Frankie’s Top Shop
20 Cowderoy Street, St Kilda West

Inside this cafe, food store and old-school milk bar, green-velour padded booths and wood tables face a large open kitchen. Owner Michelle Curtis, a chef and award-winning food writer, uses seasonal produce to put her own spin on breakfast and lunchtime classics.

The menu tilts towards healthy. The fragrant and colourful smashed roasted sweet potato and turmeric, served with feta and poached egg, is a standout. Light, golden sweetcorn fritters come served with a poached egg and guacamole. Lunchtime at Frankie’s includes simple and rustic options such as homemade pies and tart of the day, or a roast chicken sandwich on grain bread.

Bayside locals might remember the building’s former tenant, Frank’s Milk Bar, and its colourful owner, Frank Economakos, for which Curtis’s new spot is named.

AU79
27–29 Nicholson Street, Abbotsford

The name AU79 says something about the ambitious goals of the team behind this new 200-seat cafe, roastery, bakery and patisserie in Abbotsford. Au and 79 are the chemical symbol and atomic number for gold. Once an old motor garage, the space has been transformed into what feels like a sprawling indoor botanic garden. Interior windows reveal the self-contained roaster, bakery and patisserie.

The menu is filled with classic dishes with Asian-influenced extra flourishes. So alongside smashed avocado, waffles, and Breakfast Greens, there’s a confit duck bao burger with daikon kimchi and ssamjang (a spicy Korean paste) mayo. And Shepherd’s favourite – an okonomiyaki pancake with eggplant katsu, yuzu mayo and sweet-potato crisps.

Ned’s Bake
134 Toorak Road, South Yarra

You know bread is a focus here even before you enter the bright, sleek space on Toorak Road. Loaves are tied to steel mesh frames and displayed in the windows. Inside, choose from French- and Italian-style loaves, as well as a large and colourful display of pastries, tarts, buns and savoury items.

Owner Ned Radojcic recruited American master baker Benjamin Tugwell and Australian baker Timothy Naughton (who previously worked with Baker D. Chirico and Noisette) for the bakery.

But there’s more to Ned’s than its baked goods. At breakfast try the mascarpone pancakes served with coconut ice-cream, strawberries and balsamic vinegar; for lunch and dinner try the super crispy Neapolitan pizzas.

No.19
214 Union Road, Ascot Vale

No. 19 in Ascot Vale is Diana and Domenic Caruso’s third cafe after St Rose in Essendon and Espresso 3121, now closed, in Richmond. Melbourne-based studio Biasol designed the interior, inspired “by the Greek delicatessens that flourished throughout Melbourne in the 1950s”. That has been translated with polished-concrete floors, blond-timber furniture, bulbous brass lamps and turquoise cement bar tiles.

Try the Nourish Brekky with eggs, mushrooms, broccolini and haloumi, or pea fritters with pan-fried salmon. On the sweeter side there is spelt Bircher with coconut, and Cherry Ripe pancakes with stewed cherries, dark chocolate mascarpone, chocolate cherry fudge ice-cream. Coffee is made with beans from Five Senses, the same used at St Rose, and it will likely be Domenic behind the espresso machine.

The Alley
417 St Kilda Road, Melbourne

Owner Alexandra Pyke was never that interested in vegan food. Then she realised it could also be tasty. The Alley opened in April and it’s equal parts fun, healthy and decadent. Although the menu is all plant-based, the idea is to cater to anyone who wants to eat healthy, and to prove that eating plants and vegetables can be just as satisfying as eating meat. Inside the colourful and playful spot on St Kilda Road you’ll find burgers alongside smoothies.

The Maple Bacon Burger is made with portobello mushroom, sweet potato and adzuki beans, and is topped with a strip of coconut “bacon”. The Macro Bowl is made with quinoa, then piled with sautéed kale, roasted sweet potato, carrot ribbons, crunchy nori flakes and topped off with a turmeric-tahini dressing.

There are two types of fries at The Alley, and both of them aren’t actually fried. “We have a TurboChef oven from New York,” says Pyke. “It [reaches] an extreme temperature, so you can put it in there for a few minutes and it comes out crispy without deep frying it.” Opt for the classic potato fries or air-baked potato wedges with “parmesan cheese” made from almonds and a sprinkle of crispy kale pieces.