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Carlisle Street’s Best Cafés

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by Alexander Rockstrom (subscribe) looks at what's going on in Melbourne as well as our thoughts on film, music, literature and life. Check it out!
Published October 4th 2011
Carlisle Street runs through St. Kilda, St. Kilda East and Balaclava where it is now my "hood".

Since it's now my "hood" and has been for a while, I've grown to love this street and feel like it is a significant part of the Melbourne café culture. Within this, as a true Melburnian, I'm a self certified coffee snob, along with many others I'm sure where I've come to the stage that I hand coffees back if they're not up to a certain standard. I don't want to be "that guy", but I am. In saying this, I love a good coffee with breakfast and am a huge fan of the café culture where I've narrowed down the many cafés on Carlisle St to my favourite three.

Monk Bodhi Dharma

What a little gem of a café.

This is the perfect picture of an inventive Melbourne-style café using small spaces and unusual surroundings to its advantage. Situated down an alley and behind a Safeway on the Balaclava side of Carlisle Street, with no outdoor seating, would seem like café suicide. This is not the case as Monk Bodhi Dharma is a dining experience not to forget. Walking in, it appears like a beautiful old rustic barn/chapel, with a striking long wooden table as its centrepiece that's very communal and chic.

Monk Bodhi Dharma
Monk Bodhi Dharma

The smells are aromatic and exotic where it's so cosy and welcoming. A warm smile is a guarantee on entering. It's obvious they pride themselves on the high quality of coffee they serve where the menu is as appealing and enticing as I've ever seen. "The Avo" is my usual pick and is a great way to start the day but, on occasion, when I'm feeling like something sweeter, the French toast is a knockout! It comes with poached pear and an amazing lemon ricotta spread where noses all around are drawn to its smell.

I can't talk highly enough of this beautifully transcendent café and feel like it is a rival to the best cafés in the city, let alone on Carlisle St.

Definitely my favourite at the moment!

The Galleon Café

This is a brilliant café, where its classic 80s feel along with the random furniture and homage to the old days means it has a commitment to keeping its authenticity. The position is its beauty and downfall.

Due to it being down towards Acland St, it's hugely busy all the time. I've waited a long time for a table there before but only because I don't want to miss out. The coffee is outstanding and the service, vibe, atmosphere and general coolness are all A-class. The upsides here are so high that it's hard to say that it's not good because you usually have to wait, but that truly shows you its popularity.

Yes, it has that trendy St. Kilda appeal, which many young people are attracted to, where it's hard to miss with the huge peace sign in the window. I feel like it has a lively buzz to it and is a great place to get brunch after a night out where the Drunkin' Sailor's Big Brekky is a no brainer and comes with an empty stomach warning. Challenge accepted!

Anyway, this is a café for when you're looking to be a part of the buzz of St. Kilda and will be suited to those looking for a great place to hang out with some people for a morning chat about the previous nights antics and head out for a day of shopping afterwards.

Las Chicas

Las Chicas is the "cool" place to go on the Balaclava strip of Carlisle Street. With its graffiti painted outside walls, modern/trendy décor and urban vibe it attracts the "cool crowd". I've even been lucky enough to sit next to some AFL players there, so it must be cool.

Las Chicas
Las Chicas
This is the type of café where people are having Bloody Marys rather than coffees and its appeal definitely lies in the well set up outdoor area. Mostly under cover, the fact that it has heating and you can smoke, eat and chat comfortably is a credit to them and is definitely how they draw most of their clients.

Their staff are all heavily tattooed and alternative looking but do their jobs very well. It's relaxed there where the music is good, never over powering, and the place is frequently packed. A wait on the weekend is usually a given but is never longer than 10 minutes or so. (It is worth the wait as just sitting in there feels "cool"). The menu is prolific and exotic - I'm a sucker for a cheap brekky bagel with lemon ricotta and if I feel like spending a bit more, I go for the alluring brekky burrito.

This progressive and sleek café is all about creating the feeling like you're at a "cool" Melbourne café and it succeeds in achieving this. With it's tempting dishes and a high quality Bloody Mary it is no wonder all the "cool" kids are raving about it.

Honourable Mentions

People will have their own opinion on their favourite cafés and I got it down to three but many are still very good such as:

The Wall
Batch Espresso
And Gattica

What the top three all have in common is the fact that they are all fantastic cafés in their own right and make for a genuinely good café experience, they're all on Carlisle St and they're all in my "hood".
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Why? To get the best cafe experience possible on Carlisle St
Where: Carlisle Street
After reading your review on Monk Bodhi Dharma, definitely interests me. I think its great that cafe's try something different especially closer to the city because of the crazy competition. Ive been to Galleon and Las Chicas and i have to say you have captured both of them spot on, great places for brekky and a coffee.
By Anonymous
Monday, 17th of October @ 11:06 am
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