With homey wine bars punching above their weight and lived-in local haunts that have more than earned their stripes, Fitzroy North’s secret weapon is understated excellence.

Fitzroy North has a lot going for it: Piedimonte’s; the green oasis that is Edinburgh Gardens; and a more low-key and neighbourhoody bar scene than its spirited sibling, Fitzroy. Beyond the buzz of Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North takes it down a notch, making it ideal for weeknight wines and whiling away weekend arvos. Main arteries Nicholson Street and St Georges Road are dotted with top-tier drinking destinations that rate this inner-north pocket high on the bar-crawlability scale.

Chief among them is Public Wine Shop, an instant-classic bar and (admittedly very fancy) bottle-o that opened in late 2020 across from Eddie Gardens. It’s hard to imagine St Georges Road without it. A big communal table makes it feel like a dinner party, exceptional snacks lean European (hello, oeufs mayonnaise), and the great wall of wine shows off co-owner and former somm Campbell Burton’s vino know-how. Get amongst it all with a glass of Fallow’s 2022 Pinot Bombolino, a cracker red from the Yarra Valley.

In a just-as-vinous vein, the aptly named Neighbourhood Wine – just off Nicholson Street in a warm, welcoming upstairs space – is the kind of local dreams are made of. A list of 400 bottles, written with the expert touch of Simon Denman, leaves little to be desired, ducking and weaving through the wine regions of the world, but repping Victoria in a meaningful way. Grab a seat by the window and try the lesser-known ribolla gialla grape in a fruity, floral skin-contact white from Mildura label MDI.

Not too far away, in a commanding corner spot on Newry Street, a beautiful blue-and-cream facade marks the spot at One Trick Pony. It comes courtesy of Chris Terlikar, owner of Brunswick barbecue joint Bluebonnet, it’s a wine store downstairs and a restaurant upstairs, with sunny on-street seating (when weather permits). If you’re in the mood for something red to go with your plate of house-made saucisson sec, why not lean local with a bottle of Fighting Gully Road’s Beechworth pinot noir – it’s an undeniable crowd-pleaser.

Back on Nicholson Street, the Royal Oak Hotel is the Marquis of Lorne team’s revival of a big old boozer that’s been watering the area since 1871. The pub has had a facelift, sure, but it doesn’t feel any less time-worn, which is where a lot of charm comes from. Perch at the buzzy, burgundy-hued front bar with a pint of American red ale from Brunswick brewery Co-Conspirators, and a crisp chicken schnitzel doused in mustardy gravy.

But if you really want to wig out on beer, it has to be at Redwood Tasting Room, which is craft-beer central for the suburb. Doing double duty as a bar and bottle shop, the St Georges Road spot is jam-packed with as many tinnies and bottles as the team can get their hands on. Sit among them and get tasting (start with something out there, like the racing-red Nitro Cherry-Pie Sour by Kensington’s Bonehead Brewing), or take a six-pack to the park and sprawl out on the grass for your own impromptu tasting.

Moving into cocktail territory, less than 100 metres away is Longplay. It’s one of Fitzroy North’s favourite watering holes for a number of reasons: its deftly done classic cocktails, share plates inspired by the Med, and truly local crowd (plus its cinema for hire out back). While sunlight streams through the venetians, pull up a stool at the timber-clad bar for an all-Victorian Negroni, a star of the house cocktail list made with Four Pillars gin, Autonomy Distillers’ Davo Plum Aperitivo bitters, and Maidenii vermouth.

And to finish: another of the area’s quintessential bars, the mighty Monty’s, which feels like part of the furniture. There are no airs and graces here – and that’s the beauty of it. Get rowdy at the long timber front bar, do date night right in a curtained-off booth, or kick on out in the beer garden. A solid drink suggestion? Latta Vino’s Wild West, a fresh and fun blended red made with grapes from all over Western Victoria (hence the name).

By Tomas Telegramma