“There’s more to a sandwich than wrapped ham and cheese,” says Emely Donegan, owner of Big Dog’s Deli, a new sandwich shop and bar in Richmond. “They aren’t just for lunchtime, either. You can have one as a meal, with a beer on the side – just like you would a burger.

“Food can be dynamic and great without being fine dining.”

Big Dog’s Deli opened on Lennox Street in late November last year. It’s styled on the sandwich shops of America – rolls, subs and sliced bread, wrapped around high-quality, considered fillings. Everything – except the bread – is made in-house.

The idea came from Donegan’s time spent travelling, working and cooking in America (particularly Los Angeles and Portland), and is named after her brother – “the big dog” – with whom she developed the concept.

Mostly, she wanted a place in Melbourne to get a really good sandwich.

“Even just along Swan Street, you’ve probably got about 15 burger shops, but no-one’s doing sandwiches,” she says. “I think there’s actually more to a sandwich [than a burger] when you think about everything that goes into it.”

Get our pick of the best news, features and events delivered twice a week

There’s nine sandwiches on Donegan’s menu, and the fillings will change. The lineup may include the J-Fo, with veal and pork meatballs with sugo, smoked scamorza, pecorino and basil on a toasted sub; or the Captain: house-smoked pastrami, kraut, Swiss and Russian dressing on toasted rye. For sides, there’s house-made crisps, a pickled pumpkin salad or herbed slaw. Ice-cream sandwiches are available for dessert.

Like many sandwich shops in America, Big Dog’s Deli is also a bar. The drinks list includes a couple of bottled cocktails – Aperol Spritz and a Boulevardier – and a “Bloody Maria”, made with spiced tomato juice, tequila, sherry and house pickles. There are draught beers (rotating after every keg), but the can and bottle choice is bigger. There are also two wines on tap – a red (pinot noir) and a white (garganega), both by Mac Forbes.

At night, when the bar vibe kicks in, the sandwiches are available in their deconstructed forms– plates of meat and pickles with hot sauce for dipping. There’s also a big courtyard out the back, sheltered by a giant elm tree. Donegan also plans to install a back entrance so people can bring their dogs.

Big Dog’s Deli
327 Lennox Street, Richmond

Mon and Wed 11am–8.30pm
Thu to Sun 11am–9.30pm
Closed Tue