Bowery to Williamsburg

16 Oliver Lane, Melbourne, VIC

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

Larissa Dubecki

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

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

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.

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.

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16 Oliver Lane, Melbourne, VIC

  • 03 9077 0162
  • Cuisine - Contemporary
  • Opening Hours - Monday to Friday, 7.30am to 3.30pm
  • Author - Larissa Dubecki
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Reader ratings (3)

16 comments so far

  • I went there yesterday for breakfast. This review is trying a bit too hard to be cool. It doesn't do the place justice. The service was friendly and attentive and down-to-earth. I ordered the lox on latkes -- smoked salmon on potato fritters with poached eggs, snowpea shoots and a generous dollop of tangy pickle creme. The poached eggs had gone cold and solid, which is normally an instant dealbreaker, but I just pushed them aside and enjoyed the rest of the dish. A huge serving, good quality lox, crispy latkes, bold flavours in a classic combination. I had two coffees and both were pretty much perfect, getting as much personality as it's possible to get out of Padre beans. I will admit I came expecting ten different kinds of hipster awkwardness, but I found a restaurant that has got the basics so right. Looking forward to going back.

    Commenter
    danmeek
    Location
    Footscray
    Date and time
    July 19, 2013, 2:03PM
  • Gawd, I wanna eat that.

    Commenter
    Andrew
    Location
    Date and time
    July 19, 2013, 2:38PM
  • Nothing new here. Subway have been making sandwiches and rolls for years.

    Commenter
    Haz
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    July 19, 2013, 2:57PM
    • You're not really comparing this to subway are you? Really? I guess notions of class, creativity, and aesthetics are kind of lost on you.

      Commenter
      DJS
      Location
      Date and time
      July 21, 2013, 11:00PM
  • As a native New Yorker living in Melbourne it makes my skin crawl to see this kind of tacky knock off. If I paid 16.50 for something similar in New York I'd expect that the waitresses would be strippers.

    Commenter
    Frank Rizzo
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    July 19, 2013, 3:30PM
    • and yes @Frank Rizzo - I'd expect that the waiters would be pantless ;)

      Commenter
      auntypizza
      Location
      Geelong
      Date and time
      July 19, 2013, 4:47PM
  • Reveiwer, you suck. and yeah Frank Rizzo it's exxy but at Kat's you pay around $14 for the Reubin..

    Commenter
    the_d_rock
    Location
    Merde
    Date and time
    July 19, 2013, 4:05PM
  • I think that you mean Katz's. I used to get a deli sandwich near my office every day for 6 bucks.

    Commenter
    Frank Rizzo
    Location
    Date and time
    July 19, 2013, 4:40PM
    • Aside from the peurile sexism in your comment, price comparisons between Australian and American anything are pointless. Most things in the US are cheaper than in Australia, if for no other reason than the vast population differences between them. But more particularly, the American restaurant and cafe industry pays its staff slave rates of pay. Staff almost completely depend on tips which shifts the costs away from the cafe. In some states, it can be as low as $2-4 an hour - one fifth to one tenth of what cafe staff are paid here! With drastically lower costs, prices can can be kept down even further. Personally, I'd rather people were paid a fair salary for their effort rather than be exploited just so I can get a well made, creative meal for $6, but maybe that's just me..

      Commenter
      DJS
      Location
      Date and time
      July 21, 2013, 10:56PM
    • Sexist? You're having a lend of it. I tried to find a funny way to say that there must be some other draw or complete lack of competition to pay that outrageous a price for a sandwich. The tacky remake is more dear than the original!

      I'm from the US and I realize how waitstaff get paid. I've done it and I wouldn't change for working conditions in Melbourne. Neither would the other "exploited", I suspect. Your explanation for how low prices are achieved is lacking. It's not an issue of economies of scale. NYC was much more expensive than Melbourne 20 years ago. Australia has chosen inflation and with it a commensurate loss in purchasing power.

      Commenter
      Frank Rizzo
      Location
      3000
      Date and time
      July 22, 2013, 1:34PM

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