“If you put a hotdog on a cafe menu, it’s got to be pretty special,” says Napa’s head chef, Alex Garratt. She’s risen to the challenge with grilled pork sausage in a milk bun with maple-glazed bacon, Swiss cheese, fried shallots, house-made pickles – and, finally, ketchup spiked with gochujang, a Korean fermented chilli paste.
In a way, this one hotdog sums up the Glen Iris cafe: it’s a little bit Californian, a little bit nostalgic and a little bit fancy. One of the five owners has been living in LA for several years and felt California’s relaxed coastal energy and particular blend of cuisines (such as Mexican and Korean) would make a good fit for a Melbourne cafe. Hence dishes such as jalapeno corn fritters, and hot-smoked hickory salmon with dill, fennel and pickled beetroot.
Before this, Garratt spent five years cheffing in London. So, in addition to the American influence, expect to the occasional nod to Britain (an early menu included Yorkshire pudding). Her decadent rocky-road French toast – dark chocolate panna cotta, wild berry curd, torched marshmallow and salted peanut brittle – meanwhile, draws on memories of eating the sweet as a kid in Australia (there’s that nostalgia again).
S&K Group (Penny Drop, Glen Waverley’s now-closed Workshop Brothers) designed the space, which matches the menu’s Californian theme with reddish-brown tiles and upholstery, textured cream walls, brass pendant lights and blond timber furniture.
“The design brief was to be light, coastal-inspired and minimalist,” Roberts says. “Napa was also designed as a dinner venue. In this sort of climate, that’s not something we’re going to dive into immediately. But we’re licensed and have a wine list ready.”
For now the cafe opens late on Fridays only, serving a tight tapas menu and pouring Curatif canned cocktails, a few beers, rosé from Provence, and reds and whites from Australia and California (naturally) until 9pm. Alcohol is also available at lunchtime, alongside Veneziano coffee, Tea Drop teas, smoothies and juices.
An extensive grab-and-go menu also runs throughout the day, featuring house-made pumpkin, kale and feta wholemeal muffins; peanut-butter pretzel bars from Abbotsford bakery Little Bertha; and pastries from Noisette. Substantial salads, fried-chicken wraps, stacked bagels and other takeaway dishes are made to order.
451 Burke Road, Glen Iris
(03) 9824 8414
Mon to Thu 7.30am–2.30pm
Fri 7.30am–2.30pm and 4pm–9pm
Sat & Sun 8am–2.30pm