With the kitchen tucked away in the basement, the casual room is manned from behind an espresso bar (brewing Propeller , btw) and display case stocked with baked goods and mason jars of granola ($9), house-made condiments ($6-7) and yogurt ($8). The room is eclectically furnished, painted white and accented by seafoam cabinets and blown-up digital prints of vintage ticket stubs.
The menu sees owner Shauna Jones sharing her love for simple foods made entirely from scratch. Diners can choose from five sandwiches (or tacos), while a blackboard supplements the offerings with daily specials.
The ham and swiss sandwich ($9) is not just some sad school lunch - it's stacked onto an impeccably fresh bun with chunks of meat, hand-carved off a whole roasted bone-in ham. Made-from-scratch condiments - in this case, maple mayo and grainy tarragon Dijon mustard - pair excellently and a few sprigs of arugula add fresh peppery notes.
It's the type of food I'm sure locals will appreciate. If I lived in the 'hood I'd probably make the ham my usual, though there's also a pulled chicken sammy ($11) that's worth changing it up once in a while. This one comes dressed in a chipotle apple BBQ sauce and is assembled to order on a puffy kaiser. Served cold, the meat is tender but not juicy enough to make a mess, and comes topped up with sliced avocado, pickled onions, tomatoes and arugula.
On the specials board, there's beef brisket tacos ($12) today. Here the meat is shredded - a little stringy, but that's far from a dealbreaker. Lightly-pickled peach and red pepper salsa add sweetness rather than heat, though there's a jalapeño lime tequila hot sauce to do that job.
Sterling Social is open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm. On weekends, the cafe will also do a full brunch menu, and while it might change up weekly until the local favourites have been pinpointed, in recent weeks it's included things like a sweet potato hash with chorizo and a poached egg for $10.
Photos by Jesse Milns