Sometimes it’s the bread. Sometimes it’s the filling. Sometimes, it’s both working together on a lunchtime lift that can pull you through the rest of the day. Sandwiches are quite literally the bread and butter of the midday meal.
The late, great Nora Ephron once described a good sandwich as “a symphony orchestra, different instruments brought together to play one perfect chord”. But not all sandwiches are created equal, so we’ve compiled a list of our Adelaide favourites (for the purposes of this exercise, we’re excluding banh mi, bagels and other varietals). And we stress this is an objective list. Go forth, eat, and let us know what we missed.
Smoked brisket sandwich, Low & Slow Leigh Street
About 30-odd years before Low & Slow arrived on Leigh Street, there was a tiny patisserie called Olga’s Cakes a few doors up. Olga, the sister of famous Adelaide pie-man Vili Milisits, made a mean schnitzel sandwich – a delicacy that people queued down the block for every day. When the shop closed, high-quality hot sandwiches were lost to the street – until Pink Moon Deli showed up in 2016. Then, early last year, following the closing of Pink Moon, Low & Slow opened its city spin-off. On a menu of southern-style hits its brisket sandwich – served on a brioche bun with apple slaw and a generous helping of barbeque sauce – stands strong. It's been a top seller since Low & Slow's food truck days.
“The secret to getting the brisket just right is practise, practise and then some more practise,” co-owner Keven Stockman says. “Trimming, rubbing and cooking is pretty simple when you write it down, but there are many subtle complexities to getting a brisket to that mouth-watering softness.”
Egg and pancetta focaccia, Nano Cafe
Stefano Capoccia is kneading dough before most of us are out of bed. He and wife Fil Capoccia open Nano at 6am, and Stefano is baking the bread while the first coffees are being served. Since the cafe’s days on Hutt Street (before it moved to Ebenezer Place), Stefano’s bread has had something of a cult following among east-enders (this writer among them). The scrambled egg and pancetta focaccia with melted cheese, matched with a half-serve coffee shake, is my morning go-to. “It’s breakfast in a sandwich,” says Stefano. The eggplant parmigiana stick – sliced eggplant battered in egg and paired with sugo – is also a favourite.
The Number One, Lucia’s Fine Foods
Lucia’s deli offshoot, which serves up tasty sandwiches wrapped in bright-blue-and-white wax paper, regularly sells out by 2pm. Its most popular creation, fittingly called the Number One, is so beloved that local artist (and former Lucia’s sandwich-maker) Billie Justice Thomson immortalised it on a tea towel. Crusty Italian bread is smothered with olive oil, then layered with mozzarella, prosciutto, tomato and basil. Just get there early to avoid missing out.
Egg and mortadella sandwich, Just Down the Road
This chic, glass-walled Unley coffee shop has an impressive list of sandwiches and rolls. The top-seller is an egg-and-mortadella sandwich (a take on the bacon-and-egg roll) – Swiss cheese, aioli and chilli oil between thick slices of fluffy white bread. “When we started out, we wanted to serve a restaurant-quality product as a grab-and-go style version,” says owner Jacob Baker. As well as being damn tasty, the shop’s sangas might just be the most visually pleasing in Adelaide.
Sopressa, Bottega Bandito
When Broadsheet visited Prospect’s newest resident, Bottega Bandito, last month, executive chef Shane Wilson (ex-Hentley Farm, Bistro Dom, Orana) had been making “a bakery amount” of sourdough focaccia. It’s a recipe he’s been working on since the first nationwide shutdown – baked in the woodfired pizza oven at Anchovy Bandit next door – and it’s the foundation for Bandito’s Italian-flavoured sandwich menu. The mortadella with tapenade, stracciatella, pickled zucchini and spinach is a worthy contender, but our pick is the freshly sliced sopressa with fior di latte, basil, fresh tomato and fermented and pickled chilli.
The Wallace, Exchange Coffee
The staff here say this sandwich will “cure all that ails you”. The Wallace has been on the menu since this corner coffee nook opened, and comes with generous servings of avocado, pancetta, chipotle mayonnaise, roasted peppers, tomato and mojo verde (green sauce). We suggest you arm yourself with plenty of napkins to wipe up the drippings that’ll inevitably coat your hands. (There’s also a vegetarian version with haloumi and a vegan version with mushrooms.)
Pancetta brekky roll, Dayjob Coffee
The smell of fresh bouquets and roasting coffee is a welcome start to the day at this Halifax Street cafe. Aside from the fine brews and beautiful blooms (courtesy of East End Flower Market, Dayjob’s co-tenant), there’s a range of sandwiches, including a pancetta brekky roll. “We’ve got a bit of grilled mozzarella, we bang a bit of smashed avo in there and grill some pancetta with a bit of chilli mayonnaise,” owner Antonio Trotta says. “It’s pretty simple and pretty more-ish, and it’s served on a little Turkish roll – that’s probably our number one seller.”
Perched on the ramp at the Adelaide Railway Station, Commute lives up to its name – it’s all about food that’s easy to eat on the run. The tiny coffee and sandwich bar is elevating typical train station grab-and-go options with an evolving selection of sangas. The smoked chicken sanga with jalapeno mayo, shredded lettuce and sliced avo is tops. But it's hard to go past the Reuben, which uses house-cured and smoked brisket pastrami, house-made sauerkraut, a citrus-based Russian dressing, Swiss cheese and light caraway bread.
Lamb, hummus and Moroccan spice toastie, Proof
Proof’s golden toasties have been a go-to late-night snack for city revellers since 2013. The menu changes regularly, and among the new arrivals is a Moroccan lamb option. “It’s inspired by our regular [Central] Market lunch spot Le Souk and its host Azou Bouilouta,” says co-owner Shane Ettridge. “We already had hummus, and yoghurt because we’d been using yoghurt in drinks, and so we included za’atar and ras el hanout [a spice mixture used in North African cooking], which actually translates to ‘top shelf’.”
Broadsheet is also a big fan of the mushroom, truffle and gruyere toastie – crunchy golden triangles loaded with rich, earthy umami and gooey melted cheese.
Number Two, For Food’s Sake
Hungry workers from neighbouring office towers have been congregating at this Topham Mall cafe for years. The reason for its success? A plentiful selection and a commitment to making things to order, says owner Nick Vardas. Loyalists say the chicken and mayonnaise sandwich (aka the “number two”) is just the ticket. It helps that Vardas has strict rules when it comes to sandwich artistry. “If I’m not happy with a sandwich, I don’t serve it,” he says.
Reuben, Flying Fig Deli
Dare we say this North Adelaide Jewish deli-inspired cafe's Reuben comes close to those served at the landmark Katz’s Deli in New York? We dare. At Flying Fig, the team layers house-made corned beef, house-made sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing between slices of dark rye to create one hefty, very delicious sandwich. This one requires two hands.
Tea sandwich, Africola
Among a killer menu – filled with ox-tongue skewers, peri-peri chicken and pork chops – the tea sandwich has emerged as a crowd favourite at Africola. This simple-yet-tasty creation – which started as an impromptu snack for local winemaker Steve Pannell before being promoted to menu staple – marries crustless white bread with crisp chicken skin, peri-peri mayonnaise and parsley, served with a side of chicken drippings.
Katsu Sando, Shobosho
Shobosho's menu changes regularly, but it's a safe bet you'll find staples teriyaki chicken, potstickers, katsu sandos, and salmon tataki on the menu. The katsu sando, a menu mainstay since the restaurant opened in 2017, has changed a little over time. Its excellent final form is crumbed pork meatball, tonkatsu sauce, mayo and shredded white cabbage sandwiched, in perfect harmony, between two fingers of fluffy white bread, and hard to look past on a menu brimming with hits.