The $10 pastrami roll at Juanito’s has a cult following. But even though Juanito’s has only been around since the end of July, the roll has been amassing devotees for more than 20 years. It was first sold in 1996 at the now-closed city bar Rue Bebelons. Then, like many of Melbourne’s ’90s kids, it moved to Brunswick. First to a cafe called La Paloma, and then, when La Paloma closed, to Juanito’s, which occupies the former’s old premises just back from Sydney Road.

The roll’s ingredients are fairly standard – pastrami, cheddar, tomato, cucumber and avocado – so where does the cult status come from? We think it’s the rich, creamy mayo that seeps through all the layers, tying everything together. There are also vegetarian roll options, so everyone can get in on the fun.

Juanito’s is happy proof that in 2019 it’s still possible for a cafe to succeed by doing one thing really well. Whether you visit to try the star of the menu, or just for coffee and a spot of people watching, it’s worth a visit. Juanito’s only has a one-year lease, so who knows how long that roll will stick around.

259 Albert Street, Brunswick
No phone

Mon to Fri 7.30am–3pm
Sat 9am–3pm


Pope Joan
Speaking of popular things getting another lease on life, Matt Wilkinson’s Pope Joan has reopened, this time for good. When the cafe left its original home in Brunswick East to make way for apartments, the locals lost a long-time innovator and one of the best Reuben sandwiches in the city.

Then, along came restaurateur Peter Mackintosh and his shuttered CBD supper club, the Mayfair. Pope Joan moved in on a temporary basis, got comfy and decided to stay. The clubby, convivial room hasn’t changed much, but there’s now a slightly tongue-in-cheek take on the former tenant’s luxe aesthetic. The room is scattered with portraits of aristocratic ducks in hunting jackets, plus crystal decanters filled with Wilkinson’s boozy concoctions (try the house-made amaro).

Long-time fans will be pleased to see the return of favourites such as soft-boiled eggs with bacon chunks and toast soldiers, rice pudding with rhubarb, and of course the Reuben. But Pope Joan 2.0 has a broader appeal than the original, including a more restaurant-like menu to appeal to the business-lunch crowd. That includes interesting wines by the glass priced at a palatable $12 to $15.

Shop 16, 45 Collins Street, Melbourne
(03) 9654 8545

Mon to Fri 7am–9pm


“A little bit of everything” is how young parents Lily Stokes and Henry Brooks, the owners of Theodore’s, describe their new place. It’s a response to the lack of flexibility the couple encountered when looking for spots where they could socialise with other young parents. Here, one person at the table can have coffee and eggs while the other has a glass of wine with a serve of salty chicharrón (fried pork rinds). It’s the rare middle ground between pub and cafe.

Brunch is served until 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays and feels something like a continental breakfast buffet: house-made yoghurt, seasonal fruit, pancakes and syrup, and fried eggs. Dinner consists of just three choices – one vegan, one vegetarian and one meat (such as a classic beef ragu) – with a focus on fast service so parents can get home and get the kids to bed.

Stokes studied at the Sydney Wine Academy and did stints at Wine Republic and wine importer Giorgio de Maria at 121 BC Cantina & Enoteca in Sydney. She favours low-sulphur, minimal-intervention wines from producers such as Konpira Maru and Patrick Sullivan. Beers are from local breweries, and cocktails are designed for boozy weekend brunches. There’s the Garibaldi – Campari and orange juice – which Stokes likens to “adult Fanta”, tap Mimosas and espresso-spiked G&Ts.

4 Saxon Street, Brunswick
(03) 9380 2446

Mon to Wed 8.30am–4pm
Thu to Sat 8.30am–7pm
Sun 8.30am–4pm