Over the decades, cafes have played a significant role in the development of society and culture. Where would the Enlightenment have been without its famed coffee houses? Cafes have, for so long, been gathering places, with the space a vehicle for bringing people together, and coffee the fuel for our social interactions.
The value of a cafe goes above and beyond the coffee that it serves, and that is what I found while recently visiting Adelaide. Like any Australian city, craft coffee culture is alive and well here, but what I found while wandering in the Adelaide CBD and in its surrounding suburbs is that there’s a wealth of cafes that serve as essential neighborhood hubs. In fact, what’s better than the type of place that encourages you to sit and stay awhile?
Of course, while we may seek out excellent craft coffee, what is the value of the coffee without the space to drink it in? A space that welcomes and pulls people in, that invites you to sit and stay awhile, maybe even pull up that tattered newspaper lying on the table next to us, is invaluable. A cafe isn’t just a place serving coffee, it’s a break in the everyday routine, a spot to sit and ponder and to congregate.
Some may argue that it’s the coffee and coffee alone that dictates the value of a coffee shop. I’d argue that it’s the environment: one that’s welcoming, inspiring and collaborative. The kind of place that’s the heart of a neighborhood, with the people keeping it beating and the coffee pumping through the veins of anyone who enters. Cafes are intimately intertwined with the start of many ventures; from business startups to revolutions. Cafes are an integral part of culture. To that end, I picked four of my favorite cafes to showcase the community vibe that Adelaide coffee culture definitely has going for it.
The Coffee Barun
You know what serendipity is? When you realize that the place you’re staying is within walking distance of a local craft roaster that has its own cafe. The Coffee Barun feels more like a warehouse space that’s been turned into a diner—not your typical cafe ambience—but that doesn’t stop it from being packed. During roasting hours, the space heats up and you just might leave smelling like coffee beans. Locals seem to come here as much for the Barun breakfast as they do for the coffee, with the kitchen using local South Australian ingredients as much as possible. Here, the Barun makes an effort to source good beans, working with operations like Silo Coffee, and also wholesaling around town to share their roasted coffee. Come for a bag of bulk beans, order a cup of the daily batch brew, and sit and enjoy your breakfast.
219 Main North Rd, Sefton Park SA 5083
A Mother’s Milk
Serving a regularly rotating selection of craft coffee from some of Australia’s most prolific roasters—like St. Ali and Proud Mary—A Mother’s Milk certainly holds their own against other specialty coffee shops. But while other cafes may suffer from an occasional bout of pretension, A Mother’s Milk is anything but.
The service is warm (when ordering two rounds of filter, they served up two different varietals without us even asking, just so we could compare the two), the menu is creative (figs and pear in a saffron syrup on top of toasted sourdough, spread with local goat’s curd, for example) and you can tell it’s the neighborhood haunt for locals, who saddle up in droves around the wooden tables outside.
105 Unley Rd, Unley SA 5061
Ginger’s Coffee Studio
Located south of town in the Goodwood neighborhood, this lounge/bar/cafe/art space (coffee and cocktails!)—Ginger’s Coffee Studio—is a funky combination of retro wallpaper and vintage accessories (yes the coffee bar is padded in that '60s diner kind of way). The day’s coffee offering is written up on a blackboard, with an acknowledgement to who it was roasted by (Mark at Barun, on this trip). Weekends, of course, pull the brunch crowd, with smashed avocado on sourdough as good as you would expect from any self-respecting Aussie cafe that serves brekkie.
109A Goodwood Rd, Goodwood SA 5034
Cafe Komodo is what Seattle and Portland cafes felt like in the early 2000s—you know, back when you actually got furniture from garage sales to outfit your cafe instead of going to the hip and overpriced vintage shop. This place is all about being the local jaunt with a funky, eclectic vibe, complete with DJ-spun Sunday soul sessions and sangria jugs. And I’ve got to give it to Cafe Komodo for serving up something I never would have dreamed of ordering if a friend hadn’t recommended it: The Banana Bruiser. A shot of espresso in a banana milkshake, which after a morning run turned out to be the best decision I ever made. Sure, I know a lot of coffee lovers that are cringing right now, but trust me—it’s a killer recovery drink that you’ll probably be tempted to make at home.
118 Prospect Road, Prospect SA 5082