Adelaide’s best Katsu sando

April 9, 2024

Words and pictures: Claudia Dichiera, David Simmons & Helen Karakulak

This article first appeared in our Festival edition, which is on streets now.

The sando craze has been well-documented in the pages of CityMag. We’ve scoured beachside pop-ups, suburban delicatessens and food truck treasures.

So dedicated to the sando cause, our reporters will gladly let a salad from home sit in the fridge an extra day as we opt for the latest things happening between two slices of bread.

The Katsu sando is a staple of Japanese convenience stores, the perfect grab-and-go lunch item. We’ve dubbed it the crowd-pleaser this festival season. Whether you’re after a quick feed before a Fringe show, or a jazzed-up brunch-worthy bite, the Katsu sando will be there for you.

It’s arguable what you should expect from the Katsu now that they’ve become a trending menu item with creative liberties taken in the sando craft. But we’ve put it down to three essentials: soft, pillowy bread; a thick cut of protein coated in panko crumb and fried (traditionally pork, but chicken is more common to Adelaide); and a zingy sauce (traditionally tonkatsu).

In our sando search, chicken was the popular protein, but we came across one pork and two vegetarian options – mushroom and eggplant. These six, in no particular order, are the best Katsu sandos we tried.

We scored them based on location, crunch factor, sauciness, tastiness and the messiness that transpired while eating them (although the latter could come down to user error). As for the Grammable score, we ranked the sandos on a scale of one to five on how we’d post them on Instagram: no post (one), Close Friends story (two), story (three), in a photo dump (four), main post on the grid (five).

Despite being a trending menu item that often graces café special boards, we were surprised to find an on-menu sando to be elusive, and often hidden behind other names (Dan – I’m looking at you). Our hunt took us out of postcode 5000 with a beach stop and a short drive north. But trust us, city dwellers, it’s well worth the trip.



‘Blame it on my Juice’

$17 from Carton Deli, Pulteney Street
Crunch Factor: 8 | Messiness: 8 | Sauciness: 8 | Tastiness: 9 | Location: 7 | Grammable: Story

It was a hot, windy afternoon when CityMag trudged through Emo Park to taste Carton Deli’s twist on the Katsu. Starving, after a morning spent on the news beat, we each ordered our own ‘Mushroom Katsu’ – a great choice in hindsight because this burger-style take on the sanga was too good to share. Starring a juicy yet crunchy Katsu-coated mushroom patty, Carton Deli’s burger/sando stands out from the pack in large part thanks to the generous layer of Tom Yum mayo: yum indeed. Pickled daikon, lettuce and cheese round out the ingredients list, giving the gorgeously fried mushroom even more crunch. It was love at first bite: crunch, squish, squeeze went the patty as we hungrily stuffed the buns into our maws. If we had one bit of criticism, it’d be that the experience is too short – snuffed out by the small size of the lunchtime treat.



‘The Cutie’

$13.80 from Katsumoto, Gays Arcade
Crunch Factor: 5 | Messiness: 6.5 | Sauciness: 5 | Tastiness: 7.25 | Location: 8 | Grammable: No post

When researching the history of a Katsu sando, we found its origins began as a simple, on-the-go, quick snack. We assume the Katsu sando at Katsumoto resembled this traditional motive. Priced at $13.80, this sando didn’t fill us up – we ordered pork gyozas to assist in this area. However, it was an undemanding, easy and prompt side and we were pleasantly surprised. We were in and out in an hour despite the busy lunchtime rush. The details of the sando were simple: two slices of white bread, an appropriate amount of slaw, and just enough kewpie mayo to keep the tastebuds tantalised. Though this mayo lover loves to drown any item in kewpie, it appeared as just enough to not be too messy, not overbear the crunch and not result in a tummy ache after consumption. Bravo Katsumoto. A high-rating Katsu all round.




‘Down with the Thickness’

$16 from 2nd of June, Goodwood

Crunch Factor: 8 | Messiness: 2.5 | Sauciness: 4.5 | Tastiness: 6.5 | Location: 6.5 | Grammable: Close friends story

Don’t let the King William address fool you as it almost did CityMag when we realised this one was not walking distance from our Grenfell Street office. Despite their website declaring it in the heart of the CBD, to us, the Goodwood location is more the spleen. Once you step inside though, what a funky spleen. The interior drew us in immediately with neon signs and lanterns hanging from the ceilings. Their Katsu sando was simple and effective. The first we’ve come across in our search with only a pork option, the thick cut and consistent crunch made it a filling lunch time offering. The toasted bread added to the crunch, although some spots that were sparse of chilli mayo were in danger of dryness. Overall, this thick quicky is worth the lunchtime stop if you’re in the area, with the vibes likely bringing you back for date night.



‘Sweet Child O Mine’

$14 from Heat Cafe, North Adelaide
Crunch Factor: 5.5 | Messiness: 7.5 | Sauciness: 8 | Tastiness: 9 | Location: 8 | Grammable: Story

The journey to Heat Cafe began with a stressful drive out of the CBD to North Adelaide. What should have been a quick five-minute process was rudely interrupted by a mass of Aussie cricket lovers wanting to get a taste of a baggy green. Stressed as CityMag was already late to our 12pm booking, we found ourselves in luck when a car park appeared right in front of Heat. Only there’s one catch: we must reverse parallel park behind a blue Ferrari. Beginning to wonder whether this was even worth it, we walk into Heat and see wallpaper heroing the sando, so we know we must be in for a treat. The soft bread resembled Wonder White and was filled with the regulars: shredded lettuce and kewpie mayo. Extras were added resulting in this sando’s generous ratings across the board, being the hot honey chicken – a sweet, but not so spicy touch – and the controversial pickle. Overall, this sando was worth the stress.



‘The Big Buoy’

$25 Nauti Buoy, Henley Beach South
Crunch Factor: 8.75 | Messiness: 4.5 | Sauciness: 4.5 | Tastiness: 6.75 | Location: 9.5 | Grammable: Story

When Nauti Buoy listed this sando under ‘bigger’ menu items, they weren’t kidding. The helpful staff tried to warn us, but did we listen? Pfft, we’re no sando novices, we can handle it. When they brought out the Big Buoy – fittingly served with a steak knife – we got nervous. The first bite was promising and made us see past its towering height. The chicken was fried to perfection in a sesame and panko crumb that kept its crunch, aided nicely by the pickled carrot and alfalfa. The bread was the thickest of the bunch, more of a firm mattress than the airiness of others on this list. The Nauti chilli paste and mayo placements on either slice of bread prevented excessive sauciness. That, plus strategic cuts with the steak knife helped us keep the messiness to a minimum. Not the small snack we thought we knew the Katsu sando to be, this one is a great pick for a leisurely weekend lunch.




‘Dan the Man’

$24 from Peter Rabbit, Hindley Street
Crunch Factor: 7 | Messiness: 10 | Sauciness: 8 | Tastiness: 8 | Location: 8 | Grammable: Story

Pillowy, crustless bread is what first comes to CityMag’s mind when imagining a Katsu. So we were delighted to receive Peter Rabbit’s sizeable dish, replacing chicken with twice-fried eggplant and featuring some soft, white bread. Covered in chives and dripping with house made sauce, this sticky sanga more than hits the spot for the lunchtime crowd, and the side of nori rice crackers is a crunchy treat for those left wanting more. The inclusion of apple in Peter Rabbit’s take on the Katsu sando was a refreshing surprise: fresh and crisp, it adds an unexpected flavour that plays perfectly with the tonkatsu-coated eggplant. Messiness is this sandwich’s highest scoring metric – in large part due to the huge volume of chives scattered on top of the sandwich. Peter Rabbit calls this one ‘Dan’s Sando’. Dan – if you’re reading this – thanks for a tip-top invention.



Share —