I have been meaning to put up this post for quite some time now. As sappy as it may sound it holds a special place in my heart because it is such a big part of my childhood memories. The place I am referring to is the iconic Rusty’s Markets of course. With over 180 stalls featuring a delightful array of fresh fruit and vegetables, locally baked bread, flowers, art, crafts, seafood and so much more.
Up and running since 1975 Rusty’s Markets is quintessentially Cairns – kind of like what Qantas is to Australia.
I remember going there way back when I was a little ‘un. Every single Saturday morning my mum would drag my younger sister and I around the markets with her little black trolley filling it high with the fruits, veggies and other treats on offer at Rusty’s Markets.
My sister and I thought it was the most boring thing ever back then but mum bribed us with Cheese Twists from the Swiss Bakery and fresh pinepple juice from the Pineapple Man to keep us quiet. My mum and dad also owned a fresh seafood stall there for nearly 10 years in the 1980’s.
I remember Rusty with his bright red shirt walking around and greeting the stall owners and market goers. I remember Kaotica on the corner – the vintage/second hand type clothing store than has now moved to Oceana Walk. Mum used to marvel at all the clothes in there while my sister and I complained how hungry we were. I remember the bustling juice bar way back before the staff at Boost Juice were calling out peoples names. I remember hippies. Lots of hippies. I remember the humble beginnings Hashams Dips way back when there was only about 5 or 6 dips and pestos to choose from and way before you could buy them at IGA. Possibly even before IGA was around.
I remember the Unisex Hairdressing place that resembled a cave inside. I used to think how rude it was because there was ‘sex’ in the name. Little did I know that unisex actually meant men’s and women’s. I remember a nice old Italian lady making fresh pasta sauce for $15 a pop – a little overpriced if you asked me. It’s no yolk (haha) that Yamagishi Eggs, or ‘Happy Eggs’ as they are more fondly referred, are the still the best damn eggs you can buy… not to mention another icon of the Far North.
And last but not least I remember the man that used to sell all the phone cards. He’s still there to this day although he mostly sticks to selling fruit and veg.
Nowadays, Rusty’s Markets has changed quite a bit but it’s still the bustling marketplace that I remember it to be except now there is a nightclub in the midst of it all. Rusty himself is no longer there having passed away over 15 years ago according to my mum and dad. Sadly the tree that my sister and I used to climb, along with all the other kids whose parents were dragging them around the markets, is now part of the Gilligan’s beer garden. Somehow I don’t think the Gilligan’s security would appreciate me reliving my tree climbing days.
Let’s not forget the multiplying number of food trucks up the northern end on Sheridan Street. Off the top of my head theres Japanese, Vietnamese, Tongan, Thai, Burgers, pastries and plenty more.
Many Cairns locals also swear by Billy’s Coffee located inside the markets (on the Gilligan’s side). It’s the best coffee in Cairns some would say.
Truth be told, these days I don’t get to Rusty’s Markets quite as often as I should. For me it’s one of those places that I think about going to a day too late and end up at Coles or Woolies spending 4x the amount I would have at Rusty’s.
A couple of weeks ago whilst taking photos at the market I overheard a backpacker with a bag full of fruit and veggies exclaiming to his friends that what he paid $20 for at Rusty’s would have cost him nearly $100 at Woolworth’s. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration but who hasn’t had similar thoughts?
If you’re like me you have a particular place for different food items. I go to one stall for my avocados, another for my bush ripened Mareeba tomatoes, this one for my mangoes, that one for herbs and everything else is usually wherever takes my fancy. I almost always end up leaving with double the amount of food I planned to buy.
It’s an absolute must see for anyone that is visiting Cairns. Whether you’re going to buy some of the fresh, local produce on offer or just stroll through and take in the sights and sounds there really is something for everyone at Rusty’s Markets.
Rusty’s Market is open every week from Friday through to Sunday.
Friday – 5am to 6pm
Saturday – 5am to 6pm
Sunday – 5am – 3pm
The Paleo Cafe opened on Grafton Street in October last year after much anticipation from many Cairns locals and crossfit enthusiasts. Since it opened I have dined there a few times for both breakfast and lunch. I also regularly drop in for a Cocoa, Honey, Banana, Almond Milk and Coconut Milk smoothie for AU$7 because I think it’s bloody delicious (on the other hand MS thinks it’s revolting). Most recently myself, MS and a couple of my girlfriends went to the Paleo Cafe for a catch up and a healthy breakfast after I had a look over the weekly menu that arrived in my inbox and spotted something that I simply had to try. I’m not an avid follower of the Paleo Diet, nor do I particularly care if what I am eating contains gluten, dairy or all of the above but regardless of what your intentions are there is something on the menu at the Paleo Cafe for everyone. Although it’s technically a cafe half of the shop is made up of a retail section where you can purchase a variety of paleo style goodies including pre-made meals, coconut ice cream, sauces, supplements, cookbooks and even skin care products. If you haven’t heard about the Paleo Diet yet then you must be living under a rock (or in a cave). I’m not going to go into a spiel about what the Paleo Diet is because those that care already know and those that don’t care, well they just don’t care. I’m just here to talk about the food…
MS and I arrived first and proceeded to umm and ahh over whether or not it was best to sit inside or outside. In the end inside won because it was a little cold and windy outside (for Cairns anyway). We moved a couple of tables together to accommodate our group of five (it ended up being four), collected a couple more menus from the counter and took a seat. Soon our breakfast buddies arrived and after a bit of a catch up and an explanation why the fifth person didn’t come (apparently ST’s boyfriend is a little shy and chose to stay at home) we each had a look over the menu.
Since it was MS’ turn to shout breakfast he headed up to the counter to order breakfast and coffee’s for the two of us closely followed by ST and MD. After some confusion at our table as to who was collecting the cutlery we all sat back down and waited for our coffee’s and meals to arrive. Call me a nit picker but if there are items on the breakfast menu upwards of AU$20 (that’s an expensive breakfast) then I don’t think it’s too much to expect cutlery and napkins to be brought to the table by the waitstaff rather than patrons having to collect it from the counter. A good 15 minutes later, mine and MS’ coffees arrived and then another 5 minutes later MD’s arrived and another 5 minutes after that ST’s arrived. The coffee procession was a little disjointed and certainly could have happened sooner but the coffees were good none the less.
About five minutes later three of our four breakfasts arrived at the table. A good five minutes after that ST’s breakfast arrived. She had ordered at pretty much the same time as the rest of us so I saw no reason why hers took that little bit longer, plus she had ordered the exact same thing as MD. Both MD and ST chose the Paleo Free Range Eggs Benedict served on Savoury Bread and Spinach with Smoked Salmon for AU$18. I ordered the Breakfast Special of Pulled Pork with Wilted Spinach, Poached Eggs and Paleo Bread for AU$16 while MS whom I had pinned for the Caveman’s Big Breakfast from the moment we walked in ordered the Bacon and Free Range Eggs served with Spinach and a Sweet Potato Rosti with two extra eggs and avocado for AU$16 + $4 for the extra eggs + $3 for the avocado. It seems there was a little bit of confusion with the extra eggs and they were included with my Pulled Pork breakfast instead of MS’ which we pointed out to the waitress when she placed our plates down in front of us. She said that she could take them back to the kitchen and switch them but we declined and just transferred them ourselves – easy done but a mix up none the less.
ST and MD both enjoyed their Eggs Benedict with the sauce zesty and creamy but not overpowering and sickly like some Hollandaise Sauces tend to be. ST said she wasn’t too sure about the paleo bread (aka she didn’t like it) but MD said that she really liked it although she tried not to think of it as bread. Baker’s Delight sourdough it certainly is not but I tended to agree with MD and really like the taste and crumbly consistency of it. You still can’t beat a couple of freshly toasted slices of ciabatta bread though that’s for sure!
The half an avocado that MS ordered as extra was a lovely and fresh, as you would expect since the Paleo Cafe is situated right across the road from Rusty’s Market. The sweet potato rosti was a little bit dry and undercooked while the four poached eggs were well overcooked. The wilted spinach however, was a nice addition. He was pretty happy with it, eating the lot and then eying my breakfast.
The serving sizes were decent – the smoked salmon with the Eggs Benedict was generous and my plate had a huge pile of pulled pork which was delicious and tender with just the right amount of sweetness to it. Unfortunately the eggs were closer to hard-boiled than poached – no runny eggs makes me a sad panda.
In the end I couldn’t quite finish the pulled pork so much to MS’ delight he finished it off for me. It was delicious, just too much for little old me. It’s actually a shame that this dish isn’t included on the regular menu because I think it’s a winner.
We all had a very enjoyable breakfast with the food being both fresh and tasty. The service and the food was however quite disjointed we were always served with a smile. There are a couple of lunch items that definitely caught my eye like the Thai Green Papaya and Cashew Salad and the Slow Cooked Pork Belly but for the most part the lunch menu doesn’t really appeal to me – it’s just all a little too plain. I caught a glimpse of the Spinach, Pumpkin and Pine Nut Salad for AU$15 and there didn’t appear to be a whole lot to it other than spinach (barely any pumpkin or pine nuts). When I went there for lunch a few months ago I had the Curry of the Day which was a Thai Green Curry Served with Cauliflower Rice and Flat Bread for AU$16 and it was pretty ordinary, particularly the Cauliflower Rice. I’m not usually one to pay upwards of AU$15 for something that not is boring but tastes boring. Why someone would want to eat Cauliflower ‘Rice’ or Zucchini ‘Pasta’ by choice is beyond me but I guess it’s each to their own. But… then again that is what the whole concept of eating paleo is – getting back to healthy basics.
Another thing I’m not a fan of with the Paleo Cafe is the atmosphere, or lack thereof. The retail section over to one side of the shop as well as the stark polished concrete and the white plastic tables make the whole place seem a little sterile. It just doesn’t have the nice, cozy cafe feel to it that most people seek when dining out. Still, if the amount of people who were dining in there today when I walked past is anything to go by then maybe it’s just me that feels this way. There is also a number of franchises in the works around Australia and even inquiries for places as far-reaching as Canada. As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not going to go into the details of exactly what the paleo diet entails and although it may not appeal to everyone many people consider it to be more of ‘lifestyle’ than a diet. If the current trend towards the paleo diet continues as does the global obesity epidemic then maybe a rise in restaurants that serve basic, healthy food such as the Paleo Cafe isn’t such a bad thing after all?
Shop 15, 62 Grafton St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4041 3885
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat 7am – 3pm