Pickles Milk Bar, a snug new spot in Carlton North, exudes an old-style milk-bar charm with its white subway tiles, exposed brick, burnt orange accents and original leadlight windows overlooking Lygon Street. Lollies, freshly baked cakes and a little pie warmer sit on the wooden counter, and in the morning the shop is filled with the smell of coffee and cinnamon rolls.

Owner Sophie Young has tapped into Melbourne’s obsession with nostalgic corner-store staples like sandwiches, milkshakes, vanilla slices and dim sims – but with an entirely plant-based approach.

“We chose not to make [the vegan menu] our defining feature, instead opting to create an inclusive environment for everyone to enjoy foods that are not made from animals,” Young tells Broadsheet. “Most of [the team] grew up in small towns and have deep rooted nostalgia for our local bakeries and milk bars – memories of rushing there after school to get the last potato cake or lemon slice. We wanted to replicate and elevate that experience, and created a menu that feels both exciting and like home.”

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You’ll find classics like dim sims, hot chips (served with optional bread and gravy), and hash browns, as well as breakfast pies and house-baked sweets including lemon slice and choc-chip cookies. But for Young, it’s all about the sandwiches.

At Pickles, she’s created a menu of vegan sangers made with bread and bagels from Blanc Bakery, and gluten-free panini from Eat Cannoli.

Standouts include the Polish schnitzel made with eggplant scallopini, and the gyros, which comes filled with crisp za’atar zucchini. There are also options that draw inspiration from Young’s childhood dinners – like the ragu melt, which is inspired by her mum’s bolognaise, but with slow-cooked, umami-rich vegetables and soy protein used in place of ground meat.

Drinks include childhood favourites such as thick milkshakes of chocolate or miso caramel, and spiders made using any soda in the fridge. There’s also espresso, hot chocolates made with house ganache, Vietnamese iced coffee and a tea selection that includes Monk’s Chai.

Furry patrons are not forgotten, with a Pickles also specialising in “puppacinos” and homemade dog biscuits.

Pickles Milk Bar
1008 Lygon Street, Carlton North
0421 829 859

Tues to Fri 8am–4pm
Sat 9am–4pm