Crispy Pork Roll at Kenny’s Pork Rolls – $7.90
Almost every sandwich at Kenny’s Pork Rolls is under $10, but the pork roll is the tastiest. “We marinate pork shoulder with spices, let it slow roast and develop a good crackling in the oven for nearly five hours,” says owner Kenny Hak.
The sandwich is served with the usual accompaniments for a good Vietnamese-style pork roll: house-made mayonnaise, pate, pickled carrots and daikon, and a special soy sauce that’s also made in house. Hak won’t divulge the recipe. Round off the meal with a fresh sugar cane juice.
Oyster Special at Black Bottle – $1.50 each
Black Bottle’s oysters special was inspired by Maison Premiere’s $1 oysters in New York. At the Darlinghurst European-style cicchetti (small plates) bar, fresh Sydney rock oysters are served with a traditional mignonette between 5pm and 7pm every night.
“We couldn’t quite do $1,” says owner Lucas Cristofle, “but $1.50 is pretty close.” Cristofle says they don’t make money on the oysters, but the oysters crowd creates a great vibe. “It’s not always about the money, it’s about the atmosphere,” he says.
Go with a friend to share a plate of oysters and a carafe of wine from the venue’s approachable list of small wine producers. Black Bottle’s surprisingly affordable food and drink means you can easily come in under $10 each.
Avocado Toast at Infinity Bakery – $6 for one slice, $10 for two
Making the simple avocado toast stand out in a crowded market is challenging. Infinity Bakery’s version is excellent thanks to its lovingly prepared sourdough bread.
Behind every avocado toast is a loaf that took 12 hours to knead, prove and bake, and a sourdough starter that’s been raising the bakery’s loaves for nearly two decades.
“All our loaves are moulded by hand, made in the Paddington shop,” says Darlinghurst manager Gemma. The topping is an avocado smash mixed with lime juice, salt, pepper and a seeded mix of pumpkin, sesame and poppy seeds. For $10 you can have one piece with a coffee or two pieces on their own.
Chicken Salad at Tropicana Caffe – $12.50
Tropicana Caffe is a Darlinghurst institution. It was the site of the original Tropfest short film festival, back when they would hang a screen from a crane and fill the blocked-off street with plastic chairs. Surprisingly, the most popular dish at the cafe is a salad. There’s nothing unexpected here. Grilled chicken is served over a base cos lettuce with potato wedges, tomato, grilled eggplant and avocado. The dressing is a vinaigrette, and there’s a generous dollop of mayonnaise for the chicken. A slice of bread from Iggy’s is served on the side.
Owner George Semaan puts the popularity of the salad down to freshness and sheer size. “Before I owned Tropicana, I’d tell my friends to try the salad. They always gave me a look. So I said if they were still hungry afterwards, I’d shout them lunch.” He never had to.
Soft-shell Crab Sandwich at Joe’s Table – $12.50
Joe’s Table is a sandwich spot by day, South-East Asian eatery by night, all deftly manned by owner Joe Kitsana.
Of the sandwiches, the soft-shell crab is a standout. Two slices of bread are fixed with a generous swipe of house-made herbed mayonnaise, sliced tomato, coriander, shallots, pickled carrot and daikon. Deep-fried soft-shell crab, prepared with Chinese five-spice seasoning, is the star of the dish.
“This sandwich is my favourite. You can taste so much flavour in it: the creamy mayo, the crunchy pickle, the fresh salad and meaty spiced crab,” says Kitsana.
Mushroom Toastie at Toastie Toast Co - $8.50
Toastie Toast Co lets the mushrooms cook as the cheese melts, creating a flavourful sandwich. Field mushrooms are packed between two thick slices of bread with spinach, caramelised onions and a mix of pecorino, cheddar and mozzarella.
“The secret to a good toastie is butter, butter, butter,” says owner Michael Pham. “That and having the right equipment. At home it’s tough to make a good toastie because the press doesn’t maintain a high temperature, so you don’t get that nice caramelisation on the outside.”
Buffalo Chicken Wings at BL Burgers – $10
BL Burgers, the takeaway outpost of cult burger spot Bar Luca, does buffalo chicken wings by the book. They’re fried crisp and tossed in a sauce with just the right balance of heat, salt and tartness. Ranch dressing and a handful of celery sticks served on the side provide a welcome respite from the chilli sauce.
This venue has barely any seating, so grab a handful of serviettes on your way out. You’ll be grateful for something to wipe the sauce off your face as you walk down Oxford Street.