It was 2019 when fried chicken and rock’n’roll bar Wowee Zowee arrived in Mornington. Behind it: Simon Tarlington, now also executive chef at Jackalope’s Doot Doot Doot; Clint Hyndman, Something for Kate drummer and owner of Yellow Bird Cafe in Windsor; winemaker Cam Marshall; and fit-out whiz Craig Baum.
But with their second venue in Mornington, Loosie’s Diner & Bar, the crew has refined their dive-bar style. Taking inspiration from the “dingy” diners found in LA in the ’70s, thick venetian blinds on the front windows act as a divider between the seaside suburbia outside and the good times inside. When you enter, you’re greeted with American-style wood-panelled walls almost completely covered in gold-framed, black-and-white photos of ’70s babes.
Interior designer Life Installers worked closely with Hyndman and Baum to bring their concept for Loosie’s to life. “It’s all about never taking you out of the vibe,” Hyndman tells Broadsheet. “So, wherever you look, there’s something that fits. Something that keeps you in that rock’n’roll, boozy diner mood.”
The custom-built booths and bar look somehow simultaneously ’70s and art deco while the shimmering bronze roof, light fittings and skilfully stocked bar remind you that this is a house of fun (even if there is the odd highchair).
“I never thought I’d do highchairs,” Hyndman says. “And while in the city you wouldn’t, around here it’s different. It’s families. But families like us that still want somewhere good to go. We love all the boozy [parents] – my wife included.”
The beer fridge is stocked with plenty of local craft faves, and on tap there’s Pabst, Young Henrys and Bonza IPA. But the wine list is so well thought-out that you might leave Loosie’s convinced that burgers and beer isn’t always the superior pairing. The Range Life Sparkle Hard prosecco really suits the mood, or you could bunker down with a cosier bottle – like pinot noir from the Mornington Peninsula’s Garagiste or shiraz from SA’s Spinifex.
To accompany the free-flowing drinks, the food menu is suitably carby. The mac’n’cheese burger is the ideal blend of gooey, cheesy and saucy. There’s also a classic hamburger – juicy and satisfising – as well as the hulking, spicy Buffalo burger with buttermilk fried chicken, Frank’s hot sauce and chipotle pickles. Add-ons include cheesy, peppery loaded fries and fried chook in a few forms: popcorn with ranch, Buffalo wings and buttermilk tenders (on waffles).
And they say you don’t make friends with salad, but the ones here were clearly designed by a chef with cred: try the barbeque chicken and slaw. And for the full American diner experience, there’s also warm apple pie with whipped cream.