Stagger Lee is a song first recorded in 1923, telling the tale of the murder of William ‘Billy’ Lyons by ‘Stag’ Lee Shelton. Also known as ‘Stagolee’ or ‘Stack O Lee’, more than 400 artists have put their own spin on the song since.

The song’s most recent interpretation comes from the people who brought you Proud Mary in the form of their new cafe, Stagger Lee’s, on a busy corner in Brunswick Street. The new venture is a collaboration between Proud Mary owner Nolan Hirte, former Proud Mary general manager Monica Chhay, head chef Chris Hamburger (formerly of The Aylesbury and St Ali North) and Mun Soon of MGS Architects and owner of Krimper. The cafe offers a concise but exciting menu and top-shelf coffee with a minimalist fit out that offers maximum aesthetic.

Hirte notes that the main difference between Stagger Lee’s and its nearby sister cafe is, “We have a liquor license. This means we will endeavour to open a couple of nights a week in the coming months.” Another key difference, as many coffee nerds about town will quickly notice, is that Stagger Lee’s does not serve blends – just single origin espresso and filter coffee. It has paired a coffee from Brazil to work well with milk and has two rotating options for black, all running off the Malkonig EK 43 grinder, which Hirte assures is helping get better extractions than ever before. The decision not to blend comes from the close work Proud Mary has been doing with farms in Brazil and the qualities these single origin beans have that makes them work well with milk, without needing to blend.

The menu, described by Hamburger is, “Simple and sexy comfort food”, and includes dishes such as truffled polenta with in-season pine mushrooms and the Stack & Billy Burger made up of a double Black Angus patty with American mustard, pickles and tomato ketchup, complemented by bacon croquettes. Also on offer is a toastie with thick-cut bacon and HP sauce, which goes perfectly with the Bucket of Blood – Stagger Lee’s own take on the Bloody Mary (named for a line in Nick Cave’s version of the song).

In a city of endless cafe openings, Stagger Lee’s is a refreshing face on a strip of road that has been relatively quiet of late – in comparison to its busy Smith Street counterpart, at least. Hirte assures us that Stagger Lee’s will “bring life back into the Brunswick Street cafe scene.”

Stagger Lee’s
276 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

Mon to Fri 7am–4pm
Sat & Sun 8am–4pm