“Where should we eat?”

It’s a question that can be answered in more – exciting, correct – ways than ever before, especially through the lens of 2021’s openings of note (so far). While restaurants will always be part of the discussion, the sustained popularity of bakeries, cafes and “comfort eating” as a concept has ensured casual will remain part of the food scene out west. (And let’s not forget the thrilling food options available in the state’s new breed of watering holes, too.)

These are the new arrivals that have turned our heads this year.

Restaurants

Drasko’s Hot Chicken
The combination of a made-for-Instagram heat challenge (“Blame Drasko!”) and Noma pedigree ensured Drasko’s was going to be a hit. While the restaurant can be a victim of its own popularity, with consistency sometimes waning during peak periods, when team Drasko’s nails it, eaters understand the joys of spicy Nashville-style fried chicken all too clearly.

Old Faithful Fremantle
One of Perth’s American barbeque pioneers opened its second location in the port city earlier this year, bringing to Pakenham Street those Old Faithful signatures of slow-cooked meat, craft beer aplenty and lots of American whiskey. A warm dining space inside the heritage-listed warehouse adds to the experience.

Hoodburger Ardross
Hoodburger’s Ardross outpost isn’t just Matt and Tom Shaw’s first opening south of the river: it’s also the new flagship of the Hoodburger empire. Befitting a restaurant repping American burger culture, this former pizzeria has been decked out like a classic ’50s diner and serves American soft drinks alongside smashed patty burgers, chicken tenders and golden fries.

Lola’s
The Royal’s Chicken & Burgers crew embrace their Filipino roots with pleasing results: witness comforting eating in the vein of grilled inasal chicken, house-made longganisa sausage and halo halo – a calorific mixtape of ice-cream, condensed milk, jelly and flan.

Cafes

Humble Onion
Chris Howard applies his produce-first policy to the cafe space, and the CBD is all the better for it. Taking over the old Greenhouse space, Humble Onion ups the ante for inner-city brunching with tomato salad atop zucchini bread, crab-and-leek quiche and great sandwiches (fried chicken!) made with pillowy house focaccia.

Forklore
Hanji and Hanli Khor, the brothers behind Bayswater’s Tbsp, are hesitant to describe the food at their City West expansion as strictly Asian, but Forklore’s menu references Japan frequently (and winningly), from plus-sized chicken katsu sandos to congee made with tonkotsu. Another win for non-standard-issue brunching.

Local & Aesthetic
Community and classic Australiana are touchstones at this cosy Mount Lawley cafe, where guests hook into vegemite and cheese toast, comforting pastas, and polony and sauce sandwiches. Coffee and brunch needs aside, Local & Aesthetic also doubles as a gallery and retail space housing, among other things, an outpost of independent record store Rhubarb Records.

Grain Bakery
While seating is limited to benches out front, Grain Bakery’s cabinets are filled with enough temptation to make it a bona-fide brunch or lunch option, whether you’re getting a jalapeno croissant or a house-made roll or sandwich (egg salad!). Pro tip: take your baked goods across the road to Rayment Park and enjoy an impromptu picnic.

Nogi Lane
“Because we live in the area, we understand the area,” says Dianella local Callum Ellis. In April, Ellis and his partner Tracey Ly opened Nogi Lane, a 50-person venue bringing contemporary cafe culture to the hood. In the kitchen, Jason Nicholas subtly references his Indian and Burmese roots via spiced pulled beef and cardamom-spiced hollandaise sauce in the eggs Benny.

Oh So Deli
Perth’s love affair with sandwiches doesn’t look like it’ll be ending any time soon. Yet another reason to get our bread-loving hearts a’racing: this cosy cafe in Woodlands, slinging sharp renditions of classic sandwiches including chicken katsus, Reubens and a vegetarian eggplant parmy. Baked goods from Mary Street Bakery also feature among the takeaway options.