Bagels and Reuben and Pickles, Oh My!
Address: 16 Oliver Lane, Melbourne
Open: Weekdays, 7.30am until 3.30pm
Phone: (03) 9077 0162
Six hours and one minute. That’s how long it takes to get from Bowery to Williamsburg, according to Google Maps. Eleven minutes is how long it takes to get to Bowery to Williamsburg – the café – from my place by car.
Surely you’ve heard of Bowery to Williamsburg by now? It’s a fancy New York-style sandwich café in Melbourne CBD. It’s run by the owners of Hardware Societe, and damn is it good. Their chewy, boiled bagels are by 5 & Dime, their coffee from Padre and their soft drinks all-American (root beer, anyone?). At the end of the day – or the start of your lunch break – there’s almost nothing you can fault.
Bowery to Williamsburg boasts the kind of menu that makes you want to pull your hair out – you want to order everything but you can’t. Or can you? Nope, you definitely can’t. The Reuben, which has become the signature sanger here, proves you can’t order everything on the menu due to it’s sheer size. Thick slices of corned beef brisket get jiggy with sauerkraut, Russian dressing and oodles of melted swiss cheese. I took one look at the beast and decided I couldn’t manage it, although the fellow next to me was certainly enjoying his. Next time I'll better prepare my stomach for the challenge.
Instead I ordered the pickled herring. Salty white fish fillets folded over themselves, supported by a creamy, chopped base of beetroot and egg salad and slices of cucumber balanced on top. The ingredients hugged together between dark pumpernickel bread. It’s a shame the latter was so dry.
My partner in dine, Little Miss Melbourne, was a sucker for the Schmaltz chicken with apple and celeriac slaw and prune relish, which she ate on gluten-free bread for an extra buck due to her stubborn stomach.
It’s worth noting that each sandwich and bagel is $12.50, but you’d be insulting Obama if you didn’t spend an extra $4 for the sides of salty pretzels, a supersized dill pickle and your choice of either mac 'n' cheese or a jar of tabbouleh salad. Pretending to be healthy by ordering the tabbouleh is a mistake I won’t make again, not because the salad was a touch lacking, but because the mac ‘n’ cheese on the other table looked incredible.
Traditionalists will be pleased to see a hot smoked salmon bagel on the menu, along with a pastrami sandwich on rye. There’s also the choice of pork and almond meatballs, and even breaded eggplant and haloumi for the vegos.
Steering clear of the Rueben was a wise decision seeing as I was after dessert. We were limited to the gluten-free brownie, which turned out to be a fantastic problem to have. Not only did it make deciding between the maple pecan pie, New York cheesecake, s’mores bars, key lime pie and pumpkin pie easy; it was rich, fudgy, and everything you’d expect a gluten-free treat not to be.
Although everyone raves about the peanut butter hot chocolate, I wasn’t impressed. The only thing peanut-buttery about it was the fact that you stir a peanut butter cup into it. While the gooey, warm candy is a bonus; you don’t taste peanut butter in the actual drink. Stick to coffee, it will give you more room for sweets and they come with a kiss of the Hershey’s variety.
Earlier in the day you can swing by for brekkie, too. Bagels are available with a range of cream cheeses. Try the sour cherry with coffee cream cheese, or a beetroot and rye with caviar. There’s a strong Jewish influence in the cooked breakfast items. Highlights include lox on latkes, blintzes and fried challah with whipped peanut butter, poached pears and candied popcorn.
I really did love Bowery to Williamsburg. Any menu that causes that much distress when attempting to order is a winner in my books. I’m looking forward to returning to that concrete café where dreams are made of, there’s nothing I won’t eat.