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South of Johnston (SoJo)

I've lived in East Melbourne for six months and I am a serial weekend bruncher. My housemate and I are fortunate to have some excellent cafes nearby, including Proud Mary, Three Bags Full, Grocery Bar, New York Tomato and recent Victoria Street addition, Little Big Sugar Salt. But one of my new favourites is South of Johnston (46 Oxford Street, Collingwood), more lovingly known as SoJo.

SoJo is actually quite a bit south of Johnston Street, not just south of it, as the name would suggest. In fact, the restaurant site is just south of Peel Street, but I guess SoPeel doesn't quite have the same ring to it. Or North of Langridge... NoLang?! Mmmmmyeahsoanyway...

Reasons I like SoJo

  • It's walking distance from my house. Extremely important when you're a caffeine addict and have no car. 
  • It's spacious, so although it gets quite busy, you never have to wait too long for a table. (Plus, my housemate has a magic touch when it comes to waiting times: never exceeding 15 minutes! I know, right! Lucky, lucky.) 
  • There are private nooks, communal tables, and (undercover) outdoor areas. 
  • The venue is a converted warehouse, so it feels airy and light, even on dark days. 

  • It has the oddest mix of design features I've ever seen. There are massive stripey beach umbrellas perched upside-down over the main counter; pastel-coloured, country-style furniture and antique knick-knacks alongside clean lines and dark, modern colours; comfy lounge chairs and tidy booths; plates as wall decorations, funky lighting, and a large Sydney Harbour Bridge replica at one end. (So clearly there's no aversion here to Sydney like the rest of Melbourne seems to have.) I wasn't sure about it all at first, but now I think it works somehow. 

  • The staff are generally friendly and smiley. 
  • It's far enough away from Smith Street that you don't get annoying customers (i.e. clueless visitors to the area, chromers loitering outside) - just local dwellers and workers, mainly. 

  • It seems to be open on most public holidays! YAY. 
  • The food is seriously tasty, there's loads of choice, and they don't try too hard to be weird and clever - still interesting, but not wanky. 

  • The coffee is good, and they use real chocolatey sprinkles on top of cappuccinos.

  • You can hang out there for ages and no one minds. 
  • The soap in the bathrooms is niiiiiiiiice.
  • I really like the music played (on the whole). 

Things SoJo could do better

  • The coffee. It ain't bad, but I personally find Supreme rather bland, and maybe it's extracted too quickly or something, but it just doesn't have enough kick for me! I usually have to ask for a strong one, or just end up getting two. Also, they serve it on the cooler side of warm here. Maybe time to step it up a bit, guys?! 
  • It's such a big space that sometimes I feel cold. Sad face. 
  • Apparently there's a doggie around, and I HAVEN'T MET HIM YET. 
  • That's all. 

Update: 4 January 2014

I have met the doggie now! He's kinda bulldog-fierce looking, but pretty chilled out. Although he didn't much like our puppy (that we were minding) encroaching on his space. He hangs out in a corner of the little courtyard which opens onto the street. I didn't take a photo of the dog, but I did take another one of the coffee. Sorry.

South of Johnston Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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