It’s been a year of people leaving fancy chef gigs to open more casual eateries – and bringing those mad skills to the cafe scene. This isn’t exactly a new trend in Sydney – for a number of years we’ve seen classic cafe dishes reworked with elaborate twists – but there’s special something about these spots, which shine through in a saturated market and encourage us to get up early to snag a table.

Cherry Moon
Cherry Moon isn’t just a cafe – it’s a cafe, woodfired bakery and grocer in one. It’s the baby of pastry chef Kimmy Gastmeier (ex-Rockpool and Tetsuya’s) and former teacher Aimee Graham, and coming in hot as a contender for the best bread in the inner west. Baked in a woodfired oven, the well-charred bread is available by-the-loaf and in classic cafe dishes such as avocado on toast and ploughman’s plates.

There’s also coffee from Loggerhead Coffee Co, and baked goods such as focaccias, doughnuts topped with glacé cherries, and lavender Portuguese tarts. The cafe produces almost everything sold in the grocery, including butter, crème fraîche, ricotta, ferments and gelato.

Southside Charmers
Southside Charmers is a Redfern eatery channelling Miami and California. That means healthy, fresh, produce-driven food, with South American and Mexican influences thrown in. It’s from the same gang that started nearby cafe Scout’s Honour (and sold it in 2017) and bar Bart Jr.

To eat, there are solid takes on dal and tacos, but Southside covers more traditional Aussie brekkie territory too, such as BLATs and smashed avo with peas. If you can’t make it to this leafy pocket of Redfern in the morning, it’s also recently opened for evening service, pouring exceptional cocktails alongside a very fine wine list that leans towards the natural.

Industry Beans
The Melbourne roastery’s first foray into Sydney is an ambitious one. If you’ve never been to this CBD cafe, you’ll get a spiel when you go to the counter.

You’ll learn which country is providing the beans for the week’s filters, what a cold-brew bubble cup is (cold-brew coffee, coffee-soaked tapioca pearls and a house-blended condensed soy milk), and all about the blends you can choose from for your latte. If, after all that, you still have questions about the coffee, it’s all printed in elaborate detail on the menu.

And then there’s the food, which may raise a couple questions for newbies. In particular the crazily-named “fruit sashimi”, which in winter is served with “sugar-plum leather” and other pimped-up fruit-salad ingredients, including “coffee chaff milk jelly”. In fact, the kitchen uses molecular gastronomy to incorporate coffee into many of its dishes, such as the cinnamon-dusted brioche with “coffee caviar”.

But not everything is deconstructed or reconstituted at this slick, minimalist cafe – there’s also simpler fare: eggs on toast, muesli, pastries, a bacon-and-egg roll and a fried-chicken burger.

Calla
This is not the kind of cafe you’d expect two fine-dining chefs to open (Industry Beans feels more like that). But what Max Bean (Est, The Bridge Room) and Vicki Melitas (Bar Topa, Little Bistro) bring to the cafe game is technique and experience with produce, rather than flashy ideas and elaborate plating. The sausage and eggs is probably the best example – simply a superbly buttery serve of scrambled eggs (folded, Bills-style) and two house-made pork sangas over Pioik sourdough.

If you’re looking for a dish more typical of the restaurants where Bean and Melitas used to ply their trade, try a breakfast crème brûlée with candied apple, cranberry jam and crumbed biscuit, or wait for the upcoming dinner offering. It should be an easy transition – the cafe’s design is relatively unadorned and simple enough to fit multiple moods.

Gardener’s Lodge
This new cafe operates out of the 19th-century Victorian gothic sandstone building in Victoria Park, and the food is made by the same chef who created the game-changing plant-based pizzas at Gigi’s.

It’s also vegan, which means the calzones and sandwiches are served sans meat and cheese, and the organic coffee is served with non-cow milks, including oat, macadamia, almond and soy. (In fact the roaster produces beans specifically to match the flavour profiles of the milks.) And there’s one dish one of our editors can’t stop thinking about, an umami-rich lasagne that evokes his childhood memories.

One Another
Forget the copper piping design features you find at many destination cafes, and the fancy French toast creations and multicoloured lattes made for Instagram – One Another is simply trying to be a good neighbourhood cafe.

Luckily, Mitchell Antman and Louis Spangaro-McAllan (both formerly of Surry Hills’s Sample) found the perfect spot to execute that concept – a long, sunny space on the Newtown end of Wilson Street, which they’ve filled with handmade furniture and an accessible menu that changes with the season.

The bacon-and-egg roll is made with bacon from Tablelands Premier Meats in central NSW, and the bread is from Providence or (for gluten-free) from Nonie’s. Shane Roberts, the veg merchant who supplies Mecca, Pizza Madre and Cornersmith, provides the cauliflower in the barley, currant and almond salad, and the pumpkin served with the orange and hummus salad.

Outfield
The ’50s building that houses Outfield operated as a child health centre during the post-war baby boom, then sat empty for years – until Caleb and Belinda Maynard started serving coffee and open sangers in it. Sitting on the outskirts of a pretty Ashfield park, it does the classics well, alongside a stellar picnic menu of sandwiches, bowls and rolls to be eaten on the grass. If you manage to score a table at this inner-west cafe, the eat-in menu includes blackberry and tahini porridge, a breakfast bowl with chickpeas and eggplant, and the Big Bash (spiced pumpkin, avocado, potato hash and a poached egg).

Koku Culture Cafe
Also in Ashfield is Koku Culture, a “sort-of” Japanese cafe from two former Billy Kwong chefs. Dishes are a little bit fusion – part-Australian, part-Asian. There’s smashed avo drizzled with miso, miso in the granola, banana bread served with yuzu sour cream, and – even less common – matcha pancakes topped with custard and the top of hard, crunchy crème brûlée.

The original plan for owners Kenji Okuda and Donna Chau was to make miso and soy sauce and sell it to chefs. When they found a space in Ashfield that handily also had room for a cafe out front, they decided to take their years of experience and turn it into Koku Culture. (And they do make and sell those ingredients, which you can get at Erskineville Farmers’ Market.)

Brooklyn Boy Bagels
After years of selling bagels at markets across Sydney, New York-style bagel-maker Brooklyn Boy Bagels finally opened a second bricks-and-mortar eatery, after closing its first (which was in Matraville) a couple of years back.

The Circular Quay cafe is a little bit bagelry and a little bit New York deli, complete with recent issues of the New Yorker for diners’ perusal. There are bagels, of course – plain, pumpernickel, onion and pumpkin – as well as rye bread, turkey club sandwiches and Jewish goodies such as babka loaves, black-and-white cookies and potato latkes (which are similar to rosti). The pastrami that comes layered on the bagels is inspired by New York’s storied Katz’s Deli, and custom-made (with only brisket, for a balance of smoke and spice) at Marrickville’s Black Forest Smokehouse.

Honourable mention: Cavalier 1.0
This is not officially a new cafe – it’s more of a reopening – but it’s worth mentioning because of its exceptional toasties and the quality of the brews from Marvell Street Coffee Roasters.

If you want some more good stuff to check out, read Sydney’s Best New Bar Openings of 2019 … So Far and Sydney’s Best New Restaurant Openings of 2019 … So Far.