The Gold Coast is known for its thriving (if not predictable) nightlife. If you want nightclubs, pulsing music, and watered-down basics then you’ll find it along Orchid Avenue’s glitter strip.
But for those of us who understand that all that glitters is not gold, and want a serving of substance and a touch of class with their evening entertainment, then these are THE places to go.
Owned and operated by Gold Coast locals who all just wanted cool, fun and unpretentious places to hang out, the following spots are all unique in their own way and all bring a little sumthin’ sumthin’ extra to the Gold Coast drinks and eats scene.
From burgers that will challenge your cholesterol levels to Japanese tapas and sake cocktails that will have you thinking you’ve stepped out for a night in Tokyo; through to fine dining hiding in laid-back beachside suburbs and the trendiest Mexican tavern this side of Guadalajara – you want it, the GC delivers.
Sydney may be the city that doesn’t know when to call last drinks, but the Gold Coast is the city that’s serving up some refreshing and surprising firsts.
And, as always, drink responsibly, peeps.
1. Ze Pickle
Where: Corner of Connor Street, Burleigh Heads
If game-changing burgers, the biggest range of craft tap beers on the Gold Coast, and a hip atmosphere that’s so chilled you can see it in the frosty cocktails sounds like your thing, then this is your Mecca.
Founded by three local lads who only wanted to create a cool place to hang out, eat burgers, and drink beer [“An expensive man cave”, if you will], Ze Pickle has seriously got its hipster finger on the pulse. Serving up the most legit [and sometimes ridic] burgers on the Coast – including the mammoth Triple Loco burger which features 3 wagyu beef patties stacked between two grilled cheese sandwiches – the boys have certainly changed the burger scene for the better.
Add in uniquely concocted cocktails – you can’t go past the ‘Toy Story’, complete with an actual toy soldier floating amongst the ice – and a bangin’ playlist of rock and gangsta hip-hop tunes with a side of blues, and you’ve got yourself a damn good night out.
Ze Pickle. Ze shizzle.
The party happens: Tuesdays – Fridays: 5pm – Late. Saturday & Sunday: Midday – Late
Serve it up with the fruitilicious ‘Kim Karpassionfruit’ cocktail or a craft beer from their extensive range. Legit.
Who is comin drank’n tonight? Cocktails are gonna go down a treat. Blue Balls. The Mantail. Bubba Hubba Hubba. Luv U Long Time. A photo posted by zepickle (@zepickle) on
Where: 2/32 Lavarack Road, Nobby Beach
Tucked away in a relaxed beachside ‘burb you’ll find the new kids on the culinary block who are already turning heads and changing up the local scene for the better.
The brainchild of a GC café guru who already has a string of hits under his hat, Sparrow Eating House’s tapas-style menu is, without a doubt, one of the best on the Gold Coast, with the team serving up contemporary and imaginative share plates. Seriously, if you want to know what heaven tastes like, try their pork belly, followed by the trio of Crème Brule with a glass of Gruner Veltliner from Adelaide for dessert. For reals.
With an impressive menu featuring only Australian-made beers and wines; minimalist chic decor that doesn’t even have to try to be cool ‘cause it just is; and some of the friendliest staff to ever grace the hospitality industry, you’ll be forgiven if you never want to leave this downright funky Sparrow’s nest.
The party happens: Wednesday – Sunday 5pm til late.
My top picks: Pumpkin and walnut croquettes, cold rare beef fillet with cornbread, and the plum and cider brazed Byron Bay pork belly.
For those who love a good cocktail, you can’t go past the grapefruit mojito or the raspberry margarita. If you have a sweet craving, the Banoffee jaffle with salted caramel is to die for.
Here for u tonight for ur hump day! #grapefruitmojito A photo posted by Sparrow (@sparrow.eating.house) on
Where: 2440 Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach
Slide back the non-descript wooden door on this secret hangout and you’ll be instantly transported to a Japanese izakaya so authentic that you’ll think you’ve gotten lost in the heart of Tokyo itself.
Reminiscent of the hip underground bar scene of New York City, where featureless and sign-less doors disguise stylish and transformative hot spots of dining and entertainment, Etsu is the place to go when you need to satisfy a culture craving but can’t find your passport.
Featuring the Gold Coast’s most extensive range of rare Japanese whiskeys, the bar alone is enough to make any liquor lover’s jaw drop in wonder: edible blossoms float delicately in shochu cocktails; Asahi flows freely on tap; and twelve different types of sake are on offer, 90% of which are served ice cold.
For the food lovers out there, the authentic Robata grill pumps out mouth-watering Japanese kushiyaki and amiyaki dishes using a traditional Binchotan-smoked process that leaves you wanting more. If sashimi is your thing, then you can’t go past the Omakase sashimi platter, featuring delicate slices of tuna, kingfish, scampi, salmon and scallop carpaccio.
Throw in some funky lounge tunes, touches of Japanese pop culture [see if you can spy Godzilla lurking in the shelves], Japanese graffiti-covered walls, and splashes of vivid Imperial Japan-era red that accents the industrial underground vibe, and you’ve got one helluva’ hot spot.
If the red lantern is out, then you know the party is happening inside. Keep your eyes peeled, peeps.
The party happens: Monday – Sunday 5pm til Late
My top picks: Omakase sashimi, kushiyaki skewers of asparagus wrapped in pork belly, spicy karaage chicken, and the beef tataki.
Team it with the Rise of the Lychee cocktail made with Shochu [sweet potato alcohol] or the Yuzu and Elderflower Gimlet. Chase with a bottle of Nigori Cloudy Sake. Kanpai!
A photo posted by Etsu (@etsuizakaya) on
Just a couple of Elderflower & Yuzu Gimlets:) #japanesecocktails #mermaidbeach #fridaynight #gettingloose A photo posted by Etsu (@etsuizakaya) on
4. Saucy Buns
Where: 7/240 Varsity Parade, Varsity Lakes
There’s a new kid in Burger Town and he’s one helluva’ player. From the lads who brought you Blackboard Coffee and Larder comes the newest competitors in the Gold Coast burger race, and damn, are they saucy!
Located in student-friendly Varsity Lakes, Saucy Buns is amping up the local scene with their menu of mouth-watering burgers, clever cocktails, and rockin’ atmosphere. Where else can you indulge in a Soft Shell Crab burger with a classic Mojito served in your very own retro sauce bottle, whilst listening to gangsta rap?
Keeping with their simple vision of creating ‘a cool hangout without any pretentious crap’, the lads feature five handcrafted burgers on their menu, with an ever-changing ‘Burger of the Week’ also on offer. Choose from Beef Wagyu, Bacon Wagyu, Portabello Mushroom, Crispy Soft Shell Crab, or Spicy Karaage Chicken, and team it with a Stone & Ale craft beer. Whatever combo you pick, it’s bound to be a winner.
Cranking out killer rock and rap tunes (think: Franz Ferdinand and The Killers, with a side of Snoop), Saucy Burgers oozes a fun, easy-going, come-as-you-are vibe that will have you coming back for more sauciness, time and time again.
The party happens: Wednesday – Sunday 5pm till late
My top picks: The Bacon Wagyu burger with onion rings. The Soft Shell Crab burger with Cheesy Fries. The Saucy $14 Red & Yellow Cocktails of the Week. In fact, several of them, please.
A photo posted by blackboardcoffee (@blackboardcoffee) on
@amandathorley – keeping the tried and tested method of the “elevated squirt” alive #howdoyoueatyours A photo posted by blackboardcoffee (@blackboardcoffee) on
5. Black Coffee Lyrics
Where: Level 1, 3131 Surfers Paradise Blvd, Surfers Paradise
Tucked away upstairs in a low-key arcade in the old heart of Surfers Paradise, you’ll find a dining and cocktail destination masquerading as your mate’s renovated attic, but with a kick-ass bar and one helluva’ chef.
Think: fine dining and creative cuisine with a chilled attitude.
The writing is (literally) on the wall for Black Coffee Lyrics, with the team serving up original and inventive tapas-style dishes that will blow both your mind and your taste buds. Their attention to detail and love for good liquor culminates in some pretty awesome experiences, such top shelf ‘Tasting Trays’ for spirit aficionados (or wannabes) and an impressive range of Espresso Martinis. Yes, there is more than just one type. No, you can’t stop at one.
The perfect spot for a pre-party dinner or a post-dinner cocktail, Black Coffee Lyrics will deliver the goods without breaking a sweat.
The party happens: Tuesday – Friday: 5pm – late. Saturday & Sunday: 8am – late (Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner & cocktails). Happy Hour happens 5-7pm on weekdays and 4-6pm on weekends.
My top picks: The Crumbed Brie, Pork Belly, Quinoa Stuffed Tomato, and the Crème Brule Pie. You can’t beat the Apple Rosemary Margarita or Green Beacon’s Indian Pale Lager to chase it all down.
It’s Wednesday people so it’s our ribs, wings and steamed bun night! Our 3some tonight is Southern styled chicken wings… Shredded beef, spring onion, sour cream and sriracha steamed bun… Spiced pineapple and coconut glazed pork rib with fried onion… Do we need say more?
A photo posted by Black Coffee Lyrics (@blackcoffeelyrics) on
Good morning friends. Black coffee lyrics cold press and a smooth flat white is how all Saturday mornings should start. #blackcoffeelyrics #turndownforwhat A photo posted by Black Coffee Lyrics (@blackcoffeelyrics) on
Where: 2460 Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach
You don’t need to travel to Cabo San Lucas for an authentic Mexican hit; in fact, the coolest cantina this side of the equator is right here in Mermaid Beach.
Bonita Bonita are serving up authentic Mexican dishes that will change the way you look at the humble taco and quesadilla forever, with a focus on perfecting the basics that make Mexican so damn good. Seriously, the homemade corn chips and guacamole alone is enough to have you drooling in happiness into your Mescal Margarita.
Whether you’re chowing down on Achiote Rib Eye Chimmichuri skewers in the hauntingly beautiful alter-style dining room, or chilling out and talking tequila with Terry, the barman with an encyclopedic knowledge of Mexican drops, you’ll feel right at home here. And when you have a bar stocked with 18 different tequilas and 6 different mescals, sexy salsa tunes, and a menu to die for, you’ll be forgiven if you don’t want to ever leave. Stick around till later when they crank up a funk and soul playlist so cool that you’d think you were kickin’ it with James Brown in Tijuana.
The bold neon lettering above the kitchen says it all: ‘I’ve been waiting for you’. Well, Bonita Bonita, we’ve been waiting for you too.
Take that, Old El Paso. You ain’t got nothing on these hombres.
The party happens: Wednesday – Sunday 5pm til late.
My top picks: Grilled corn with Queso Fresco, salmon ceviche in coconut, chicken and chipotle quesadilla, and every taco on their menu (trust me, there’s a few).
Team it up with the Mexicano cocktail, any one of their 4 types of Margaritas, or a glass of homemade sangria. If you can roll yourself off the bar stool after all that, you deserve the strawberry cheesecake for dessert. Drool.
A photo posted by Sundaeee (@sundaev) on
I think I just got the prettiest drink. It was delicious! The mamasita from @bonitabonita2460 it has elderflower, a fancy gin and thyme. #drinks #dinner #bonitabonita2460 #fancy #mamasita #cocktail #goldcoast #yum #instafood #delicious #pretty #mixology #daym A photo posted by tracy4jester (@tracy4jester) on
Also worth checking out:
Cambus Wallace: Quaint whiskey bar with an old-school nautical theme and a new wave approach to bar culture in Nobby’s Beach.
K-Bar & Meze: Mediterranean-inspired dining and cocktail bar with funky tunes and a relaxed, yet up-market, atmosphere. Find them in Mermaid Beach.
Kommune: Channeling the uber trendy vibe of Miami’s beach club culture, Kommune delivers thumping pool-side beats and Mexican eats in the heart of chilled-out Greenmount. Boasting the southern GC’s best bar bible by far, this is THE place to spend a crackin’ Sunday Session with your crew.
Elston: Beachside brews and beats with an impressively chic and extensive menu to satisfy any foodie’s cravings. Bringing sexy back to Surfers Paradise since 2014.
Justin Lane: Popular pizzeria and bar located in chilled-out Burleigh Heads, known for its gourmet pizzas, ingenious cocktails, and hipster following.
Featured image by Personal Creations