Just opened at the bottom of Foveaux Street is the newest member of Sydney’s booming sandwich scene—Theo’s Deli.
Owner David Bae and his burgeoning restaurant group have slowly made a name for themselves with venues like Tokki (up the road on Foveaux Street), Marble BBQ (Barangaroo), and Kinhboy (Redfern). This time delving away from the pan-Asian dining influence that shapes the cuisine and style of those venues, with Theo’s Deli, Bae is more directly exploring simplicity and nostalgia.
The shop’s focus on simplicity is obvious. It essentially only serves seven sandwich options and coffee provided by Sydney’s Pablo & Rusty’s. Something plainly stated by the red neon sign hung above the kitchen: “sangas & coffee”. If you’ve visited another one of Bae’s venues, the neon centrepiece will be a familiar touch, as are the exposed concrete walls.
True to the deli name hanging above the door, one more commonly found in Sydney nowadays (think Small’s Deli in Potts Point, Good Ways in Redfern, or Frank’s in Waverley), Theo’s will soon sell a pantry of typical deli store goods. We’re told to expect house-made sauces and pickled everything.
As for nostalgia, that’s a more difficult quality to describe, and yet one so evident in every sanga served. Bae wanted to re-create the simple joy he felt eating a sandwich from his local milk store growing up, operated by the man affectionately known as Uncle Theo. After all, sandwiches have been a constant for many of us since our youngest days exploring food. The Vegemite sandwich school lunch, grandma’s leftover roast rolls, Saturday sport sausage sangas, jaffles, toasties, and the wealth of gourmet sandwiches Sydney is now full of.
Executive chef Kevin Jeon’s (Rosetta, Longrain, Ezra) seven carefully selected sandwiches come between Luxe Bakery bread and cover all the bases: hot and cold, toasted and fresh, meat-packed and vego, crunchy and soft. It won’t take you many returns to get through the whole range, but there’s a good chance you’ll find a favourite and stick to it.
The standout has to be the “H.E.C”, a creation transcending the typical breakfast sandwich, fit for a hungover morning or an indulgent lunchtime treat. Between a toasted ciabatta bun, it comes with tender and smoky ham hock, a fried egg, house-made chips for crunch, malt vinegar mayo for acidity, and mustard pickle relish for just enough sweetness to cut through and balance it all.
Longing for NYC? Try the Reuben with a nicely salted corned beef, fresh and crunchy sauerkraut, oodles of melted Swiss cheese, “Theo’s sauce” mimicking Russian dressing, and dill pickles all toasted between a light rye sourdough. Or get around an elevated version of the humble tuna melt toastie, with tuna mixed with mayo, wasabi, jalapeno, dill pickle, red onion, yuzu juice, tarragon, whole grain mustard, and cheddar cheese.
You’ll also find solid vego options, with a spin on the egg salad sandwich and a crunchy fresh salad sando featuring all that good health and a pretty unique beetroot relish paired with a tahini yoghurt dressing. Rounding out the menu is an easy fan-favourite panko-crumbed and citrus soy brined chicken schnitty, and a proper deli muffuletta.
The vibrant space is simple and the décor minimal (for now). You might be more likely to grab a sandwich to go, but there are a couple of bench spots facing the street or a few tables in a mezzanine-like area above the kitchen that feel more or less removed from bustling Foveaux Street. Grab a loyalty card and make this your regular lunch spot.
Image credit: Theo's