Samuel Lee co-owns Only Coffee Project, Double Cross Dining Room and Public Coffee – three of the best cafes you’ll find north of the bridge. And now, after more than seven years in the coffee game, he’s turning his attention to sandwiches at his new spot, Always.

“I wanted to sell something affordable, with good ingredients, that you could have two or three times a week if you wanted,” Lee says. But if you live in Crows Nest, you might find it difficult to limit your Always intake to just two or three times a week.

There’s no set menu here, and it’s up to you to design your entire sandwich from the ground up. Pick your bread – focaccia or sourdough by McMahons Point’s Fiore – and get ordering.

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Fillings are supplied by some of Sydney’s favourite provedores, and you can expect mortadella by LP’s Quality Meats, smoked salmon by Mr Flax, and ham by Belmore’s Quattro Stelle. Brisbane’s Saison Small Goods pitches in a pork and native pepperberry salami. A medley of chargrilled eggplant, roasted pepper, olives and pesto is one of the vegetarian highlights, while meatballs and miso tuna are both made in-house.

Once you’ve chosen the star of the sandwich, fill out the supporting cast with cheddar, gruyere, provolone or stracciatella. Always won’t stitch you up on extras, either – every sauce, as well as add-ons such as pickles and tomato, is included in the price; the only surcharges are for double cheese or meat. In Sydney’s hyperinflated sandwich market, a $14 all-inclusive sanga of this quality is very respectable.

Always also does a small breakfast menu till 11am. There’s an English muffin with Japanese curry scrambled egg and kewpie mayo – and Lee says the hot tip is to add American cheese and a big slice of spam (“It’s probably a bit weird but Korean people, we love Spam,” Lee says). There’s also sourdough that you can have with spreads, smoked salmon or LP’s pig-head sausage.

Lee’s coffee experience is front and centre at Always, with six self-serve taps (designed by Botany-based cafe engineers Six Simple Machines) pouring a rotation of hot and cold caffeinated drinks. When Broadsheet visited, there were batch brews by Artificer and Seven Seeds, an iced oat latte, a cold brew and an iced tea. When the warm weather really kicks in, Lee plans to put in a soft-serve ice-cream machine to go with the shop's classic arcade machine.

Always’s sunny retro branding – coupled with its old-school surroundings and leftover signage from the previous tenants – gives the small shop an instantly lived-in vibe. Lee just wants it to become a part of the Crows Nest community he’s belonged to for years.

“Crows Nest is beautiful to live in and people live here for a long time, so you actually see them grow,” Lee says. “It’s a nice feeling to have a relationship with our customers and become friends.”

One day last year, one of those customers-turned-friends came up to Lee and suggested he call his next cafe Always. “And I really liked the name,” says Lee. “Because you can always have a sandwich. No problem.”


Shop 2B Clarke Street, Crows Nest

0452 516 316

Mon to Sun 7.30am–3pm