Power Duo: Chau Tran & Bryce McDonough of Burrow Bar are all about bringing the industry together

Interview by Elijah Attard. Chef and host of the Roots Hospitality podcast. @roots_hospitality

Photography by Millie Tang

Burrow Bar has held its own for a long time now. Not only popular with the locals but industry people too, including myself. During COVID, they had to move out of their original location to new digs in the basement at 96 Clarence Street. While not what they planned, it also gave them the opportunity to open a restaurant upstairs – Cash Only Diner – which showcases the traditional Vietnamese food from Chau’s family kitchen.

Chau and Bryce are industry leaders who push to create a collective community, but have your back during the process. I’d easily vouch to say they’ve become an important staple to help get bars where they are today.

Your recent 7th birthday at Burrow Bar was a lot of fun. I’m curious, did you ever expect you’d be where you are today hosting a birthday bash with your community of friends?


B: We started Burrow together with a simple mindset of wanting to create a fun place for people to have a good time. We’ve only ever focused on giving each guest the same amazing feeling you get when you go out. But with that said, we never planned on moving up and out of our old venue, but it turned out for the better because now we have two amazing venues that work seamlessly to create an experience we never even thought possible.

C: You might think this was planned all along, but it was a series of coincidences that led to this incredible space. Once we opened Cash Only Diner above Burrow Bar in the new location, it all just made a lot of sense. And celebrating at Burrow that night was so fun.

Since opening, you’ve both positively impacted the community around you. So much so that when I was recently in Krakow, Poland, I visited a speakeasy bar called William Rabbit & Co. When I got chatting with the owner/operator Andrzej Rachwalski, and told him I was from Sydney, he laughed. He looked at me and said ‘You know Burrow Bar?’ I said ‘Yeah of course!’ He nodded and said ‘It was this bar that inspired me to do something similar here in Poland. I took that idea of an exciting adventure and made it my own by sharing Polish history through cocktails.’ How does that feel to know you’re inspiring people on the other side of the world?

C: Oh my god! Honestly, I’ve never had that before. That’s really beautiful to hear. When Bryce and I opened Burrow Bar, we did it very independently. Almost to our detriment. So to hear that through this up-and-down process, people have left our venue and been inspired enough to recreate it in their own way, is really cool.

B: When we looked up Andrzej on social media, we were amazed to see what a little bit of inspiration from us can do on the other side of the world. In the hustle and bustle everyday work, we forget the impacts we can have on others. You make me want to go to Poland really badly now!

“We started Burrow together with a simple mindset of wanting to create a fun place for people to have a good time. We’ve only ever focused on giving each guest the same amazing feeling you get when you go out.” – Bryce

I’d love to chat about your involvement with YCK Laneways. This is an incredible initiative to promote more community events that get people out to support their local businesses. Chau, you’re on the board for that right? How have you incorporated Burrow Bar to help give back?

C: Being on the board has put me in a place where I can be a mentor for anyone starting out in this area. With that, we’ve used Burrow Bar as the framework from which other businesses can model their own venues. If they have questions or queries about any step of the process, then we’re happy to help. From there, YCK Laneways have become the promotional tool to highlight all of these businesses, both small and well-established, to help attract any attention they need.

B: Plus any reason for more people to have fun in the area, is a good reason to us right!?

Coming into the new season, how do you draw inspiration for developing new cocktails?

B: If I’m being honest, I’m really proud of our cocktail program. We change it seasonally like most cocktail bars, but what we do to keep it fun, is in the process. Every bartender gets the chance to submit three cocktails, one is a lucky draw out of a bowl in which random pieces of paper have a base spirit and glassware they wouldn’t think of, the second cocktail is a free-for-all to let their creativity spark, and the third cocktail is a classic (which has to be 21 years or older to be included) that they’d like on the menu.

C: Not every cocktail they submit goes on, but it offers the chance for even the young and inexperienced bartenders to have a go and get some tutelage as they get better. It’s important to give everyone a voice because they all have their own experiences and ideas that you may not have even considered before.

It’s a new year with exciting projects, what have you both got in store either for Burrow Bar or yourselves?

C: August is a big one for us. We’ve partnered with Trailer Happiness who are celebrating their 20th anniversary, which will be amazing. And off the back of my last South East Asian tour, I think Bryce and I would love to get out there and share more of our passion for what we do through seminars or workshops.

B: We de?nitely have a kitchen takeover at Cash Only coming up, as well as a few other pop-ups planned, but nothing set in stone! The idea of travelling to impart our knowledge would also be amazing. If Andrzej from Poland got inspired, then who knows who else could be next!