl of spaghetti aglio olio and a glass of sangiovese here will instantly take your day from "ugh" to "ahh".
822 High Street, Thornbury, 03 9484 8654, umberto.com.au
Umberto Espresso Bar. Photo: Supplied.
Bora Velimirovic, who learnt the art of butchery and smallgoods as a young man in the former Yugoslavia, opened in High Street in 1962. And, along with wife Maria, he's been making meat-lovers happy ever since with his delicious traditional csabai, kransky, sremska and kaiserfleisch (all made on site). If you're after the magnificent garlicky cevapcici (skinless sausage), come early. They only make them Thursday to Saturday.
689 High Street, Thornbury, 03 9484 2935
Welcome to Thornbury
A clutch of food trucks meets a giant bar space in hipster heartland – how better to announce that gentrification had arrived in a suburb you formerly thought you could afford? The mood segues from urban paradise to rowdy beer garden to retro diner to taco flash mob. Depending on the hour, you'll find Baby Bjorn-wearing new parents blinking in the headlights of Melbourne life, younger bar-hoppers wondering why all the babies are there, cocktail-jug-wielding school mums on a night off, and random hipsters bemoaning the fact that the ramen truck isn't around.
520 High Street, Northcote, 03 9020 7940, welcometothornbury.com
The Age Good Food Guide 2017 awards night, presented by Citi and Vittoria, is on September 12. The Guide will be on sale in newsagents and bookstores from September 13, with all book purchases receiving free access to the new Good Food app.