There’s a story behind the bold turquoise paint used on the window frames of Clifton Hill cafe Dirty Apron, and the custom-made coffee machine of the same hue, which sits on the counter inside.

The colour is called Ocean Liner, explains Andrew Akathiotis, who owns the cafe with George Tsagouris.

“George is actually colour blind, and this is one of the few colours that stands out to him and ‘speaks’ to him, in a sense,” says Akathiotis.

Akathiotis and Tsagouris are childhood friends who also train together at the Clifton Hill Football Club down the road in Quarry Park. Together, their background extends to business marketing and hospitality management, but Dirty Apron is their first cafe.

“Going to and from the park we often thought how nice it would be to have a cafe of our own at this spot on the corner,” says Tsagouris. “And then one day, a for lease sign popped up.”

From 1917 to 2010 the corner shop was home to various butchers – most recently Marshall’s. As a literal cornerstone of the neighbourhood, it had a loyal customer base – many are now cafe-goers.

“Customers often come in and share funny stories with us about the previous owner, fondly known as, ‘Dave the butcher’,” says Tsagouris.

During the renovation period, builders removed internal walls and discovered a high ceiling with timber beams.

“We tried to keep it very simple and restore what was naturally in the building, adding lights and plants to make it cosy,” says Akathiotis.

The cafe seats 55 people and has outdoor seating on Ramsden Street.

Dirty Apron’s menu aims to cater to everyone, from young families to tradies to elderly locals who have lived in the area for decades. There are options for the health-conscious and vegan, as well as those looking for an indulgent treat.

“We’ve found that Clifton Hill is so dense, with a very mixed crowd during the week and a strong family focus on weekends, with sports at the park,” says Tsagouris.

The head chef comes from Carlton’s The Vertue of the Coffee Drink. On the menu you’ll find dishes such as blueberry buttermilk hotcakes, a beef rib sandwich and cauliflower salad.

“All the flavours in the salad work so well and have such a great balance of being light, fruity, crunchy and nutty with fresh herbs and a nice blend of tahini yoghurt through it,” says Akathiotis. “It was important for the dishes to look great, but also be approachable and comforting.”

The bread comes from a small bakery in Balwyn called Ed’s Bread. “It really is a passion project for Ed, who’s an elderly gentlemen that puts a lot of love and soul into it,” says Tsagouris.

Milk comes from Fitzroy’s Saint David Dairy, milk alternatives come from Milk Lab, and beans come from Coffee Gridlock Espresso in West Heidelberg. Tsagouris’s mum, Marietta, bakes many of the sweet treats that sit on the counter, such as brownies and peanut butter cookies.

The cafe’s name polarises the local crowd, but its origins should sway diners in its favour. The idea came about over dinner at Tsagouris’s parents’ house.

“His mum just said, what about, ‘Dirty Apron’? It shows you’re hard-working and willing to get your hands dirty,” says Akathiotis.

“We’re not dirty though – actually, we’re very clean.”

Dirty Apron
47 Ramsden Street, Clifton Hill

(03) 9481 3950

Mon to Sat 7am–4pm
Sun 8am–4pm