Melbourne's best toasties
At this temple of bread the sourdough is the star of the show and for good reason – Wild Life’s bakes some of Melbourne’s best. It’s properly tangy with a crunchy caramel crust and chewy crumb, and it shines in toasted sandwiches that arrive as thick as a forehead and big as a face, yet achieve the all-important mission of fully melting the abundance of Comté inside. The sweet and nutty cheese surrounds sticky, worcestershire-rich onion, creating a comforter that is simple and unfussy, accompanied only by a single, long pickle. Equal parts hot, melty, savoury, sweet and deafeningly crunchy, it’s a sandwich you hope will never end.
While some favour a “more is more” mentality, Brunswick fromagerie Harper & Blohm’s snappy list of sandwiches are all about tasteful restraint. Aside from their classic three cheese, each features just a single variety to highlight the quality and characteristics of their curds. The Barry’s Blue remixes that most grown-up of salads – blue cheese, pear, rocket, walnut – into an elegant toastie that balances the gentle funk of Tarwin blue from Gippsland with the sweet touch of wafer-thin pear slices, spicy rocket and the bitterness of walnuts. It’s all layered between square slices of organic sourdough toasted to a deep gold, and this rich, luxuriant sandwich goes down best with a velvety cup of Market Lane batch brew – we’d advise against pairing with a milky coffee.
Tuna sandwiches have a daggy reputation, but we’re here to make the bold claim that the tuna melt at this sunwashed sandwich shop in Richmond is one of the best things you can eat. They nail the tuna salad here, adding dill, diced onion and jalapenos for kick, toasting it with melty American cheese and ‘hectic sauce’, a moreish chipotle aioli we’d happily slather on anything in arm’s reach. The bread’s a key player too – light rye generously buttered on the outside and toasted to a shattering crunch. Crisp Saturday mornings with one of these, a chocolatey cold drip and the day’s paper – you could do no better.
Maker & Monger has long been considered one of Melbourne’s pre-eminent grilled cheese purveyors, and rightly so. On weekends, the little cart does brisk business from its spot near the back of Prahran Market, beckoning shoppers in with its display of high-stacked sourdough, each surface generously buttered. Options include an all-American cheddar fest and a zippy pimento, but for pure melty goodness you can’t go past the fondue. It’s easily the cheesiest of the lot, producing an Instagram-baiting pull when you separate the sandwich halves. They’re using a mix of Swiss gruyère and comté tricked up with shallots, garlic and wine for a belly warming toastie that’ll take you to a chalet in the Alps. Extra points for their well-stocked chilli sauce station, which runs the gamut from Diemen’s hot sauce and Lillie Q’s hot smokey barbecue to sriracha and that holiest of condiments – Lao Gan Ma chilli oil.
If you measured a millennial life in jaffles, it would begin with $1.20 Kraft Singles in Tip Top from the school canteen and culminate at the bar of Scott Pickett’s reopened fine diner Estelle, taking polite nibbles of their $14 wagyu bolognese and kimchi jaffle. Cheffing up the lowbrow to inject fun into otherwise buttoned up affairs is an familiar move by now, but who can argue with a tasty snack with a waste minimisation heart. Mince made from wagyu cuts not required for mains gets cooked into a thick, sticky Bolognese, layered on bread with the spicy tang of julienned kimchi and shredded cheese, then pan-fried and served under a snowfall of air-light parmesan. The result is a pure fatty, pleasure receptor bonanza that goes down just as well with a brash shiraz as it does with a frosty can of sour ale.
Beneath Driver Lane is one of those overachieving Melbourne bars that seem to have it all – a subterranean laneway locale, transportative fitout, great cocktails and live blues music. To top it off, they also do one the city’s best toasties, a solid reuben that piles thick slices of Rustica sourdough with thinly sliced wagyu pastrami, melty gruyère, pucker-sour kraut and Russian dressing, served with long pickles. They nail the toasting here, getting the bread crisp all over while retaining its chewy crumb and thoroughly heating the generous layers of filling. It’s one hefty sandwich, less bar snack and more full meal.
The world has come a long way for vegans – now we’ve got lush oat lattes, plant burgers that bleed and coconut-based ice creams every bit as silky as their dairy counterparts. Even cheese toasties are on the table at Union Kiosk, where they dole out cheap and cheerful tuckshop-style jaffles from a hole in the wall window on Causeway Lane. They’re coy on their cheese sorcery methods but a base of tapioca flour and coconut oil give it a melty, elastic texture that’s a worthy mimic of the Kraft slices of your childhood, but creamier. For peak nostalgic snacking, we reckon its best enjoyed with their house made baked beans toasted between white sandwich bread.
Grandma definitely wouldn’t approve of putting mapo tofu in a sandwich but she’d be wrong, because this little hot pocket rocket is a genius invention by the chefs at mod-Chinese diner Super Ling. Chilli powder dusted onto the circular bread discs are the first hint of the bounty within, a Sichuan spiced pork mince rich with salty fermented beans, crunchy with diced water chestnuts and softened with a wobble of silken tofu. It’s a flavour bomb and also a literal bomb – an ill-positioned bite will send chilli oil flying if you’re not careful.
Bad Frankie’s main calling card might be their 450-strong backbar of Australian spirits, but we suspect just as many swing by the cosy Fitzroy bar for their eclectic range of nostalgia-inducing jaffles. Edible Australiana is found in jaffle-ized versions of bangers and mash, supreme pizzas and even lamingtons, in which they toast chocolate-soaked sponge cake filled with jam and rolled in coconut. But for optimum late night comfort, our money – all $8 of it – is on the Not Butter Chicken. Taking the beloved curry of our childhood and subbing chook for pumpkin, potato and basmati rice, it’s warmly spicy and sweet, a burst of carb-on-carb flavour inside crispy sandwich bread, and even better dipped into the accompanying saucer of dill-flecked raita.
A hip, zeitgeisty, toastie-themed café seems an unlikely place for tradies to congregate, but once you catch sight of the scale of the sandwiches here you’ll understand why. Thick cut sourdough is layered with a three cheese blend of shredded mozza, Swiss and cheddar, and then it’s anything goes – chorizo, pastrami, fries, mac’n’cheese and a whole panko crumbed schnitzel are all on the cards. Hell, they’ll even lather the outside of your toast in duck fat if you’re game. Toasting is a craft taken seriously here, with the kitchen using cast iron grill presses for low and slow heating so that everything is perfectly melted or crunchy where it should be. Their brekky toastie, which adds in a sunny fried egg, bacon and rocket tied together by a zippy tomato relish, is a five-star winner that’ll keep you satisfied well past lunch.