If you passed by North Carlton Canteen during construction in November, chances are you copped a PR rave from handyman, Jimmy. “These boys,” he’d say to anyone walking slowly enough, “they’ll make you big beautiful sandwiches so fresh, you won’t believe. And the coffee? The. Best.” He also tells Time Out there’s not a wrinkle on his 60-year-old frame. While we can’t confirm the latter, the former is most definitely true.
North Carlton Canteen is saving upper-Lygon Street residents from its cafes drought with a fat serve of upgraded counter classics. Take the quiche: they’re practically serving it by the kilo. It’s creamy, eggy, packing loads of the good bits (semi-dried tomatoes and chunky ham) in all the right proportions, caught in crisp, buttery pastry.
A ham and cheese toastie is fat and extra squidgy from a lick of mustardy béchamel. Technically, it’s a croque monsieur if you want to get fancy about it. But they don’t. And neither do we. The Reuben ain’t a Reuben either. As far as they’re concerned, chewy sourdough sandwiching a fat slice of salty corned beef with melting Swiss cheese and a briny crunch of pickles and ‘slaw is as complicated as life needs to be. And just as delicious.
It’s a good-looking space too. Glistening white tiles meet mismatched Laminex tables, a window bench for perching and cute touches like a balsa wood deer head. The footpath is a crush of trestle tables, parents and really local locals – we’re pretty sure some neighbours have dragged out their own bench out to beat the weekend crush.
The coffee might be a little hot if you’re a 60-degree-milk Cup of Excellence nut. But we’ll forgive a lot for super-friendly service, free cake samples and fluffy, strawberry-laden buckwheat banana pancakes that we don’t have to count as dessert. Win.