HOT: Naughty Boy Cafe, 499 Lygon Street, Carlton North

naughty boy cafe

The thumbs-up emoji signage for Naughty Boy gives an indication of the tongue-in-cheek flavour of this Carlton North cafe.

The space that used to be Residential Kitchen has been turned into a fun daytime venue by the former owners of Mama Bear in Flemington. The vibe is casual, quirky with a hint of hipster.

naughty boy cafe

The lofty, light-filled industrial space is presided over by a naughty boy mural by street artist Michael Fikaris of Blender Studios.

naughty boy cafe

The opposing wall has been gashed open to expose bricks and hidey holes with bits of pressed metal. I also love the light blue pressed metal adorning the coffee station and the stylish light fillings – filament lights wrapped around a wooden log and suspended underneath plastic milk crates.

naughty boy cafe

The all-day breakfast menu features on-trend ingredients mixed in with cafe standards and includes  some naughty and not-so-naughty options.

naughty boy cafe

I go with the grilled haloumi salad with a generous spread of juicy local figs, leaves and herbs and some small broad bean felafels ($18.50). I don’t tend to get that excited by salad but this was superb – I think the combination of salty cheese and sweet pomegranate molasses was the reason.

naughty boy cafe

My friend tried the sweet corn with jalapeno fritters with smashed avocado and tomato salsa, grilled chorizo and eggs ($18.50). She liked the fact that the fritters were chunky and hearty but didn’t seem to excited by her breakfast otherwise. I did notice that the eggs had been perfectly poached, tick.

naughty boy cafe

I follow up my meal with something more naughty – a stack of ricotta hotcakes ($14.90). Three generous rounds of fluffy pancakes, stacked and topped with spiced berries, a ball of lemon and saffron curd that’s almost like ice cream and an artful squirt of burnt maple syrup.

naughty boy cafe

Coffee is from Allpress and the hot chocolate is from Pana Chocolate. I don’t love the latter – it’s a bit too watery and overly sweet for my liking.

Naughty Boy gives life to a very quiet part of Lygon Street and I liked the food, service and decor. If it’s your local, you’re lucky!

Naughty Boy Cafe, 499 Lygon Street, Carlton North (03) 9041 7870

Monday to Friday 7.30am – 4.00pm

Saturday & Sunday 8.00am – 4.00pm

Naughty Boy on Urbanspoon

HOT: Green Park, 815 Nicholson Street, Carlton North


Green Park in Carlton North has made a fresh start of one of my former regular haunts in Melbourne, St Ali North. It’s just as great as before with a few new touches.

green park melbourne

The big windows facing out onto the Capital City trail bike path and the adjacent playground have been retained and are so relaxing on a sunny day (they have a strip of outdoor heaters too). Inside is a light-filled inside area now daubed in a calming shade of sea green (natch).

green park melbourne

New in the Green Park decor is a long leather banquette along one wall with a hip-height wall separating the seating area with the main thoroughfare.  There’s a raised communal table and more seating options have been inserted in the bar area, with stools and cosy booths for singles or groups.

Green park melbourne

One of the owners Jesse Gerner is the man behind Bomba and Anada so the daytime menu has a few Spanish flourishes before moving into more Spanish influences in the evening.

The daytime menu is split between ‘grains’ – granola, porridge and bready items – egg-dominated breakfast dishes and substantial lunch mains from 11-3pm. I went for the scotch egg with black pudding, rosemary glazed bacon and brioche ($20).

green park melbourne

This was a very filling dish and I’m sure will gain a reputation for being a hangover cure. If you’re wondering whether the black pudding is (as I did) it’s actually encasing the egg! The thick cut bacon was a hefty, sticky piece of porky goodness so the light mint, parsley, radish and capers salad was a welcome relief from the richness.

green park melbourne

green park melbourne

green park melbourne

For sweets head straight to the pastry cabinet, with all the pastries made in house by ex-Vue de Monde head pastry chef Gadi Assayag. They have actually started a wholesale pastry business on site called Park Street Pastries and supply their sweets to other cafes in Melbourne such as Kettle Black, Stagger Lee’s and Top Paddock. I highly recommend their cheesecake ‘sandwich’ with raspberry sugar and lemon curd.

green park melbourne

I got a preview of the dinner menu at the cafe’s launch and some highlights included the kingfish ceviche with dabs of avocado and the heat provided by chipotle and jalapeno. It doesn’t look like much on the plate but the combination of delicate textures and flavours with the crunchy tortilla strips and tongue-sizzling chilli was an exciting combination.

green park melbourne

My second favourite dish was a perfectly pan-fried crispy local snapper with a surprisingly delectable base of stewed zucchini, two words I’d previous thought should never be used together.

green park melbourne

green park melbourne

Oh yes, and don’t miss the vegetable sides!  Crunchy fried chat potatoes lolling in garlic butter and colourful, flavoursome heirloom carrots, full of beta-carotene goodness to help you see the jazz musicians playing by the resident piano ‘Fats’.

green park melbourne

It’s early days but Green Park has all the makings of a lively, friendly, neighbourhood hub where you can grab a coffee or settle in for a Sunday session with free jazz on the resident piano ‘Fats’. My only quibble with my experience on the second day of opening was that the separated main central corridor meant that waiters would walk up and down serving customers but not necessarily look sideways (to the banquettes) and I had a little bit of trouble catching people’s eye. Hopefully they’ll iron out these small issues as Green Park settles into its new digs.

Green Park, 815 Nicholson Street, Carlton North (03) 9380 5455

Daily 7am–11pm

Green Park on Urbanspoon

HOT: Tea Alchemy, Travelling Samovar, 412 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North

Tea Alchemy, Travelling Samovar, 412 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North

For people (like me) who designate themselves as a tea drinker rather coffee drinker, Travelling Samovar is your one-stop shop for all things tea.

So I was intrigued to see that they were hosting an afternoon tea exploring different brewing techniques with matched savoury and sweet treats. And it was one of the rare events that was under $50 so I convinced Gourmet Chick to go with me.

Tea Alchemy, Travelling Samovar, 412 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North

The balmy weather meant that the session was held in the secluded courtyard at the back of the teahouse, a really charming area decked out with garlands and fake grass. Tables were set up with little tea tasting bowls and glasses. Little did I realise that those tiny vessels would hold a cold and hot infusion of eight (!) teas over a course of two hours.

It was really interesting comparing the different colours and flavours drawn out from the same tea leaves simply by cold brewing, cold dripping or chilling a hot tea. I didn’t even realise that you could infuse a cold tea in more than one way. Cold tea is a different beast to ice tea too, in case you’re wondering.

Tea Alchemy, Travelling Samovar, 412 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North

As for the food, it varied in quality. While the inventiveness in using tea to flavour the food was admirable, sometimes it just didn’t come off. Mostly it was about textures – the very pretty pannacotta was too firm and the marshmallow lacked the jelly-like softness.

Tea Alchemy, Travelling Samovar, 412 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North

Tea Alchemy, Travelling Samovar, 412 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North

I enjoyed learning a little bit more about tea through Tea Alchemy and it was a lovely way to spend a sunny afternoon. The owners of Travelling Samovar are obviously really passionate about tea education and while the food could be improved overall it was an enjoyable experience.

Tea Alchemy, Travelling Samovar, 412 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North

Tea Alchemy, Travelling Samovar, 412 Rathdowne street, Carlton North

Travelling Samovar Tea House on Urbanspoon

HOT: Travelling Samovar, 412 Rathdowne St, North Carlton


After years, nay decades, of being a coffee-mad town, Melbourne seems to have really started embracing the ancient ritual of tea-drinking with specialist tea shops starting to pop up.


The latest addition is Travelling Samovar, a beautifully decorated and cosy tea house in North Carlton. The two-roomed shop feels part Middle Eastern, part Asian and part Eastern European – sort of like a trip on the Orient Express via Rathdowne Village.


There’s a glossy Russian samovar dominating the counter, delicately painted tea pots lining the rosewood cabinets, bright Chinese paper lanterns adorning the ceiling and a crystal chandelier and crackling fireplace in the back room.



It’s possibly one of the most photogenic locations I’ve photographed but at the risk of overloading this review with too many pictures (and never getting to drink my tea) I was restrained with the camera.


Of course there are a huge variety of teas and tea accoutrements  showcased in the two rooms. If you’re overawed by the thick menu then I recommend starting off with one of the eight Tea-sers, mini-tea tastings where you get to taste and compare three related styles of tea to compare ($9.95). You’ll drink a lot of tea but also learn a lot too!



I chose the Chinese Green Teas Tea-ser which included teas originating from three different Chinese provinces. It was fascinating to watch the exact science of tea brewing as Pascale whipped out the miniature scale, poured just-under-boiling water onto the leaves and organised the egg timer for the optimum brew. The Long Jing (from Zhejiang) was grassy and fresh, the Jasmine Pearls (from Fujian) was supremely fragrant and sweet and the Yin Si (from Yunnan) was almost savoury.  


A brief question to Pascale, one of the owners, elicited a passionate stream of interesting information about the processing of tea, different flavours and experimenting with brewing times. She told me that jasmine tea is so expensive (theirs is around $150 a kilo wholesale) because it is highly labour-intensive process where tea leaves are infused overnight and sifted with night-blooming jasmine flowers at least ten times. Beware of cheap jasmine tea as it’s likely to be treated with synthetic fragrance!

If your taste is more towards a traditional English breakfast then Pascale recommends Larsen & Thompson’s Good MorningAssam blend which is best taken with milk. Oh and I don’t think I’ll be going back to Earl Grey now – it’s apparently just neutral, no-flavour (and probably cheap) tea leaves strongly flavoured with bergamot.

And their most expensive tea? The Larsen & Thompson Duflating OR82 Assam tea from India, full of golden tips, costs $250 a kilo wholesale. If you want to taste before investing try it for yourself as part of the Assam Tea Tea-Ser.

You’ll want some nibbles to go with your tea and while there are a few savoury options (antipasto platter, soup, tart) I suggest you head straight for the cake cabinet and try one of the cakes made on premises by another one of the owners, Katya. I really enjoyed the moist, slightly sugar-crystal coated Persian Love Cake made with yoghurt, almond meal, brown sugar and pistachios and it came with a dollop of rose cream.


But why not go all out with the decadent four-layered sponge slathered in salted caramel buttercream frosting (fortunately I was able to take half of it home)!


Travelling Samovar does a stellar job in creating a special moment, a calm experience, through the act of tea drinking. They are also in the business of tea education and upstairs is a tea tasting room where they will be holding regular tea-tasting events (join their mailing list at As a non-coffee drinker in a coffee-mad town, I’m really happy that they’ve arrived.


Travelling Samovar, 412 Rathdowne St, North Carlton +61 3 9917 2911

Wed-Sun 10am-5pm

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HOT: Tour de France at Depot de Pain, 693 Rathdowne St, Carlton North


In case you’ve been sleeping, the great bicycle race Le Tour de France is currently on. It’s probably the only sporting event in the world which includes a regional cheese introduction and provides an opportunity for cow spotting.

To get into the spirit of other French things – like croissants, baguettes and cafe au lait – French boulangerie and traiteur Depot de Pain are offering a special Tour de France menu across all four of their stores.

I cycled over to my closest store in leafy Rathdowne Street and sampled some of their special menu which is available every day of the race (from Saturday 29 June to Sunday 21 July).

If you’re after a big breakfast after staying up late watching the action then I recommend the ‘Breakfast of Champs-Elysee’.


It includes four ‘stages’ – a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice or Evian, coffee or tea, a choice of plain croissant or bread with French butter and house made jam and one of five savoury or sweet dishes from a choice of Croque Monsieur, Croque Madame, a herb omelette, French toast with maple syrup or crepes with apple, salted caramel and Chantilly crème. It is fantastic value for $20 as a single main dishes is normally priced at $11.50-$14.50.


I particularly enjoyed my OJ with plenty of pulp, just the way I like it, and the delicately layered omelette filled with finely chopped parsley and paired with buttered baguette to really fill up your tummy.  On a separate occasion I tried to Croque Monsieur filled with ham, cheese and oozy bechamel, pan-fried till golden.  I challenge you get on a bike after eating all four stages!


If you’re not eating in you can take home a ‘Red Polka Dot Breakfast Pastry Box’ – another bargain at $20 for eight mini French pastries or bread items along with French butter and a jar of house made jam. The cute box is available at the end of any classified slope during Le Tour.



And if you want a chance to practice your rusty school French then visit Depot de Pain on any day of the race and ask for your daily baguette in French along with the name of the day’s Yellow Jersey holder – and your baguette is on the house. Their bread is baked fresh daily and while it lacks the supreme crustiness of the best French loaves I’ve had the traditional fillings are generous.


The Rathdowne Street store is busy any time I visit, filled to the buzzing brim with small wooden tables in the front section, a chandeliered dining room and the back room with the long communal table popular with kids and families.

Depot-de-Pain-693-Rathdowne-St-Carlton-NorthWhen the weather’s nice there’s also a small courtyard out the back and there are even dedicated bike racks out the front.


You have only another two weeks to sample Depot de Pain‘s Tour de France specials, so hop on your bike and allez allez allez!

Depot de Pain, 693 Rathdowne St, Carlton North +61 3 9349 1311 (and other locations)

Depot de Pain Rathdowne on Urbanspoon

HOT: Small Victories, 617 Rathdowne St, Carlton North

Small Victories, 617 Rathdowne St, Carlton (2)

Small Victories has a lot to live up to. In The Age’s 2013 Good Food Under $30 Guide it won ‘Best Breakfast Spot of the Year’ – quite an accolade in a city which I think out-breakfasts anywhere else in Australia.

The cafe is nestled among some residential terraces in tree-lined Rathdowne Street and the homely atmosphere of its neighbours extends to the nooks and crannies of the cafe.

The menu is small but interesting, with an extensive list of breakfast items (as you’d expect) and for lunch a series of salads, house made pastas and rather pricey sandwiches.

I almost never opt to eat salad for lunch as it doesn’t ever seem to fill me up sufficiently. However, the salads at Small Victories beg to differ. These are complete, warm and hearty meals which just happen to feature lots of healthy, fresh, green leaves.

Small Victories, 617 Rathdowne St, Carlton (1)

Of the three salads on offer I chose the spiced slow roast lamb with chickpeas, spinach, ewes milk feta, herbs and dukka ($18). An earthy ceramic platter appeared wafting mouth-watering aromas of the Mediterranean with gently spiced lamb cooked to falling off the bone and a generous scattering  of feta in amongst the vibrantly coloured greens. It was also a perfectly balanced dish in terms of texture – each mouthful combined  the meat with creamy cheese, crunchy chickpeas and speckles of dukka spice. Best of all the dish was protein on protein on protein and hence very filling on a cold wintery day.

Small Victories, 617 Rathdowne St, Carlton (3)

While I would have been quite content to leave with a full belly at that point, I felt it was imperative to try one of the all-day breakfast dishes. So from the sweet section of the menu I chose a warm pistachio loaf, yoghurt mousse, watermelon, sour cherry compote ($15).

For a breakfast dish it took an unexpectedly long time to arrive (almost 30 minutes on a not-super-busy weekday) but when it did it was wonderful. The loaf, or really, shall we call it cake?, had that freshly baked, just-out-the-oven crispness to the outer edges and a toasty fluffiness on the inside. The yoghurt mousse was a delicate blancmange of tang that was an interesting variation on a standard pot of yoghurt. The variably tart/sweet fruits highlighted the tart/sweet counterpoint of the yoghurt and loaf/cake. The dish was a very accomplished construction, both visually and in terms of flavour and textures.

Based on my experience I’m not sure I would make the call that Small Victories is the best breakfast spot in Melbourne and I did myself checking the watch while waiting for each of my dishes to arrive. But the kitchen demonstrated skill and imagination in its choices of flavour and textural combinations and if it was my local I’m sure I’d be hanging out there a lot.

Small Victories, 617 Rathdowne St, Carlton North 61 3 9347 4064
Mon – Tues         8am til 5pm
Wed  – Sat           8am til 10pm
Sunday                9am til 5pm
Small Victories on Urbanspoon



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HOT: St Ali North, 815 Nicholson St, Carlton North


St Ali North is a cafe that ticks all the boxes for me.

In fact, it’s almost as if they gathered a focus group of one (me) and asked what I wanted from a cafe. Let’s see now…an easy distance from my house via public transport or bike, an interesting menu using good quality produce, friendly helpful service, early opening hours (they open at 6am and serve breakfast from 7am), bike parking and kid-friendly facilities. Tick, tick, tick.



They get special bonus points for having a convenient bike-through where you can draw up your treadlie at the window to grab a drink, a sweet or a quick bite to eat. Oh, and if your bike needs some attention you can get some free air from Velo Cycles or book your repairs at their workshop.


AND if you have kids the outdoor seating area segues seamlessly into a patch of lawn overlooking a (council) playground where the rugrats can run riot.

I’ve been there several times and been impressed with every visit. The large rectangular space is light and comfortable, with seating of all shapes and sizes to accommodate singles or a group just as comfortably. When the weather’s warm the prime location is actually on the grass by the bike path I think, otherwise the bench seats by the communal tables provide just as good a view of passing traffic with the benefit of shelter.

St Ali North Nicholson St Carlton North

I don’t usually order porridge when I’m out as I tend to make my own, but I couldn’t go past ‘War of the Roses’ –  thick and creamy organic rolled oats decorated with a pretty drizzle of strawberry and rosewater compote and sprinkles of hazelnut praline for sweetness and textural crunch ($14).

St Ali North Nicholson St Carlton North

Another sweet breakfast option is ‘Sweet 16 and Never Been Kissed’ with brioche topped with pan-fried peaches and bacon ice cream ($17.50). I was expecting the ice cream to be like a Heston Blumenthal-esque bacon-flavoured ice cream but it is in fact a rich vanilla bean ice cream topped with a sprinkle of bacon bits. So it’s a little less avant garde – I was disappointed but those with more cautious palates may not feel the same way. For that price I would also have hoped for more than one slice of brioche.


If you’re looking for something more filling I recommend the St Ali Breakfast Sandwich, a hefty handful of meaty pork terrine topped with a fried egg and with that richness offset by a picalilli relish and a crunchy walnut and green apple salad ($16.50). You can always finish off your savoury dish with one of the delectable sweets made onsite in prime position tempting customers at the cashier.


As you’d expect from a cafe headed by coffee maestro Salvatore Malatesta there is a strong focus on high quality coffee (they even roast their beans in house), though being a non-coffee drinker I also recommend their iced and hot chocolates ($4).

While the prices are a couple of dollars higher than the usual cafe prices I think the overall dining experience is worth the extra money for the occasional visit. The food is creative, the mood is relaxed and there’s plenty to keep you busy, whether it’s people-watching, paper-reading or keeping an eye on the kids at the playground.  Bike down and linger for a long stay.

St Ali North, 815 Nicholson St, Carlton North +61 3 9380 5455
Every day 6:00 am – 6:00 pm

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St Ali North on Urbanspoon

HOT: La Luna Bistro, 320 Rathdowne St, Carlton North

It’s the last week of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and if you haven’t already make sure you make a booking for Restaurant Express, where you can partake in a great value lunch with some of Melbourne’s (and regional Victoria’s) top restaurants.

Gourmet Chick and I whittled down our shortlist to the $35 2 course lunch at La Luna Bistro. It’s an informal neighbourhood restaurant serving modern Australian dishes with a Mediterranean/British bent and at its helm is chef/owner Adrian Richardson (from TV fame) who we found watering the kitchen garden built on the nature strip outside the restaurant.

He was very friendly when we asked about the plants there (herbs, tomatoes, lettuces) and invited us to borrow a pair of scissors to snip from the large bay tree after our meal. In fact, he said that anyone was welcome to harvest from the garden from any time since it’s built on community land – though he’d prefer it if you didn’t rip out a whole plant :–)

Adrian’s food philosophy is very much about local, seasonal ingredients and buying from small producers. It is especially famous for its meat (the pig is the restaurant mascot it seems) so if you’re vegetarian then you will be limited in choice.

The restaurant is smallish on the inside so if the weather’s nice I highly recommend spreading out on one of the half dozen outdoor tables on the pavement. The clean, unflashy decor is extended to the functional napery – tea towels! Great idea.

On the Restaurant Express lunch menu there are three entrees, three mains and three desserts (two sweets and one cheese). Gourmet Chick and I decided to share two entrees and mains as the desserts of creme brulee and chocolate pudding, while delicious-sounding, were fairly commonplace.

To start, house-cured Wessex Saddleback House made pancetta with sweet pickled peppers. These rare breed pigs produce the silkiest perfumed cured meats thanks to a large fat seam in their flesh. La Luna  has a menu section devoted to charcuterie so make sure you try some of their cured meats, great with a small helping of pickles to cut through the fattiness.

Lambs tongue croquettes with a pool of artichoke aioli. The balls were more potato than tongue (probably a good thing, I’m a bit squeamish about offal) and lightly fried for a hint of crunch.

Despite the unseasonably balmy weather we ordered two very wintery dishes. Firstly, a rich melting braised beef rib with a tomato and pepper reduction. My favourite element was the crunchy corn salsa for textural contrast and a bit of freshness instead of the usual expected side dish of mash.

More textural contrast in the second main course from the roasted walnuts garnishing house-made bull boar sausages, atop some silky aioli and with a sprinkling of chives.

All in all I was impressed by the quality of the food and the service at La Luna Bistro and it’s heartening to see a true ‘paddock to plate’ philosophy at work with the kitchen popping out to the street to harvest some of their ingredients. The dishes are not particularly challenging but familiar comfort food done well is the perfect formula for this local bistro.

La Luna Bistro, 320 Rathdowne St, Carlton North +61 3 9349 4888

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La Luna Bistro on Urbanspoon

HOT: The Age Good Food Guide 2012 Winners!

The winners of The Age Good Food Guide 2012 Awards were announced last night. Here is the complete list of winners, some with my previous reviews – congratulations!

Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year – Attica

Citibank Chef of the Year – Dan Hunter, Royal Mail Hotel

Regional Restaurant of the year – Loam

Best New Regional Restaurant – Mr Carsisi

Plumm Wine Glasses Best New Restaurant – Golden Fields

The Age Young Chef of the Year – Josh Murphy, Cumulus Inc

Champagne Louis Roederer Sommelier of the Year – Bengt Baumgartner, The European

Virgin Australia Service Excellence Award – Jason Lui, Flower Drum

Professional Excellence – Neil Perry

Dimmi Award for Innovation – TOYS Collective

Epicure Sustainability Award –  Maurice Esposito, Esposito at Toofey’s and Saint Peter’s

Donlevy Fitzpatrick Award – Gerald’s Bar

Dan Murphy’s BYO Restaurant of the Year – Osteria La Passione

Samsung Diners’ Choice Award – Cutler & Co

Vittoria Coffee Legend Award – Philippe Mouchel, PM 24

Best Short Wine List – Merricote

Regional Wine List of the Year – Lake House, Daylesford

Brown Brothers Wine List of the Year – Spice Temple

Lucky Beer Dish of the Year –  Barbecue Spare Ribs, Dandelion

The book, apps (from Samsung apps and iTunes) and website will be available from 30 August.

Here’s the list of 2011’s winners.

HOT: North Cafeteria, 717 Rathdowne St, Carlton North

North Cafeteria is small and straight to the point, just like this review.

It’s located on the northside of town. To be specific, it’s a favourite with the locals of North Carlton, right in the heart of sedate Rathdowne Village.

The cafe is essentially one room with small corridor of outdoor space at the back. The single room is dominated by a huge cartoon mural drawn by Sadie Chandler on one side, the coffee station bedecked with Coffee Supreme bags on the other side and is spanned by a twirling brigade of white plastic moulded tulip chairs from Knoll.

The menu is a short blackboard list of breakfast dishes that melds into more lunch-ey options. While cheese and fish are not natural partners, I loved the sound of the sardines with haloumi ($13.50). A plate of fishy fish and melted cheese on relish-slathered bread, with a generous handful of rocket and a wedge of lemon to cut through the oily fish and salty cheese. Simple yet effective.

The cakes and pastries are sourced from Little Bertha, which can be found at many other cafes, so I decided to give them a miss.

That’s pretty much it – as promised, a short and snappy review of a cafe worth your time if you’re in the area. Adios amigos!

For a breakfast review of North Cafeteria, check out The Hungry Lawyer.

North Cafeteria on Urbanspoon