Chances are, if you’re an ANU student who doesn’t live on campus you live in the inner north, or you know somebody who does (or has). Or if not, chances are you’ve visited the occasional hellscape that is Dickson Woollies and run into at least three people that you know. There are local classics like Dickson Dumpling House and Dickson Asian Noodle House, the latter of which has been firmly in our takeaway and dining-out rotation since we moved here. But since we’ve made more of an effort to branch out and try different places in the area, I’ve found several new favourites, the majority of which (as far as I can tell) are locally owned small businesses.
Folks Galley 6 Cape St
This café is just across the road from the currently hip High Road. It’s small and cute, with works by local artists on display, and I’ve never had to wait in a 20-minute queue to order there. While the food selection is limited, the drinks menu is not. I normally drink decaf, so I won’t pretend to be able to have a verdict on the quality of their coffee, but their honey spice chai tastes great with dairy and non-dairy milk, and their coconut iced latte is delightfully suited to Canberra summer.
Flavours of Jiangnan G6/8 Cape St
Flavours of Jiangnan is where I take visiting family and friends when I’ve already taken them to the Polish Club. Up the road from Folks Gallery and next door to Share Tea, this is the place to come for noodles and noodle soup. The noodles here are hand-pulled, wide, flat, come in large portions sizes, and are reasonably priced. There aren’t many vegetarian noodles options (two at last count), but fortunately the vegetarian noodle soup is substantial and good enough that I still happily order it every time I go there. I have been informed that the meat options are very nice too.
Dickson Liquor Store 2/30 Woolley St
My housemate introduced me to this bottle shop on the main street in Dickson even though I’ve lived here for at least three times the length of time he has. I just really like this store – its logo is a lizard drinking a glass of wine. It sells all the usuals (beer, cider, wine, spirits), but it also has a wide range of soju, sake, and craft beers with extremely aesthetic can designs that you can buy in 4/6 packs or in singles. It also sells a lychee cider that successfully wiped me out at our last house party. There’s always at least one staff member on the floor who’s happy to provide recommendations.
Utopia Dickson Plaza, 5/28 Challis Street
Au Lac’s slightly more affordable cousin (soy duck wraps are $9.40 vs $7.50), Utopia’s Vietnamese cuisine-based menu is all-vegan. A couple of shops down from East Kitchen, the menu is full of mock-meat options as well as more conventional vegetarian options. It also has several vegan dessert options – including fried ice cream and deep-fried banana.
East Kitchen Dickson Plaza, 2/28 Challis St
This restaurant is why I wrote this article in the first place. It’s run by a very nice older couple who will be genuinely thrilled to have you there, and all I want is for them to get more business from uni students in the inner north. The menu is in a plastic folder, so you know it’s legit. The food may not arrive super-fast when there’s multiple groups because, as far as I can tell, there is a single old man in the kitchen cooking it. But when it arrives it will be hot, and it will be excellent. While you’re waiting enjoy your BYO drinks from Dickson Liquor Store, and the specials on the chalkboard are worth checking out.
Spilt Milk Bar 70/2 Cape St
Does it rival Messina? Probably not, because Canberrans seem to fucking love Messina, but it is very close to everything else on this list if you’re after a decent dessert and don’t want to go to Lonsdale Street or Kingston. The flavour selection is solid and interesting, the staff are friendly, and it’s open until 9.30 or 10.30 pm depending on the day. Their baby scoop is decently sized and only $2.50 if you’re after a small treat. Their chocolate sorbet is my go-to (and dairy-free).