MELBOURNE | Emil and Houda El-Khoury opened their suburban milk bar in Pascoe Vale South in 1978. Behind the milk bar, in a small two bedroom house, they raised their six children. Two of these children, brothers John and George, had a long held desire to open a cafe in the neighbourhood they grew up (and still live) in, and late last year they converted the family milk bar and house into Emil’s Cafe. I was recently invited to check it out.
Talking to John and George as they showed me through the cafe, it’s clear that Emil’s is a place that’s genuine and comes from the heart. Photos on the walls show every-day family moments in the house over the years, and it’s not uncommon to see the cafe’s namesake, Emil, hanging out there. Along with seats and tables, the milk bar section is where you’ll find the coffee counter and grab-and-go cabinet. There’s also a few shelves lined with nostalgic Aussie and Middle Eastern pantry items, informed by the brother’s Australian/Lebanese upbringing.
Behind, in the old house, each room has a story and many of the original fittings and furnishings have been repurposed. Mum and dad’s bedroom and the living room are distinct dining space, while the backyard is a pet-friendly courtyard. The kitchen is in what used to be one of the kid’s bedrooms.
On the menu, designed by consultant-chef Sam Pinzone, you’ll find a selection of modern Australian/Middle Eastern dishes. Family recipes, and creations inspired by the food that the El-Khoury’s cook at home. Houda helps out in the kitchen, making things like falafel wraps, toum, and knafeh. There’s a focus on honest flavours, local ingredients, and independent suppliers.
If you want a bit of everything, ‘Emil’s Big Breakfast’ is a great option that gets you poached eggs, za’atar grilled flatbread, sujuk, haloumi, shakshuka sauce, sauteed spinach, and hash browns. The shakshuka, with a twist of hummus and roasted pine nuts, is another great choice, as are the Turkish poached eggs with lime yoghurt, sujuk, dill, buerre noisette, smoky Aleppo pepper, and simit.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, the knafeh with pistachio crumbs, vanilla bean ice-cream, rose syrup, and fairy floss, is a top choice. To drink it’s Code Black coffee served any way you like, tea, fresh juices, smoothies, and kombucha. There’s also a small cocktail, wine, and beer selection if you wanting something boozy.
Emil’s might only be a few months old, but given its story, and the El-Khoury family’s long involvement in the local community, it feels like the kind of warm, genuine place that’s been around for decades.
347 Reynard Street
Pascoe Vale South
Telephone: (03) 9384 6004
Mon – Sat: 7:00am to 4:00pm
Sun: 8:00am to 4:00pm