Melbourne burgers had their time in the sun, but there’s only so much magic you can make with beef, cheese and brioche. Sandwiches are much more interesting. Oozy tuna melts on dark rye, dripping hoagies stuffed with roast lamb and garlic yoghurt, triple-stacked Reubens that hurt your jaw, crunchy alfalfa sprouts and fluorescent beetroot—there’s a lot you can do between two slices of bread.
We’ve been pretty selective with this list. There’s a lot of bars around town doing one great sandwich, but the places below are the pure breeds. Sandwiches are their bread and butter.
Here’s our list of the best sandwiches in Melbourne.
Kelso’s Sandwich Shoppe | Tuna Melt
Want a big slice of retro? One bite of the Tuna Melt from Kelso’s in Abbotsford and you’re back in the 1970s reading Kafka next to a lava lamp. Owners Jon Farrell, Brendan Kennedy and Kitty Kelso have created something special here: tuna, mayo, house pickles, red onions and cheese, grilled between two slices of yeasty dark rye. It’s the rye that makes this one of the best sandwiches in Melbourne. If that all sounds a bit fishy, Kelso’s runs a famous lunch special: a crusty roll with slow-roasted lamb, herbs, chips and lashings of garlic yogurt. Do we really need to go on?
Big Dog’s Deli | The Big Dog
How many times have we written about The Big Dog? Must be at least twenty. That’s not an apology: we’re going to keep bringing it up until everyone has had a bite. The Big Dog, if you’ve been living under the world’s largest rock, is a 36-month Proscuitto di Parma sandwich from Big Dog’s Deli in Richmond, and probably one of the Top 10 things I’ve ever put in my mouth (don’t be gross). Owner and chef Emely Donegan combines prosciutto with salami, pickled peppers, shaved pecorino, nduja paste, shredded lettuce and house aioli, then mushes it all between two slices of crusty ciabatta. Stop it.
Hector’s Deli | Chicken Schnitty
When Hector’s Deli opened in Buckingham Street, some people (okay me) wondered if anyone would notice. Buckingham Street is not exactly Times Square. How good could these sandwiches really be? Turns out: very good. People queue on Sunday mornings for the Chicken Schnitty, which has become Hector’s signature stack. One crumbed free-range chicken schnitzel, homemade tarragon butter, iceberg lettuce and ‘secret mayo’ (probably aioli) on a Baker’s Delight steamed white bap. That’s it. Nothing flashy or fancy, but the fresh-fried chicken and that tarragon butter fuse into some element unknown to science, I’m telling you. Get in early: they tend to sell-out by 1 pm.
Mason Dixon | The MD Reuben
Let’s get the controversy out of the way now: the best Reuben sandwich in Melbourne is from Mason Dixon in the CBD. Trust me, I’ve checked. This sanga became so popular that owner Garrett Huston had to move Mason Dixon to bigger digs on Bourke St. Now the word is officially out—hundreds of office workers shuffle up every day, hungry for corned beef, Swiss cheese, house-made sauerkraut and Russian dressing on rye. What sets these guys apart is the quality ingredients and sandwich craftsmanship: there’s nothing Huston doesn’t know about Reubens. Order the massive Reuben Supreme if you’re having a rough day, but I reckon the MD Reuben hits the corned beef sweet spot.
Maker & Monger | All American
There are four grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu at Maker & Monger, and I’ve eaten each one at least ten times (if these guys made some sort of American Express-style ‘Platinum’ loyalty card, it’d be in my wallet tomorrow). After extensive comparison testing, I reckon the All American is still the best of the bunch, closely followed by the Pimento and the Fondue (the Fondue Special with Berkshire off-the-bone leg ham is good but honestly unnecessary). The All American combines Cabot Cheddar from Vermont and Monterey Jack from California with onion-y chives and probably nicotine. It’s addictive, understated, and possibly the best toastie in Melbourne.
Eastside | 12-Hour Lamb Sandwich
Melbourne sleeps on Eastside, honestly. It doesn’t get as much press as Hector’s Deli or Maker & Monger, but owner Matt Ward (Holla Food & Drink, Prospect Espresso, Townhouse and Mr Brownstone) deserves far more kudos. His 12-Hour Lamb sanga is still one of the best sandwiches in Melbourne, hands down. Think tender, slow-cooked lamb, sans fat or gristle, with melted feta, mint pesto, parsley and lots of butter, caught between two golden slices of La Madre potato and rosemary bread. Probably your day’s carb allowance right there, but damn if it’s not worth every minute on the treadmill. Wash it down with a double-shot latte from These Days (Matt’s own house blend).
Honestly, there are too many good sandwiches in Melbourne these days. We’re living in some sort of Golden Age. These guys were stiff to miss out on the list.
Cutler & Co | Special shout out to the abalone tonkatsu sangers at Cutler & Co. If you want more katsu goodness, check out our katsu sandwich round-up.
Bowery To Williamsburg | I’m giving the edge to Mason Dixon’s in the Reuben stakes (see above), but Bowery To Williamsburg is no slouch. Hot tip? Try the Roast Turkey Club.
Pope Joan | Pope Joan is back (thank god). Matt Wilkinson does a mean Reuben, and his La Madre club sandwich is good too, but the winner here is the Jalapeno Cornish Chicken Roll.
Super Ling | One of my favourite openings of 2018. Super Ling’s mapo tofu jaffle is the reason you’re now seeing mapo tofu jaffles all over town. Trust me: nothing beats the original.
Wild Life Bakery | Making vegan sandwiches that don’t suck, it’s Wild Life Bakery in Brunswick East. Their roast cauliflower baguette with chilli-herb chimichurri is actually amazing.
Belles Hot Chicken | The Belles Chicken Sandwich is probably the best $13 you can spend in Melbourne. Chicken, house pickles, cheese and mayonnaise—no-one leaves unhappy.
Want more of the best Melbourne has to offer? Head to our Best Of Guides section.
Image credit: Jenna Fahey-White