Sarnies, sambos, sangers… whatever you call them, there is something dependable about anything wearing a bread overcoat. Whether it’s a lovingly made lunchbox Vegemite special, a bronzed ham-and-cheese toastie or an elegant chicken and mayonnaise liaison, the humble sandwich has sustained generations. Here are ten of the best to be had in Melbourne.
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Melbourne’s best sandwiches
This slick café down cobbled Oliver Laneway aims to bring a little New York style to Melbourne’s CBD. Reubens, turkey clubs and Cubanos are just some of the Yankee sangers that make an appearance, and for a mere $5.50 investment you can upgrade your meal and get a pretzel, pickle and a side of mac and cheese or salad. The classy take on a Philly cheese steak sub here takes a long, warm white roll; tender beef brisket roasted for 14 hours; strips of sweet and softened onion and capsicum; and coats it all with melted provolone. It’s so juicy and flavoursome your taste buds will break into song, and the fact that coffees are served with Hershey kisses only sweetens the deal.
Housed in a heritage-listed former power station, this café, with its arched windows and 15-metre-high ceilings, hums with brio. And its food is no slouch, either. Take the Berkshire bacon sandwich, with plenty of super thick-cut bacon and a luscious layer of herby gribiche (essentially a mayonnaise, but the egg yolks are cooked instead of raw) thrown between sourdough toast that’s been anointed with bacon fat. This is a super-luxe bacon and egg sandwich with the kind of yum factor that causes queues, so just be prepared to wait; hang in there, it’s worth it.
It’s the deli of your dreams. Press your hooter against the glass cabinet and ogle the cheese, charcuterie, snappy salads and frittatas. Technical definitions aside, Alimentari’s wraps are the business. It’s difficult to choose between the meatball and the chicken schnitzel wrap, though perhaps the meatball wins by a whisker. Picture chunky pork and veal meatballs in tomato sugo, baby spinach leaves, tasty cheese and aioli all wrapped up and toasted in the sandwich press. This isn’t the kind of wrap you eat on the hoof: it demands attention and cutlery. It’s a gooey, rich, saucy, satisfying mess. Actually, do yourself a favour and try both.
Once a fish and chip shop, this comfy, lo-fi café now specialises in toasties, as the sign at the counter proclaims. We’re talking such beauties as ‘the Greek sandwich’ (spanakopita meets sanger) and the bluntly titled ’chicken sandwich’ make it a tough pick; however, if forced to choose, the Latina is our favourite. For one, it’s a heavyweight, with tender chunks of pulled pork plus melted cheddar and coriander. The clincher is the unforgettable chipotle mayo that packs the perfect amount of heat. It’s all pressed down between two buttery slabs of rye.
If you’ve been hauling a week’s-worth of fruit and veg round the Vic Market and need some quality nosh, Scott Pickett’s suave deli and rotisserie is the pit stop for you. Pickett’s provides a different class of market munching, with moody lighting, marble benches and a herringbone floor. The reuben sandwich is consistently delicious. Watch the chef deftly throw it all together: plenty of mustard, a stack of tender peppery-crusted wagyu beef brisket, pickled purple cabbage and two heavily buttered pieces of white sourdough. Plenty of time in the sandwich press makes for maximum crunch. Don’t fancy a reuben? You can’t go wrong with the chicken and gravy, or soft shell crab and slaw on a hot roll.
Head down a laneway and up the rickety stairs to the Captains of Industry, where the lighting is low and the mood is moody. This slashie (retail space, café and bar) throws together a killer sandwich. Five are on show – slow-roasted pork, triple cheese, chicken, pear and cheese, steak – and the classic steak sanger is a lesson in simplicity. Fresh sourdough bread with a beautiful crust, melted cheddar cheese, fresh tomato, iceberg lettuce, garlicky mayo and of course the steak. Beautifully seasoned with a charry flavour, it’s medium-rare and tender. There’s nothing tricky about this sandwich: it’s just good stuff done well. There’s also a barber, shoemaker and jeweller in the space.
This gorgeous little corner-store café in West Melbourne is the result of sibling food trucks Toasta and Von Crumb joining forces to find a forever home. Here, the unassuming toastie ascends to dizzying heights on wings of thick-sliced Zeally Bay sourdough before being hugged to crunchy perfection in a cast-iron press. Choose from the classic ‘Harry’, with cheese, ham and tomato, or the more outrageous ‘Hannah the Hangover’ with cheese, bacon, chips, pickles and gravy. We love that the ‘Mack’ crams an entire meal – gooey macaroni cheese and sweet caramelised onion – between two bits of bread. The ‘Shane’ is also a corker: crisp panko-crumbed chicken thigh, purple cabbage slaw and plenty of mayo. Despite the roaring ambition of the sarnies, it’s the little things like the salt flakes and duck fat that make the crucial luxurious difference here.
Those in the mother country love a good fish finger sarnie, and Wide Open Road does a tip-top job of channeling Old Blighty (and a bit of Japan) into a bun. A bouncy sweet brioche bun encloses perfectly crisp crumbed white fish, pickles and cos lettuce. Sweet smashed peas and wakame seaweed add plenty of colour and flavour, while a healthy lick of house-made tartare binds it all together. A satisfying sandwich that’s verging on a burger, but we’re not here to quibble over semantics.
Freshly churned gelati, a cheese den, cold pressed juices…Spring Street Grocer is an overachiever. Throw sandwiches into the mix and all your lunchtimes goals are sorted. Freshly made sandwiches are available between 11am and 3pm on weekdays and SSG’s chicken sandwich is a goer. Tender skinless roast chicken, peppery rocket and coriander aioli on toasted sourdough. It’s flavoursome, petite (but satisfying), and the generous handful of potato chips seals the deal. Cheese fiends will love their Italian buffalo mozzarella with basil & tomato and croque monsieur. Lock in your next picnic at Carlton Gardens.
Kelso’s Sandwich Shoppe focuses on making ‘legit sandwiches, house-made pickles and damn fine coffee’. It’s a simple café with a retro feel, notably cheerful service and cheeky green pickle characters dotted about the shop. We know that tinned tuna divides people, but what sandwich list would this be without mention of a tuna melt? Kelso’s does a fine version: buttered dark rye is loaded with a super creamy tuna and mayonnaise blend while plenty of house-made pickle, red onions and parsley prevents things from being too fishy. Be warned: this tasty (but sloppy) number is not for first dates, which is helpful advice given Kelso’s is open until 9pm on Friday and Saturday nights.