380 Brunswick St Fitzroy, VIC 3065
|Opening hours||Daily 11am-10pm|
|Features||Vegetarian friendly, Licensed, Gluten-free options|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||03 9417 6935|
Vegie Bar is Fitzroy 2018 in a nut mylk. The menu is totally plant-based. The breezy warehouse space of distressed bricks and monstera plants makes it a magnet for eco-conscious Tinder dates. The outfit of choice is organic yoga wear. Soulful, tatted staff take your order with intense eye contact.
Funny thing, though. Vegie Bar is one of Melbourne's great dining elders, clocking 30 years in the game last September. Must be those sauerkraut shots.
Vegie Bar's agelessness is probably the least organic thing about it. Founders Laki and Marian Papadopoulos and co-owner Mark Price, who joined 20 years ago, have been giving its face and menu a nip and tuck from the get go.
It opened as a takeaway shop in 1988, when it was one of Melbourne's few dedicated vegetarian outlets alongside Raj's in St Kilda and fellow stalwart Shakahari. In 1996 they took over next door's TAB to become a fully fledged restaurant. Vegan fine diner Transformer was added out back in 2015, and takeaway Boys and Girls was strapped to the left last year to punch out coconut soft serves and soul bowls for foot traffic and the UberEats masses.
All of it is busy. Always has been. What's up with that? You can't move in Fitzroy for meat-less burgers and conscious pizzas and it's a tough 'hood. For lease signs plague Brunswick Street. Here, by 6.30pm, you take a number and wait with a beer out the back. Heath Ledger wasn't allowed to skip the queue and you won't be either.
Part of it's consistency. Some dishes have stayed the course for Vegie Bar's whole existence – the mee goreng; the classic stir-fry packed with greens made salty or creamy with tamari or tahini; the Mexican burrito. All of it is huge, fresh, minimally processed (they've never been mock meat seitan-worshippers) and cruises in under $20.
But it's the trailblazing too. These guys were rocking a raw lasagne, using dehydrator-intensified veg and cashew cheeses to pump up the volume, right in sync with LA's raw craze. Lately they've been riding the buddha and soul bowl wave, creating mosaics on brown rice and quinoa bases with avocado fans, seeds, falafels and sweet pickled ginger. There are slow foods like chickpeas cooked for hours until they melt into soothing stews, and faux Big Macs and jackfruit tacos anyone can party with – and does.
And that's the true kicker. This is a vego restaurant, not a vegetarian's restaurant. There's never been any dogma snuck into your burrito. The latest menu became completely vegan without a word being said. No one noticed. Their margherita pizza is now dressed in vegan mozzarella by default but you can ask for fior di latte if you want it (for extra).
Booze isn't just available, it's a party of organic and biodynamic wines you can afford, craft beers but also longnecks and Coronas. Nothing says find your bliss like chugging a Melbourne Bitter and buddha bowl. You do you at Vegie Bar. Clean times meet good times.