This Greek and Italian stronghold is an excellent place to spend a night bar-hopping.

In the early 2000s, the main reason to visit Thornbury was dusty shops spruiking TV antennas, discounted shoes and second-hand whitegoods. Being that bit further out than Northcote, it took a while longer for gentrification to arrive.

Things began to change around 2010, when local Marco Finanzio opened the now classic Umberto Espresso Bar – a fitting bellwether for an area thousands of Greek and Italian immigrants have called home since the end of World War Two.

The stretch of High Street between Darebin Road and Dundas Street really exploded in 2014 with the opening of four new bars, including Finanzio’s second business, Joanie’s Baretto, and Carwyn Cellars, which we feel confident calling Melbourne’s best beer venue. With the later addition of Thornbury Picture House, this is now one of our favourite areas for a night out. It’s like a smaller, more relaxed Northcote, with much better carparking.

Thankfully, none of this has come at the expense of Thornbury’s previous character. Old social clubs such as Democritus House and House of Hercules are still going strong, and the wide, weatherboard-lined side streets still feel more suburban than developed. The few cafes that have opened are consistently down-to-earth and suit the relaxed landscape.

Restaurants

The Moor’s Head Thornbury

Restaurant

Break away from the traditional with Lebanese pizza.

1800 Lasagne

Restaurant

After years running lasagnes around town in a ’91 Holden Barina, Joey Kellock has moved into a former pizza shop. On the menu: lasagne, maybe a dirty Martini and little else.

Kustom Burgers

Restaurant

Race electric slot cars while you wait for your burger.

Greek Street Food

Restaurant

A family-owned souva mobile’s permanent home.

Pizza Farro

Restaurant

A homely pizzeria furnished with collected sentimentality.

Il Pizzaiolo

Restaurant

Take a bite of Naples at this traditional pizzeria in Thornbury.

Cafes

Rat the Cafe

Cafe

A neighbourhood specialty coffee shop and eatery in the backstreets of Thornbury.

Little Tienda

Cafe

This sunny Thornbury cafe marries flavours from Mexico and southern California.

Prior

Cafe

This 130-seat space is full of warm hues and natural materials. Whether you're sitting on a sleek leather banquette or you've got a table in the large outside courtyard, there are no dud spots here. On the menu, you'll find a range of inventive Middle Eastern-inflected dishes, many of which showcase vegetables.

Umberto Espresso Bar

Cafe

A recently expanded espresso bar serving hearty Italian fare with a warm, local feel.

All Are Welcome Thornbury

Cafe

This is an expansion for one of Melbourne's most popular bakeries – tasked with alleviating the huge demand that the Northcote original generates. Come here for sourdough loaves; pork and fennel sausage rolls' and cheese-and-oregano pastries.

Casa Nata

Cafe

At this dedicated house of Portuguese tarts, watch your “pastéis de nata” be made, then eat them fresh from the oven – flaky, silky and with a touch of cinnamon.

Bars

Ballard’s

Bar

This cosy local serves vegan pub classics, handmade gnocchi, and small bites – and almost every main course comes in under $20. Enjoy your meal and vegan vino at the bar, in a booth, or in the beer garden out the back.

Nasty's

Bar

Put your feet up at this dive bar that takes upcycling to the max and has a super-tight drinks list (that means no cocktails).

Carwyn Cellars

Bar

Competition is fierce, but we feel comfortable calling this the best beer bar in Melbourne.

Wolf and Swill

Bar

Pizza, beer and not much more – this little corner bar keeps things delightfully simple.

Joanie's Baretto

Bar

Cocktail hour, Italian style.

Pallino Bar & Bocce

Bar

Pallino Bar & Bocce revives classic cocktails and a vintage sport in Thornbury.

Shops

Kenny Lover

Shop

A chef with Michelin-star pedigree is behind this oddball ice-creamery, where favourites such as pistachio and chocolate are joined by scoops flavoured with soy sauce, yuzu and sake, and olives and white chocolate. Plus, there’s hot chips for dipping.

Thornbury Picture House

Shop

A movie theatre and bar in a 1920s petrol station, with a local heart and serious personality.

Perimeter Books

Shop

A beautifully curated shop of rare books and small press.

North St Botanical

Shop

From the duo behind North St Flowers.

Thornbury Records

Shop

New alternative rock records, plus turntable repairs.