Australian Cafe Culture Takes Root in Downtown Jersey City

At Maggie's Farm Espresso, opened by native Australian Sam de Burgh, savor a proper coffee and smashed avocado toast in a calm and cozy environment.

Photo courtesy of Maggie's Farm Espresso.

It’s no secret that Australian coffee shops, harbingers of the beloved avocado toast, are having a moment in American cafe culture. In New York City, one can find a dozen Aussie spots serving healthy, colorful food, strong coffee and mellow vibes. Now, Jersey City has one of its own—the five-month-old Maggie’s Farm Espresso.

Owner Sam de Burgh found himself missing the coffee culture in his native Perth, Australia, where he grew up surrounded by beaches, surfers and getting a daily hot chocolate (and when he was old enough, a coffee) with his mother, Maggie, “the biggest coffee addict I’ve ever met.” His cafe’s name is both inspired by her and a reference to the Bob Dylan song, Maggie’s Farm. In the song, the crooner expresses his desire to quit working for the man; de Burgh, who worked in finance in New York for a decade, related.

Plus, early on, he found most places in the city with good coffee didn’t serve much in the way of food beyond pastries. And at a typical “restaurant with good food, the coffee was really ordinary,” lacking an experienced barista. His dream cafe, like the “sort of standard coffee shops we have in Australia” would serve coffee as the main event, “supported by really good food, in a nice environment that feels calm and cozy, where people get looked after.”

Photo courtesy of Maggie’s Farm Espresso.

This dream took shape across the river after de Burgh met his wife, who grew up in New Jersey. After the two moved to Summit, where they’re currently raising their children, the 35-year-old fell in love once more — this time, with downtown Jersey City. Attracted by its charm and strong sense of community, he opened his 25-seat cafe last October, joining the modern, natural wine haven Frankie as the second Australian-inspired restaurant in town.

Since then, Maggie’s Farm has drawn all sorts of diners: laptoppers sipping flat whites out of cheery yellow mugs, friends catching up over toast and lattes, and young families grabbing a quick bite. The smashed avocado toast—an Instagrammable favorite that got its start in cafes in Sydney—is a top seller. So is the breakfast wrap, filled with free range eggs, cheese, spinach and more avocado (both $8). There are hearty salads ($11), such as the roast lamb with couscous, sandwiches ($10) and daily soups ($9). de Burgh says Maggie’s Farm also sells “bucket loads” of slices, or mini dessert bars, from fellow Aussie company Boomerang Bites, based in Hoboken.

Photo courtesy of Maggie’s Farm Espresso.

Offerings change seasonally, per the menu designed by chef Paul Salmeri, a fellow Perth native who’s cooked at the Michelin-starred River Cafe in London. The food is purposely simple, de Burgh says, but made with top quality ingredients—everything besides the breads and pastries are made in-house, the all-important coffee beans are sourced from Counter Culture roasters and de Burgh says you won’t find any powders or syrups in the drinks. A hot chocolate, for example, starts with a barista shaving down a slab of Belgian chocolate.

On my first visit to Maggie’s, my avocado toast, on a thick slice of Balthazar bread, came topped with shaved Parmesan, roasted Brussels sprouts and squash, and an egg for good measure. Like all of the menu items, it’s designed to be ready in just a few minutes, de Burgh explains, to arrive while your coffee’s still hot. Laptop workers genially shared tables and indie rock drifted from the speakers. I could’ve stayed all day, or at least until 5 pm, which is when Maggie’s closes on the weekends.

de Burgh is looking ahead to spring, when the toast toppings and the rest of the menu will shift seasonally and the cafe will set up a dozen additional seats outside for the warmer weather. Other than that, he’s perfecting recipes for cold brew iced teas and continuing to make Maggie’s a place “to catch up with a mate over coffee. That’s what coffee means to me.”

Maggie’s Farm Espresso, 88 Morgan Street, Jersey City; 917-499-7020

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