The nostalgia diner trend has been chugging away for a few years now, on menus and in restaurant designs. The latest edition: Dr. Augusta’s Samitorium, a new sandwich and soda shop located at the edge of Kensington Market and named after the area’s north-south artery. Owned and operated by Chris Bobbitt and Vlad Vujovic, it’s a decidedly stripped-down take on a ’50s eatery, with tall black leather stools, a throwback black-and-white tile floor and large picture windows. The main bar is home to rows of pickle-packed Mason jars and the place’s big draw: an old-school soda fountain.
It was Bobbitt who first came up with the idea to add house-made sodas ($2.75) to the mix, and it’s a smart one—they’re all the rage right now. The drink menu boasts gourmet cream soda, ginger ale, lemon soda, grape soda (featuring seasonal Concord grapes) and root beer (made using a 100-year-old recipe). All the pops are made with cane sugar and contain less than half the sugar content of most commercial brands (and yes, they can all be turned into floats for $5.75).
The sandwiches at Dr. Augusta’s feature bread from Simon Blackwell’s Blackbird Baking Co. (which operates out of Soma) and eggs, meat and poultry from Bobbitt and Vujovic’s Kensington neighbour Sanagan’s Meat Locker. The breakfast sandwich ($7.65) has already emerged as a clear favourite; served all day, it consists of a house-made buttermilk biscuit piled high with braised pork belly in a soy ginger glaze and topped with a fried egg, aged cheddar and a sherry onion jam. The po’ boy ($8.85) made its debut on the menu earlier this week and features cornmeal-crusted shrimp, Marie Rose sauce and an orange and fennel salad, served on a pain au lait bun. Rounding out the savoury menu are a Cobb salad ($9.75), a green salad ($3.50 for a small and $5.65 for a large) and daily soup options. On the sweeter side, Bobbitt and Vujovic are currently developing a bread pudding that will make its debut soon. As the weather turns colder, the duo is playing around with cozier fare: think a braised oxtail sandwich or French onion soup, along with a few hot beverages. And for the cash-strapped student crowd, they’ll soon be introducing that classic of a good university education: grilled cheese (although it’ll be on brioche).