Even with Rita’s Cafeteria, Dr Morse and The Yarra Hotel, something was missing from Abbotsford’s northern end.

“People kept coming into Lulie Street and asking, ‘Is there anything to eat around here, like a sandwich or something?’” says the bar’s co-owner, Jon Farrell. “We’d always say, ‘No, but there should be’.”

Now Farrell and business partner Brendan Kennedy have a better answer. They’ve partnered with friend Kitty Kelso – who’s also a veteran Curtin House bartender – to open Kelso’s Sandwich Shoppe, a quick and affordable spot on Johnston Street. Most items are priced between $8 and $12.

“My family really loves sandwiches,” Kelso says. “My sister Meg and I are known among our friends for making good sandwiches at home when they come to visit.”

The sisters worked with a chef to refine their home-style creations, but not too much. Even the fried-chicken sandwich tastes fresh and light. There’s none of that over-richness sometimes found in chef food, which often uses oil, butter and salt more liberally than home cooks might.

The Grilled Cheese includes mozzarella, cheddar, gruyere and parmesan butter, and comes with a stack of optional add-ons, such as bacon, salami, onions and pickles. The Smashed Pea is finished with mint, lemon, feta, cucumber and alfalfa. Then there are beef and vegetarian burgers. Everything is made using Bakery Lievito bread.

There’s just a touch of nostalgia inside. The walls display kitsch-y Women’s Weekly pages from between 1956 and 1961. (Apparently people like to preserve this stuff in plastic sleeves, and you can buy it on Gumtree).

The trio is wary of labelling Kelso’s a cafe, because it’s open late and there’s no table service. It’s also not a diner, because there’s only one American thing about it: bottomless filter from Coffee Supreme. It’s something in between.

Most importantly, you can now summon most of the menu to Lulie Street Tavern, including hot chips. “People always want chips at Lulie Street,” Farrell says. “Now we can give it to them.”

Kelso’s
271 Johnston Street, Abbotsford
No phone

Hours
Tues, Wed & Sun 10.30am–8pm
Thu to Sat 10.30am–9.30pm

kelsossandwiches.com