Joe’s Shoe Store:

233 High Street, Northcote VIC
(03) 9482 7666 Julian Beattie:
Photo: Gustavo Adolfo Prince Gonzalez

Joe’s Shoe Store is a beautifully comfortable new bar (in Melbourne’s increasingly cool suburb of Northcote) with wonderfully engaging staff. Without hesitation you’re asked if you want to start up a tab, a gesture of respect to any patron in my mind. It also means you can ask for a fill up without scrabbling around in your bag, which inevitably interrupts the flow of conversation. They also remember what you’re drinking, or suggest you might like to try something else, with an evident passion for different wines, beers and spirits that they want to share with their customers.

And then there are the tunes emanating from turntables (yes, vinyl) that, on the night I was there, sounded like my record collection. Nothing can make you (well, me really) feel more at home than singing along to Echo and the Bunnymen.Joe’s is owned and run by Kade McDonald (who also runs Palomino café over the road), Gustavo Adolfo Prince Gonzalez and Sebastian Butler. Originally Joe’s Shoe Store, and vacant since Joe’s death, Kade was a bit nervous about retaining the name. Recently, however, members of Joe’s family came in to check the place out and loved it. There’s a photo of Joe surrounded by his shoes in pride of place behind the bar, bought from a guy who’d taken the photo years ago and who’d then seen a review of the bar in the paper. “We had to have it,” says Kade.The warm, slightly retro, slightly saloon-esque, slightly European feel of the place is partially due to Julian Beattie’s knack with cabinetry combined with a real instinct on the owners’ part for not overdoing anything. Having used Julian to create the shelving in Palomino, Kade has great respect for his abilities. What is distinct about the aura of Joe’s Shoe Store is the balance achieved between having things around and not being cluttered. This lends the things that are around much greater significance, and they become synonymous with the entire aura of the place, rather than just being stuff for stuff’s sake. It’s an art, achieving that balance, and Joe’s has it in spades. Along with its distinctive style, there are all the substantial elements I’ve already mentioned, plus the great interaction with Pizza Meine Liebe next door, where Joe’s customers can order pizzas at the bar and have them served up by a Meine Liebe waiter without moving from their seats. Mmm, it’s like slipping into an old shoe.  — Sophie Gebhardt.

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