It really wasn't all that long ago that Collingwood was relatively gastronomically desolate, save for a handful of Vietnamese noodle joints, some old-school pasta places and a window full of three-buck spanakopita. The influx of impressive new eateries has been nothing short of staggering for the suburb that was known more for Chopper Read than pulled pork.
Gathering a comprehensive snapshot of Collingwood's current food scene is like herding cats while rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic – every second empty store seems to be papered with “coming soon” signs advertising craft beer bars - but here's an overview of just some of what you can expect if you find yourself hungry in Collingwood.
Start your day the Collingwood way
Eat Street: Collingwood's Smith St and surrounds
Lee Ho Fook serves up hip Chinese food. Photo: Paul Jeffers
If you're in Collingwood at sun up, you've got some excellent options for breakfast. Look for the yellow neon of Lemon, Middle and Orange, hidden in the industrial backstreets. With a contrasting polish to its lo-fi surrounds, this cafe serves brilliant brekkies like a corned beef hash with kohlrabi sauerkraut and piccalilli puree. Proud Mary continues to brew strikingly good coffee and serve equally excellent breakfasts like roasted mushrooms with chipotle butter. Cibi, half woodsy cafe, half Japanese ceramics and giftware store, offers Japanese breakfasts with grilled salmon, omelette, rice and miso on the weekends.
Lemon, Middle and Orange, 25-31 Rokeby Street, 9415 1593
Proud Mary, 172 Oxford Street, 9417 5930
Cibi, 45 Keele Street, 9077 3941
Afternoon tea – or coffee
Sweet treat: Tomboy's chocolate raspberry brownie. Photo: Melanie Faith Dove
If it's time to stop for a cuppa, step into the calming Storm in a Teacup where the lovely staff will prescribe your perfect pot of tea. If you need more caffeine, the small, split-level Everyday Coffee roasts their own sensational java. They also serve refreshing “frizzantes” (sodas) using Six Barrel Soda Co. flavours like cherry and pomegranate; and sweet treats from up-and-coming bakers like Handsome Dan and Bakewell & Co.
Storm in a Teacup, 48 Smith Street, 9415 9593
Everyday Coffee, 33 Johnston St, 9973 4159
Japantown: Wabi Sabi Salon is one of many Japanese venues along the strip. Photo: Rodger Cummins
Smith Street could well be Melbourne's answer to San Francisco's Japantown. It may not be blaring it in neon but stroll Smith Street and take your pick of an abundance of Japanese restaurants. Peko Peko, Hanabi, Shoubu, Pabu, Tokushima, Cocoro, Wabi Sabi, Wood Spoon Kitchen – the list goes on. Akasiro is small, traditional, Tonkatsu-mad and a major bargain, but Japanophiles can also stock up on take-home groceries at the gleaming Hinoki Japanese Pantry.
Hanabi Sushi, 331 Smith Street, 9417 6887
Shoubu 270 Smith Street, 9417 1882
Pabu Grill & Sake 190 Smith Street, 9419 6141
Tokushima 70 Smith Street, 9486 9933
Cocoro 117 Smith Street, 9419 5216
Wabi Sabi 94 Smith Street, 9417 6119
Wood Spoon Kitchen 88 Smith Street, 9416 0588
Akasiro, 106 Cambridge Street, 9417 0886
Hinoki Japanese Pantry, 279 Smith Street, 9417 4531
Vegans and vegetarians are well catered for in Collingwood. Grumpy's Green is an eco-friendly hangout with a locally sourced, vegetarian menu (there are many vegan dishes and a couple of sustainable meat dishes like roo too) while Las Vegan Bakery makes ace vegan cakes and kooky vegan versions of fish and chips or a good ol' schnitzel. If you want to stock up the cupboard, hit Friends of the Earth for bulk health foods and a simple organic lunch, or cross the street to Organic Wholefoods and the adjoining Soulfood Bar and Cafe.
Grumpy's Green, 125 Smith Street, 9416 1944
Las Vegan Bakery, 22 Smith Street, 9415 9001
Friends of the Earth, 312 Smith Street, 9419 8700
Organic Wholefoods, 277 Smith Street, 9419 5347
Soulfood Cafe, 273 Smith Street, 9419 2949
Smith Street sweeties
Sydney's famous Gelato Messina landed to a frenzy on Smith Street in November and now it's a ubiquitous sight to see people wandering with one of those distinctive persimmon and pistachio-mosaiced paper cups full of gelati in flavours like pink grapefruit and Aperol. Chocolate lovers will want to settle in at Monsieur Truffe for a tasting flight of hot chocolate and a bean-to-bar trio of chocolates to take home, while those in the market for a knockout brownie can head to Tomboy for an oozey brick studded with raspberries or nubs of Summer Roll. For something more epic, Cafe Rosamond's dessert evenings are like sugar-spun art exhibitions courtesy of Pierre Roelofs every Thursday.
Gelato Messina, 237 Smith Street, 1800 435 286
Monsieur Truffe, 90 Smith Street, 9416 3101
Tomboy, 356 Smith Street, 9486 0162
Cafe Rosamond, rear 191A Smith Street (corner Charles Street), 9419 2270
There's no shortage of stellar places to eat in Collingwood, with many lauded restaurants peppering Smith Street. Huxtable continues to knock it out of the park with its simple bites and share plates (haloumi with pickled peaches – oh yeah). New kid Saint Crispin is making waves with its contemporary and locally sourced dishes, while the highly anticipated Lee Ho Fook is coming to the party with stylish Chinese dishes like saltwater duck and milk buns with candied pork. Smith St Alimentari is deliciously casual with a range of provisions to take home and gorgeous deli meals - maybe some white anchovies and a broccoli salad - to cherry-pick from. Try Hell of the North's restrained menu with a nod to the French, or Easy Tiger's snappy, hatted Thai food in a pared back, Scandi setting.
Huxtable, 131 Smith Street, 9419 5101
Saint Crispin, 300 Smith Street, 9419 2202
Lee Ho Fook, 92 Smith Street, 9077 6261
Smith St Alimentari, 302 Smith Street, 9416 1666
Hell of the North, 135 Greeves Street, 9417 6660
Easy Tiger, 96 Smith Street, 9417 2373
Lunch specials abound on Smith – grab a curry on rice at Yim Yam Thai for $7.50, or a cheap and cheeky eat from Huxtaburger. A brisket and kimchi bun from Shop Ramen will set you back a whole $4, or you could get a fried green tomato po' boy from Po'Boy Quarter for under a tenner. Jimmy Grants does a souva stuffed with lamb and chips for eight measly bucks, but if you prefer to save your chump change for champagne, accompany it with $1 oysters at Panama Dining Room between 6-7pm.
Yim Yam, 76 Smith Street, 9419 3985
Huxtaburger, 106 Smith Street, 9417 6328
Shop Ramen, 329 Smith Street, (no phone)
Po'Boy Quarter, 295 Smith Street, 9419 2130
Jimmy Grants, 113 Saint David Street, (no phone)
Panama Dining Room, Level 3/231 Smith Street, 9417 7663