As Melbourne’s hub for cultural diversity, Footscray is a booming suburb with a range of cuisine and price points to please even the most difficult guest.
Footscray is rapidly becoming Melbourne's must-visit food destination, with new restaurants and cafés opening constantly. From American barbecue to Vietnamese food, fish and chips to fine dining, here are some of our favourite restaurants in Footscray.
If you're looking for the best Footscray restaurants and cafes in Melbourne, then keep reading. The team at Yelp have compiled a list of their top picks to help you find some amazing eateries in this suburb. You'll find everything from pizza joints to burger bars on offer, so take your pick!
The best restaurants in Footscray
Dong Ba may not be in Hue, where bun bo hue originates, but it serves up one of the best examples of this noodle soup in Melbourne.
This lemongrass and chilli-based beef broth is particularly lemongrass (like real lemongrass), balanced with a light chilli hum and supported by rare or well-done slices of beef, blood jelly, pork loaf and refreshing slices of raw onion over thick rice noodles.
It's no wonder locals flock to Dong Ba from the early hours of the morning for a refreshing spa of spicy soup.
Rudimentary – a cream-and-caramel-coloured shipping container conversion – has sprouted up like a metallic mushroom on the site of a former car park in Footscray. Yes, it’s in once rough-as-guts Footscray, an area known for its plethora of cheap Vietnamese street eats, not its banging brunch spots.
We wish we were one of the lucky locals, contentedly nesting here with their Macbooks and Small Batch Roast lattes. Those locals get seven-day access to chef Shane Donelly (owner of nearby Yellow Ledbetter café; ex-Duchess of Spotswood).
Any man who serves up a breakfast dish of braised pork belly is all right by us, especially when pork scratching-style pig’s ear crisps, two perfectly fried eggs, red chilli shards and a slice of sourdough, licked with sweet-sour tamarind sauce, are added to the mix. We’ve got beef with pork-loving Shane, though.
How are we supposed to choose between a sourdough toastie with Gypsy ham, house-made waffles with crunchy pancetta, or that pork belly: butter-soft in one mouthful; pork-toffee-caramel chewy the next?
Diego Portilla Carreño (ex-Lake House and Annie Smithers Bistrot) and his wife, Bec Howell, are behind Small Graces. Carreño’s fine-dining pedigree is front and centre in the inventive, wholesome brunch dishes made using ingredients ethically sourced from Victorian farmers.
The café has an intimate community vibe that’s so symbolic of the west: think vintage furniture, an inviting cushion-laden banquette, lots of greenery, a stack of books to entertain wiggly kids, and an outdoor area big enough for your pets.
The menu is constructed around what’s in season, and everything on it – down to the sriracha, peanut butter, and ferments and pickles – is housemade.
Pho Tam isn't the most modern restaurant in Footscray, with its wear and tear unashamedly on display in its restaurant. But that means it is one of the most loved Vietnamese joints in the suburb.
Pho is the typical fast-food choice here, with beef and chicken broths built on a mix of sweet spices in its kitchen and adorned with your choice of sliced or poached meats, herbs and aromatics, but it is by no means the only dish that it produces well.
Vietnamese-style congee is a popular order, as is the bo la lot (grilled beef in betel leaf) served with a perfectly balanced nuoc mam cham, banh bot lot (banana leaf-wrapped tapioca dumplings filled with caramelised prawn and pork) and the anchovy-based noodle soup, bun mam. It may seem crazy that Pho Tam is open from 8 am daily, but it is just a testament to its loyal, local following.
On the Irving Street strip, you'll find Konjo Café serving up large platters of pulse-based curries on large plates of spongy, soured injera. Split peas, red lentils, green lentils, cabbage and beetroot, are cooked down individually with spices and are scooped up onto a platter of Ethiopia's traditional bread for a mere $14.
Coffee is served traditionally out of a clay pot and poured at the table to accompany the rib-sticking meal. Vegan buffets and feast nights are put on regularly alongside a spiced tea and coffee ceremony.
We’re starting with dessert because you might not get the insider tip that one of the wait staff gave us. While all three desserts on Up in Smoke’s menu sound desirable, we were told – in a Highlander movie “There can be only one!” fashion – that the banana cream pie was non-negotiable.
Now we know why: with its sturdy biscuit crumb base, velvety banana-and-caramel filling and cream dab crown, it’s sensational. Sweet without being cloying, every billowing mouthful will make you want to shout, “God bless America!” So save some precious stomach space.
As unlikely a location for an American barbecue restaurant as Footscray might seem, on a Sunday night, the joint’s going gangbusters.
Locals and steak aficionados can select from a menu that offers premium grain- and grass-fed steaks from Australian beef, including 300g Great Southern Pinnacle porterhouses to 200g Sher Wagyu. Modern and imaginative specials don’t veer too far from the beer-swilling territory, and mains are sized for pub appetites, with thick slabs of charred and tender steak.
Thoughtful beer notes are chalked on boards around the bar, and the six taps pour Carlton for the penny pinchers, Trumer Pils for the Europhiles, and four local craft numbers for the trendies. The station is happy to embrace the folks of Footscray, both old and new.
Co Thu Quan may serve more familiar Vietnamese dishes like pho and rice paper rolls, but it specialises in northern dishes that are less visible in Melbourne Vietnamese restaurants.
Rice paper salads where rice paper sheets are merely moistened before it is muddled with beef jerky, herbs, peanuts, dried shrimp, cumquat and a hard-boiled quail egg are signatures to Co Thu Quan. In contrast, any dish adorned with grilled meats, like the grilled pork with rolled rice sheets receives a complexity from charcoal cooking, are insanely popular dishes.
Ask a Footscray local what they eat for lunch, and most would tell you to fetch a banh mi. And where from? Our recommendation is Nhu Lan. They pictured banh mi with shredded pork skin. It’ll cost you less than the train ticket you bought to get there, too.
By day this Footscray bakery is all about jaffles (mac'n'cheese; bacon and egg; or meatballs) and five and Dime bagels with your choice of spreads. But by night, they bust out the cocktail shakers to make lemon meringue pie cocktails and fog Old Fashioneds. They also sneak a little booze into their baked goods, rum in their pecan pie and banoffee pies.
They use locally sourced bread, milk, butter and eggs, and even the barbecue and tomato sauce in-house. And if someone you like deserves a treat, you can order a tray of eight giant marshmallow and pretzel cookies, a tray of brownies or a birthday chess pie. And because Melbourne is great at inclusivity, there are vegan pies, and vegan cream cheese spreads for your bagels. Everybody wins.
Slice Shop Pizza serves 18-inch pizzas by the slice, with slices a steal at $5. Burn City Smokers co-owners Steve Kimonides and Raphael Guthrie have swapped wood-smoked meat for enormous hand-tossed pizzas in their latest venture, inspired by the famous New York slices, which are eaten on the go while folded in half.
Head chef Tano Pennino developed the pizza bases over a few weeks, ensuring the slices don’t lose their structural integrity when folded.
They make a whole mess of Malaysian curries and also a few laksas at the pan-Asian eatery, but we’re all about the roti. The buttery, tissue-thin flatbread flies fast and frees around the Footscray restaurant. Now and then, one of the team steps out from behind the counter and spins the dough in the air like a set of nunchucks.
FAQs About Melbourne Restaurants & Cafes
The area is generally pretty safe despite what some people say about it, there are some colourful characters around, but they are mostly harmless. In terms of value for money, you can't go past Footscray as it is one of, if not the most affordable suburb about its proximity to the CBD.
Along with the arts, Footscray's known for its thriving food scene, with few better places to get authentic Vietnamese and African cuisine in Melbourne. It's also home to one of the best burger joints around.
With a median house price of $922,500, Footscray is higher than Victoria's median house price of $739,000. When it comes to renting, the Footscray median house rental price per week is $460, which makes renting more expensive than Victoria's average of $420. 1 Bedroom price is based on 53 unit sales.
The area around Footscray was originally home to the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung and the Bunurong peoples of the Kulin Nation for more than 40,000 years. Maribyrnong is an anglicised version of the Aboriginal term 'Mirroring-gnay-bir-nong', which translates as 'I can hear a ringtail possum'.
The Maribyrnong and Yarra Rivers join was an especially important place as it symbolised the joining of groups that would travel along the river. Many sacred sites have been identified.
Footscray is an inner-western suburb of Melbourne, Australia, 5 km from Melbourne's Central Business District. Its local government area is the City of Maribyrnong. At the 2016 census, Footscray had a population of 16,345.
Footscray is characterised by a very diverse, multicultural central shopping area, which reflects the successive waves of immigration experienced by Melbourne, and by Footscray in particular. Once a centre for Greek, Italian and former Yugoslavian migrants, it later became a hub for Vietnamese and East African immigrants in Melbourne.
It has recently begun to undergo rapid development and gentrification, and Timeout Magazine placed Footscray at 13th in its '50 Coolest Neighbourhoods in the World' for 2019, reflecting its evolving reputation; citing, in particular, its diverse array of international cuisine, bars and nightlife, as well as its arts scene.
Footscray is named after Foots Cray, on the River Cray in London, England.
A comprehensive guide to fabulous Footscray
Mention the neighbourhood of Footscray to any Melbournian, and the first three things they’ll think of our great Vietnamese food, the incredible Footscray Market, and Franco Cozzo, the iconic discount European furniture store that hit our televisions hard with excited
announcements of “grand sales” in the ’80s and ’90s.
Originally a bustling manufacturing centre, over the last century, Footscray became a landing pad for the various waves of immigrants arriving in Melbourne from around the world — Greek, Italian, Yugoslavian, and later Vietnamese and East African — and evolved into a dynamic community.
Most recently, the familiar siren calls of gentrification — an alluring mix of low rents, great international food, and proximity to the Central Business District (CBD) — have drawn an influx of young middle-class Melbournians. They expect urban development, late-night bars, and modern cafes.
Footscray is at a moment of transition in which generations-old bakeries and Melbourne’s first Ethiopian grocer sit next to natural wine bars and arcade-themed burger joints, making it a rapidly changing community and one of Melbourne’s most diverse and delicious neighbourhoods.
And with a network of flat, gridded streets oriented around an excellent central market, Footscray is uniquely suited to a pedestrian food crawl. What follows is far more than you could ever cram into one day — or body — but consider this your very loose, overly ambitious itinerary through the very best of Footscray.
Let’s start at the Footscray Market, the neighbourhood’s unifying hub and demographic microcosm, full of Asian specialty grocers, Greek butchers, Middle Eastern delis, Filipino fast-food stalls, noodle shops, and coffee houses. It feels like the entire suburb has been crammed into one giant warehouse.
Footscray Market isn’t where you shop for pre-marinated chicken breasts or vegetables that receive an aesthetic spritz of water every 15 minutes. It’s a cook’s market, reliable for salmon collars, chicken feet, and fresh turmeric, where regulars haggle for overpriced bunches of cilantro, stuff their baskets full of fresh chrysanthemums, and know exactly which vendors sell herbs still attached to the root.
Globe artichokes sit next to bags of chiles and branches of fresh curry, makrut lime, and banana leaves. Here you can capture bags of blood cockles before beelining to the deli for fresh packets of roti from Brunswick’s A1 Bakery while snacking on a chicken empanada from Lutong Pinoy — all before 10 a.m.
Assuming you’re not thoroughly overstimulated, from here, you can exit the market on Hopkins Street and head 300 meters (about 1,000 feet) to Nhu Lan Bakery for Footscray’s finest banh mi. Locals argue over whether this title belongs to Nhu Lan or To’s Bakery around the corner, but Nhu Lan has the edge.
Both bake bread on-site daily, but Nhu Lan’s fillings are the clincher: house-made butter, generous swipes of pate, and crunchy pickled carrot accompany your choice of pork-based cold cuts, fried tofu, grilled chicken, or tomato-braised meatballs. The women constructing your banh mi will ask if you would like the addition of cilantro or chile, but beware, the chiles are from the stalls along Leeds Street and are very fiery, any time of year.
Dong Ba should be your next stop. This noodle shop is open from 9 a.m. daily and is usually packed with locals by 10. The menu might be extensive, but Dong Ba is known for its particularly lemongrass bun bo hue topped with tender slices of beef shank, pork knuckle, pork loaf, and blood jelly, and diaphanous shavings of white onion.
Allow yourself some time to digest with a detour to D&K Live Seafood, a wholesaler and retailer. Their tanks are brimming with live lobsters, mud crabs, yabbies, oysters, puppies, scallops, sea urchins, and other seasonal stuff. Pick your seafood, and a fishmonger will retrieve it, kill it, and clean it on the spot. To save a few dollars, keep your bivalves live and shuck them at home.
You should have room for a snack by now, so cross the street and head straight into Pho Tam. Sidestep the obvious pho for Banh bot loc, a steamed tapioca flour-based savoury dumpling filled with caramelised prawns and pork accompanied by nuoc mam cham (the classic Vietnamese condiment made from fish sauce, sugar, garlic, chiles, and vinegar) and a bowl of heady bun mam.
Sometimes referred to as Vietnamese gumbo, bun mam has a broth built on fermented anchovy and prawn paste, lengthened with pork stock, and served with thick vermicelli noodles, poached seafood, crispy pork, and garlic chives.
Next, soak up some of that soup at the relatively bland, no-frills Tan Thanh Loi, where broken rice and grilled pork and chicken are the picks of the menu. Twelve Australian dollars ($8.10) buys you a plate of rice crowned with fistfuls of shredded pork skin, a lemongrass-heavy piece of grilled chicken thigh or pork chop, meatloaf, a fried egg, pickles, fried shallots, and a bowl of nuoc mam cham with which to douse your meal.
Don’t worry if you can’t muscle your way into a seat; they offer takeout at the door, and there are loads of benches a few feet away.
Wander around the corner to 8bit for a damn fine burger and a shake. This video game-themed burger bar specialises in patties made with charred beef, crispy fried chicken, or crumbed mushrooms, dressed up with Sriracha mayo, a secret 8bit sauce, and even a controversial beetroot relish that is made for a distinctly Australian palate.
Take a turn back onto Barkly Street for some Malaysian food at Roti Road, run by a Malaysian-Chinese family known for their theatrics. Some evenings, waiters will throw, toss, and dance with sheets of roti dough to show off the tissue-thin layers.
Roti canai comes with sambal, curry sauce, and dahl, with prices starting at 6.90 Australian dollars ($4.70), and makes for a great starter for a Malaysian banquet that could include whole grilled fish smothered in spicy ginger, lemongrass, and tamarind sauce, beef rendang, or water spinach stir-fried in shrimp paste.
Give your stomach a rest and stroll to Mesnoy, Melbourne’s first Ethiopian grocer and injera supplier. The spongy and sour injera is made on-site in three varieties — wheat, sorghum, and teff. If you’re stocking up for a meal at home, Mesnoy also carries pre-packaged stir-fries and stews to accompany the injera.
Or, if you can muster the appetite, head to Konjo and let the pros do the cooking for you. This Ethiopian cafe has been serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week since 2012. It is known for pouring its own house-roasted, single-origin Ethiopian coffee from a traditional clay pot.
Order the half-half for breakfast, which comes with full, silts (scrambled eggs with berbere), crusty bread, and spiced tea for 12 Australian dollars ($8.10).
Cannoli is serious business in Footscray, and proof can be found each day at T. Cavallaro & Sons. The cannoli at this 63-year-old pasticceria is the best in the neighbourhood, and quite possibly in Melbourne, filled to order with pastry cream or ricotta, so the shells stay crisp.
Almond-based biscuits such as amaretti and the softer pastime di mandorla are also standouts.
On the other side of Footscray, you’ll find a taste of an old Aussie tradition at Pie Thief. Aaron Donato of Bar Josephine recently teamed up with one of the regulars, Scott Bloomfield, to open up a quirky Australian meat pie shop next door.
Pie Thief is best known for the lasagna pie, featuring Bolognese and bechamel topped with a layer of pasta. Other popular offbeat flavours have included nacho, Thai chicken curry, and tofu cheddar-pumpkin. While it’s not exactly true-blue Aussie, and it’s not Vietnamese, Pie Thief has quickly become a much-loved Footscray fixture.