Illustration by Aly Miller

The Best Jewish Food in Melbourne

All the best cafes, falafel, bagels, and kosher markets down under.

Melbourne is a global smorgasbord, a culinary mosaic of tastes and flavors. In the west of the city, it’s Ethiopian and Vietnamese; in the north, it’s Turkish and Lebanese; in the east, it’s Chinese and Indian; and in the south and southeast, among the Greek and Italian and Thai, is the heartland of Australian Jewish food.

The Jewish community has long been a part of colonial Australian life. In fact, Jews were among the first convicts transported from England to Australia in 1788, followed by waves of free Jewish settlers in the 1820s. By the turn of the century, the Jewish population in Australia had already reached 15,000. These numbers jumped once again after the Second World War, as displaced refugees sought a new life down under. Many survivors opened up beloved bagel shops and bakeries that remain in business to this day. While the first Jewish communities set up in the inner-north working class suburb of Carlton, the community shifted its axis in the post-war era. The southeastern suburbs of Caulfield South and Caulfield North, Ripponlea, East St Kilda, and Balaclava are now the center of Melbourne Jewish life, with more than half of Melbourne’s Jewish population living in the area.

In many ways, Melbourne’s Jewish community reflects the polyglot, multi-ethnic community around it. It is comprised of the largest group of Holocaust survivors and their descendants anywhere outside of Tel Aviv. The community is also populated by South African and Zimbabwean transplants, North African, Middle Eastern, and Indian-Jewish families, as well as a large population of immigrants from the Former Soviet Union. Over the last 20 years, there’s also been a huge surge in the number of Israeli-born Jews living in Australia, as well. That sabra influence has specifically converged with the strong Lebanese flavor among Melbourne cafes and is reflected in the proliferation of bistros and eateries featuring local takes on classic Middle Eastern recipes and flavors. Together with a young wave of bagel bars, bakeries, and cafes, Jewish food has entered Melbourne’s colorful culinary mainstream.

At the end of the day, some of the best Jewish dishes in Melbourne — Iraqi-Singaporean fish stew and Tunisian slow-cooked hamin, for example — are still only available in Melburnians’ homes. Luckily, there are countless incredible eateries to explore (and flat whites to drink!) while you’re making friends with the local balaboostas.

Mile End Bagels

Melbourne’s bagel culture is blossoming. Glick’s, the first (and many say the best), is the flagship of the Caulfield borscht belt. Founded in 1969 by Mendel Glick, a Holocaust survivor, Glick’s is credited with bringing European-style boiled bagels to Melbourne. They also serve challah, rugelach, blintzes, and more. The good folks at 5 & Dime boil and bake their self-described “traditional(ish)” bagels at their City-Centre HQ. Start your weekend with one of their cinnamon crunch bagels or a Vegemite and cheese bagel. They also bake naturally leavened sourdough bialys. In nearby Fitzroy, Mile End Bagels hand rolls, then boils their Montreal-style bagels before baking them in Australia’s first wood-fired bage1l oven, purpose-built by the same Canadian stonemasons responsible for the ovens at Montreal’s famous bagel bakeries. The smoked salmon with dill and capers bagel is the standout customer favorite.

Glick’s
330 Carlisle Street
Balaclava VIC 3183
(and other locations)
03 9527 2198
Neighborhood: Balaclava
* This bakery is kosher.

5 & Dime
16 Katherine Pl
Melbourne VIC 3000
03 9621 2128
Neighborhood: City Centre (CBD)

5 & Dime
Shop 44, Collins Place
45 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Neighborhood: City Centre (CBD)

Mile End Bagels
14-16 Johnston Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
email: everything@mile-end.com.au
Neighborhood: Fitzroy

Aviv Cakes & Bagels

At Baker in the Rye, try a piroshki or slice of honey walnut cake, or grab one of their 12 varieties of rye-based sourdough breads to go. Lichtenstein’s Bakehouse (across the street from Glick’s) is the first kosher bakery in the area to offer a gluten-free range of breads. They are also known for their opera cake, cheesecake, donuts, and challah. Enjoy the aromas of cinnamon and toasted almonds at Dana Patisserie, a family-owned pastry and cake shop with an Israeli twist. A pilgrimage to Acland Street, St. Kilda (the next neighborhood over) is a must. This pedestrian mall was the center of the Melbourne Jewish community from the end of the Second World War through the 1990s. Most of the continental cake shops, delicatessens, and kosher butchers in this bustling bayside suburb are now gone, but Monarch Cakes holds its own amidst the chic bars, restaurants, and artisanal gelato purveyors. Their Polish baked cheesecake, based on a 100-year-old recipe, never fails to deliver. Their plum cake and chocolate kugelhopf are also to die for (they also sell individual-sized kugelhopf).

In nearby Elsternwick, take a number at the celebrated Aviv Cakes & Bagels for your jam-filled ponchkas, or paczki (Polish-style donuts), poppy seed horseshoes, and Israeli babka. Some say this is the best cake shop in the city. Come for the bagels (they make minis as well as regular sizes), stay for the bureka. Also in Elsternwick is Baker Bleu, one of the new wave of bakeries fusing traditional methods with modern artisanal styles, such as their vegan cinnamon raisin challah (which is made on Fridays and usually sells out before 10 a.m.). They also bake delicious bagels and a light caraway rye. They work exclusively with sourdough, fermenting it for 18 hours, a process that gives their crusts an arresting, swarthy earthiness.

Pro-tip: For a new school kosher bakery experience, checkout Maaryasha Werdiger’s booming garage business, Five Grains Bakery, for sourdough breads, sour ryes, Danishes, rugelach, and other pastries. Right now she only bakes on Fridays. For an old school kosher bakery that locals frequent, visit Haymisha in Balaclava for cookies, cheese turnovers, and babka.

Baker in the Rye
185 Carlisle Street
Balaclava VIC 3183
03 95256744
Neighborhood: Balaclava

Lichtensteins Bakehouse
287 Carlisle St
Balaclava VIC 3183
03 9530 3366
Neighborhood: Balaclava
*This bakery is kosher.

Dana Patisserie
175 Carlisle St
Balaclava VIC 3183
03 9531 3198
Neighbourhood: Balaclava

Monarch Cakes
103 Acland Street
St Kilda VIC 3182
03 9534 2972
Neighborhood: St Kilda

Aviv Cakes & Bagels
412 Glenhuntly Road
Elsternwick VIC 3185
03 9528 6627
Neighborhood: Elsternwick

Baker Bleu
119-121 Hawthorn Rd
Caulfield North VIC 3161
email: bakerbleu.au@gmail.com
Neighborhood: Caulfield North
*This bakery is kosher.

Danish Nosh

D’Lish is where diner meets café, with the homey feel of your bubbe’s kitchen. This is the place for traditional favorites like cholent and kugel, or a bowl of matzah ball soup served up by a friendly staff who treat everyone like family. At Danish Nosh, tomato braised beef brisket is on the menu, along with cheese blintzes, challah French toast, and strudel. Bowery to Williamsburg, fashioned after the Bowery subway station in New York City, offers Jewish standards such as bagels, eggs with lox, and latkes, as well as American-style drip filter coffee. Miss Ruben adds a gourmet touch to the ready-made (though you can also dine in). Pick up some potato latkes and house-cured pastrami. They also preserve their own pickles and sauerkraut.

Pro-tip: For classic Polish-Jewish dishes, Eshel Fine Kosher Catering is an old school institution in Ripponlea.

D’Lish
269 Bambra Road
Caulfield South VIC 3162
03 9523 0245
Neighborhood: Caulfield

Danish Nosh
983 Glenhuntly Road
Caulfield VIC 3162
03 9563 6578
Neighborhood: Caulfield

Bowery to Williamsburg
16 Oliver Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
03 9077 0162
Neighborhood: City Centre (CBD)

Miss Ruben
76 Glen Eira Road
Ripponlea VIC 3185
03 9042 5933
Neighborhood: Ripponlea

 

Turquoise Eatery

Cafes are a competitive sport in Melbourne, where casual eateries treat coffee with the same reverence as the food. Trunk Diner is located on the site of a synagogue established by Melbourne’s first rabbi and shochet (kosher slaughterer). Trunk pays homage to its Jewish heritage with the Rintel room (after Rabbi Rintel) and is a perfect place to kick off the day with shakshuka. Spout Cafe adds Middle-Eastern flair to popular cafe standards (smashed avocado with chilli harissa, green tahini mushrooms, Egyptian bean stew with dukkah, and shredded cabbage, etc.). At Spot On cafe, a kosher favorite in Elsternwick, try a green open omelette or a spicy cauliflower salad. The team at Turquoise Eatery brings a world of experience to its cafe in Caulfield South. Bright zesty Israeli salad, charred eggplant with tahini, and zucchini and cauliflower fritters share the billing with poached eggs and avocado on toast in this Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-influenced eatery with an Australian cafe twist. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, the award-winning chocolate babka French toast at Salad Sisters in Malvern is a “must eat” dish. For the more savory inclined, try their sabich breakfast bowl, the shakshuka, or the chicken schnitzel ciabatta with pickles, sumac slaw, and matbucha.

Pro-tip: If your grandmother comes from Yemen or Iran, you’ll feel at home with the spicy stews served buffet-style at Hilulim, but be sure to schedule your lunch plans ahead of time as they’re only open from 9-3 p.m. on Fridays (eat in or take away).

Trunk Diner
275 Exhibition Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
03 9663 7994
Neighborhood: City Center (CBD)

Spout Cafe
48 Glen Eira Road
Ripponlea VIC 3185
03 9523 8155
Neighborhood: Ripponlea

Spot On
132 Glen Eira Rd
Elsternwick VIC 3185
03 9523 6614
Neighborhood: Elsternwick
* This cafe is kosher.

Turquoise Eatery
451 Hawthorn Road
Caulfield South VIC 3162
03 9530 0005
Neighborhood: Caulfield

Salad Sisters Café
11 Station Street
Malvern VIC 3144
03 9500 0609
Neighborhood: Malvern

Hamsa

Melbourne’s dry Mediterranean-style climate and adventurous dining culture makes the city an obvious destination for Israeli chefs eager to test their culinary mettle in the Antipodes. New Jaffa in Collingwood (Melbourne’s answer to Brooklyn) fits right into this food-forward neighborhood, with its focus on quality ingredients showcasing flavors from Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, and northwest Africa. In nearby Northcote, Tahina Bar is an audacious plant-based hole in the wall, serving home-style vegetarian Israeli street foods and desserts — think roasted vegetable-filled pita pockets, tahini ice cream, and baklava. The Green Man’s Arms in the lively Carlton precinct (a hub for Jewish immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries) refashions traditional Aussie “pub grub” with a creative vegan and vegetarian menu with Israeli notes (their first chef was Israeli). Try the chickpea pancake or eggplant schnitzel, followed by halva ice cream for dessert. Servicing the city’s south side is The Left-Handed Chef, a cafe by day, restaurant by night, where dukka, harissa, and za’atar elevate a homestyle cuisine — including green shakshuka, malawach, and laffa on a plate — made with passion and love (Chef Ehud Malka wakes at 3 a.m. every morning to bake the bread himself). Miznon (“kiosk” in Hebrew) also transforms from casual eatery by day to restaurant by night. This satellite of the popular Israeli restaurant serves seasonally inspired Israeli street food with a culinary flair that emphasizes local ingredients (the Australian ocean trout, for example, in pita with avocado, which Chef Afik Gal insists is a superior fish to salmon). Danny’s in Elsternwick is all about atmosphere, with so much hubbub, you’ll believe you’re dining in Tel Aviv.

Pro-tip: For a kosher Israeli spot, Laffa Bar makes solid falafel and shwarma, as well as plenty of vegan options.

New Jaffa
32 Stanley Street
Collingwood VIC 3066
03 9419 9224
Neighborhood: Collingwood

Tahina Bar
223 High Street
Northcote VIC 3070
03 9972 1479
Neighborhood: Northcote

Tahina Bar
362 Brunswick Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
03 9417 4510
Neighborhood: Fitzroy

Green Man’s Arms
418 Lygon Street
Carlton VIC 3053
03 9347 7419
Neighborhood: Carlton

The Left-Handed Chef
219 Park Street
South Melbourne VIC 3205
03 9645 5800
Neighborhood: South Melbourne

Miznon
59 Hardware Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
03 9670 2861
Neighborhood: City Centre

Danny’s
525 Glenhuntly Road
Elsternwick VIC 3185
03 9530 0059
Neighborhood: Elsternwick

Australia does takeaway, rather than takeout. Falafel Omisi in Caulfield and Mama Falafel in Elsternwick regularly have lines trailing out the door. This is called putting your falafel where your mouth is (also known as voting with your feet). You can stay or go at Tavlin (Hebrew for “spice”) whose menu is inspired by diverse Middle Eastern flavors. Hamsa is a traveling hummus and vegan shwarma bar that takes their tucker (that’s Australian for food) to the streets. Their shwarma and sabich is served with beetroot hummus, green tahini dressing, and zesty homemade zhug. Dana’s Falafel Food Truck, affectionately nicknamed “Shimon” (look for his distinctive red truck at festivals and markets), doles out delicious falafel made fresh before your eyes. Dana’s recipe is jammed with fresh herbs and locally sourced chickpeas and fava beans. As Shimon says, “Give Chickpeas A Chance.”

Falafel Omisi
359 Hawthorn Road
Caulfield South VIC 3162
03 9523 8882
Neighborhood: Caulfield
*This restaurant is kosher.

Mama Falafel
344 Glenhuntly Road
Elsternwick VIC 3185
03 9078 5595
Neighborhood: Elsternwick
*This restaurant is kosher.

Tavlin
302 Carlisle Street
Balaclava VIC 3183
03 7016 6669
Neighborhood: Balaclava

Hamsa
Neighborhood: Check Facebook for location (changes daily).

Dana’s Falafel Truck
Neighborhood: Check Facebook for location (changes daily).

Photo credit Bonnie Savage

As the week draws to a close, the city’s bagel belt resembles a set from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel — stores are crammed with shoppers preparing for Shabbat. Join the throng at Solomon butchers, Continental Kosher Butchers, Melbourne Kosher Butcher, Kleins Gourmet Foods, the Balaclava Deli, Daneli’s, and European Flavour for meats and traditional Ashkenazi fare such as brisket, chopped liver, gefilte fish, and kreplach. Old school meets new school at Smith & Deli, a plant-based haven where you can have your “fake” and eat it too, with vegan takeout versions of deli foods: like pastrami, a vegan Reuben called the Rubenstein, curried egg and faux tuna salad sold by weight, as well as pies and pastries, like challah sticky buns. Kosher Kingdom is like a smaller, kosher Whole Foods with floor-to-ceiling shelves laden with every Jewish foodstuff under the sun. Yumi’s, known for its smoked fish and dips, will transform any picnic basket. Lenny’s Deli, a Melbourne institution with an exterior full of character, could be described as a suburban, alcohol-free, Jewish bodega (think bagels, dips, pickles, and herring as well as milk, bread, and other staples). If you need to stock up on items like rosewater, orange blossom sugar syrup, or berbere (a quintessential Ethiopian spice), look no further than Oasis.

Pro-tip: Most of these markets cater for events and Jewish holidays, so call ahead and place an order for any special occasion.

Solomon Kosher Butcher
140-146 Glen Eira Road
Elsternwick VIC 3185
03 9532 8855
Neighborhood: Elsternwick
*This store is kosher.

Solomon Kosher Butcher
21 Pipe Road
Laverton North VIC 3026
03 9369 8717
Neighborhood: Laverton
*This store is kosher.

Continental Kosher Butchers
155 Glenferrie Road
Malvern VIC 3144
03 9509 9822
Neighborhood: Malvern
*This store is kosher.

Melbourne Kosher Butcher
251 Inkerman St
St Kilda VIC 3182
03 9525 5077
Neighborhood: St. Kilda
*This store is kosher.

Kleins Gourmet Foods
47 Glen Eira Road
Ripponlea VIC 3185
03 9528 1200
Neighborhood: Ripponlea
*This store is kosher.

Balaclava Deli
267 Carlisle Street
Balaclava VIC 3183
03 9527 2202
Neighborhood: Balaclava

Danelis
328a Carlisle St
Balaclava VIC 3183
03 95277014
Neighborhood: Balaclava
*This store is kosher.

European Flavour
823 Glen Huntly Rd
Caulfield VIC 3161
03 9523 8005
Neighborhood: Caulfield

Smith & Daughters
111 Moor Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
03 9042 4117
Neighborhood: Fitzroy

Kosher Kingdom
482B Glenhuntly Road
Elsternwick VIC 3185
03 95236019
Neighborhood: Elsternwick
*This store is kosher.

Yumi’s
29 Glen Eira Rd
Ripponlea VIC 3185
03 9523 6444
Neighborhood: Ripponlea
*This store is kosher.

Lenny’s Deli
636 Inkerman Rd
Caulfield North VIC 3161
03 9527 5349
Neighborhood: Caulfield

Oasis
9/993 North Road
Murrumbeena VIC 3163
03 9570 1122
Neighborhood: Murrumbeena

Oasis
96 Station Street
Fairfield VIC 3078
03 9489 6399
Neighborhood: Fairfield

With input and insight from local experts: Michal Saben (Managing Director, Eleven Out Of Ten Events), Stephen Singer (foodie and businessman), Andrew Harris (local expert), Naomi Gilbert (local expert), and Maaryasha Werdiger (Five Grains Bakery).

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