A mighty motley crew of cafe openings were bestowed upon Melbourne this year.

But we also scored new bakeries, gelaterias and even a low-key pizza joint that we can’t stop thinking about. So, we’ve extended the brief of this end-of-year list to encapsulate all the “fast-casual” eateries that are weaving themselves into the city’s fabric – whether they have emerged as an instant neighbourhood classic, have brought something entirely new to the table, or have had a meteoric rise to the top of their game. Or all of the above.

Here are the 10 most impressive cafe openings of the year – in alphabetical order.

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Convoy, Moonee Ponds

“A lot of people are saying it’s just what the area needed.” That’s what Convoy co-owner Kieran Spiteri told Broadsheet when he (finally) opened the mega Moonee Ponds cafe in August. And he was bang on the money. The latest addition to a superb stable that includes Terror Twilight and Hi Fi in Collingwood, and Tinker in Northcote is a score for the north-west. Right across from Queens Park, the seasoned cafe operators are going beyond the rudimentary with their brekkie offering. Expect fluffy cinnamon-scroll pancakes, a curried scrambled egg brekkie muffin, and a king prawn roll on a potato bun, slathered with kewpie and tabasco. The impressive steak-frites roll has sliced rump and rich bone marrow gravy, while there’s also an okonomiyaki-style waffle topped with an egg.

Deep End, Fitzroy

We know Melbourne knows pizza. But Deep End does chunky, cheesy Chicago-style pies that – chances are – you’ve never tried here before. A shit-ton of molten cheese bubbles away in the middle of the 10-inch deep-dish delights, each of which has a 30-minute cook time (don’t fill up on starters). They’re decadent, decidedly lofty and definitely not a twice-a-week dinner. But it’s not all about Chi-Town. The brief is all-American, so you can avoid the cheese coma with a New York-style thin crust or a crispy-cornered Detroit-style focaccia base. Toppings range from classic to left-of-centre, including the Thyme Crisis with potato and confit garlic. You’ll find this place off “the deep end of Brunswick Street”; it’s a low-key, industrial space with bold splashes of red.

Fenton, Carlton

If you live – or often linger – in Carlton, you know how special Tanaka is. Nesbert Kagonda and Ruby Clark opened the African-Australian cafe on Rathdowne Street just before the onset of the pandemic, at which point it morphed into a neighbourhood grocer (and community hub). Then, earlier this year, they transformed an old architect’s office just a few doors down into this new all-day, timber-clad bistro doing hearty breakfasts and harvest dinners. The name, Fenton, comes from the team’s farm in Clarkefield, which is ground zero for almost everything you’ll find on your plate here. For breakfast, that might be eggs with chakalaka (a rich, chunky South African relish); charred greens from the farm with house-made almond feta; and what could very well be the perfect hangover dish – a potato rosti with lamb sausage. A-plus.

Hareruya Pantry, Carlton

Put simply, we’re obsessed with Hareruya Pantry. And so is a fair chunk of Carlton. The roller door goes up at 10.30am at the new all-day Japanese eatery – which looks out onto the playground in Lincoln Square – and that’s the best time to arrive. While the menu here is decidedly simple, made up of Japanese classics with some inventive flourishes, it almost always sells out. There are three beautiful, full-to-the-brim bentos on offer; the house option has soboro (ground) beef and egg on rice, with a soft-boiled egg and various osouzai (side dishes) like pickled veggies. Plus, there’s mochi-wrapped, Japanese-inspired gelato for dessert. As for the pronunciation? “It sounds like ‘hallelujah’, but in Japanese it means ‘sunny shop’,” says owner Kantaro Okada.

Holy Sugar, Northcote

Audrey Allard – aka Holy Sugar – was responsible for a spike in many Melburnians’ serotonin (and sugar) levels during lockdown. At the height of restrictions, her Instagram bakery’s once-a-week dessert boxes brought some serious sweetness to a not-at-all-sweet time. But, only a year on, the former Lune pastry chef has opened a cosy bricks-and-mortar shopfront in Northcote, brimming with farmhouse nostalgia. The cabinet is filled with all the sweets that made Melbourne swoon in 2021: both custard and lemon meringue tarts; Basque burnt cheesecake, dulce de leche, pecan and almond tarts; and yes, her famous butterscotch crullers. But two notable new additions have joined their ranks: focaccia sangas and chocolate eclairs.

Hugo’s Deli, Richmond

Melbourne’s sandwich game is indisputably strong, but there’s always room for hot new contenders – like Hugo’s. When it opened on Swan Street in Richmond at the start of the year, co-owner Ash Davies told Broadsheet that the strip “needed something that feels like it’s been around forever”. And it’s been swarming like an old faithful ever since. The stars of the show are the fried chicken sanga – served on shokupan – with American cheese, shredded lettuce, pickles and Hugo sauce; and the Reuben, an early favourite, with Uncle’s Smallgoods pastrami, sauerkraut, American cheese, pickles and Hugo sauce. Plus, the Mortadella Bella is layered up with more slices of the supreme smallgood than you can count on one hand.

Kariton Sorbetes, Footscray and CBD

When Filipino chef John Rivera (former executive chef at Lume and chef de partie at Sunda) and Minh Duong (former head pastry chef at Maha) first launched ice-cream delivery service Kariton Sorbetes in 2020 – with the goal of becoming “the Asian Messina” – they thought their audience would largely be Filipinos looking for a taste of home. A lot has changed in three years. Now, the two top chefs are scooping vibrant, textural flavours such as ube, cheese and crème caramel in their very own stores. The Footscray location opened to crowds last summer while the CBD location is a sky-blue spaceship that opened in October (adding slushie spiders to their repertoire). This Filipino-inspired ice-creamery is unlike any other in Melbourne.

Kudo, CBD

The grand, heritage-listed Hotel Windsor is hard to miss on Spring Street. But the same can’t be said for its new bakery, Kudo. Almost two years in the making, it opened quietly in July. And it deserves big kudos. Accessible from the hotel’s side entrance on Little Collins Street, the pint-sized shop is entirely gluten-free and in the process of becoming coeliac-certified. Behind it is pastry chef Felix Goodwin (ex-Sunda) and his wife Elena Nguyen – the brains behind the bakery’s seasonal creations, such as the mandarin, pineapple sage and apricot jam choux, made with the sharp yet sweet bite of mandarin peels fermented in local honey. There are also a few cakes and cookies on regular rotation – including elegant chiffon variations and spongy madeleines – plus chewy, custardy canelés in flavours like matcha, kumquat, and vanilla and rum.

Pidapipo Laboratorio, Fitzroy

With locations in Carlton, Windsor and the CBD – and hordes of Melburnians still willing to line up for a scoop – Pidapipo has earned its stripes as one of the city’s biggest names in gelato. But the long-awaited Pidapipo Laboratorio is like none of its predecessors. Bigger and more ambitious, this dessert destination is all about innovation and experimentation, with much more than just gelato going for it. (It’s a big-time extrapolation of the “Test Lab” concept Pidapipo launched with in 2013.) As well as experimental, exclusive (and excellent) new gelato flavours that will change constantly, there’s a dedicated temperature-controlled chocolate room, a pasticceria and nostalgic gelato cakes. The space itself, designed by Dion Hall, is a futuristic reimagination of old-school pasticcerie (Italian pastry shops) and science labs.

Tarts Anon, Cremorne and Collingwood

Out of Melbourne’s many, many lockdowns rose many, many exceptional Instagram bakeries. But while some have remained online-only, others – like Tarts Anon and Holy Sugar, mentioned above – have since expanded into the real world. In the past, these tarts – by Gareth Whitton, former head pastry chef at the now-closed Dinner by Heston – were only available online. And they sold out in seconds. But now you can pick them up by the slice, whenever you want, at his snug new shopfronts (or temples of tarts, if you will) in Cremorne and Collingwood, inside cycling-apparel shop Pedla. Tarts are available by the slice in flavours that could include the signature pear, the classic lemon or ooey-gooey crowd favourite, caramel and chocolate custard. It’s a rotating menu with plenty of specials, plus whole and half-tarts can be pre-ordered online.

Honourable mentions
It was a year of threes, with some of our absolute favourite eateries hitting the trifecta. That includes Lune in Armadale, Hector’s Deli in Fitzroy, Nico’s in Brunswick and Mile End in Richmond. We also got some belter Sydney transplants this year in El Jannah (and its garlic sauce supremacy) and Tokyo Lamington.

Audience picks
Some of Broadsheet Melbourne’s most-clicked stories of the year were cafe openings. That includes Nonna’s House, a nostalgic Italian sub shop in the owner’s nonna’s Fitzroy North home, and Matilda, a French-inspired cafe in an old Mont Albert milk bar. Another big one was the opening of Oasis Mornington, a Middle Eastern megastore in a former Target.

Additional reporting by Quincy Malesovas, Emily Holgate, Sasha Murray, James Williams, Amber De Luca-Tao, Chynna Santos and Jo Rittey.

Find our list of the best restaurant openings of 2022 here.