Two slices of bread, cheese and butter are the building blocks of the most comforting snack of all time, the toasted sandwich. From there you can stick to the classics – baked beans, tinned spaghetti, savoury mince, or the infallible combination of ham and tomato with cheese – or get crazy and wild with the fillings. There's basically nothing that doesn't taste good inside a hot pocket with cheese. If you're craving the simple pleasures of a jaffle, these are our favourite places to get them.
We all learned the hard way that the tomato inside a cheese, ham and tomato toasted sandwich will be hotter than the surface of the sun, but sometimes after a few German beers or a Negroni you can forget so let us remind you to approach the classic toastie at Arcadia Liquors with due caution. It’s a simple pleasures bar snack that might not fill you up but it will certainly take the edge off – but don’t say we didn’t warn you if you go too hard too fast and burn the tip of your tongue.
Before you fill your tank with party fuel in the form of tropical rum cocktails, lay a solid foundation for a night out with a proper jaffle. They do a classic baked bean or tinner spaghetti version that tastes just like your childhood, but we like the chicken edition too. It’s a blazing hot sealed pocket of chicken and cheese with a generous snowball of Japanese mayo on the side. Ask the bar nicely and they’ll let you add some hot sauce if you want to spice things up.
While the cheeseburger jaffle put Neighbourhood on our radar – it comes with cheese, pickles, mustard and fries inside and it tastes like a flattened and toasted Big Mac – we're also fans of the Italian Job. Shreds of slow cooked brisket are encased by American jack cheddar cheese. It ends up tasting a bit like a grown up cheeseburger (and we're not complaining), but it’s messier to eat (still not complaining).
Yep – it’s exactly what it sounds like, lasagne squished inside a jaffle. Sure, it could do with a bit more cheese and béchamel, but if you were hungover and couldn’t decide between a sandwich or pasta (we’ve all been there) then this guy will sort out your dilemma in one fell swoop. It’s stodgy and carby and sometimes that’s all you need – or want.
At a busy T-intersection in Camperdown there is a ’70s-styled café serving a gammon and egg toastie. Instead of bacon they’re gussying up the classic brekky sanga with a thick slice of roasted, salted pork leg, topping it with a poached egg (pop the yolk before trying to eat it to avoid spills) and adding a dusting of grated parmesan and a sunshine yellow scoop of spiced pineapple relish. It kind of tastes like a Hawaiian pizza, but in the best possible way, and in sandwich form.
There’s something about the American technique of pan-frying a cheese sandwich that has always made grilled cheese seem more impressive than your standard toastie. Of course if you really want to take your sandwich work to the next level you’d follow in the footsteps of the Swinging Cat where they put wafer-thin slices of pink, tender smoked wagyu, cheddar and raclette cheeses between two slices of bread before cooking it until it’s crunchy on the outside and properly melty inside.
Getting a Reuben sandwich right is all about ratios. You have to get the sauce just right so that your toastie is neither wet nor dry, you need the sauerkraut to cut through the richness of the cheese, but not too much and you want plenty of the smoke wagyu they use here to carry all those strong flavours. Toast it golden brown and slice it into fingers for the ultimate cocktail foil.
It’s fair to say that Stinking Bishops know a few things about cheese. Indeed what these guys don’t know about cheese probably isn’t worth knowing. Their cheese toasty is plugged full of melty Gruyère and smoked Wagyu, and spiked up with house pickles and spicy horseradish mayo. Veggo? Go for the mixed mushroom and Taleggio toasty instead. Both are a full-on fat fest, and both are way too easy to eat.
Let's sashay to France for a minute, and talk about the "Mr Croque" cheese toastie. The basic premise “à la française” is a sandwich filled with ham, cheese, and then drizzled in béchamel sauce before being grilled to perfection. Here the bouncy, chewy sourdough comes from the Bread and Butter Project, and it’s filled to the breaking-brim with generous swathes of tender leg ham, a lick of Dijon mustard and a thick layer of cheddar cheese-enriched béchamel. Then it’s fried. In butter. On the side: a tart salad of pickled vegetables and rocket to cut through the richness.
The smell of melted cheese perfumes the air at Bar Brosé, so even if you weren’t planning on adding a late night sandwich to your order, you’ll find you can’t resist once they tell you what’s inside. They’re making a mighty savoury snack here that pairs salty Christmas ham with a spicy hit from the ‘nduja, a spreadable Italian sausage. They then add crème fraîche and melted comté cheese for a double rich dairy hit. Resistance is, in fact, futile.
Keep the good times rolling
Not only is the Inner West home to many of the eccentric, creative and proudly rainbow tribes of Sydney, it's also where you'll find some of the best small bar action. Tiny little haunts slinging great drinks and keeping the vibes lively and local. If you don't have one already, your home-away-from-home is probably on this list.