The idea of opening a New York-style sandwich bar came to Dagwood Deli co-owner Nick Eagle five years ago after a trip to America.
Returning to Melbourne, Eagle says he struggled to find a diner serving a classic, house-made pastrami sandwich (specifically pastrami-and-mustard on rye – not to be confused with its corned beef cousin, the Reuben). “They were either buying [the pastrami] in … or doing it as a toastie,” he says.
Late last year, after developing his sandwich recipe for a year with consulting chef Adrian Li, Eagle opened Dagwood Deli in Southbank. Designed by Sans-Arc Studio, the light-filled, white-tiled sandwich bar is a modern take on a textbook New York deli.
“[The space] transfers from a daytime breakfast or lunch into something that could be a bar at night,” says Eagle, a former accountant.
There’s seating for 21, including a counter where you can chat away with the barista while your lunch is made to order. Choose from four sandwiches – pastrami, an eggplant parmigiana bagel, Waldorf salad (chicken, walnuts, apple and celery) on a white roll, or beetroot and vodka-cured salmon on a plain bagel. The bagels (from 5 & Dime) can be ordered with a schmear of cream cheese – choose from plain, chive, dill, and lemon and pepper – or simply taken away whole.
The hero, of course, is that pastrami on rye. The pastrami is made in-house: brined, rubbed with spices, smoked, then steamed for an hour or so. It’s served between two slices of Baker D. Chirico rye spread with brown mustard, and served with a dill pickle and potato chips on the side.
Espresso and filter coffee is by Axil Coffee Roasters, there are three brews from Colonial Brewing Co. on tap (Draught, Pale Ale, South West Sour), and cans of Bertie Apple Cider in the fridge. There are six local Aussie wines to choose from, including drops from Helen’s Hill in the Yarra Valley and Flametree in Margaret River. A few simple cocktails (Aperol spritz, espresso martini, dark and stormy) are also available.
For now, Dagwood Deli is open during the week to cater to the working crowd, but weekend hours aren’t out of the question down the track. On Thursdays and Fridays the diner is licensed until 1am.