Underground lounges. Alleyway wine rooms. Back room bars. These cosy little drinking dens might literally be holes in the wall, but they offer something the big ubiquitous drinking joints don’t – personality. If you’re looking for a unique, distinctive drinking experience, small bars are the way to go. And for a big injection of personality, you can’t go past the small bars of the Inner West.
Here are the best of the best in the Inner West.
The Lodge Wine Bar is the most grown up small bar on our list. But don’t let that put you off. The dark, broody candle-lit décor is a winter night’s dream. Sink into the deep armchairs and sip a glass of deep red cabernet while jazz and blues wash over you. Order some cheese and olives from the small, but amazing kitchen for a complete Mad Men vibe. This small bar will make you grateful you’re an adult.
3/415 Darling Street, Balmain ~ 02 8084 2502 ~ www.thelodgebar.com.au
Named for a blues song and modelled on US dive bars, The Midnight Special is American kitsch done right. The décor is wood panelled walls, chequerboard floors and diner booths. The music is on vinyl, and the drinks are modern twists on classics, featuring things like sloe gin and infused bourbons. The food, a selection of California-style tamales, rounds out the American tour. Kitschy? Yes. But all in all, this small bar is one of our absolute favourites in Newtown.
44 Enmore Road, Newtown ~ 02 9516 2345 ~ www.themidnightspecial.com.au
If you’re keen for something more homegrown Aussie, check out Hive Bar. At Hive Bar they’re committed to using local food and drink wherever possible. This includes having a patch at the local community garden. They source locally brewed beers, feature the work of local artists and the wine list is exclusively Australian. Vinyl is still a feature, and anyone is invited to come and bring their records down for a spin. With food and drinks at good value and a bit of outdoor space, this is a small bar the locals really love.
93 Erskineville Road, Erskineville ~ 02 9519 1376 ~ www.thehivebar.com.au
The Temperance Society, Summer Hill
The Temperance Society is as pared back and low-key as a small bar in the Inner West comes. It’s the kind of place where no one notices (or cares) if you’d rather read a book than chat someone up at the bar. But with Young Henry’s cider, The Rock’s Brewing Co’s lager and white ale from Batch, and simple, yet wholly satisfying bar-style fare like cheese and pickle boards, it’s well worth a stop in. Grab one of the coveted spots on the old Chesterfield and settle in for the night.
122 Smith Street, Summer Hill ~ 02 8068 5680 ~ www.thetemperancesocietybar.com
Titus Jones, Marrickville
Titus Jones. Its name evokes boxers of old, and for a local bolt hole, it sure does pack a punch. The cocktails read like a sanitorium detox, with ingredients like aloe vera juice and purple perilla leaves. But never fear. They’re as delicious as they are (somewhat) good for you. With just a narrow row of stools, and a few highly prized street-side seats, it’s usually standing room only. Take it as a chance to sway to the hip hop tunes Titus Jones features.
337 Illawarra Road, Marrickville ~ 02 8068 4955 ~ www.titusjones.com.au
This tiny bar wedged into an old shopfront on Glebe Point Road is exactly what a local bar should be. Welcoming, elegant and easy on the eyes, The Little Guy boasts exceptional drinks, free bar snacks (buttery popcorn) and a community feel. It also excels at craft beers and on Thursdays offers $10 top-shelf whisky. Cocktails are decidedly old fashioned and change according to the bartenders’ whims and if you’re feeling peckish you can have pasta delivered from next door. Stop by on Sunday when they have live music from 6-9pm.
87 Glebe Point Road, Glebe ~ 02 8084 0758 ~ www.thelittleguybar.com