Good Brother owners Jesper Hauberg and Tim Warwick.
Good Brother owners Jesper Hauberg and Tim Warwick. Photo: Melissa Adams

Catriona Jackson

It has been a great year for the rise of casual, funky eateries that offer good coffee and food at great prices. Most of these know how to make a seriously good brew, cook up a very edible storm, and most importantly, all have personality that grows from the people who run the place. All have upped the ante for the everyday, and provide a stiff dose of competition for the chain coffee houses.

Good Brother
24 Challis Street, Dickson

Squeezed between the TAB and Zeffirelli, Jesper Hauberg’s great little cafe is a breath of fresh air in a precinct that is great for a good value Chinese, but not so for decent coffee and a quick bite. Tiny chocolate and caramel tarts or a well-made macaroon interrupt the smooth brew. If you need something more substantial, treat yourself to a great toasted Reuben, a triumph of corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese.

Mocan & Green Grout co-owner David Alcorn.
Mocan & Green Grout co-owner David Alcorn. Photo: Graham Tidy

Mocan and Green Grout
19 Marcus Clarke Street, New Acton

Open seven days, this newest kid on the block is the real deal, organic fair trade coffee that tastes great and a small menu of delicious dishes made right in front of you on the massive, central bench top. Built into a series of nooks and corners that breaks the place up well, you might sample a clean and delicious trout and poached egg salad, or a great quality ham and cheese toastie. The key here is simplicity, with real skill behind it, and a casual but very welcoming vibe. This place will fast become the place to be for dinner also, opening since November for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

National Library of Australia, Parkes

Owner of Lonsdale Street Roasters Alastair Evans.
Owner of Lonsdale Street Roasters Alastair Evans. Photo: Graham Tidy

The veteran of the bunch, Bookplate gets a mention because it has bucked the trend for bad, boring, overpriced food in national institutions for years now. The lovely staff offer great sandwiches, antipasta and salads, 600ml bowls of coffee and a good daily blackboard menu with soup, perhaps a curry, fish and pasta. With a new, huge balcony overlooking the lake, many meet there for lunch, coffee or anything really, regardless of whether they are going in to consult a tome.  

Lonsdale Street Roasters
3/7 Lonsdale Street, Braddon, 2 locations, either end of street

Hyper-groovy staff who know their stuff, really, really good coffee, and the best Cuban pork and chilli relish toastie going, and you must be at one of the two Roasters outlets that have enlivened this increasingly happening street. Public servants sit alongside arty kids, munching on the Elvis (banana and Nutella toasted), a fresh baked muffin, Danish or any one of a dozen or so great paninis. At peak times there’s a queue – it is always worth the wait.

Owner and head cook at Pizza Gusto Braddon Colin Lagos.
Pizza Gusto Braddon's Colin Lagos. Photo: Melissa Adams

Urban Food
23 Marcus Clarke Street, New Acton

Rapidly becoming the place for brunch, this flash organic cafe and grocery store does a decent job, with a crush of eager customers filling it at all hours. You might slurp on a good fresh combo juice, and take a pie, or pork slider, or hang it, a big breakfast, while compiling the shopping list. Coffee is average to good. For a much cheaper organic experience, head up the road to the ANU Co-op cafe, which serves super-healthy lunches to suit almost any health kick.

23 Lonsdale Street, Braddon, and Red Hill shops

Brodburger owners Sascha Brodbeck and Joelle Bou-Jaoude   at their new cafe at the Canberra Glassworks in Kingston
Brodburger owners Sascha Brodbeck and Joelle Bou-Jaoude. Photo: Richard Briggs

Cooking out of a tiny hole-in-the-wall space, Gusto is living proof that simple is best when it comes to pizza. Thrice-risen dough, 400 degree plus ovens and simple, time-honoured toppings in true Naples style make this Canberra’s best spot for pizza – mostly takeaway, since there’s three tables inside and not many more outside. But with the Bottle-O next door, you might well decide to eat your pizza from the box there and then on a warm summer evening. BYO and hire a glass for $1. Favourites are funghi with truffle salt, and arrabiata, hot with salami and chilli. Capricciosa has the added twist of artichoke, calzones are a smaller option for light eaters.

Canberra Glassworks, 11 Wentworth Avenue

Elevated to new glamorous digs from its famous roadside caravan, Brodburger has stuck with good burgers, made from decent beef, with a choice of blue, brie, Swiss or cheddar and a good gusty relish. Really good fries top off the best fast-food (or semi-fast at least, depending on queues) treat in Canberra. Now featuring a band on occasion, it and the Old Bus Depot markets add some life to the fancy Kingston Foreshore development.