If you were a kid in the 1970s you’re going to love Milk Bar Cafe 2223. The decade was all about Countdown on the TV, AC/DC on the radio and heading down to the local milk bar for 20 cents worth of mixed lollies. The new milk bar in Mortdale seeks to recreate the past.
The site’s history was revealed when owner Tony Fitzgerald pulled up the carpet. First the blue-and-white checked linoleum was uncovered, then the markings of the long counter where locals once stood waiting for milkshakes in aluminium cups and hamburgers with iceberg lettuce, beetroot and pineapple.
“It’s not just about paintwork and pictures,” says Fitzgerald. “It’s about returning to a time when the family who ran the local milk bar felt like your own extended family.” Close-set, chrome-trimmed tables put diners elbow-to-elbow. “I see people putting their phones away, talking to friends and strangers as if they’re all the same,” he says. “I’ve seen strangers pay for each other’s lunch. It’s heart-warming to see people connecting like that.”
The original menu hangs above the kitchen, a reminder of a time when sardines cost 15 cents and a serve of apple sauce was five cents. The current, all-day breakfast menu includes Sonoma honey-spiced granola with fruit and yoghurt, or smashed avocado with lemon, mint, haloumi and a poached egg on sourdough. You can still get a bag of hot chips, a lime-flavoured malted milkshake or a burger with pineapple. For value, go the big breakfast with bacon, sausage, haloumi, roast tomato, mushrooms, fried eggs, hash browns and sourdough toast for $18.50.
The back room is an Aladdin’s cave of ’70s and ’80s memorabilia like pinball machines and Hawaiian shirts, Adidas tracksuits and a low-rider bike. A glass-fronted counter by the front door, selling one-cent lollies, completes the retro reconnaissance.
Milk Bar Cafe 2223
38 Balmoral Road, Mortdale
(02) 9570 4700
Sat & Sun 8am–4pm