I didn’t know what a lunch bar was when I arrived in Western Australia. But I did know you can’t drive for 10 minutes in Perth without encountering one.
Their place within the city’s culture is as unique as their aesthetic and character. Within their decal-cluttered facades and overstated signage, I saw the makings of a photographic series. (Dicks’s photographs of lunch bars exhibited as part of the 2022 Head On Photo Festival.)
The more I explored, the more lunch bars I found. Along the way I uncovered half a dozen favourites that I’d like to share with you. But all this exploring and eating raised a question: what makes a lunch bar a lunch bar?
Save 20% when you buy two or more Broadsheet books. Order now to make sure they arrive in time for Christmas.SHOP NOW
“A lunch bar gives you licence to be creative and serve a variety of different food,” says Nham Plam who runs the family-owned Bibra Lake Lunch Bar. Prior to operating the lunch bar, he ran a fish and chip shop and a deli. “I think that’s what sets them apart. But to be a true lunch bar you also have to respect tradition. As well as serving Italian and Mexican specials or Vietnamese barbeque, you still need those traditional favourites like pies and dim sims. Sometimes people just want a Chiko Roll.”
For those seeking a taste of the deliciousness and diversity of Perth’s lunch bar food scene, these are all excellent starting points.
Bibra Lake Lunch Bar
Clued-up eaters and tradies seek out this eatery for some of the city’s most satisfying Vietnamese street food. In addition to a rock-solid chicken pho and a formidable selection of banh mi – options include mixed pork (thit), roast pork belly (thit quay) and runny fried egg (trung-op-la) – the lunch bar fires up the barbeque on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Barbeque offerings such as pork ribs, chilli lime chicken and grilled sweet corn always ensure there’s a line out the door.
1/40 Port Pirie St, Bibra Lake
This Bayswater lunch bar has a distinctly German flavour, presenting a selection of sizzling bratwurst, including pork, smoked beef and cheese kransky, served with fried onions, sauerkraut and mustard. For those wanting a taste of Berlin, the currywurst is a must, as are the schnitzel burgers and hamburgers, house-made apple strudel and the Bavarian-style pretzel that is baked to order. On Saturdays, Wunderbar wheels out its barbeque.
30 Katanning St, Bayswater
The Roundabout Lunch Bar & Cafe
Everyone loves an all-day breakfast and Wangara’s Roundabout Lunch Bar & Cafe has plenty of early morning affection to go around. While there’s an eggs Benedict on offer, the full brekkie lives up to its promise and comes with the lot, including eggs, bacon, a sausage, beans, mushroom, a hash brown and toast. Other notable items on the breakfast menu include a bacon, egg and cheese bagel; a ham and cheese croissant with mustard sauce, and sweet and savoury pancakes: not a bad way to start any day.
3/69 Distinction Rd, Wangara
At the Blue Box lunch bar in Wangara, it’s the slow-cooked homemade pies and sausage rolls that keep the locals coming back. Made in-house every morning, the options include beef steak, chilli mince, pepper steak and curry. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the pāua (abalone) pie adds a little New Zealand flair. Blue Box has also developed a reputation for its selection of traditional Burmese dishes including coconut noodle soup, Burmese pancakes, fish curry and biryani rice.
2 Chokolich St, Wangara
Checkers Lunch Bar
This lunch bar in Rockingham is worth visiting just to admire the building and its signage alone. An oversized yellow font spells out the words “lunch bar” and half the facade is diagonally emblazoned in red, with the other half adorned with black and white checkers. In short: you can’t miss the commercial unit housing the down-to-earth eatery. Checkers serves lunch bar classics prepared with plenty of spirit. The chips and gravy, bacon and egg roll and chicken burger are all guilty pleasures.
2 Smeaton Way, Rockingham
King & Howe Cafe and Lunch Bar
If girthy burgers, rolls or wrap are your idea of top-tier lunch, consider setting course for Osborne Park. While the burger range includes a variety of beef and steak offerings, I find it hard to go past the generously portioned – and delightfully messy – satay chicken burger. The lunch bar also serves a selection of hot rolls including beef and gravy rolls, sausage sizzle rolls, and a chicken souvlaki. For anyone needing to maintain after-lunch appearances, there’s also an assortment of more refined Lebanese wraps.
Cnr Edward Rd and Howe St, Osborne Park