Adelaide is laid out in a functional grid, but a maze of laneways—alleyways populated with shops, restaurants, and more—can be found off the main streets, and many have taken on a new life with restaurants and bars moving in. No longer dark alleys to avoid, Adelaide’s laneways are fast becoming fashionable, thanks in part to relaxed liquor licensing laws making things easier for start-up bars. The laneways come alive at night, especially on weekends, though shops and lunch stops can make for a good daytime tour. The best laneways are found on either side of Rundle Mall—in the West End nightclub district or the more upscale East End area.
Peel Street is bar central. Heading south from Hindley Street, Gondola Gondola on the corner has modern Southeast Asian food, and its coolly lit Bia Om Bar serves Vietnamese beers, Japanese sake, and spiked iced teas. Popular restaurant Peel St helped kick off the laneway scene with industrial-inspired décor and a fresh menu with a Middle Eastern bent. Next door, head downstairs to Maybe Mae, a chic, hard-to-find subterranean bar under the Bread and Bone Wood Grill. Across the street, BarBushka has eclectic décor—manga, vines, and modern lines—as well as cocktails and vodkas from around the world. Clever Little Tailor is a hip hole-in-the-wall with leather booths, stone walls, and a big range of whiskeys. Others include the Mezcal-inspired Chihuahua Bar, slivovitz-inspired Kaffana, and La Rambla Tapas Bar.
Leigh Street, the next lane west, has mixed shops and good lunch or dinner options, such as old favorite Rigoni’s Bistro, serving Italian food. The outdoor table area gets crowded but is magical on a warm night. Cos also spills out onto this car-free street in the evenings. Housed in a heritage Victorian-era building, its modern Australian menu focuses on aged steaks and local seafood. Tasting boards give the option to try a number of dishes. Next door, Casablabla is a big, buzzing bar and Spanish restaurant with throbbing-red décor. It has great paella, a beer garden, and live entertainment.
Leigh Street crosses over Hindley Street to Bank Street, another laneway leading to the railway station and casino. You'll find reasonably priced Asian food here, but laneway chic seems to have passed it by until you head downstairs to Bank Street Social, a sophisticated bar with a good range of South Australian craft beers, ciders, and wines. On weekends, the party crowd moves in and DJs spin until the early morning.
Rundle Mall and East End
Some of the alleys running into Rundle Mall are jumping on the laneway bandwagon, with eateries and bars like Lindes Lane, a chic café, wine bar, and music venue in the lane of the same name.
Continuing on from Rundle Mall, Rundle Street in the East End is one of the city’s most popular dining, drinking, and fashion districts. Running off it, Ebenezer Place continues on the same themes. Head through the red-brick archway, where the old East End markets once stood, to this restored area of fashion boutiques, restaurants, and lunchtime cafés. The Belgian Beer Café is lively day and night. On adjoining Vardon Avenue, East End Cellars is a fine wine merchant, and you can pick a bottle of wine from the shelves and drink it in their tasting room with a platter of meats, cheeses, and bread.
When to Go: Adelaide is a small city, and its hardworking citizens tend to save their energy for the weekend. Many of the bars and restaurants close Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday evenings, and the laneways only hit top gear on Friday and Saturday.