Sunday 29 May 2016

Smith & Deli: a vegan sandwich bar in Fitzroy

Being a vegetarian, it is so depressing to go to a sandwich shop and find all I can choose is one dull cheese sandwich while other more interesting options are full of meat. So when Smith and Deli opened last year with its overwhelming list of vegan sandwiches I was so excited.  I had been to the sister restaurant Smith and Daughters but I don't often get out to restaurants for meals.  Dropping by a deli for a sandwich is far more suited to my lifestyle.  I would have written about it earlier but kept having to try more sandwiches.

I first visited Smith and Deli on 17 June last year on its second day of trading.  The queues were long and slow.  It helped that I had a friend with me and we had much to catch up on as we chatted.  These days the queues are shorted but the place is constantly busy when I visit.  It is not a place to rush in and out.  Just recently I had a 15 minute car park and it took me 20 minutes until I was able to rush out with my sandwich to beat Fitzroy's ever-vigilant parking officers (phew)!

Mostly I don't mind waiting.  The exception is when I have taken Sylvia who gets impatient.  Often I have dropped in by myself.  The design of the place is meticulous.  Lovely institutional green with retro black and white sign.  Bright light streaming in the windows.  Lots of interesting cakes to peruse.  First of all I must check out the long list of sandwiches.  Twenty four sandwiches plus some brunch options.  It is always a tyranny of choice.

Once I have ordered I like to look around the groceries and fridge/freezer items.  Dips, drinks, faux meat, ice creams, beans, crisps, chocolate, legumes, tinned chestnuts, hot sauces.  A mish-mash of items that are easily found in a supermarket and items that I have only seen on American blogs before.  If I lived in Fitzroy it would be a great little store to drop in for that odd grocery item I needed.  But I don't.  So I usually purchase specialty items that fascinate me.  Apple Sage Field Roast Sausages, Vegannaise, Smoked Cola.

Yes it is always interesting to stand around at Smith and Deli.  Perhaps one of my fondest memories was waiting for a sandwich to be made when suddenly one of the staff announces with great excitement that ginger beer doughnuts will be hot out of the oven in 10 minutes and samples are available now.  She strides around the waiting customers like a god offering a bowl of fried balls.  Of course I have to order these doughnuts.  I've tried the s'mores doughnuts and the doughnuts with corn cream, popcorn and caramel sauce and sticky buns but nothing has been as amazing as those warm ginger beer doughnuts in the park on a Spring day.

However I don't go to Smith and Deli for sweet food.  For me it is all about the sandwiches.  I wish they had seats where I could sit and eat but the reality is that often I am racing somewhere else and am happy to just grab and eat on the run.  Here is a rundown of the sandwiches I have eaten:

The Wiggum (bbq grilled tofu, maple bbq sauce, slaw, pickles, chipotle aioli on sourdough bread.):

It is not a combination that would usually tempt me but the bbq grilled tofu sounded really good.  And it was really excellent.  The tofu was well cooked to give it a nice chewiness and it worked with a generous amount of coleslaw, pickles and the aioli which was not as spicy as I feared.  This would probably be my favourite sandwich to date.

Home Alone (turkey, stuffing, roasted brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, mashed potato and gravy on a roll):

This came highly recommended and I really liked it but not as much as others.  I love a roast dinner and so it appealed but it is an American roast dinner in a bun, not an Aussie one.  Mashed potato and gravy has always seemed an odd combination to me.  The turkey wasn't as terribly meaty as I had feared and I loved the sprouts but could have had more.

Buffalo the Vampire Slayer (buffalo tofu, ranch dressing, shredded iceberg, carrot, red onion and celery in a roll):

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this one.  It was buffalo tofu that I thought would be too spicy and salad which I thought would be too dull.  But they worked brilliantly together.  I took it home and ate it in installments because it was spicy and I was not that hungry.  The buffalo flavours were great and made the salad taste more interesting while the crisp fresh salad worked well with the spiciness.  I would definitely eat this again but not if I was trying to impress anyone as I found the sauce made the sandwich quite messy.

Maury Ballstein (meatballs in napoli sauce with fresh basil pesto, rocket and mozzarella all toasted on a roll)

I confess I choked on a crumb as I was about to eat this in a park and my friend seconded the juice of nearby strangers so by the time I ate this the cheese had cooled and my appetite was somewhat diminished.  I liked it.  The tomato sauce was rich and pleasing but the cheese was a cold (not Smith and Deli's fault) and the meatballs were a bit fragile.  One of my good meat memories is the meatballs my mum made.  The Maury Ballstein meatballs were lovely but did not resemble my memory of meatballs.

Little Havana (A traditional pressed Cuban ham, roast turkey, mozzarella, pickles, cheddar and a mojo dressing)

I really enjoyed this sandwich.  It wasn't my sort of sandwich - too much cheese and meat for my tastes and not enough vegies.  However it was really good with a vivid green spicy, herby mojo sauce.  And I loved the way it was toasted until the panini was crisp on the outside and the cheese was melty on the inside.  I would probably not order it again (given the huge sandwich menu) but I would highly recommend it to others looking for this sort of sandwich. 

Foghorn Legless (chicken schnitzel, bacon, lettuce, tomato, ranch and celery salt)

I loved that this sandwich used tempeh for the crumbed chicken schnitzel.  One of the few meat sandwiches I really loved before going vegetarian was the schitzel sandwich.  I was excited to try this but disappointed that the schnitzel was served cold not hot because I remember it otherwise.  I ate half the sandwich cold.  The other half I took home where I put the schnitzel, the bacon and the sandwich on the frypan with some added cheese.  It was such a good sandwich.

Egg McMartinez (egg, bacon, cheddar on an english muffin with your choice of sauce)

It took me a while to get to Smith and Deli early enough to try the Egg McMartinez.  It is really for the morning brigade and often gets sold out.  I was curious about it, never having had an Egg McMuffin. When I finally managed to order one, it was a case of too much anticipation and not enough experience of eating eggs.  The fillings were the bacon, a tofu-style patty, a pasty yellow moosh and some cheese.  Was it meant to be the egg white and egg yolk separately represented in the muffin?  I wish I could try it a few more times to work it out.  I liked it but didn't love it enough to have it rather than other sandwiches.

There are also pies, soups and salads.  Of these I have only had a sausage roll which I loved.  Great flaky pastry and a lovely filling that was rich and meaty.  If there wasn't the amazing range of sandwiches I would be much more inclined to try these.

These sandwiches are so amazing.  I still get all unsure about what to order when I do make it to Smith and Deli.  After many visits there are still heaps of sandwiches I want to try.  I am a bit wary of the (mock) meatiness of a lot of them and the spice factor, but those that I have tried have been magnificent.  The bread is excellent, the fillings are generous and the flavours are complex in a really thoughtful way.  Even the names are fun and compelling.  Here is the opportunity to try all those meat sandwiches I never had.  Yet the sandwiches are also so good that they are far better than many regular meat and cheese sandwiches.  When I took my friend who doesn't eat out at vegan establishments, she casually commented on the place sneaking in meat for the non-vegans.  It is often that believable!

So there you have it!  An amazing sandwich bar with so many sandwiches that every visit finds me cursing the tyranny of choice and thanking my lucky stars to have a place like this over my side of the city.  The sandwiches and the rest of the food are too expensive to be everyday (about $15 a sandwich) but are of such great quality that I don't resent paying a little more.  I am more concerned about finding my next opportunity to visit and what sandwich to try next.

I am not the only one to be excited by Smith and Deli. It has been written about by many others including Broadsheet, Veganopoulous and Where's the Beef, all of which reviews alerted me to my need to try this place when I first heard of it last year.  The most comprehensive reviews that I know of have been written by Rosalie of Quinces and Kale who wrote about a Smith and Deli sandwich a day for 29 days in September last year.  While I don't agree with her on everything (unlike her, I like tempeh and pineapple), I do find this a great resource.

Smith and Deli
11 Moor Street, Fitzroy
03) 9042 4117
Open: Tuesday - Saturday 7am-8pm

Smith and Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


  1. Scandinavian cream buns! Never seen them in delis outside of Finland or Scandinavia, I love them and have posted them a few times on the blog too. :) Those sandwiches look so great, I wish I could visit that place one day!

    1. Thanks VegHog - I would have loved to try these but the sandwiches are so huge - I am not really into cream but I do have fond memories of buns with cream and jam when I was little

  2. Oh, what a fantastic selection! I have only got into sandwiches for lunch since moving to the UK and finding more interesting vegan options (Western Australia having pretty much none). Still, this place would rival anywhere I have been!

    1. Thanks Kari - glad you are finding some good vegan sandwich options in the UK - there are so many great vegan sandwich options if only shops would think outside the box (but don't offer me falafel and salad which is about the only one I see if any)

  3. That looks amazing! I would love a Smith and Deli near here - those sarnies look really fun. Generally I feel lucky if I can get a falafel or hummus sandwich in most places. I love the idea of a roast in a sandwich, I'd be all over that!

    1. Thanks Joey - it is great you can get a falafel sandwich most places but it just seems the same old same old sandwich that I often see so I get a bit yawny when I see one

  4. I loved visiting there too. We enjoyed all of the sandwiches that we had and I wish there was one in Sydney too!

    1. Thanks Lorraine - it is an amazing place! Every town should have a smith and deli style sandwich bar!

  5. "Being a vegetarian, it is so depressing to go to a sandwich shop and find all I can choose is one dull cheese sandwich while other more interesting options are full of meat."
    Try being vegan & gluten-free haha ;p
    Now this place sounds like a proper sandwich shop. I love that they sell those Seed & Bean chocolate bars. Those are SO GOOD.
    S'more doughnuts?? Oh wow.
    I love the names of the sandwiches, creative and funny. I'd be very curious to try the tempeh chicken schnitzel. Looks good!
    You have tried so many. I'm the type that will try something at a new place and if I like it, just stick with that every time I go in. I should be more adventurous!

    1. Thanks Kimmy - I am guessing you don't have many sandwiches while eating out - Smith and Deli has quite an American style so you would probably appreciate it (I think one of the owners is American but not 100% sure) The s'mores doughnuts weren't my favourite because the marshmallow had cooled but I would love to try them warm. Loved the chicken tempeh schnitzel but others didn't as they are not fond of tempeh anywhere! And I don't think you could just stick to one sandwich here with all these options!


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