Loving local: How Bargara’s iconic Windmill Cafe offers a true taste of Bundaberg

Bundaberg is a foodie’s paradise. Almost anything can grow in our rich red soils and gorgeous subtropical climate. And with the ocean as our playground, we have access to bountiful fresh seafood. Our restaurants and cafes have the first pick of the freshest, tastiest ingredients in the country which is why so many top chefs and restaurateurs love working here.

Joey Caruana is one of them. He runs The Windmill Cafe Bargara in the suburb’s iconic blue windmill, nestled in an inviting garden setting just a block away from Bargara’s popular beach. Joey took over running the cafe in 2017 after an international career in food and hospitality. His priority is to showcase the bounty of Bundaberg’s flavours by working closely with local farmers.

Taste the Bundaberg difference

Spend a few minutes talking with Joey while he works the floor of his cafe and you immediately realise his enthusiasm for Bundaberg produce is limitless. He proudly advocates for the region's producers and the wide range of delicious, fresh produce that they grow. The Windmill’s menu includes all the cafe classics from Buddha bowls to burgers, but they are made from ingredients straight from local farms. Such is the local food community in Bundaberg that Joey can take you through every one of his meals, name the person who grew most of it and tell you a bit about their family...even down to their pets! “We don't have wholesalers who come to us three times a day to drop off fruit and veg from all around the world,” he explains. “We have farmers who we call the night before and say, ‘Hey, is your dragon fruit ready?’ And they say, ‘Sure is! I'll pick it for you tomorrow and drop it off after I drop the kids at school.’"

These strong local connections help keep food miles low and give guests a true taste of Bundaberg when they eat at The Windmill Cafe. In fact, 85% of the entire menu is food from the Bundaberg region and, as far as Joey is concerned, this freshness is the key to first-rate flavour.

Local food legends

As well as being vocal advocates for the local food scene, The Windmill Cafe Bargara is proud to champion initiatives that give back to the environment and community. For instance, the shady garden that patrons love provides herbs and flowers for the cafe. It’s pollinated by native bees from the cafe’s hives and watered from rainwater tanks that collect precious drops from the windmill’s roof. They champion initiatives that help keep Bundaberg's beaches clean and plastic-free, like offering free gelato to anyone who fills one of their collection buckets with rubbish from the beach. It’s popular with the kids and visitors welcome a way to take care of the beach while they visit. They also use compostable coffee cups that are taken to the new Green Solutions Wide Bay facility and turned into compost for local sweet potato farms. The Windmill then proudly buys back the sweet potatoes that their coffee cups helped grow!

Highlighting indigenous culture

The Windmill Cafe Bargara is also proud to partner with local Aboriginal groups to highlight the variety and versatility of native Australian flavours. They hold monthly nights featuring indigenous dance and storytelling as well as ingredients that would have been used by Bundaberg’s first residents. Locally caught mackerel, lemon myrtle and macadamia are all likely to feature. During the 2021 Taste Bundaberg Festival, Joey and his team worked with young indigenous chefs to prepare the Mon Repos First Nations dining experience. This inspiring and immersive event, including a seven-course menu showcasing an array of locally-sourced native ingredients and served on the famous Mon Repos beach, was a highlight of the festival. “We're really proud of what we are able to do in a tiny little café on a beach in a little town of 6,000 people,” says Joey.

The rest of Bundaberg is proud of them too! Taste the Bundaberg difference at The Windmill Cafe Bargara.