Culture

Why Are New Yorkers So Obsessed With Aussie Breakfasts?

#smashedavo all the way, you guys.

Two minutes into a conversation at a Brooklyn bar, a Peruvian travel agent stops me and says “Wait, you’re Australian? Everyone loves your breakfasts man!”

“What, like, avocado on toast?”

“Exactly – it’s so good!”

Like many Aussies, I tend to think of our breakfast staples as ‘just breakfast’, and I didn’t think smashed avo on toast was the kind of food that could find purchase in a market saturated with guacamole. But my new friend confirmed that his clients can’t get enough. “Everybody who comes to New York asks me ‘where can I get a good Australian breakfast?’”

Trend, not fad

Smashed avo on toast is a favourite among locals at NYC’s Five Leaves. Photo: Five Leaves/Facebook

Food fads in NYC are a dime a dozen, and most are fairly short lived (remember cronuts?), but the successes achieve lasting fame. The city is make or break for people who flock to the Big Apple, so it isn’t surprising that it has a ferocious free market attitude to food. But how did the humble smashed avo, the down-to-earth bircher muesli, and the unprepossessing vegemite toast become the enduring stars of NYC’s breakfast scene?

Australian brekkie ‘arrived’ in New York in 2014, according to the New York Times. But pioneers at cafes like Five Leaves in Greenpoint have been slinging avocado toast and BLTs since long before then. The café, which sits on a bustling intersection just around the corner from where HBO’s Girls is filmed, has a uniquely Australian history – it was a business venture planned by Heath Ledger. Tragically, he died before it could open in 2008. Now, it is a NYC brunch staple, with queues around the block on weekends.

One NYC brunchgoer from Arkansas told me avocado toast was her “go to”, and a Californian tried to convince me it originated in her home state. I attempted to set the record straight, and we found common ground in how perfect it is for any occasion, not just breakfast.

The Aussie culture in NYC isn’t just food though – Australian baristas and beans are in high demand. Throughout Manhattan, Australian coffee is taking hold – Bluestone Lane has a long list of locations. The Aussie-style coffee shop chain was founded by Melbourne native Nick Stone, who used to kick for Hawthorn and St Kilda. They’ve just opened a café in Philadelphia, and list New Jersey and San Francisco locations as “coming soon”.

Dance parties in your living room

Smashed avo’s where it’s at! Photo: Seven Point Espresso/Facebook

When I walk into Seven Point Espresso on a freezing March day, Chance The Rapper is pumping and a dance party centred on one regular customer’s twoyearkid old is in full swing. “He just loves Chance, we have to put it on every time he comes in” says Courtney, 23, the manager. “We want this place to feel like your living room, but with really high quality food and coffee.”

Courtney was flown out from Melbourne to Brooklyn’s Crown Heights six months ago to set up and run the Australian-owned Seven Point, which takes its name from the seven points on the stars of Australia’s flag. Young families and creatives, Australian and American, frequent the café for food which Courtney characterises as fresh and healthy alternatives to standard NYC brunch – generally a boozy and stodgy affair.

At Seven Point, the relaxed atmosphere and excellent service are key parts of the Australian feel, as is the limited menu of quality avo on toast (with optional poached eggs), bircher muesli and the like. In a city that bombards its residents with overwhelming choice, great coffee and simple, healthy options in a friendly Aussie space keep customers coming back.

“Americans are really surprised initially,” Courtney says.“They say ‘What do you do, what are you?’ But New Yorkers are really open to new experiences. In Melbourne cafés, regulars always order the same thing, but here our regulars always want to try something new.”

She pauses to answer a question from one such New Yorker, a young woman whose writing pads sprawl across the bar: “What’s a flat white? Is that like a cortado?

“The closest thing we have to a cortado is ‘The Magic’. It’s a double espresso shot topped with milk,” Courtney says.

The young woman takes the plunge and so do I.It tastes perfect, just like home.

Vegemite, the final frontier

vegemite

Avocado on toast, bircher muesli, and great coffee might be easy sells to a health-conscious Brooklyn crowd, but what about vegemite? Courtney tells me that New Yorkers will try anything once, but not many order it again.

Despite this, the demand from Seven Point’s Aussie customers is high enough that she had to bring a second suitcase packed with the yeasty stuff when she flew in. “I’m not sure it’s legal,” she says, “But our American staff have really jumped on board…our chefs make vegemite toast soldiers every morning, just for us!”

(Lead image: Seven Point Espresso/Facebook)

Check out Qantas flights to New York City.