Bowery to Williamsburg

The Reuben with pickles, mac'n'cheese and pretzels.
The Reuben with pickles, mac'n'cheese and pretzels. Photo: Eddie Jim

16 Oliver Lane Melbourne, VIC 3000

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Opening hours Mon–Fri 7.30am–3pm
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments Cash
Phone 03 9077 0162

Where and what

Remember when the toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwich was top of the lunchtime pops? How far we've come. Opened by the folk behind the heaving Hardware Societe, Bowery to Williamsburg picks up on the specialist sandwich trend and adds a Yankee flourish. This is the vanguard of the coming trend - the New York-style deli with its salty meats, its supersize sandwiches and pretzel chasers. If you're after simple and satisfying and enjoy pretending you have a Jewish grandmother, this is the place for you.

Where to sit

You'll find this subway-impersonating bolthole down the cobblestone Oliver Lane (better known as the home of Coda). Look for the black awning, head down the stairs to a small room dominated by the coffee machine and copper-trimmed sandwich counter. Grab a seat on one of the powder-coated metal chairs along the communal table with marble-inlaid tiles, one of the other nooks and crannies dotted around the joint, or covered tables at street level.

When to go

Monday to Friday, 7.30am to 3.30pm.

Bowery to Williamsburg is a subway-impersonating bolthole.
Bowery to Williamsburg is a subway-impersonating bolthole. Photo: Eddie Jim

Drink

No liquor licence yet. There's Padre coffee (French press, pour-over or espresso), New York sodas (root beer!), Mexican Coca-Cola and locally produced Soho soft drinks.

Eat

Fried challah (bread) with whipped peanut butter, poached pear and candied popcorn, or smoked meat hash, is what passes for breakfast in these parts. The lunchtime sandwich menu is simple: $12.50 for a lone sanga, but you'd be a damned fool not to bump it up to $16.50, for which you get pretzels, a dill gherkin and a side - mac'n'cheese, maybe a tabbouleh salad (despite the pomegranate seeds, it could have done with a tszuj in the acid department). The Reuben, taking Melbourne one block at a time, is corned beef brisket (New Yorkers would call it salt beef but, like, whatever) with Swiss cheese, pickled cabbage coleslaw and zesty mayo. The schmalz chicken - rendered in duck fat - is a sweetish thing with jammy prune relish, thin sticks of apple and celeriac, and walnut bread. Is Bowery to Williamsburg, by logical extension, kosher? No, look over there - a pork and almond meatball sanga, and pastrami with pickled zucchini and beetroot slaw. The cafe also speaks the language of food intolerance: gluten-free bread is $1 extra. Sweets are worth the diet-busting guilt - the individual maple pecan pie will leave you cheering for Uncle Sam.

Who's there

Office types comparing spreadsheet notes, assorted Gen Ys talking about their tatts.

Why bother?

New York dreaming.