Time sure flies really fast and it's been more than a year of me living in Melbourne. Through all the culture shocks, series of bewilderment & much of rants and happiness in the course of 1 year, one thing I defenitely enjoy here is the coffee and the brunches. Yes, Mebourne is well-known for its coffee & cafe culture. There are rows, tons and gazzilions cafes for you to choose to fill your tummy. From neighborhood or practically in the middle of nowhere to the smack in the middle of CBD, there will be amost always a place for you to go for a cup of coffee and brekkie food. You'll feel that there're just too many options out there, and mind you, they serve almost similar type of menu, I mean, how much variety you can have for brunch-style food, but, you'll be surprise that none of these cafes serves exactly the same thing. There's always a tweak with the same dish. For example, the basic, egg benedicts, it will come out different on your plate at different joints. Some will use horseradish hollandaise sauce, plus shredded apples, some will go for the classic hollandaise sauce with spinach side dish, and some will just dump bacons on your plate (I hate it when they do this LOL).
So, it's a no brainer that if you google Melbourne cafe, there'll be tons of listings for cafe, some will title it as 'best cafe' like this onefor click baits, some will just simply do a listing. For tourists and even some locals, they will hold on to this kind of list and swear by them. I did go to some mentioned in lots of those types of listings, such as, Hardware Society, Top Paddock, Chez Dre and The Kettle Black. These are cafes with long queue (average queueing time is 1 hour plus) and big names. You'd want to go there to experience and taste what's the hype all about. From these visits, I learned that I'd rather stick with hunting for the neighborhood cafes, save the travel and queueing time (especially if it's windy and cold), save a couple of bucks (I don't believe in over 20$ for brunch food menu items), enjoy the food, the coffee and the cafe experience alltogether and most importantly, receive the customer treatment that I deserve (not being thrown the bill just after I finish eating, I understand if it's HK cafe, but not Western cafe, nope, not acceptable).
Every single neighborhood will more likely to have joints which are frequented by the nearby peeps and hence, these cafes have more friendly and welcoming atmospheres, not simply serve the food and pressure you to leave the moment you finish your meal for the sake of high customer turnover. Even if these cafe are bustling busy, packed with people, there are still some people with their laptops and books and left undisturbed (I'm one of the examples here because I like to eat, sip my coffee, read my books and do people watching), and the wait staffs look happier and not in rush for everything. Their menu is heavier towards the gluten free and vegetarian dishes or the sweet stuffs like pancake or french toasts. Very seldom it has meat mixed together in the menu, and most of the time it's just smoked/cured salmon. That's the most meaty stuff you can get. If the cafe has lunch menu, then meaty menu is still scarce and it's likely to be a burger or sandwich, the rest of the menu will be salad, smoothies, and other green leafie stuffs. Most neighborhood cafes that I visited has price tag of below 20$ for their menu items, some of them will have 1 or 2 reaching the range of 20$, but that's still very rare and they're on the lunch menu, not the brekkie menu.
I live in St Kilda area, and there're already lots of cafes in this area alone to be tried and tested, even after 1 year living here, I still have lots to try because I ended up frequenting the same joint over and over and over and forgot about other places that I want to try. Most of the time, I just walked into them without reading the review (because they're all subjective and the best way is to just find out by yourself anyway). If the food or the coffee doesn't live up to my expectation (very uberly subjective), then I'd just move on to another joint, afterall they're plenty out there and the competition is fierce! Having said that, the below are a few cafes that I've been visited and frequented as examples of neighborhood cafes.( Really, a few... )
If you happen to be visiting Melbourne, do try to visit just any cafes nearby the neighborhood where you stay or ask the locals where the good coffee joints are. You will likely to get a totally different answers from those listed in 'best cafe in Melbourne' postings. Instead of swearing by those listings, use them as a guide or reference on what to expect when you visit a cafe. You'll get a totally different experience and a story to tell. I know I do.