Like many of us, I’m someone who loves a good sandwich. Show me a menu that has some kind of fresh bread wrapped around a bunch of tasty ingredients, and there’s a pretty high chance I’m going to order it.
Thanks to that
addiction preference, I’ve eaten a lot of sandwiches around Melbourne over the years. Some have been absolutely terrible, many have been fine but forgettable, but now and again I come across one that’s so good, I can’t stop thinking about it for days.
Fitzroy seems to have more than its fair share of places that fall into that last category. Don’t get me wrong, you can still get an awful sandwich in this little pocket of the inner north, but it feels like you at least don’t have to try quite as hard to find a great one.
I’m not all that fussy about my definition of a sandwich, by the way. Sliced bread makes the cut, obviously, but so do crusty rolls and bagels. Wraps, pitas, maybe even burger buns if you really pushed the point.
Cold fillings or hot, toasted or left untouched by a sandwich press, they’re all contenders. It just has to taste amazing, and I feel like I’ve been on some kind of single-handed mission to track them all down. After far too many carbs, I figured it was time to share the results of that research with the world.
If you’re looking for the best sandwiches (and honestly, some of the best lunches of any kind) in Fitzroy, here’s where you’ll find them!
P.S. If you need a caffeine hit to go with your bread-based deliciousness, I've spent far too much of my life tracking down the best coffee in Fitzroy as well!
Frankie’s Tortas and Tacos
I walked past Frankie’s all the time when it was operating out of a caravan on Smith Street in Collingwood, but for some reason never stopped to check it out. It moved to a bricks-and-mortar store in Fitzroy at the end of last year, and when I found myself nearby one lunchtime, decided it was time to fix that oversight.
And what an oversight it turned out to be. I’ve spent a bit of time devouring tortas in Mexico in the past, and the ones at Frankie’s are just as good as any I found on the Yucatan peninsula. As the name suggests, tacos are on the menu as well: they’re also delicious, but for me, it’s all about the sandwiches.
Speaking of the menu, it’s small. To me, that’s usually a good sign: I’d rather somewhere did a few things really well than dozens of things badly. There were a grand total of four tortas on the menu when I visited: al pastor (pork), chicken, fish, and mushroom.
That’s all there is, and that’s all there needs to be. I’m always a sucker for a good fish sandwich, and this one was particularly delicious, with crispy fish, pickled vegetables, and a good chilli kick from the jalapeno mayo.
Lauren’s al pastor was arguably even better, though, and somehow even more filling. She ended up wrapping half of it in a napkin to take home for dinner: it’s lucky that the Oaxacan cheese in there meant that dairy-free me could only try a tiny bite, otherwise she’d have definitely found it missing from the fridge that evening.
There are several tables inside Frankie’s, but they fill up fast: we arrived to a near-empty restaurant just before midday, and there we no spare seats by the time we left forty minutes later. Fortunately it’s open late: if you’re out in the evening and need something to soak up the alcohol from one of the many nearby pubs, it’s the ideal place to find it.
The Moor Street outpost of Hector’s Deli is the newest of what is becoming a small but very-popular chain of Melbourne sandwich restaurants. Started in Richmond and expanding to South Melbourne and now Fitzroy, it’s a simple concept executed perfectly. Which probably explains why it’s super-busy whenever I walk past it.
The place opens early, with a full range of sandwiches available from 8am onwards. There are plenty of options, around five toasted varieties and five fresh (i.e., cold) versions, plus a simple egg and cheese breakfast sandwich with a couple of optional extras.
We’ve tried a few different flavours, including chicken, roast beef, and the HCT sausage and cheese, and come away full and happy every time. The toasted sandwiches are better than the cold ones, at least in my experience, but you’re unlikely to be disappointed no matter what you order.
There are a few long counters with and without chairs if you’d like to eat in, or you can join the other hungry punters milling around on the footpath outside while you wait for your takeaway. The interior has a definite industrial feel, all metal and wood, and the kitchen looks like a production line at busy times, with up to half a dozen staff members assembling sandwiches and slinging coffees.
Even with that level of efficiency, there can be a bit of a wait at lunchtimes: if you’re in a hurry, try to time your arrival either side of the midday rush.
Nico’s Sandwich Deli
If the vibe at Hector’s is all clean, industrial efficiency, Nico’s is much more about friendly grunginess. It’s a little hole in the wall on Kerr Street, with a few tables outside that fill up quickly. There’s graffiti everywhere (the tagging kind, not the fancy street art variety), and when I last visited, the noise from nearby construction made ordering difficult, never mind trying to have a conversation.
And yet, none of that mattered. The staff were super-friendly and seemed to actually be enjoying their jobs, the tables were full of a diverse cast of characters, and it felt like a really local kind of place despite having a couple of other outposts around the inner city.
Of course, all that stuff is well and good, but it doesn’t mean much if the food isn’t up to scratch. I can confirm that the food is, in fact, very much up to scratch. We’ve tried most things on the small menu: the Cubano melt is the standout so far, gooey, delicious, and perfectly toasted, but the truffle mushroom comes a close second. With a nice kick from the chipotle and chimichurri, the vegetarians and vegans of this world won’t be disappointed.
Nico’s is theoretically open every day from 8am: the melts are available from then, with cold sandwiches after 10am as well. Note the theoretically in that previous sentence, though: I’ve walked past a firmly-closed metal shutter in the middle of the day more than once.
Assuming it’s open, you can grab a coffee while you’re there as well. If the tables are all full (or that noisy construction is still going on when you visit), the nearest park is the Smith Reserve, on Cecil Street. Grab a patch of grass and enjoy!
Mile End Bagels
I first came across Mile End Bagels during Melbourne’s endless pandemic lockdowns. I was staying nearby at the time, and because you could order online and pickup your food in about two seconds, it felt like a safe and easy way of getting to eat something, anything, that I hadn’t had to make myself.
Skip forward a couple of years and those lockdown days are thankfully long behind us, but I’m still visiting Mile End Bagels on the regular. Their delicious bagels got me absolutely hooked, and there’s little better in life than grabbing one during a sunny lunchtime and eating it on the grass in Carlton Gardens a couple of blocks away.
There are 15 different options on the menu, from traditional combinations like salmon and cream cheese to more… unusual flavours. If you’re keen on peanut butter and raspberry jam in your bagel, best of luck to you.
If you can’t still find a mixture that grabs you, never fear: you can build your own bagel as well. That’s good for vegans and dairy-free people like me: I sub out regular cream cheese for the cashew variety, and it opens up a world of combinations that I don’t usually get to have. Plus it’s damn tasty!
Because the bagels are Montreal-style, they’re chewier than their American-style cousins that most people are more familiar with. It’s a taste and texture that I’m personally a big fan of: if you haven’t had them before, they’re definitely worth trying.
I’ve tried most of the different flavours on the menu (apart from that damn peanut butter), but keep coming back to the brisket and smoked salmon options. Service is usually really quick, although it can slow down a bit at lunchtime: if you’re in a hurry, just order online and set a time to pick it up.
Viet Rose Cafe
I’m not going to say that I’ve got a banh mi problem… but I’m definitely not not going to say it either. I’ve eaten more than my fair share of these delicious Vietnamese-style sandwiches all over the world, and the ones you’ll find in Melbourne’s inner north are up there with the best of them.
Of those specifically in Fitzroy, it’s impossible to go past Viet Rose. They’ve been in business as a restaurant on Brunswick Street approximately forever (I remember going there the better part of two decades ago!), and a few years back, decided to open a small cafe on the other side of the road.
Judging by the lines out the door most lunchtimes, it was a good decision.
I’ve genuinely lost count of the number of times I’ve ordered a banh mi from here, but it has to be well into double figures. I’ve tried everywhere else nearby, but just keep coming back to Viet Rose. When you’ve had the best, nothing else quite compares.
Looking for more delicious Vietnamese-style sandwiches (and let's face it, you can never have too many)? Check out what we're currently recommending in our endless search for the best banh mi in Melbourne!
The crispy pork is always my go-to: there are several other options on the menu, but I’m too afraid to try them just in case they aren’t quite as incredible. Stuffed full of soft, succulent pork, with just the right amount of crackling, pickled vegetables, and those near-invisible chopped-up chillis that are guaranteed to blow your head off, they’re an absolute sensation.
You can order them without the chillis if you like, but where’s the fun in that? There are also a bunch of other non-sandwich options if you’d prefer salad or dim sims, a good range of vegan and vegetarian options, and a pretty legit cafe sua da (Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk) as well.
It’s a tiny place, with a couple of tables on the street outside and a small counter along the window inside, but chances are you’ll be getting it to take away. Run like a military operation, my banh mi has always come out quickly even when there’s a long line of hungry customers.
Inexpensive, filling, and delicious: what more could you ask from a banh mi? Be sure to order one next time you’re walking down Brunswick Street. You can thank me later.
- Name: Viet Rose Cafe
- Address: 330 Brunswick Street
- Hours: 9am to 5pm weekdays, 10am to 5pm weekends
- Banh mi prices: $8-12
I actually thought this place was a wine shop the first few times I wandered past it (it certainly looks like one from the door), and it wasn’t until I stopped daydreaming one day and noticed the sign advertising sandwiches that I decided to stop in. And wow, am I glad I did.
There’s a small menu, helpfully labeled “sandwiches” and “not sandwiches”, and it feels like you can’t go wrong no matter what you pick. Lauren was in raptures about her French dip sandwich, I couldn’t get enough of my chicken salad version, and the people at the table behind us just wouldn’t shut up about how much they were enjoying their roast beef melts.
Even the chips were a delight, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, just like they should be. You can add them as a side, but if you’re there with someone else, I’d suggest going for the separate $10 bowl instead. Yes, that’s entirely for the curry ketchup.
The store is licensed, and has a wide range of wines and craft beers for you to drink with your meal or takeaway, whichever you prefer. It makes for a particularly enjoyable experience if you can nab a table in the sun on Brunswick Street, having a beer and a sandwich as the shoppers wander past. If not, there are a few tables inside as well.
Prices are reasonable by Fitzroy standards, especially given how large the sandwiches are. Lets just say that neither of us felt like eating much for the rest of the day after our lunchtime visit. They’re open late on Fridays and Saturdays as well, if you’d rather make it an after-work experience.
JollyGood Sandwiches. If there’s a food place out there whose name more perfectly describes what they do, I’m yet to find it.
I’d walked past Egglab several times before I ordered a sandwich from there, for reasons that absolutely escape me right now. It’s on a busy stretch of Johnston Street, currently takeaway only: you order at a little streetside window and then wait around impatiently on the footpath for a while.
Trust me, it’s worth the time investment.
Egglab has a small but diverse menu, with around a dozen burger-style options–and despite the name, only around half the sandwiches come with an egg inside.
From tried and true like chicken schnitzel and bacon, egg, and cheese to more interesting variations like chilli scramble, egg benedict, and the above Mr Potatohead 2.0, I’d be amazed if you didn’t find something you liked.
I certainly did: the avocado sandwich, with Greek feta and an egg by default, plus bacon and a hashbrown that I added because why the hell not, was absolutely delicious. Healthy? Not particularly. Easy to eat without making a mess? Definitely not. Would I order it again? In a heartbeat.
It wasn’t small, either: I ordered mine as a late lazy breakfast one Sunday morning, and barely felt the need for dinner several hours later. Trust me, they pack a lot of food in between those two burger buns.
You can add a few extras to your order: if you’re particularly hungry (or sharing with a friend), I can recommend the potato gems and a little tub of chipotle. There’s also coffee, fresh orange juice, milkshakes, and a range of other drinks on offer.
Prices are pretty reasonable unless you go overboard with the extras (ahem), and even at busy times, you shouldn’t have to wait more than ten minutes for your sandwich to be cooked, packed up, and handed to you ready to devour. Go outside breakfast and lunchtimes and it’ll be even quicker.
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