A pair of classic cafés that combine a good location with great value.
Canteen Kitchen and Canteen Coffee are cafés for locals. These twin eateries occupy a curious space in modern Burleigh – they’re verging on hip, but boast old-school prices that won’t drain your bank account.
And, hey, that’s kind of nice. If you’re a native Gold Coaster, you’ve probably seen Burleigh go from chill surf-and-hippie vibes to a tourist hub of Instagram selfies and overpriced brunch spots. It’s what I call the Byron Bay syndrome – but places like Canteen hark back to simpler times, when a bite-sized burger without chips didn’t cost $24.
23 Park Ave, Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
Canteen’s setup isn’t the usual. It’s split into Canteen Kitchen (brunch food) and Canteen Coffee (yep – coffee), two separate businesses sitting side-by-side at the far end of a pedestrian alley that runs from James Street to Park Avenue.
Maybe I’m biased (I like quirky, off-the-beaten-track places), but that little alley is one of the most interesting spots in Burleigh – it has an vibrant, inner-city feel, like you’re wandering down a Melbourne side-street or through the heart of the Rocks. It also happens to be the perfect place to escape Burleigh’s incessant weekend traffic.
Canteen does a good job of capitalising on its location. There’s a scattering of sun-bleached timber tables and benches next to Canteen Coffee, and the outdoor brass-and-stone basin – designed for washing sandy hands and filling up dog bowls – is a nice touch. Outside Canteen Kitchen, a handful of big, brass-plated tables sit along Park Avenue (not quite as nice as the alley, but they’ve done a decent job with the space they have).
Inside, things feel more upscale – padded leather benches, artwork, and pendant lighting contribute to a low-key restaurant vibe.
Despite that, though, Canteen is still very much an al fresco establishment. At Canteen Kitchen, where we ordered, we didn’t even have to step inside to pay. That’s about as old-school Burleigh as it gets.
Canteen’s crowd is kind of what you’d expect: middle-aged friends catching up, mobs of older locals, families with kids. You’ll encounter a fair bit of foot traffic if you sit at the Canteen Coffee tables in the alley – unfortunately, Canteen happens to be directly next to the James Street toilets (you have to wind between tables to get to the bathroom).
On the staffing front, it’s standard café service. Our waitress was polite and efficient, and the food came out in a timely manner, although it’s worth noting that my partner and I were there during a bit of a lull.
The only real standout was the complimentary table water, which we didn’t have to ask for. A small thing, I know, but one that’s sadly lacking from many cafés and restaurants. Kudos to Canteen for that.
What’s On the Menu
Don’t come here if you’re looking for fancy. Canteen’s menu wisely sticks to the classics, albeit with enough creative twists to keep things interesting.
There’s bacon and eggs, burgers, scrambled eggs, and English breakfasts – but the eggs are scrambled with cumin and Persian fetta, the English breakfast comes with lamb koftas, and one of the burger options is tandoori chicken.
Canteen Coffee has the usual beverages – coffee, kombucha, sparkling water, juices. Their coffee is apparently award-winning; sadly, at the time of writing, their website isn’t working, so I’m not sure which coffee won what award.
The real temptation was the West African hot chocolate with Madagascar vanilla. I didn’t end up getting it, but it’s the kind of drink that sounds interesting enough to merit a re-visit (they also have an iced version – perfect for those humid summer mornings).
What I Ate
I ordered a beef burger, which came with a beef patty, lettuce, sliced tomato, garlic aioli, caramelised onion, a milk bun, and chips, and clocked in at just $14.50.
There’s something extremely satisfying about a good beef burger, and Canteen almost nailed it. The bun and veggies were both fresh (always a good start), and the patty was deliciously moist. My (small) critiques: the patty was missing that mouth-watering chargrilled smokiness, it seemed oddly firm, and there wasn’t the kind of complex flavour that elevates a dish from ‘good’ to ‘great’.
The chips were a bit of a letdown. Not properly salted, not crispy, and not completely cooked through the middle.
With all that said, though, Canteen’s burger stood out to me because it’s between $8 and $10 cheaper than most of the other cafés in Burleigh, and it actually does come with chips (which many places now have as an expensive addition). Sure, mine wasn’t perfect, but it’s exceptional value, so I’d definitely recommend dining here if you’re looking to eat out and not burn cash.
What I Drank
Canteen’s iced drinks are house specialities, according to the menu, so I was expecting something pretty great when I ordered an iced long black.
The result: definitely good, but not amazing. With three shots, the flavour was strong, but not too heavy – definitely more of a medium roast with some slight acidity. It’s the kind of coffee you’d come back for, but not quite the kind you remember.
At $6.50, it was on the pricier side. Your average iced long black with four shots comes to about $5.50, so, at Canteen, you’re paying a bit more for a bit less. I can’t say I minded, though. An extra dollar on coffee is worth it when the food is so exceptionally affordable.
Canteen’s simple, affordable meals make it perfect for low-key catchups and family days out.
Iced Long Black, Extra Shot
Bacon & Eggs, Hash Browns