Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse have been the talk of the town since Smith & Daughters opened in early 2014. It's come as no surprise then, that in the opening weeks of their spin-off vegan New York-style delicatessen — aptly named Smith & Deli — there were lines around the block to sample their latest creations. Brimming with baked goods, freshly made sandwiches and all the ingredients you could possibly need to be your own vegan Masterchef, the deli has all of Fitzroy stopping to take a look.
Although it was busy the weekday lunchtime we visited, it was also very civilised, with a system in place that allows you to order your sandwiches first so they can be made up as you wait in line to pay. The staff are super helpful when it comes to asking for a recommendation and are extremely friendly, giving this delicatessen overall good vibes. The adorable hand-painted signs — particularly the one that reads 'thank you for being a friend' above the threshold — don't hurt its friendly neighbourhood feel either.
Full disclosure: this reviewer is not so knowledgeable in the ways of vegan cuisine, and as a carnivore, was intrigued to sample the elements individually as well as all together. So, those vegan sandwiches. The Little Havana ($15) — which makes just like a typical Cuban sanga except it's inexplicably vegan — is filled with ham, roast turkey, mozzarella, cheddar, pickles and mojo dressing. Filling and delicious, the flavours work together is a somewhat beautiful harmony. The Parmageddon ($14) is absolutely perfect when you need something hot on a cold winter's day. With a chicken parma, Napoli sauce, pesto and mozzarella inside, it comes toasted on a crunchy roll. Wash those down with a coffee, either black or with non-dairy milk, and you'll have enough fuel in your tank to help you power on long past lunchtime.
As we waited for our sandwiches to be made, we could not tear our eyes away from their mouthwatering baked goods; from Twix tarts to challah sticky buns, it all looks (and tastes) sensational. Didn't think a vegan vanilla slice was possible? Neither did we, but it turns out it's possible, alright — and downright amazing. The custard is soft and sweet, the pastry flaky and the icing sticky. Exactly what we were after.
It's undeniable that Smith & Deli appeals to a broad audience — and it's not just vegans and vegetarians who are looking for inventive meals. It's a welcoming environment for those who are potentially looking to make a switch to veganism, or are at least curious enough to give a mock meat Reuben sandwich a try. So visit Smith & Deli and open your eyes to the possibilities of vegan cuisine.
Photos by Nicole Goodwin.