There are many many many cafes in Brisbane, and a great deal I'm very fond of... consequently this page is taking longer to update than I had expected... so it's not yet finished... check back later :)
Being more of a cafe society than a pub society there are very definate 'cafe strips' in Brisbane.
Very posh, where the Paddington and Ascot wives come to be 'ladies that lunch'. There's a good string of cafes including a Coffee Club and La Dolce Vita, or wander under the scale model of the Eiffel Tower and have yourself a Chocolat Chaud. Park Road is also full of designer shoes and upmarket gifts, but be careful because not all of the buildings and cafes in Park Rd have their own parking facilities and you may have to be extra careful when parking on the street so you don't bump into the Ferrari's that the cafe owners always proudly display outside their establishments.
Race Course Road
On the edge of Ascot sits Race Course Rd, the other posh cafe strip. Being that I live some 10 minutes walk from Park Rd I've never found much reason to go to Ascot for coffee, however if you live on that side of town or are up against the kind of personality which will only be seen in the right places this can be the area to hit. Also full of nice stores and near the racing track where Spring and Winter racing carnivals bring designer outfits and silly hats in full.
Brunswick St/Fortitude Valley Mall
This is a pedestrian mall formed by paving over what were once roads, the middle is still a thoroughfare but cafes, restaurants and a couple of shops line the street. In the middle section is a performing stage, various sculptures and park benches which are good for free entertainment on a weekend. During the day the Valley Mall is the realm of the ethnic immigrant, old Italian grandfathers and tottering Japanese exchange students but at night the Valley Mall is the Alternative centre of town and close to all the subculture, dance scene and TripleJ style clubs. The Valley Mall contains a great deal of small and traditional cafes as well as bigger ventures and contains Cafe Scene, The Cosmopolitan, Ric's Bar, Fat Boy's, Mellino's and Belushi's as well as other restaurants and fast food outlets. You can usually view any performances/festivals being held in the mall from any of the cafes' outdoor sections however be warned it can be a war of volume controls on a Friday and Saturday night. The Brunswick St Mall is also attached to the Chinatown end of the Valley Mall and is the gateway to Asian supermarkets and amazing Asian food.
If you're in or have ever been to Brisbane you'll know this one! Another pedestrian mall covering four block of the absolute centre of Brisbane. As well as Jimmy's, East West and Da Vinci's which are on the mall itself the mall gives access to a number of *large* indoor shopping centres which contain countless cafes, fast food outlets and Asian tea bars.
Others yet to be discussed:
- Nash St Rosalie
- Merthyr Rd New Farm
- Boundary Rd West End
7/11:Seems to have stopped stocking most American caffeinated soft drinks but the abundance of convenience stores run by Asian immigrants means that many 7/11s are stocking Pokka coffee in a can and many forms of chilled Asian teas. Many contain caffeine and are worth trying even if you can't read the label *grin*. Also sells a larger range of Jolt and other "local" drinks that are harder to find in other stores.
Supermarkets:Always have Coke/Pepsi and any other local colas on offer, and due to market desperation either Coke or Pepsi are always on special (but never both at once). These days the supermarket also stocks Red Eye, Jolt, Dr Pepper and many other softdrinks. You can also buy any number of types of coffee and tea at the supermarket for reasonable prices (but not always reasonable quality).
Don't really fall into the standard Supermarket category. There are some really large very good Asian supermarkets both in the Valley (chinatown) or Sunnybank. Most of these sell Pokka and other canned drinks relatively cheap as well as Japanese pre-bottled coffee and more types of tea than you could possibly try in a lifetime. It can be worth having someone who knows the foods or can speak Chinese/Japanese before you start randomly picking things of the shelf (since accidentally picking up diet tea instead of jasmine can lead to dire results).
You can of course buy caffeine tablets, but I don't suggest it. They're highly addictive, quite expensive and nowhere near as enjoyable as a good coffee.
La Dolce Vita
A fairly traditional style Italian coffee house in the middle of Park Rd. You often find the wealthy and wanting to be seen at the front tables near the road, and it's always full of Italian people which is always a good sign. Good strong coffee and Italian cakes with other cafe fair.
The Three Monkeys:If you've access to a car or live close to the city this is probably where you want to go. It's situated on the end of Melbourne St in West End, so even if you don't want to go here it's a stones throw from many alternatives. This intimate busy cafe has lots of nooks and crannies with tables perched every which way and a large rainforest style courtyard full of tables. There are seperated smoking/non smoking areas plus chess and card sets on hand. The coffee is good, as is the food, and they have a larger range of teas and mineral waters than many cafes. It's worth going just to read the travel and theatre memorabilia from Brisbane's who's who. These days the cafe is so popular it is only worth going in off peak periods such as during the day on a week day as getting a table is nigh on impossible for much of the week. Incidentally if you find yourself there and unable to get a table walk across the road to the Ottoman Cafe which does *gorgeous* cheap Turkish meals and great Turkish coffee
The Coffee Club:Usually uses Vittoria coffee, which is not too bad but can be bitter and slightly overroasted. The main problem I have with the Coffee Club franchise is that they no longer have a policy for table service. Which means you have to get off your own ass to get a coffee... and that's just not going to happen. There is now 1 sole table service Coffee Club on Albert St in the City. This is often full of idiots and not worth the trip unless you can secure the couch booths at the back.
Da Vinci's:This is a cafe that maintains table service! The coffee's quite good (Lavazza I think?), they always have a cold water fountain, and there's a funky outside area so you can watch people in the mall and laugh. The outside area is now quite large and really comfortable, there's always 2 waiters/waitresses watching this area so service is fast and smart. The only problem is that you pay when you leave so more than once I've forgotten to pay my bill and realised 2 hours later. I have found an increasing attitude of "get out of our cafe" if you spend more than about an hour there though so if you're in for the long haul catching up with an old friend go somewhere else.
Aroma's:Aroma's is all but dead. The once affluent chain now has scattered cafes. The only one that I go to is in the Wintergarden in town and these days but rarely. The coffee is excellent, still with counter service. But they still have smoking areas and air conditioning which makes a big difference in Brisbane summer.
The Cosmopolitan Cafe:Our family's favourite. The legend goes that my father found this cafe after following the smell down the Valley Mall when he first came to Brisbane, for the next 20 years this is where we have bought coffee. Apart from the sexy coffee ( that is roasted on site) this cafe is cheap and generally open till circa 4am on the weekends.
Cafe Scene:Cafe Scene now sits on the Brunswick St Mall just down from Cosmo. Apart from visiting friends that work there I don't really go there any more since the coffee is fairly weak and not that good (a brand called Sugar and Spice that I'd not heard of before).
Fat Boy's:Another Valley Mall offering, the coffee is variable depending on the staff and often better in the afternoons that in the middle of the night. They do a fairly good latte, but often held up if they're out of skim milk and have to run across the mall to the convenience shop (as has happened a number of times around 4am). They do all day cheap breakfasts ... a favourite of the 'Cult of Bacon' members of the local goth scene.
These get their own classification because they're not really normal cafes, more like if you applied coffee to the McDonalds theory.
Starbucks:Okay so American coffee leaves a lot to be desired, but when in foreign climes this is often as good as it gets. The thing to be said for Starbuck's is that while their coffees are generally poor anything flavoured is quite good; just think of it more like a cocoa. The green tea and mocha valencia "orange mocha" frappucinos are quite nice, as are some of their seasonal flavoured cocoas and coffees. In a place like Brisbane where good cafes are in abundance though the decore, service style and plastic cups look quite shoddy.
Gloria Jeans:As for Starbucks but some of them have nice furniture and their coffee and fruit tea chillers are quite good. Most GJ's in Brisbane have free wireless access for those with laptops.
BBs:Do good muffins, coffee looked poor so I wasn't really willing to touch it.
McCafe:McDonalds cafes. Poor coffee, friendly McDonald's style service, some have okay cakes depending on who their supplier is.
In my quest to find a decent frappe style drink, and mindful of Denis Leary's view of the matter I was a bit wary of the Coffee Coolatta... however of all the coffee frappe drinks available it seems to be the superior option, tasting like coffee highly sweetened rather than like a milkshake which a dash of coffee.