My Top 5 Non-Pretentious Melbourne Cafes

cafe christina canters

You don’t need to be a cafe whore to know that Melbourne is choc-a-block with places to get a decent coffee.

It’s one thing I missed when I was in the USA – oh how I longed for strong, rich coffees in little cups, instead of the smoothie-sized lattes made with too much froth and not enough love.

So I’ve been relishing in Melbourne’s cafes since settling back – and using them as my office away from home.

Here is a quick run down of my favourite cafes in Melbourne. To make my all-star list, they needed to meet most of the following requirements:

  • Must have good coffee (obviously)
  • Must be reasonably priced – none of this “extra egg is $3” bullshit
  • Must have friendly staff who don’t boot you out after 30 minutes or wrinkle their nose if you ask for a skinny or soy (here’s looking at you, Market Lane)
  • Preferably have big tables and free wifi for getting shit done

Of course, there are plenty of cafes I haven’t tried, but these are the ones I keep going back to, because I know they’re good.

1. The Green Refectory, Brunswick

My favourite cafe of all time. Hands down. Every time I go to Brunswick I duck into this place either for a spinach and kumera frittata, a pot of fresh lemongrass (yes, FRESH) tea, or if I’m feeling naughty, an apple, rhubarb and cinnamon muffin. Everything here is home made with oodles of love, they haven’t increased their prices since 1999, and everything is damn delicious.

Other must-eats include: the breakfast stack, any salad combo, the $2 spinach and ricotta triangles…ok, basically anything they have. Do yourself a favour and go.

Because it is that good, it gets very busy and seating can be cramped, so it’s best to come during non peak times – and grab a table away from the ordering counter.

The Green Refectory
115 Sydney Road, Brunswick

2. Common Ground, West Melbourne

This place is right near the Queen Vic Market, so is great for a post-shopping brunch.

It has great food and a plethora of seating options – outside, inside at the communal table strewn with cute vintage books, or at the long bench facing out to the street. They do a great range of teas and have a free apple basket (random!).

I’ve been eating the vegetable frittata with one of their delicious side salads. Staff are really friendly and helpful. Oh, and they also have wifi.

Common Ground
225-229 Victoria Street, West Melbourne

3. The Joinery, Elwood

Since I moved south of the river, The Joinery has become my new local (and second office). I’m in here most mornings doing my creative work.

There are (literally) 20 other cafes within a 500m radius in this part of Elwood, but I keep coming back to the Joinery. The place has a great buzz, there’s plenty of natural light, it’s not loud or echoey and the tables aren’t cramped — so it’s a great place to get work done. And the staff are super friendly.

Oh, and they have excellent wifi. I’m still waiting for them to kick me out for sitting too long on one cup of coffee, but it hasn’t happened yet…

The food isn’t cheap, but it’s well made and they offer a bunch of interesting stuff outside the usual eggs-on-toast-with-sides fare.

I should also mention they are open from 7am until late 7 days a week. Yes, at night it turns into a wine bar and dinner joint. But what excites me the most is that you can get a tea or coffee and chill out in the late afternoon. Most cafes close at 3pm or 4pm, which sucks if you need a place to hang out but don’t want to get boozy.

The Joinery
5 Ormond Road, Elwood

4. Kinfolk Cafe, Melbourne CBD

This is where you can get one of the best coffees in Melbourne, in my humble opinion. And it’s consistently good too.

You’ll see a lot of people in here for meetings, as well as entrepreneurial peeps from Hub Melbourne (my co-work space) upstairs.

It can get quite noisy and some of the tables are a bit cramped, but if you enjoy hustle and bustle you’ll be ok. If you don’t, bring a keep cup and get 20c off your takeaway coffee 🙂

I also love Kinfolk because it’s volunteer run and all their proceeds go to charity. Which means you feel good while spending all your money on breakfast!

673 Bourke Street, Melbourne

5. Miss Jackson, St Kilda

This became my temporary second office when I was house sitting in St Kilda earlier this year.

What stood out for me was the lovely staff. One barista in particular was the happiest, chirpiest person I think I’ve ever met. She would always beam at me with a genuine “Good morning!” even though it was cold and rainy outside.

I mentioned this to her once and she said “Well, you make your own happiness, right? You may as well live your life choosing to be positive!” I think if more of us adopted her attitude, the world would be a much happier place 🙂

Coffees are great; I never ate here but the food I saw looked incredible. They also have an open fireplace which was amazing during that frightful cold snap we had in June.

Miss Jackson
2/19 Grey Street, St Kilda 

Honourable mentions:

The Servery, West Melbourne

The favourite post-workout breakfast place for the hardworking members of Crossfit-U. If you like your coffee strong and tasty, ask for a Magic. Food highlights include the baked eggs and corn fritters with poached eggs and halloumi.

The Servery
48 Rosslyn Street, West Melbourne

Good Ovening, Melbourne CBD

Have you heard of Chicken Steak? I hadn’t. But I was walking past this cute Korean fusion cafe/restaurant and was intrigued. It’s a chicken thigh fillet, spread out and cooked in the oven (hence “Ovening”) with one of a selection of sauces. Served with salad, it’s one of the healthiest and best value meals I’ve found in a while.

They are also open until 11pm Monday-Saturday, so it’s perfect for post-lunch and pre-drink coffee catchups!

Good Ovening
200 Queen Street, Melbourne CBD 

Code Black Cafe

I used to come here every Wednesday morning to meet with my business owner gal pals. The space is big and roomy with outdoor seating, free wifi and great coffee. While their food is expensive, the serving sizes are generous, beautifully presented and delicious. It’s also quite dark, which you may or may not like. Personally, I like a bit more natural light.

Code Black
15-17 Weston Street, Brunswick