The year in review: Brisbane’s best cafe openings of 2023
As the final weeks of 2023 sees Brisbane shifting gears into holiday mode, we’re getting ready to reflect on what the past 12 months have brought us. While this year wasn’t a huge one for brand-new brunch slingers, it was big on sandwiches, bakeries and boutique coffee spots. We’ve collated a list of what we think are some of the year’s best new cafe openings, from the viral sensations to the quiet achievers. In no particular order, here are our picks …
Mitch & Antler, Mitchelton and James & Antler, Fortitude Valley: We’re starting off our list with a cheeky two-for-one. Yes, it might be cheating, but it’s hard to separate these two super-successful openings from one another. For one, they’re owned by the same crew, which is helmed by brothers Tze-Huei ‘TH’ Choo and Chewie Choo. The duo opened SoCal-inspired cafe Mitch & Antler in February, blowing locals away with a salivation-inducing menu of considered brunch chow, led by signatures like chicken katsu croffles and ricotta hotcakes. But it’s Mitch & Antler’s croque madame (boasting smoked ham off the bone, manchego and egmont cheese, mustard leek cream and a fried free-range egg) that became the cafe’s far and away biggest seller. The croque was so popular that TH and Chewie decided to give it its own offshoot concept, James & Antler. This kiosk-style dispensary opened in October and was immediately the most popular place in town. TikToks of James & Antler’s assortment of croque variations and canned soft-serve frappes went viral, leading to lengthy queues and consecutive sell-out days. Drive past on a weekend and you’ll still see lines, but ask anyone in the queue and they’ll likely tell you the croque madames are well worth the wait.
Straits, Coorparoo: Vinyl bars were a big story in Brisbane’s bar scene this year, but what about vinyl cafes? At Coorparoo coffee spot Straits, owner Brendan McCrystal is dropping the needle on an assortment of records in between pulling shots of The Black Lab Coffee Co.’s signature Platinum Blend. The gun barista (who spent a few years manning the brew bars at Blackout in Paddington and If You Say So in St. Lucia) opened Straits as a way to imbue his personality and tastes into a concept that he hopes will become a community fixture. He’s already off to a good start – the place pumps most days (especially on the weekends), with a set of twin Klipsch speakers blasting everything from Dire Straits (Brendan’s favourite band) and Warumpi Band to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and REO Speedwagon.
Single O, Newstead: Any coffee drinker that knows their brew will be familiar with Single O. The boundary-pushing roaster has been a pioneering presence behind Australia’s specialty coffee surge, with its innovative and sustainably minded practices placing the Sydney-based crew in rarefied air. Single O caused a bit of stir in the local scene in September when it opened its first Queensland coffee bar in the backstreets of Newstead. Owners Dion and Emma Cohen have sought to give Brisbane sippers a snapshot of its Sydney cafe experience, installing a self-serve coffee-on-tap counter pouring rotating single origin batch brews and a refreshing Oasis oat iced lattes (Single O’s Reservoir blend is on deck for espresso drinkers), as well as a tight menu of signature eats alongside Agnes Bakery pastries. The team has softened its warehouse home with recycled plastic bar tops and stools by Defy Design, and a wall mural by artist Gemma O’Brien, making the cosy caffeinery a spot you can spend some time comfortably.
Eat at Billy’s, Rosalie: If 2022 started the sandwich revolution, 2023 proved that it was more than just a flash-in-the-pan movement. As you’ll notice as you keep reading this list, sandwiches were once again a big storyline this year, but few new sanga slingers scored as rapturous a welcome as Eat at Billy’s. Billy Gibney, owner and namesake of one of Brisbane’s best butchers Meat at Billy’s, opened the kiosk-style kitchen as a way to indulge his simmering passion for sandwich making and as another avenue to showcase the primo protein he has access to. As soon as Billy lifted the roller door to Eat at Billy’s at Rosalie Village, the crowds came and they never left. The joint regularly sells out before its listed closing time, with regulars flocking early to nab belters like the Not A F*$&en Rueben (wood-smoked wagyu brisket, red cheddar, pickles and special sauce) and the The Big Paulie (Berkshire pork belly porchetta, crackling, salsa verde, pickled red onions and confit-garlic mayo).
Corner Deli, Woolloongabba: What do you get when a conscientious restaurant crew applies its sustainability minded and produce-driven philosophies to a sandwich shop? Judging solely by the fare at Woolloongabba’s Corner Deli, only good things. When Ben McShane took over the slender cafe space next door to his excellent neighbourhood bistro Clarence, he did so with a view to serving satisfying eats that could be obtained in a tight, hour-long lunch break. Alongside fellow chef Matt Kuhnemann, Ben is channelling Clarence’s ethos, which favours local ingredients sourced with a sustainable mindset, into a range of Italian-American-style hoagies stuffed with all kinds of drool-worthy fillings. Here, house-made semolina subs (filled with the likes of slow-cooked venison, pickles, onion and Big Mac-style special sauce, as well as chicken schnitzels with lettuce, chimichurri and peri peri mayo) are flying out the door alongside sausage muffins, congee, blood pudding rolls and cups of coffee from Bancroft Roasters.
GoodGood, West End: While GoodGood also moonlights as a wine and small plates bar at night, it’s still one of the best cafes to open in 2023. The venue expands upon the foundation that owners Lachlan Geraghty and Josh Power set with their cosy army-green-coloured coffee spot Little Peaches (which closed late last year), continuing to provide community-centric charm as well as a broader spectrum of the things locals have been clamouring for. During the day, that’s coffee from The Black Lab Coffee Co. alongside a brunch menu comprised of light vegan and vegetarian options. When the lights dim, the team introduces an evening menu filled with snacks, pizzas made using three-day-fermented dough and a 14-strong wine list showcasing a crowd-pleasing array of styles. Served in a slick, monochromatic setting anchored by polished concrete and natural Japanese clay, GoodGood is delivering the goods, morning and night.
Butter, Gaythorne: With an established pedigree opening well-received cafes (including Little Loco, Miss Jones and Hawthorne’s Sister), it might not come as any surprise that another Daniel Bowles brunch joint makes this list. But it wasn’t a foregone conclusion, especially since Butter – the sunny Gaythorne spot Daniel opened alongside Chih-Wei ‘Tiger’ Hsu in October – was a bit different to everything he’s done before. For starters, it’s smaller than all of his other cafes. Contained primarily in a hole-in-the-wall space just big enough for a small kitchen and coffee counter, Butter is more grab-and-go dispensary than full-blown cafe (though there is a shaded 25-seat alfresco patio). Second, Butter’s menu is more streamlined. You’ll find a tidy menu of some absolutely tip-top toasties, including the likes of pastrami with American cheese and mustard pickles, thyme-roasted mushroom with truffle mayo, and a cheeky chicken melt (punched up with caramelised onion and Japanese sesame mayo). There’s also a Japanese-style sausage muffin replete with a pork-and-fennel sausage patty, melted American cheese, gooey egg, and a dollop of Tiger’s special sauce, plus cups of Single O‘s Killerbee blend.
Echo & Bounce, Woolloongabba:
Yes, Echo & Bounce is a cafe, but it’s also so much more. Yes, you can get a smoked-salmon bagel, but you can also nab some disco and downtempo records for your collection. Yes, you can have a cup of Coffee Supreme brew, but you can also come through for performances from local DJs and music makers, art exhibitions and vinyl fairs. Since opening late last year (yes, we know it’s been open for a bit more than 365 days, but it still warrants a spot here), Echo & Bounce has evolved into a vital nexus and meeting point for the local creative community. These days the venue is also hosting knock-offs in its rear courtyard, casual games and activities nights, market days, and pop-up kitchens. This one-of-a-kind spot is only getting better.
Joe’s Deli, Brisbane City:
Brisbane has never been big on queues, but perhaps that’s because there’s only a handful of spots worth lining up for. Joe’s Deli has proven to be one of those select few. Owner Patrick Killalea’s take on American-style deli-style sandwiches found an immediate fanbase here in Brisbane when it opened in September, with his NYC-inspired diner on Albert Street becoming a popular lunchtime option for hungry inner-city denizens. With muffaletta-inspired subs packed to bursting point with cold cuts, hearty hot wagyu pastrami hoagies, Lobbie Rolls filled with Kewpie-drenched chunks of lobster and crab topped with bumps of black caviar, and cheese kransky-stuffed Brooklyn Dogs on the menu, it’s not hard to see the appeal. Throw in some beers, natty wines and margaritas and this Gold Coast-born concept has absolutely nailed its first expansion move.
Beurre Pastries, Milton:
Our dream of having a bakery on nearly every street corner came ever-so-closer to becoming reality this year. While 2023 saw numerous phenomenal pastry makers open around Brisbane, patissier Will Leung’s wilder creative notions ensured that his Milton bakery Beurre Pastries was an absolute standout from the jump. When Beurre Pastries opened its Park Road locale in June, Will’s range of buttered beauties sold out with regularity and while we’ll never tire of a classic croissant, Beurre’s seasonal and specialty range is where Will’s culinary nous really shines. Black sesame and yuzu morning buns, ham and pesto bechamel scrolls, Jaffa-inspired twice-baked pain au chocolat and spicy pecan monkey bread – Beurre is producing pastries that have never been seen before in Brisbane.
Honourable mentions: Look, there are a lot of spots that are good enough to make this list. There are a load of other spots we absolutely adored this year. On the sandwich front, that included Ham on Rye in Paddington and Colin’s Specialty Coffee in Fortitude Valley. As for bakeries, Rise Bakery in Hamilton and Grange’s Oh My Bread were standouts. For classic cafes, Pablo’s Pantry in Woolloongabba, Never Been in Underwood and Jamie’s Espresso Bar in Fortitude Valley were great arrivals, too.
The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Brisbane dining guide with more than 2400 places to eat, drink, shop and play.