There aren’t many rock’n’roll bars around Hawthorn East. The area is better known for smart cafes and wine bars, but a venue like Russell Street’s Heartbreaker? Not so much. That’s why Tyson Venn and Michael Cotter felt the need to build one.

Late last year, the pair opened Rosalita’s Bar & Liquor Store in the same building as their two other bars, Bar None (on the level below) and East of Everything (upstairs).

The menu is the same across all three, so you can expect dishes inspired by food from the American South, with the occasional Tex-Mex appearance.

Choose from fried chicken wings with spicy sauce (the heat scale runs from mild to “stupid”); loaded fries; quesadillas; and a short burger menu that includes two vegetarian options – pulled jackfruit and mushroom – and a classic cheeseburger.

“It’s simple and all about good-quality beef mince, lettuce, mustard, tomato, American cheese and buns – you don’t need the extra stuff,” says Venn. “[It’s] like a classier version of the Quarter Pounder.”

Venn, a “massive, massive” Bruce Springsteen fan, named the bar after the 1973 track Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).

“It’s a rollicking six-minute track [from] when Springsteen was first signed, so his output then was more singer-songwriter and rambling verses,” he says. “Most people would tell you it’s the only song you can put on that I’ll dance to.”

Wines are mostly Victorian, and there are eight rotating beers on tap, which at the moment include a Hazy Pale Ale from Hargreaves Hill offshoot Beatnik and 3 Ravens’ Cherry Creamsicle. Special attention is paid to stouts, too.

“We always make sure we’ve got a few vintages of the Founders KBS [Kentucky Breakfast Stout, from Michigan in the US],” says Venn. “And we’re always on the lookout for really fresh IPAs, so we’ve got a good supply of high-end IPAs from Canada and the US, which you may not find in other bottle shops easily.”

The fit-out of the 50-person space, just over the road from the train station, came together on a low budget. There's a pool table, a jungle-like lounge area full of dangling plants, recycled timber fencing lining the bar and walls, and a few old knick-knacks and CDs that the owners found while rifling through op-shops.

The jukebox (which plays Iggy Pop and Johnny Cash, among others) emits a neon glow, and the rest of the space is mostly lit by neon signage.

“It’s a small venue so it doesn’t have to appeal to everyone,” says Venn. “But it seems there’s a real thirst for something alternative in the area and it’s being well-received –more so than we thought – which is really heartening.”

The liquor store takes up about a third of Rosalita’s floor space. There are around 120 low-intervention wines, 150 craft beers and 100 craft spirits, sourced from around the world and all hand-picked by the team.

“There’s a story behind every bottle, and Luke, our resident spirit expert, writes individual labels for everything,” says Venn. “So the customer gets insight into why we like it and what we find interesting about it. Even if it’s just a bottle of Jame-o [Jameson], there’s a reason why it’s there.”

Rosalita’s Bar & Liquor Store
2/72 Auburn Parade, Hawthorn East
(03) 9882 4216

Hours:
Tue & Wed 12pm–11pm
Thu to Sat 12pm–1am
Sun 12pm–11pm

rosalitas.com.au