I don't know if you have noticed lately (maybe you don't go to the country very often) but cafes in country towns are almost as cool as their city cousins.
Dungog's (fyi - it's in the upper hunter) cool cafe is called CHILLbillies. Not really sure how it got its name - the cafe wasn't really "chilled" in that you had a feeling that the staff were in a state of unorganised chaos and we didn't notice any hill billies around so luckily we bought our own billy (the eldest little bull).
When you first walk into CHILLbillies the first thing you see is the friesian (fyi - that's a breed of cattle) poddy calf smack bang in front of the counter. The little bulls were drawn to it like bees to a honey pot. Both proudly announcing after their inspection that it was a girl and not a little bull - phew their farmer Poppy would be relieved that they weren't too "citified" after all.
But that's where the kid friendly activities for the cafe stop. Sorry parents - no toys, no crayons, just one lonely old kids book found on a shelf near our table - so BYO.
The spacious interior is quite retro and quirky with the tabletops decorated with old movie posters or a type of decoupage of old cutlery so your little ones will be quite intrigued for a wee while checking these all out. The cafe also doubles as a kinda gourmet food store so you can pick up some goodies if you are staying close by (their sourdough was delish). If you prefer to sit outside there is quite a lot of sheltered seating and as it was a Saturday you can also pick up some locally grown fresh vegies from the weekly market stall in front of the cafe.
We were at CHILLbillies for breakfast. They don't have a separate kids menu but there a couple of options off the menu that we could choose. We went for the toasted banana and coconut bread (6.50) for the little bulls and luckily there were 2 slices so the bulls could have one each. All the food we saw coming out of the kitchen looked very tasty and came in big country size serves.
The little bulls also had a milkshake and babycino. All of CHILLbillies milk comes from an organic dairy called "Over the Moon"! The milkshake came in a takeaway coffee cup and the babycino had a marshmallow on the side so there weren't any complaints from the little bulls....except that they took a long time to come.
You order and pay at the counter which I think is a smart move as it ensures that you don't get missed by the waitstaff in a busy cafe and it also means that you don't have to hang around at the end of a meal to get your bill - anything to save time and effort if you are dining out with kids. It should also mean that your food and drinks are served relatively quickly.
Alas CHILLbillies didn't quite seem to have this organised. We waited an age for our drinks and when they came the waitress didn't seem to know if they were for our table or not, until we insisted that they were because we were all so thirsty. The food also took a while to come and we only ordered "monster" bacon and egg rolls ($8.90) plus the banana bread - once again the waitress seemed a bit vague as to if they were ours or not. Maybe she was new? Or maybe she needed some help on the floor! There were loads of staff in the kitchen and behind the counter stocking the cake counter but only one on the floor - so she probably can be forgiven for being so vague - at least she smiled through it all. Seated customers surely have to take precedence over getting the cake cabinet stocked? Although those home made cakes did look soooooooooooo good.
So a couple of other "cool" elements of CHILLbillies - they are open every day from 8.30am - 4.00pm so if you are staying close by or just driving through you can always get a decent caffeine fix and some decent food. They have the coolest loos I have seen in a long time. The ladies is hot pink and has a gorgeous decoration of origami flowers in it - but alas no baby change table. Unless this is in the disabled loo which I have read about since but was not pointed in the direction of when I asked the vague waitress where I could take the little bulls to the loo.
Also CHILLbillies is quite reasonably priced. Most cool country town cafes seem to think that because they have gone to the effort to make their cafes citified that they then have the right to charge city prices.
So in summary CHILLbillies is cool just not chilled. I think the thing lacking with CHILLbillies was good old fashioned country hospitality. But maybe that's what happens when country cafes get cool?
205 Dowling St Dungog NSW 2420
02 4992 3272
02 4992 3272