Eric Mendoza is a sommelier. He’s worked at Porteño, Bloodwood and Baxter Inn. Until recently he was planned to open his own wine bar, but while looking for a space a completely different idea occurred to him. “When the Jack's Newtown site came up I wanted to put an all-day-and-night diner there doing black filter coffee, bagels and breakfasts,” he says. “I was kicking myself that I didn't have enough money.”
What he’s got now is a compromise; a tiny Pyrmont cafe that has all the charm of the American South. The fit-out and style is minimal and appropriately quaint for a cafe that opens onto a paved alley. The charm comes from the menu and Mendoza himself. “I was born in Houston, Texas. There's a lot of that really generous food that you don't really see around here.” The treat section comes from his memories and family recipes; chocolate-chip cookies; zucchini bread (Mendoza’s mum’s special) and chocolate brownies.
The other half of the menu is inspired by Mendoza’s travels, primarily to the delis and diners that have defined American streets for decades. “New York is a big inspiration. I'm trying to bring that influence in,” says Mendoza. From the diner there are hot dogs with wieners from smallgoods champion Eli Challenger, and a classic breakfast with rye, scrambled eggs and a double serving of Challenger’s streaky bacon. From the deli there’s bagels with smoked salmon, capers and cream cheese. And pastrami, mustard and Westmont pickles.
Then there’s the sandwich menu. There’s five different Reuben renditions; two long cheese-heavy subs; a Tex-Mex mix of rice, beans and avocado; and the Grand Central with scrambled eggs, onion jam, Swiss cheese and a choice of bacon, corned beef or pastrami. “It's probably my favourite breakfast sandwich. It's based on a sandwich from a place in LA called Eggslut,” says Mendoza.
Only the coffee hasn’t been imported from Mendoza’s dream. Instead of American filter coffee from the pot there’s espresso from ex-Two Chaps man Richie Maxfiled’s Blind Coffee Roaster, Sticky Chai and Nutella hot chocolates.
2/52 Harris Street, Pyrmont
Mon to Fri 7.30–3pm