The blog and weekly journal of South Australian artist, Elaine Cheng, as she travels through Adelaide, interviewing the local cafes and restaurants. Art, inspirations, and beloved products will be inserted here and there.

Famished Fridays: Bar 9 with Ian Callahan


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.

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  had moved to Melbourne, where he remained until he turned 17. Back in Adelaide, he jumped right into work after finishing high school at Adelaide High.

"I'd always been set on doing something in business," Ian explained 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 as he worked endless shifts at the Pancake Kitchen as a dishwasher, from midnight to 8am, 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 6 month trip in Brazil, inspired by the complexity of coffee.

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

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

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 half way house, 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 has already cultivated a number of people who have went on to open stores like Please Say Please, Coffee Branch, 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.


Recommended Items: Truffle Mushroom Ragu (Ian's favourite), Eggplant Ragu, Ice Filtered Coffee, Barista's Blend Coffee, Chia seed pudding (Ian's favourite)


Bar 9

96 Glen Osmond Rd, Parkside SA 5063

LG15/ 100 Rundle Mall, Adelaide SA 5000

Monday - Friday: 7:30 am - 4:00 pm

Weekends:  8:30 am - 2:00 pm

Credits to Liam Tang for the photos, thankyou!