"I grew up in a family really focused on food and gathering around food," says Lina Caschetto, owner of Say Hey Cafe & Deli, Vancouver's Chinatown sandwich destination. Not only do Say Hey sandwiches push the limits of how much material you can fit between two pieces of bread, they also instantly evoke the kind of nostalgic comfort Lina's talking about.

"There's a lot of special moments and memories I have that are food-related," Lina says. With a sort of photographic flavour memory, she can tie many big moments in her life to specific dishes, a trait that’s clearly shaped how she runs Say Hey. Not only the sandwiches, which are warm and delicious, but also the racks of classic candies, chocolate bars, Slim Jims, and other snacks, plus the baked treats, like gooey triple chocolate brown butter cookies and rainbow-sprinkled cake, all made in-house. Even the diner-inspired decor, red stools and wood tabletops evoke cozy, laidback comfort.

After a career as a designer, Lina returned to her first love, food, running a small catering company out of her West End apartment, dashing around Vancouver delivering meals from her vintage VW Beetle. Eventually she ended up at culinary school and spent a few years working in restaurants around the city. Then, she packed her bags and bought a one-way ticket to Paris. She wouldn't buy a return ticket for 8 years.

Her Paris time was spent, of course, cooking and eating, doing various pop ups here and there, working in bars and restaurants. Then Covid hit, things slowed down, she came home for a visit and realized she wanted to stay. Today she pours all that life, education, and career experience into Say Hey.

Say Hey sandwiches have a familial vibe, both in the sense of welcome and comfort, and also because each one could feed a family. To say that Say Hey sandwiches are generous doesn't quite hit it. They answer the question, "What if a Safeway lumberjack sandwich was good?" The bread slices have a strictly long-distance relationship. Fillings abound. These are dense, serious sandwiches with highly-engineered structural integrity. You could (but please don't) use one as a doorstop, perhaps to hold down the corner of a tarp in a strong breeze. They exert their own gravitational pull.

It's why customers come back. It's also why many of the team members began as customers themselves. "All of them, basically, came, ate sandwiches, and then asked if we were hiring," Lina says. "It's like, 'Oh, amazing. You're doing something right.'"

It's that reaction that keeps her going. "That's part of the fun of owning a restaurant," she says, "the community, interacting with people. Seeing someone order a sandwich, eat it, and then you ask them how it was on the way out and they're stunned."

If you're seeking to be stunned by a sandwich, go to Say Hey. If you're reading this and you've never been to Say Hey, you have an incomplete idea of what a sandwich can be.

So head down to Chinatown and get yourself one. If you still have room after (lol), grab a Kit Kat or a brownie. Wash it all down with a Nonny. Then go home and take a nap.

Blog written and photographed by Grady Mitchell - @gradymitchell,

Special thanks to Lina Caschetto and the Say Hey Cafe & Deli team - @sayheycafe