Ah pub-club, it's taken us to just about every vaguely veg-friendly pub in the inner-north. We've been particularly thorough with the Fitzroy pub scene, so I was quite surprised to look at our pub-club map and realise that we'd never checked out the Rainbow. It's been a Fitzroy mainstay since the 1870s and survived a tumultuous period of closures and threatened development before eventually being taken over by the guys who used to run the nearby Lambs Go Bar.
Since early 2010, they've renovated it significantly and seem to have got things running pretty smoothly - there's live music some nights, a glorious courtyard, and a relaxed atmosphere (although the all-reggae playlist on the night we were there was a bit odd). The menu is built around standard pubby fare like steaks and burgers but has a pretty reasonable selection of vego dishes as well. We passed up the sweet corn croquettes ($10), the vegan black bean jambalaya ($21) and the roast pumpkin salad ($17) and both chose burgers. The Rainbow take the excellent approach of offering all three of their burgers as either meaty or vego. The veg burger is pretty simple - just a big roasted field mushroom - but it's great to be able to pick and choose a bit.
I couldn't resist the hot rod (with jalapenos, Monterey Jack cheese, pickled green tomato, lettuce and chipotle aioli, $17), while Cindy went for the Southern burger (Monterey Jack cheese, pickled green tomato and lettuce with a Jack Daniels bbq sauce, $17). The original Southern burger has double-smoked bacon as well, and I was imagining a wonderful world in which they replaced it with tempehcon or something, but that was never going to happen.
The burgers were solid - the mushrooms were cooked well enough so that they didn't just turn into a soggy mess and the trimmings were excellent. Mine was loaded up with jalapenos which gave it a spicy kick, but the aioli and cheese helped to keep things under control and the use of pickled green tomato rather than big gross slices of actual tomato was a winning move. Cindy was pretty happy as well, mainly because of the excellent barbecue sauce and fantastic chips. They're pretty pricey, but we both walked out nice and full and happy with the experience. Our pub-clubbing buddies all enjoyed their food as well, although the jambalaya was a little chilli-heavy.
The Rainbow is another great Fitzroy pub, with a brilliant selection of beers, an excellent menu and plenty of space to spread out in (at least early on a Wednesday evening). It'll almost certainly earn itself a repeat pub-club visit before too many months go by (especially if Melbourne ever actually gets warm enough for us to sit outside in the courtyard).
There are surprisingly few reviews of The Rainbow out there. Brian enjoyed the old incarnation, the PubStars peeps give it 4/5 and Joanna at Green Gourmet Giraffe mentioned her enthusiasm in passing.
The Rainbow Hotel
27 St David Street, Fitzroy
veg entrees ~$10, mains $17-$2http://www.therainbow.com.au/
Accessibility: The beer garden has a flat entryway from the street and on into the pub (I think). Meanwhile, while there's a very small step up from the street into the pub itself. Things are pretty spacious inside, with a mix of high and low tables, although the toilets are a bit more poky. Ordering and payment takes place at the bar.