The Rise of the Aussie Cafe
As life in NYC starts to get back to the new normal, we turn our attention to the Aussie cafes that first turned the city’s coffee culture on its head and are now flexing their foodie muscles. Meet the collective of laid-back all-day eateries serving delicious, health-conscious fare inspired by their beloved beachside favorites from back home. Here, we roundup five downtown spots currently open for to-go and delivery while we await Phase 2 opening and with it, the option for outdoor dining.
Adjusted Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 9am to 3pm
A slice of Australiana: Two Hands, which opened its first outpost on Mott Street in 2014, gets its name from the 1999 Aussie Indie drama starring Heath Ledger. Owners Giles Russell and Henry Roberts conceived the idea when they arrived in Manhattan from Sydney seven years ago to discover the SoHo/Nolita hospitality scene was missing a casual, welcoming space where the coffee was amazing and the food was equally casual. It worked, quickly becoming an instant hangout for the community prompting the opening of Two Hands TriBeCa in 2016, followed by Noho and Williamsburg outposts.
The [laid-back] vibe: Inspired by the coastal lifestyle and environment of their native Australia, Two Hands’ are bright and beachy with lots of natural light, raw finishes, beach-inspired artworks and more than your fair share of Aussie accents. On ya, mate.
The fare: Simple, colorful and super fresh. Popular menu items are the eggs (Aussie’s do good eggs) and the nutritious bowls like the ‘Pulled Chicken’ with crunchy turmeric pickled jicama, and the ‘Salmon Quinoa ‘ with miso mushrooms, golden beets and turmeric quinoa.
The sweet spot: The combination of great food, great coffee and good old-fashioned friendly hospitality (something the Aussie’s have in spades) in a relaxed space is why Australian cafes are thriving here, say the duo behind Two Hands.
Adjusted Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 9am to 4pm
A slice of Australiana: Aussies Josh Evans and Nick Duckworth met in Manhattan a few years ago while working with like-minded Australians out to master the art of serving fresh food the way it’s done back home. Thus Banter, a hybrid all-day eatery-come-restaurant (with two downtown locations) was born, which as its name suggests is the place you go to relax over great coffee and a good chin-wag (that’s Aussie for shooting the breeze) with your mate while enjoying a meal so fresh and simple you’d swear it was home-cooked.
The [laid-back] vibe: The space is light and airy with white-washed brick to evoke the local cafes back home. Banter has a large communal table, booth seating (outdoor dining is set to come), and an impressive collection of abstract, geometrical, and pastel artworks by John Grillo, Jessica Poundstone, and Anna Roberts.
The fare: The mission for executive chef Jake Hawkins is to bring fine dining to a cafe environment to make Banter an easygoing neighborhood favorite with food that’s delicious yet unpretentious. The menu focus is on nourishing colorful ingredients, bowls, and artisanal toasts and new additions include ‘Spicy Caesar Salad’ with radicchio, kale, oregano, pecorino, breadcrumbs, spicy dressing, ‘Ham and Cheese Toastie’ (an Aussie staple) with ham off the bone, mozzarella, cheddar, tomato, mustard, mayo and sourdough and the ‘Veggie Sandwich’ (or sambo as they are affectionately known) with halloumi, charred broccolini, spicy mayo, caramelized onion, lemon, and mint.
The sweet spot: When creating new dishes, Hawkens passes it through the mom test, asking himself whether or not his mother would like it when she comes over to visit. Banter also collaborates with Café Integral, Nicaraguan coffee roasted in NYC.
Adjusted Hours: Thursday through Sunday, 12pm to 8pm
A slice of Australiana: Sonnyboy is a new LES offshoot of Banter, founded along with Evans and Duckworth by mixologist Stefano D’Orsogna who helped conceptualize Sonnyboy—named after the popular ice block of Aussie childhood summer dreams. It is, however, the espresso martini not the ice block you’ll remember when you check out this all day neighborhood hang on Rivington Street that feels so homey you’ll want to head there for your morning espresso followed by a glass of wine after a long day.
The [laid-back] vibe: Warm, cozy, and modern. The owners want guests to feel like they are being hosted by friends in the living room of their house. Bringing the contemporary touches is the 20-foot speckled stone bar, fully mirrored ceiling and artworks by Stephen Baker and Luisa Salas.
The fare: Fresh, seasonal Australian cuisine. Which is to say, many dishes are influenced by the multicultural nature of Australia, predominantly Italian, Greek, Spanish, and Asian. The most popular brekkie or brunch option is the ‘Harissa Folded Eggs,’ scrambled and spiced with harissa (a popular Middle Eastern spice) and served with Brussel sprouts, mushrooms, fresh parsley, and Thai basil. For dinner, it’s a toss-up between ‘Beef Tartare’ with fresh lemon zest, horseradish, parsley and shaved cashews on top. Or the ‘Baked Halloumi,’ the Cyprus cheese comes with grilled peaches, breadcrumbs, fennel seed, and a touch of honey.
The sweet spot: The decor feels a bit Paris-by-the-sea-meets-old-school-diner with a distinctly Aussie attitude.
Adjusted hours: Every day from 9am to 9pm
A slice of Australiana: Ruby’s is the original Aussie cafe-slash-restaurant in New York. First opened on Mulberry Street in 2003 (there’s now four locations), Ruby’s quickly garnered a reputation for bringing fresh Aussie-inspired fare—vegemite on toast, banana bread and burgers with beets and pineapple (the down under way) and some of the best coffee and cocktails—to the city.
The [laid-back] vibe: Inviting and cozy with white wood-paneled walls, natural wood tables, hanging plants, and drop lights.
The fare: More relaxed restaurant than casual cafe, Ruby’s does breakfast, lunch and dinner making it near impossible to decide whether to go early for the egg sanga (translation: sandwich); a lunchtime Bronte or Whaleys burger (both named after iconic beach suburbs in Sydney; the latter includes beetroot and pineapple), the prawn pasta or crab linguine washed down with a glass of Savvy B (translation: Sauvignon Blanc) for dinner.
The sweet spot: The menu is extensive and ranges from ultra-healthy bowls to hearty burgers and a delectable selection of seafood pasta.
Adjusted Hours: Every day from 9am to 4pm; happy hour every day at 2pm
A slice of Australiana: “Yeah, good thanks,” is the popular Aussie response to everything from “how was your day?” to “how was your food?” The latest NYC Aussie hotspot to hit Orchard Street on the LES takes its name from this vernacular, which perfectly sums up the positive spirit of the culture and cuisine. Owners Tim Cottle and Will Reese have over a decade of experience managing and owning cafes in Manhattan and Sydney.
The [laid-back] vibe: Intimate, casual, light-filled and beach-inspired with a touch of quintessential New York exposed brick, white-washed walls, ocean-blue tones, and plenty of greenery from tropical plants to prints.
The fare: The inspiration behind Good Thanks is simple: offer top quality food, natural wines and coffee in, yep, you guessed it, a laid-back, friendly setting. To that end, the menu is simple, short, breakfast-orientated and categorized by size—small, medium, large. Think banana bread, gluten-free granola, breakfast bowls, whitefish toast, kimchi scrambled eggs, and the good times salad with kale, black lentils, roasted cauliflower, asparagus and corn.
The sweet spot: You have to try the signature Special Blue Bowl—a mix of blended banana, pineapple, coconut milk, seasonal fruits, gluten-free granola and raw blue spirulina derived from fresh sea algae that has more potent vitamins, minerals, and enzymes than broccoli—sure to fix even the worst of an Aussie hangover. That’s good thanks.
Adjusted Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 9am to 3pm
Aussie’s rejoiced—and lined around the block—when this Sydney outpost opened shop in NoMad (the OG can be found on Bourke Street in Sydney’s Surry Hills neighborhood). Loved for its legendary sourdough, hand-milled artisanal bread, pastries, baguettes, sandwiches and, lest we forget, sausage rolls (a down under staple akin to what Mac and Cheese means to Americans), the cafe-style bakery, which has a distinct Aussie-come-French flair, is open for breakfast and lunch. And if the bread and pastries aren’t enough to tempt, wait ’til you try the coffee.
WORDS Natasha Silva-Jelly
PHOTOGRAPHY Courtesy of Banter