There are cafés that are all about the coffee: the sharply focused Market Lane outlets (Shop 13, Prahran Market, 163 Commercial Rd, South Yarra, 03 9804 7434; 176 Faraday St, Carlton; 109-111 Therry St, Melbourne), Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, 03 9606 0449), Brunswick East Project (438 Lygon St, Brunswick East, 03 9381 1881), Patricia Coffee Brewers (cnr Lt Bourke & Lt Williams sts, Melbourne), and The Final Step (1c Murphy St, South Yarra, 0414 503 248).
Others give equal weight to both food and bean: the impressive Code Black Coffee (15-17 Weston St, Brunswick, 03 9381 2330) wholesales, retails and roasts an impressive range of beans and offers original, interesting, ingredient-focused breakfasts and lunch (including great sandwiches).
The food-coffee balance also prevails at the lovely South of Johnston (46 Oxford St, Collingwood, 03 9417 2741), a converted warehouse with an open fire and a lounge area with a menu of skilfully executed café favourites, and at light-filled, ever-packed Coin Laundry (61 Armadale St, Armadale, 03 9500 1888). Sophisticated, dark-hued Threefold (381 Flinders La, Melbourne, 03 9614 8194) combines excellent food, charming service, good coffee and a concise wine list.
The eco-friendly Silo by Joost (123 Hardwear St, Melbourne, 03 9600 0588) proves both that there are still gaps in the market and that waste-free doesn't equal taste-free. At Demitri's Feast (141 Swan St, Richmond, 03 9428 8659) breakfast and lunch get a modern Greek spin (the wild greens spanakopita and rice pudding both have a cult-like following), while Small Victories (617 Rathdowne St, Carlton Nth, 03 9347 4064) dishes up deftly cooked food that includes leek and cheddar croquettes at breakfast and dangerously addictive Korean barbecue beef sandwiches at lunch.
Nearby Pope Joan (77-79 Nicholson St, Brunswick East, 03 9380 4915) now opens from breakfast to dinner, wowing with Matt Wilkinson's eats. The Brunetti flagship (380 Lygon St, Carlton, 03 9347 2801) is an enormous marble and terrazzo outlet comprising gelateria, pizzeria, restaurant and coffee counter.
By contrast, The Rusty Fox (501 Macaulay Rd, Kensington, 03 9372 1218) is a pint-sized gem that serves excellent coffee and a tight breakfast-lunch menu. Further west, Common Galaxia (Shop 3, 130 Victoria St, Seddon, 03 9689 0309) proves that the inner-north no longer has a monopoly on good cafés.
Looking for more Melbourne dining options? Check out our list of the best restaurants in Melbourne.