Whether it’s smashed avo on toast, freshly ground coffee, a refreshing smoothie or toasted sandwich, we’ve all experienced a craving for quality café food at some point. Perhaps during a break from work, while doing a bit of shopping or after a catch up with friends. With so many cafés around, the burning question is where to go and what type of café to head to.
In this article, we’ll outline the qualities to consider when choosing a café, and share where to find the best in Wollongong.
What makes a great café?
Choosing the right café can make your day without breaking the bank. It can be a fun and relaxed experience, and a place to enjoy tasty meals, treats, coffees, and teas.
It can be helpful to keep the following in mind when choosing a café:
- Food style. Some cafés specialise in one type of cuisine while others offer a much broader menu. Check online for a café that will make your tastebuds dance. If you have food allergies or intolerances, make sure your chosen café has something suitable for you.
- Price. Heading out for a bite at a great café doesn’t need to cost the earth. Some cafés are cheap and cheerful, while others cost more. Many cafe’s have a sample menu online to help you take your budget into account.
- Service. Whether you’re keen to kick back and relax or need to get in and out quickly, choose a café that believes service is as important as the quality of food and coffee. Detailed, recent reviews will be your saviour here!
- Atmosphere. Heading out on a date? Looking for that perfect insta photo? Or, do you just want good, convenient food? If you have a specific setting in mind, check out the vibe of your chosen café ahead of time on their website or social media.
- Parking. You might need to consider parking if venturing to a city café, especially if you’re heading out for breakfast or lunch, when cafés are typically busy. Check out where to park in advance, and how much it costs.
The best cafés in Wollongong
Region Illawarra’s editorial team has compiled a comprehensive list of the most recommended businesses according to you.
To be listed in our Best in Wollongong series, each business needs to have maintained a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google and Facebook, and have plenty of positive reviews.
Utopia Cafe Bar passionately serves 5 senses coffee and classic cafe dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Wollongong's bustling CBD.
Alongside its regular patrons, the venue makes use of generous indoor space to host events and occasions of all kinds, even offering an in-house catering service.
Phuong reviewed on Facebook, "Great coffee, consistent quality, amazing food that's made with love, and I always look forward to seeing what's on the specials board."
Lower East Cafe has proudly served Wollongong residents with quality Single O coffee, flavoursome all-day dishes and tasty treats for more than a decade.
Through a seasonal menu that supports local growers, bakers and small businesses, Lower East offers classic cafe food and drinks with a twist. Whether it's their eggs pacific with beetroot-cured salmon or thai charcoal chicken roll, the team creates meals that are anything but boring.
Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options available.
Family owned and operated, Buck's Cafe in Wollongong has become somewhat famous for its quality meals and genuine staff.
It's no suprise, thanks to hundreds of rave reviews like this one:
"The food was fresh, flavorful, and expertly prepared, and we loved the cozy ambience and friendly atmosphere. It's clear that the owners put a lot of love and care into running their business, and it shows in every aspect of the dining experience," Tom said on Google.
Opened in 2008 by husband/wife duos Lee and Shay Sullivan and Benny and Naomi Hudson, Lee and Me is a charming Wollongong cafe fit for the whole family.
Nestled into an 1890 heritage terrace, this home away from home features an extensive drinks menu that includes quality coffees, fresh juices, smoothies and shakes, and even classic cocktails.
Brekky and lunch are covered with burgers, bagels, salads and toasties, complete with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free alternatives.
One of North Beach's most popular cafes, Diggies opened its doors back in 2003. Over the last 20 years, founder Stan Crinis and his team have worked to create an atmosphere that matches the beach Diggies sits on - relaxed, soulful and genuine.
"Passionate about health, fitness, and our beautiful beach, Diggies is proud to support and nourish the Illawarra Community," the team says online.
Brunch and drinks menus are always evolving, and feature high quality, local ingredients and suppliers.
Your experience with cafés in Wollongong
Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.
Do you have experience with any of the Wollongong cafés listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do all Wollongong cafés cater for special food requirements?
An increasing number of cafés cater for special food requirements. This includes for food allergies and intolerances. It also includes catering for vegetarians, vegans and those with other dietary preferences or needs. If you're unsure, check online or give staff a call.
Can I bring my own cup to a cafe?
Most cafes will happily take your reusable coffee cup, as long as it's clean and an appropriate size. Some cafes even offer small discounts on drinks when you bring your own cup.
Is cafe food healthy?
Some cafe items like acai bowls, eggs benedict and mixed salads seem like they should be extra healthy, but are actually very high in health 'nasties', thanks to oils, sugars, salts and sauces used in their preparation.
How long is it okay to stay in a cafe?
This will depend on the atmosphere of your chosen cafe. If you've paid the bill and finished your food and drinks, it's probably not a good idea to linger for an hour while other guests wait to be seated. Some busier cafes even have set time limits for their tables! If in doubt, ask your server.