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June 4, 2015

Bar 9 with Elaine Cheng

For this instalment of Famished Fridays, where Elaine Cheng recommends a place for your Friday break, we stop in at Bar 9 and learn that its owner - one of Adelaide's original cafè heroes Ian Callahan - has something new in the works.

  • Words and illustrations: Elaine Cheng
  • Photos: Liam Tang

Coffee enthusiast? Cafe lover? Brunch addict?

Then you know Bar 9. Perhaps you’ve been with them from the very start, squeezing into their little shack on Glen Osmond for a cup of coffee. Or maybe you got addicted to their mouth-watering brunch menu when they moved across the road. Or you stumbled across their little gem in Rundle Mall a few years later down the track.


To see more of Elaine’s illustration and read more of her articles visit her blog – Fill Me In.

Visit bar 9 at either 96 Glen Osmond Rd, Parkside or on LG15/100 Rundle Mall, Adelaide from Monday to Friday between 7:30 am – 4 pm and on weekends from  8:30 am to 2 pm.

We will keep you updated with dates for the opening of the Whitmore Square location as they come to hand.

Whilst at Bar 9 Elaine recommends you try the Truffle Mushroom Ragu (Ian’s favourite), Eggplant Ragu, Ice Filtered Coffee, Barista’s Blend Coffee and Chia seed pudding (another of Ian’s favourites).

Whatever the case, wherever you caught wind of Bar 9, you just couldn’t stay away after your first visit. Now it’s time to meet owner and barista, Ian Callahan, the man behind it all.


Grinding the beans

At only six months of age, Ian and his family  moved from Adelaide to Melbourne, where he remained until he turned 17. Once back in Adelaide, he jumped right into work after finishing high school.

“I’d always been set on doing something in business,” Ian says when we asked if he went on to university or TAFE, “I was always trying to come up with ideas and look for businesses to buy… I almost bought a fruit shop… thank god I pulled out on that decision.”

It started out quite rough for Ian – working endless shifts at the Pancake Kitchen as a dishwasher, from midnight to 8am, but the arduous hours pushed him to get out and look for something new as soon as possible. All this labour and searching went on for five years straight, until he returned from a six month trip in Brazil, inspired by the complexity of coffee.


From there, he started to delve deeper, working as a barista in a franchise, constantly learning and looking for ways to improve. “I started competing as a barista,” says Ian, “I took the title of State Barista Champion in 2008 and went on to become a judge for the Barista Competition. I may have been interested in business, but coffee gave me a passion to work with.”

Setting the bar

“Our first Bar 9 was on Glen Osmond road. Not the location that it’s in right now, but right opposite the current one in a tiny little shed. There was barely any room in there, we had a coffee machine set up on a writing desk serving Grassroots coffee,” Ian smiled as he reminisced, “It was just a place for some coffee nerds… it was just me and a bunch of guys who really loved coffee and wanted a place to hang out and share it with others.”

The first 3-6 months were a struggle, there were no customers. Then, slowly but surely, the media caught wind of their little hideout. “We were the first to serve Single Origin coffee, the first to serve freshly brewed coffee. Business turned around, we had to expand.”

Bar 9 House Muesli: sheeps' milk honeyed yogurt, seasonal fruit & vanilla dressing - $10.00

Bar 9 House Muesli: sheeps’ milk honeyed yogurt, seasonal fruit & vanilla dressing – $10.00

At the mention of the opening of the second store, Ian chuckled, “We bought the space right across the road (the current store on Glen Osmond), and moved everything overnight without any announcement whatsoever. People came the next day, wondered where we went, and turned around and had the biggest shock.”

With a fully equipped kitchen, the team at Bar 9 introduced a brunch menu along with their coffee. Now with a second location in Rundle Mall, their food, developed by their chef and executive manager, Rocky Oliveira, is just as much of a highlight as their coffee.


When we asked Ian whether he had considered moving back to Melbourne to start a business, his response was immediate, “I love Adelaide. I truly believe we have the best and freshest produce in the country. All our regions are so close, our resources are fantastic. All the ingredients we use here are from local businesses, we want to continue supporting their families.”

Raising the bar

With all this ongoing success, Ian is only looking to do more; to give back to the community. Bar 9 is due to open their third location on Whitmore Square in July, but there’s a lot more to it than just another cafe.

“St Vincent de Paul (“Vinnies“) have a space that they use to feed people from their shelter in the evening.  As it is basically a fully fit out restaurant (from some 12 years ago), they approached us about taking over the space and activating it during the day times.”

In addition to this space, Bar 9 is implementing a training program through a support service, which Vinnies manages, just a few doors down from the cafe.

“Through the program we hope to train them up, develop a skill set (in terms of waiting and hospitality skills, coffee making and potentially looking at pastries and bread making etc), and most of all, generating a bit of confidence in them.  Through the program, we’re then hoping to hire key candidates and potentially in the future, even work with them to go on and open their own businesses.”


While this program may be brand new, Bar 9 does have a history of supporting people who go on to open stores like Please Say Please and Exchange Specialty Coffee.

“My greatest joy about working at Bar 9 is watching people go on to do their own thing. We provide them with knowledge and experience, and we get to see them move on to achieve their life’s best work.”

If you don’t want to spend 20 minutes pondering over a menu, Bar 9 is your go-to. Wash it down with a cup of coffee and you’ll be back for more. Super friendly staff, great music, a casual atmosphere, it’s a cafe suitable for any occasion.

Eggplant Ragu: served with spiced yogurt, poached eggs and herbs - $18.00

Eggplant Ragu: served with spiced yogurt, poached eggs and herbs – $18.00

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