Melbourne's café culture is a source of pride, yet sometimes, the parade of typical café offerings—chilli scrambled eggs, French toast, and the ubiquitous smashed avo—can start to feel a bit repetitive. If you’re yearning for a culinary adventure that stands out from the crowd, direct your taste buds towards the exotic flavours of the Middle East at Levanter Cafe, a remarkable dog-friendly cafe in Balaclava.

My partner, our beloved dog, and I have become frequent visitors at Levanter Cafe. Its stellar Google ratings are well-deserved, yet it's still a surprisingly well-kept secret among dog-friendly cafes in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs.

What sets Levanter Cafe apart is its unique Syrian-style menu and the warm and personal touch that Sam, the owner, brings to the table. He has a knack for making both two-legged and four-legged customers feel right at home. This combination of heartfelt service and a tasty spread of Middle Eastern teas, coffees, and food options makes Levanter a perfect destination for both breakfast and lunch.

Food and Beverages: A Taste of Syria at Levanter Cafe

At Levanter Cafe, the essence of Syrian flavours is lovingly expressed. The restaurant offers a variety of dishes and beverages that are a testament to the region's rich culinary heritage. The menu caters to a diverse palate, with ample options for vegetarians, vegans, and those who relish authentic Middle Eastern flavours.

Turmeric Latte at Levanter Cafe

Beverages: A Cultural Escape in Every Sip

At Levanter Cafe, the drinks menu is like a treasure trove of Middle Eastern delights. Forget your regular lattes and magics; here, it's all about diving into the rich world of Syrian coffees and teas, bursting with vibrant and unique flavours.

Orchid Sahleb – A Sweet Surprise

Got a bit of a sweet tooth? Then you've got to try the orchid sahleb. This drink is like a warm hug in a cup – thick, sweet, and fragrantly aromatic. It's the kind of beverage that wraps up a meal beautifully.

Chai and Turmeric Lattes – Familiar with a Twist

For those who lean towards the familiar, the chai and turmeric lattes are not to be missed. The chai latte pays homage to its origins with just the right mix of spices, while the turmeric latte comes with a personal twist – a vial of honey to sweeten the deal to your taste. These drinks blend the comfort of the known with a hint of exotic flair.

Menengiç Pistachio Coffee – A Creamy Dream

But here’s the real star – the menengiç pistachio coffee. Ever had coffee brewed from roasted pistachios? It’s milky, sweet, and the best part – caffeine-free. Served in these gorgeous ornate cups with a side of Turkish delight, it’s not just a drink; it’s an experience, a little luxury that you just have to indulge in.

Menengiç Pistachio Coffee at Levanter Cafe

Tasty Dishes: A Celebration of Middle Eastern Flavours

At Levanter Cafe, it's all about sharing a smorgasbord of Middle Eastern dishes with your mates. Every time we rock up here, it's with a crew – more friends means more dishes to sample, right?

The Sujuk – Spiced and Satisfying

The Sujuk is a standout, featuring spiced minced beef entwined with fluffy scrambled eggs, accompanied by grilled halloumi, pickles, and pita. It's a dish brimming with flavour, offering a satisfying mix of textures and tastes that is both familiar and intriguing.

Sujuk at Levanter Cafe

Msakhan Chicken Rolls – Middle Eastern Sausage Roll, Sort Of

The Msakhan Chicken Rolls are another favourite. Think of them as the Middle Eastern cousin of your typical sausage roll. Pulled chicken, seasoned with onion and sumac, rolled in a thin pita, then grilled. Paired with hummus, pomegranate sauce, and the standout mhamara dip (a tasty mix of walnut, chilli, tomato, pomegranate, and tahini), it’s a flavour-packed experience. A touch dry, perhaps, but that mhamara dip is a showstopper.

Msakhan Chicken Rolls at Levanter Cafe

Shakshuka – Comfort on a Plate

The Shakshuka is a must, especially on those typical rainy mornings. Baked eggs in a tomato and capsicum stew, served with pita, create a warm, comforting embrace that’s perfect for chilly days.

Ful Mdamas – Fresh and Flavourful

For something on the lighter side, the Ful Mdamas hits the spot. This beans stew, with fava beans, tomato, parsley, olive oil, and lemon juice, served with pita and pickles, is brimming with fresh, vibrant flavours.

Ful Mdamas at LevanterCafe

Still Hungry? Dive into Syrian Sweet Treats

If you’ve still got room, why not indulge in some traditional Syrian sweets at Levanter Cafe? The dessert lineup is a sweet enthusiast's dream. Think crunchy, honey-laced baklavas, rich and diverse Halva – available in chocolate or nut varieties, and the ever-so-chewy Syrian delights, akin to Turkish delights

Dog Friendly Cafe Vibe

At Levanter Cafe, it’s not just about sipping a coffee or nibbling on baklava. It's about feeling right at home, especially if you’ve got your furry mate tagging along. This place has nailed that comfy, neighbourhood vibe, making it a top spot for dog owners.

The outdoor courtyard is decked out with a mix of cozy tables and a big communal one, perfect for either a solo trip with your pup or a brunch party. It's the kind of spot where you can soak up the sun, your dog can lounge at your feet, and everyone's having a good time.

Courtyard at Levanter Dog Friendly Cafe in Balaclava

Their courtyard stretches into a covered area that’s perfect for dodging that strong sun or the surprise shower. It's got this retro, artsy vibe, kind of like hanging out in a cool uncle and aunt's backyard.

Location & Visiting Levanter Cafe

To visit this dog-friendly cafe in balaclava, head to Carlisle Street. With a dog, remember to ask to sit out back. Open daily from 7 am to 7 pm, it's perfect for those late lunch cravings when other cafes are closed. Parking is available on Carlisle Street and nearby streets.

For public transport users, Balaclava Station on the Sandringham line is just across the street, and tram lines 3 and 16 have stops nearby. Bringing your dog? Make sure they're on a lead and muzzled for trains, and in a suitable container for trams. Check out the PTV website for more details on pet travel. Easy to access, it's a great spot for both locals and visitors alike.