Look, don’t hate me, but there’s only so many edible flowers and hand-cultivated microherbs that I need in my life. Sometimes, and by ‘sometimes’ I mean ‘when I’m hungover and can’t face queues of impeccably dressed couples giving me single-girl bed-hair judgey-judge eyes,’ all I want is a good old-fashioned cafe that serves a strong cappuccino and a bacon and egg roll as big as my head—one that comes CONstructed, ready for the eating.
So, without further ado, here’s 12 no-frills cafes that ditch the frilly foams, deconstructed disasterpieces and ingredients you can’t even pronounce, let alone recognise, in favour of smiley staff and hearty feeds. Go forth and conquer!
If the line for Industry Beans is impossibly long (which is any time after 9am at the weekends… earlybirds, I hate you), your next best bet is Grace cafe. Situated a stone’s throw from Rose Street Artists’ Market in a converted town house with a shipping container in its yard, this gem of a cafe serves some incredible baked eggs, vegan and gluten free cakes, and a tuna, pickle and cheddar melt that is the thing of dreams. Spend your next no-frills hangout here, folks.
The Left-Handed Chef
South Melbourne cafe The Left-Handed Chef serves traditional cafe fare in a quaint corner venue and, while the standard dishes are always a treat (yes, they still do the breakfast parmy), it’s the specials that make the most of the neighbouring South Melbourne Market produce that are well and truly worth the gamble every time. Two words: BACON WAFFLES... Oh, and they serve a cinnamon waffle doughnut too. Sorted.
Yes, it’s a cafe at a tram stop. No, you don’t need to swipe on to get in. Yes, the steak sanga is worth it every time. While Mart130 has a dine-in space, it takes the biscuit when it comes to to-go no frills food. Simply jump off the tram, pick up an iced coffee and egg and bacon roll to go, and jump right back on the next one.
With a relaxed vibe that’s more about kicking back and enjoying the good times than getting snooty about the calibre of your cronut and your choice of single origin cold drip, Treehouse Lounge is a fantastic hangout, especially if you’ve got a group of mates in tow. It’s also our pick of the no-frills cafes for an all-day session, mostly thanks to their Sunday sessions and killer cocktails. A scotch egg with an espresso martini on the side? Take my money AND my sobriety, Treehouse.
The Breakfast Club
Keeping it simple and pocket-friendly, The Breakfast Club is a roadside pit-stop that’s been on my radar for a year or so. With hearty servings of avo and feta on toast, epic vego and meat-lovers’ sandwiches, and a strong long black, it’s perfect for dropping into on your way back from the inevitable Thornbury house party that ends at 8am.
Sugardough is somewhat of a mystery: This petite East Brunny cafe has a cute courtyard, a mouth-watering selection of freshly baked croissants, and serves a breakfast pie with AN ENTIRE EGG baked into the crust, and yet is still free from lines out the door every weekend. Go at your most hungry because there’s no way you’re breakfasting without following up your savouries with an epic pain au chocolat.
Wolf And Hound
Flemington’s Wolf and Hound cafe seriously does not lie: I haven’t been here without seeing at least three dogs of varying degrees of friendliness. The cafe itself serves cookie sandwiches, crumpets, coffee, the odd cheeseboard and olives combo, and toasties that come with a side of pretzels. Dogs + pretzels = happiness.
Southern friend mushroom burgers, croque monsieurs and freshly made salads are only three of the drool-worthy finds served at Bluebird Espresso, where the vibe is low-key and laid-back. Complete with a private back yard and a drinks menu that includes Berocca, the tiny cafe provides the perfect respite from Smith Street’s queues and ridiculously oversized designer sunglasses.
Truth be told, if you blinked you could miss this beauty. Piccolo’s tiny corner premises is deceptive, just peek inside and you’ll find delicious sandwiches, juices, seasonal hot dishes and heaps of pastries ready for the eating. There’s also a hidden room tucked behind the main space, with streetside seating for those who can stand the Toorak tractor polluted air of Prahran’s High Street thoroughfare. The coffee is damn good though…
Fandango is all about epic Supreme coffee, pancake stacks that include more than one pancake (ain’t no amount of edible flowers can excuse that, all you hoity-toity brunch hawkers!), and pizza jaffles. When Auction Rooms is looking more like a J. Crew catalog shoot than you can handle, hotfoot it over here and fix yourself up with all the caffeine and carbs you can dream of.
A Minor Place
While this might look like a Brunswick art squat that’s decided to DIY its own breakfast for floor-dwelling waifs and strays, A Minor Place is in fact a fully functioning legitimate business. The all killer no filler bagels are what makes this place such a fantastic find, and it’s virtually the only place in the three thousands that I’ve been able to enjoy a coffee and a cigarette outside without someone giving me the side-eye because I’m giving their miniature dachshund an asthma attack.*
Friends Of Ours
The Ascot Vale-Moonee Ponds-Essendon triad has become quite a hub of foodie action lately, what with injectable doughnuts and freakshakes cropping up all over the place. If you're entirely baffled by the 'is it a drink, or is it a dessert' conundrum, you'll love homely cafe Friends Of Ours, who serve some of the most epic breakfast and lunch plates in Melbourne. We're talking pulled pork eggs Hollandaise, brekky plates that will have you rolling out the door, and pancake stacks that will have you drooling for days. Feeling a little blue? Ask one of their baristas to whip up some latte art in your cuppa. Because a bear or puppy smiling back at me from my cappuccino is exactly the kind of frill I can justify.
*The Urban List in no way condones smoking, animal cruelty or hating people for their choice of pet.
Want more no frills dining options in Melbourne? Check out 50 of the best cheap eats for under $15!
Image Credit: Treehouse Lounge by Jenna Fahey-White for The Urban List