Thursday, 21 April 2016

Marrickville Cafe Power Rankings

(or: How I Learned All Online Food Lists Are Awful and Made My Own Better Version)

I lived in Marrickville. I now live in Tempe. This means I still spend a lot of time in Marrickville, because the only things in Tempe are an obscure Scandinavian furniture shop, an iconic pie stand outpost, and some serious aircraft noise.

Now there are lots of lists of things to eat in Marrickville, or the wider area known as the Inner West, that can be easily found via your preferred search engine.

But in my experience those lists are all terrible.

An example is one I recently read called the Ten Best Breakfasts in Marrickville. I'm not linking it, and I'll save you the search and deny them a hit by summarising it here.

That top ten list included:
    • A bakery that is an outpost from the acclaimed original in Surry Hills. Which is fine, except you know the author has probably just been the other one and recycled it for this list.
    • An organic market, open only on Sunday. Not a problem if you don't ever eat breakfast the other six days in the week.
    • A place that sells amazing Vietnamese pork rolls but I wouldn't really call it breakfast food. Although I guess they open at 8am.
    • A cafe that is actually in Petersham. A ridiculous inclusion based upon the geographic criteria in the list title.
    • Best of all, a place that doesn't even serve food. I consider food to be a rather important component of breakfast.
So literally half the list is rubbish.

The other half are cafes that have been written about and reviewed dozens of times elsewhere. You could have written the list without ever having stepped foot in Marrickville, just from online sources. There isn't an original, useful opinion in the entire piece.

I haven't selected an outlier article either.

Every Sydney food article on the Internet could easily have been written by the one person. And that one person definitely lives in Bondi, which explains why the vast area from Newtown to Penrith is all considered "west" in all these publications.

This is why I developed a better list. One you can trust. Here it is:


The following cafes are unreviewed:
    • I'm probably the only person in the entire Inner West that hasn't been to West Juliett. It's on approximately 739325783216 food lists online and doesn't need my patronage anyway.
    • I tried to go to Two Chaps recently, but it turned out to be closed on Monday's. It also has a vegetarian menu. I order vegetarian dishes for breakfast at cafes all the time, but I'm hesitant to commit to a menu without meat options for some reason. But I will still get there eventually.
    • I only heard about Du Liban a few months ago. It's very well hidden in the industrial part of Marrickville and seems to have a very interesting fusion of French patisserie and Lebanese inspired breakfast. The other week it made it into Broadsheet, so I expect it's now rather busy.
I've been everywhere else in Marrickville.

Top Ten Marrickville Cafe Power Rankings

10. Post
The only decent cafe around the open paved area near the Post Office, except for when it's destroyed by fire, which has happened twice in the last few years. It is not trendy - I don't really know if the bacon enjoyed a nice stress-free life before it's sudden brutal end, or if the produce is seasonal and organic from a local farm run by unwashed level-five vegans. The food is solid if you just want something you could've ordered from a cafe 15 years ago. And sometimes, there's nothing wrong with that.

9. Paesenalla Caffe Emporium
I've only ever been for lunch, where they do a pretty good - and pretty good value - Italian menu. I'd much rather go here than, say, Bar Italia in Leichhardt. The highlight though is heading upstairs to the shop, where you can buy ricotta so fresh that it's still warm.

8. 2204
If you go to the Marrickville Organic Food Markets, don't eat breakfast from some stall. Instead walk down the road to this venue. 

7. Wicks Park/Double Roasters
They seem to have two names. I really like the food and coffee, but in the early days the service was pretty ordinary. I got the sense the staff and the venue at large was more interested in looking good than actually being good. It was the superficial cool that gets you thousands of positive online write-ups. Fortunately my more recent visits have been better on the service front.

6. Kelby's
When I lived in Marrickville, this was the most local of my locals. I used to order takeaway bacon and egg rolls and coffee there often, for the convenience, but we also frequently opted to dine-in as well, choosing its worn and unfashionable appearance over more trendy breakfast options. That's not to say it's an ugly place to eat, it's actually cool with locally produced art on the wall (and for sale), but it's more grungy than polished. They do decent poached eggs, and they have an Egyptian option where the eggs come with dukkah, hommus and sweet potato I rate highly. I would prefer they had better coffee beans though.

5. Petty Cash
It's located in a part of Marrickville that's inconvenient for me, so I've only been twice. But it's a cool little place that does the classic grungy inner west style of mismatched retro furniture, plates etc. without appearing inauthentic. It also delivers with really good food and coffee at good prices with great service. Cakes and other sweet stuff are baked on site. It was also the first place where my twins sat in high chairs and ordered off the menu (toast with jam).

4. Illi Hill
When I lived nearby, this was a deli called Con and Mary's. Now it's a cool little cafe that made the best omelette I've ever had. It's just hard to get to if you're not in walking range - parking is a challenge, as is the pull of The Henson across the road.

3. Forage
It doesn't get any writeups but it's solid for breakfast, and they make their own cakes too. But the best time to go is weekend lunch or dinner, where they have a tapas-inspired menu with some great dishes. It's probably the best non-Vietnamese dinner option in Marrickville.

2. Cornersmith
Nobody does the whole local and fresh produce approach better than Cornersmith. The menu has a few things but just get the poached eggs with one of four options - pasture raised ham, or three different salads that can comprise vegetables pickled on site (or up the road), as well as herbs and vegetables donated from local residents gardens. They also have bees on the roof producing local honey. Coffee is great. Would probably be rated first, except now that I'm a family man I've realised it's painfully pram unfriendly - small, cramped, and on weekends you have to be prepared to wait for a table.

1. Roastville
This place is quite new, so perhaps there is a novelty factor where I'm overrating it, but for me it ticks all the boxes. Great food at breakfast - they do poached eggs with fried chicken, or 63 degree green eggs if you're more health conscious, and both are excellent. Good lunch menu too. Great coffee. Friendly staff. Space if you need high chairs. What appears to be an extremely expensive wheelchair access lift for prams (and I guess wheelchairs too). And as someone now coming from outside Marrickville, it's pretty easy to find a park. What more could you want?

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