Brunswick Street's Vegan Day Out is a culmination of businesses supporting and celebrating vegan options or trends, and Melburnians coming together to enjoy a weekend of vegan fare. Smith & Daughters, the all vegan Spanish-Mexican restaurant, has been a popular main-stayer in Fitzroy since 2014. Now, their sister location – Smith & Deli – is a prime vegan spot to be experienced. Vegan Day Out, together with a gloriously sunny Melbourne day, was the necessary excuse to take a short road-trip into Fitzroy and sample their goods on offer.
Smith & Deli - Melbourne's all-vegan neighbourhood deli
'Goods' is perhaps an underplayed way to describe Smith & Deli's food and the queue to the counter was nearing the outer walls and out the door. Hidden just off the main strip in Moor Street, Smith & Deli is a self-described "extension" of the Smith & Daughters reputation. Head chef Shannon Martinez and business partner Mo Wyse have master-minded this perfect salute to an all-vegan New Your inspired delicatessen for Melbournians.
Smith & Deli is attracting the vegan masses!
Robust window-paned cabinets ramble along the front-of-house while kitchen staff prepares each order with timely precision. A bounty of fresh breakfast or lunch sandwiches is brought to life, while freshly packed takeaway salad containers stand at the ready for the vegan stampede. And, it's only 11.30am on a Saturday! Trade is teaming and freshly baked treats glean from the stuffed cabinets while golden croissants (chocolate or almond) cool atop. Shelves lining the walls are stuffed with deli-style vegan groceries to keep the hungry hoards occupied before placing orders.
While the wait to be served was a little lengthy, it was to be expected on a weekend celebrating Vegan Day Out. Given the aforementioned precision of Smith & Deli's staff, the hungry faithful are served their orders in large brown lunch bags within minutes of ordering. There are menus printed on A4 for customers to grab and read, so you're ready to order all is desired. The read is fun too, with names cleverly concocted to reflect the ingredients in each sandwich like 'Club Sandwiches Not Seals', 'Nobody Calls Me Chicken Salad' and 'Hail Seitan!'. Don't be fooled by the names – all stated 'meat' ingredients are plant-based mock alternatives to what is packed into each sandwich, handmade fresh by the Smith & Deli crew.
A friendly, neighbourhood experience at Smith & Deli
It's a friendly atmosphere that's' sans animal-derived products and community comradery is embraced as emblazoned on its walls: "thank you for being a friend". If a sandwich doesn't take your fancy, there are pre-made meals and supplies like dolmades to keep you nourished. The Smith & Deli team is committed to allergy requirements and offers gluten free and nut free options. My eyes wander over the menu straight for a 'Buffalo the Vampire Slayer', a roll-based sandwich jam-packed with buffalo tofu, shredded lettuce, carrot, red onion and celery, all smeared with a ranch dressing. Together with an almond milk chai and a gluten-free pecan tart, I'm set for a sunny picnic outside (Smith & Deli isn't a sit-down and eat affair). You only need to meander about 50 metres along Moor Street towards Napier where Menzies Place is a quaint park area to roll out a picnic rug and enjoy Smith & Deli's lunch-bag goodies.
Buffalo the Vampire Slayer is a sandwich to be devoured.
I peel away the bandana-patterned paper wrapping (emulating Smith & Deli staff's head-bandanas) to find my Vampire Slayer of a roll crusty, oh-so-fresh and tasty. Opting for a side serve of pickle spears for only 50 cents extra was a wise choice; I'm devouring my sandwich choice with great company as the spears are sweet and by no means overpowering. The sun shines down to warm my body and ingesting this generously-sized sandwich instantly reminds me that summer is mere months away.
Many baked eats and treats to choose from at Smith & Deli
One sweet finish to a sunny picnic with Smith & Deli
Sipping on my almond milk chai offers a sweet treat to finish off my packed lunch and the pecan tart – gluten free, mind you – is sticky (not too gooey) and glorious. The almond croissant was not overlooked and partners well with a sugary doughnut for later. What better way to picnic in the neighbourhood of Fitzroy than with an expertly packed vegan lunch, lovingly prepared by the team at the neighbourhood corner shop that's Smith & Deli?