It’s been a year of restaurant and fine-dining chefs shunning the white tablecloth game in favour of something more casual. There’s also plenty options to shun avocado on toast and other breakfast standards. Instead, we’re tucking into congee and eggs wok-fried with okonomiyaki sauce, cabbages and bonito flakes. How excellent.

Cherry Moon
This charming Annandale cafe, woodfired bakery and grocer is a little ray of sunshine. Grab one of the mix-matched chairs and settle in for a ploughman’s or seasonal tarts, upside-down orange cakes and Cherry Moon doughnuts topped with glacé cherries. There’s also plenty to take away – preserves, fruit, cheeses and killer bread.

It’s the handiwork of woodfired aficionado and pastry chef Kimmy Gastmeier (ex-Rockpool and Tetsuya) and former schoolteacher Aimee Graham. Almost everything is made on-site – butter, creme fraiche, ricotta, tea blends and ferments – and the signature fig-leaf sourdough comes from a custom-built woodfired oven that took six months to build. This delightful business is practically the 2019 Sydney incarnation of the Country Women’s Association.

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One Another
One Another, which slotted into a sunny corner spot in Newtown in the first half of this year, isn’t reinventing the wheel. It’s not luring punters in with Edison bulbs, exposed-brick walls and flowery food. One Another is simply a great neighbourhood cafe, where the furniture is handmade, and nothing will set you back more than $20.

Mitchell Antman and Louis Spangaro-McAllan (both formerly of Surry Hills’s Sample) serve a series of well-executed classics with top-notch produce. It does a superb bacon-and-egg roll on bread sourced from Providence (or Nonie’s if you’re gluten-free). But Antman and Spangaro-McAllan make from scratch much of what you’ll order – including the milkshake syrups, the cured bonito and the granola. One Another is proof that lack of flash doesn’t mean mediocrity.

Gardener’s Lodge
It serves a creamy lasagne we can’t stop thinking about, blistered calzones and not-ham-and-cheese toasties from a beautiful 19th-century gothic sandstone cottage in a park – need we say more?

The food at this inner-west goodie leans southern Italian and is completely plant based, although you would never know. That’s because Marco Matino (who is also the pizza maestro at Newtown vegan joint Gigi’s Pizzeria) has a deft hand and serves up umami-packed dishes with some of the best cheese substitutes we’ve tasted.

May we suggest you grab a seat outside, order the tiramisu – described by one of Broadsheet’s writers as a “layered marvel” – and pretend you’re not in the bustling inner city.

Brighter Coffee
Another one perpetuating the trend of solid neighbourhood cafes on sunny inner-west corners is Stanmore’s Brighter Coffee. At Brighter it’s the community surrounding the cafe that drives owners Junji Tai and Ben Richardson. “Our priority is caring for people. It's about caring for our team, our values and the community,” Tai told Broadsheet in July. They use just one single-origin coffee bean in their coffee, bought from one Colombian farmer. And one of their waitstaff (adorably) hides poetry written on sticky notes around the cafe for customers to find.

While that’s all fine and dandy, Brighter also pulls its weight with its food as much as its community-focused ethos. Its six-item vegetarian menu changes on the regular, but a mushroom dish and a kimchi toastie are generally mainstays. Tai and Richardson like when their customers pull up a seat on the communal table to make new friends – but there are plenty of slouchy chairs and lounges if you’d rather fly solo.

Kurumac – a spin-off of Kirribilli stalwart Cool Mac (Kurumac is “Cool Mac” in Japanese) – brings Japanese breakfast classics to the inner west. At this Addison Road spot you’ll be starting your day with Japan’s version of avocado toast, a spicy cod roe melt: a toasted, inch-high cut of shokupan (Japanese milk bread) spread lightly with peppery roe and grilled with tasty cheese. “We weren’t 100 per cent on it being on the menu, but three tables ordered it just this morning,” owner Eugene Leung told Broadsheet when the cafe opened.

You’ll also find nourishing (and hangover-curing) Wagyu udon with shrimp fritters, onigiri (rice balls) stuffed with pickled mustard greens and shokupan spread with seaweed butter. While the breakfast is defiantly Eastern-influenced, the coffee is what you’d expect of any cafe worth its salt. Campos beans are run through a La Marzocco, and you can get fior de latte gelato from Newtown’s MaPo in your iced latte.

The slow-burn trend of fine-dining chefs rejecting the white tablecloth game in favour of something more casual was strong in 2019. At this Pyrmont venue, Max Bean (Est, The Bridge Room, Restaurant Mason) and Vicki Melitas (Palings, Bar Topa, Little Bistro) left behind restaurant careers to create a neighbourhood cafe that circumvents the usual breakfast and lunch fare.

Instead of poached eggs, it’s silky brown-butter scrambled eggs with house-made pork sausages. And rather than just whipped ricotta with tomatoes on toast, the bread is sourdough, the tomatoes heirloom and it’s served with caramelised garlic puree and 2019’s favourite condiment: fermented chilli. It recently added a dinner service where things are equally as enhanced (a recent menu included wild-caught Spanish mackerel with ash-grilled leeks, veloute and leek oil). Add in a sunny dining room and decent coffee, and you have a great addition to this under-serviced inner-city suburb.

Quick Brown Fox Eatery
And just like that, Pyrmont got two great places. This pretty corner cafe serves outstanding food with similarly non-standard cafe food. The showstopper is the congee, which is made with koshihikari (premium short-grain rice) and comes with a chilli-fried egg, enoki mushrooms, maple-glazed bacon and a chilli relish. You can pimp it up with quinoa-fried chicken or king prawns if you want. At lunch there’s a very good cheeseburger that comes with triple-cooked hot chips, and if you want booze, QBF now has a liquor licence, so you can brunch with Mimosas, lunch with Negronis, or while away an afternoon with an interesting selection of wines.

Siblings Ben and Emily Calabro run a tight ship, and service is breezy yet informed. We’re told they’re going to renovate in 2020; we’re excited to see what this great cafe will become.

Koku Culture
Take two chefs with experience working in Chinese-leaning restaurants and plop them in an Ashfield cafe, and you’ll have yourself Koku Culture. Japanese-ish in style, this isn’t where to come if you like your bacon and eggs straight up. Instead, they’ll come wok-fried with okonomiyaki sauce, cabbage, sriracha, bonito flakes and mayo. Likewise, feta won’t be the only thing flavouring your smashed avo: here they add shiso and house-made miso dressing, and it’s all piled on top of ultra-fluffy Japanese-style milk toast.

Owners Kenji Okuda and Donna Chau (Okuda was head chef at Lotus Barangaroo and they were both at Billy Kwong) never intended to open a cafe: they were merely seeking a space to make and store their own miso and soy sauce to sell to chefs. When they found this space, though, they decided to pool their experience and make the most of the extra front space. The gamble has paid off.

Industry Beans
Ingredients such as fruit “sashimi” and coffee “caviar” may have raised a few eyebrows when this Melbourne import opened on York Street. But, as it turns out, we shouldn’t have been so cynical. After six years operating down south, these guys know what they’re doing. Set within a pretty, open, heritage-listed York Street space with big windows looking out to the bustling city workers beyond, Industry Beans, Sydney is setting a new standard for city cafes.

It uses its own roasts and single-origin blends to make really excellent coffee (hot tip: pick up a bag of its beans to take home), and it has brought its cult cold-brew bubble cup (cold-brew coffee, coffee-soaked tapioca pearls and a house-blended condensed-soy milk) from Melbourne. Many of its dishes – including that fruit sashimi – are Melbourne reprises, but others, including a green bowl and a very tasty omelette, are Sydney’s own.

Southside Charmers
While the charmers in the name references its location on Charmers Street, it could equally refer to its charisma. This handsome, pastel-pink Redfern eatery turns out ingredient-packed and hugely flavourful bowls and salads, as well as tacos, tostadas and cocktails you’ll remember long after leaving.

The vibe is super chilled and friendly. That’s because it’s run by the lovely Anne Cooper and Georgia Woodyard, the salad and sandwich queens who used to run fellow Redfern cafe Scout’s Honour and are still involved in nearby venue Bart Jnr. It pulls a clientele of regulars and locals, many of who settle in for a weekend afternoon cocktail session on the sunny street-side seating.

Honourable mentions
We’ve assigned Cavalier 1.0 to honourable mentions because it’s a reopening of sorts (it moved into the site of Harry Kolotas’s first cafe site in St Leonards; he also runs Cavalier 2.0). It’s been drawing decent-sized crowds because it’s serving exemplary toasties. For the lamb shoulder one, for example, Kolotas marinates the meat in a concoction of ferments for two days to tenderise the protein. Then it’s cooked in that brine for 14 hours and put in a 250-degree oven to blister the skin. Finally, it’s basted in the ferment sauce once more and emerges looking like Peking duck. It’s shredded and placed between two pieces of bread with masala sauerkraut and fermented cucumber. Boom!

Outfield is a beautiful spot to take in the sun and eat an open sanga. It’s in Yeo Park in a building that once operated as a child health centre during the post-war baby boom, then sat empty for years. We dig its new life as a cafe.

CBD’s Brooklyn Boy Bagels is part bagel joint, part New York deli. 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 and a black-and-white cookie. Our pick is the onion bagel with garlic schmear and lox – it’ll fill you up for hours.

Went to See the Gypsy is named after a 1970 Bob Dylan song (from his album New Morning) and it’s very serious about its coffee. It was one of the first places to use the state-of-the-art Modbar machines (an under-bench coffee system) and its rotating single origins, are all roasted around the corner at its roaster and coffee school. Plus it uses our fave soy milk.

Another one that’s not new, just a refurb is Single O. It closed for a couple weeks and reopened with a new look and a new self-serve batch-brew bar, which means it can serve four different filter coffees at any one time. We like that it’s working against the stereotype that filter coffee is bad.

Check out Broadsheet Sydney’s best bar openings of 2019 winners. Plus our favourite cafes of 2018.