They say life’s cheap, but living it can be pretty pricey! Don’t stay home eating two-minute noodles or regretting soggy sandwiches at your desk. We’ve found some of Melbourne’s best bargains for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Breakfast: $10 and under
Goldie Asian Canteen
What’s not to like about this cheeky morning-til-night yum cha-inspired spot? Especially at breakfast time, when Goldie Asian Canteen is cooking up toasties with mushroom, fermented soybean and scrambled egg for $9. And brilliant brekkie baos with Peking duck, scrambled egg, spring onion and hoi sin sauce for a mere $7.
Tropicana Juice Bar
All those bags of oranges hanging out the front have probably lured you in for a fresh juice before. One of those yummy cups packed with nutrients pretty much counts as breakfast, and even large ones are no more than $7.50. But have you checked out Tropicana Juice Bar‘s food menu? Your brekkie options include smashed avo on toast for $9, and the $6.80 egg and bacon sanger. Or go large on that one and get a $12 combo with a big juice or smoothie!
This is one of the original and best cafes on Degraves Street, which is probably Melbourne’s liveliest laneway. So you might expect Degraves Espresso to jack up the prices, but their menu has some bona fide bargains. Including toast with spreads for $6.90, so there’s change for coffee too. Or treat yourself to a croissant or toastie stuffed with ham, cheese and tomato for $9.50.
Simple fare, served extra fresh, 24-hours a day – that’s what’s up at Butchers Diner. While you might know them for their meat-loaded menu and iconic duck fat fries, they also do a mean breakfast service. The scrambled eggs on rye, pancakes with real maple syrup and the egg and maple bacon burger are all delicious, and all priced at $10. Get in before 11am for this hidden AM gem – and don’t skip the $2.50 coffee!
Lunch: $10 and under
Coppe Pan Japanese Bakery
Chicken katsu is having a moment in Melbourne. If gourmet sandwich spots are a bit of a stretch for your current budget, this newbie at Melbourne Central has you covered. At Coppe Pan thick, juicy cuts of crumbed chicken breast cushioned in freshly baked bread will set you back a slight six dollars. Or feast on katsu sausage, prawn fry and Japanese-style filet-o-fish sandwiches for $5.80 each. Want something indulgent? Croque Monsieurs and decadent french toast is also on heavy rotation for just five dollars – and that includes a cup of coffee!
The humble meat pie is getting an upgrade. Princes Pies uses top notch ingredients from respected local producers – and even make their own tomato sauce! All your buttery pastry dreams are about to come true. Think lamb and potato, steak and caramelised onion, mac and cheese, or even a bolognese filling. The whole menu is under $10 and the decor’s decidedly retro – check out the Bob Hawke sauce dispenser between bites.
A city worker favourite located at the Emporium and on Collins Street, this pun-tastic Vietnamese eatery has healthy lunches covered. Pho Nom’s mountainous slaw served with poached chicken is a mind-blowingly low $8, or upgrade to pork and prawn for $8.50. They’ve also got a ‘help yourself’ tray of garnishes, chilli oil, sauces and seasonings so your meal will never lack flavour. Maybe pho-get about your budget and splurge on a $7 side of salt and pepper chicken rib, or spring rolls for $6.
Sukhumvit’s Soi 38 is a Bangkok street known for its night market (‘soi’ is Thai for ‘side street’). Diners sit at wobbly metal tables and order cheap, delicious food from the carts and stalls that line the street. Soi 38 on McIlwraith Place brings a taste of this to Melbourne, with four types of $10 noodle soup on the menu. Will you go the beef or pork boat noodles (so named because they’re often sold from boats in Thailand)? Tom Yum noodles, or braised duck noodles?
One of Melbourne’s hottest bao spots since it opened in 2012, Wonderbao can stop those hunger pangs fast for a few dollars. Their classic steamed buns are filled with satisfying flavours like barbecue pork and crispy eggplant. With each parcel clocking in around $2.50, you can load up without breaking the bank. Our picks if you’ve got a few spare dollars: bao burgers, egg-and-bacon breakfast bao, and ice-cream bao to finish.
Find more bargains in CBD lunches for $10 and under.
Dinner: under $20
Isan Soul Thai Street Food
Bangkok’s come to Bourke Street at Isan Soul Thai Street Food, which is alive with spicy scents and the buzz of conversation. Among the colourful Thai ephemera, from advertising signs to tuktuks, tuck into all sorts of satisfying dishes for a song. Maybe braised beef noodle soup for $8.50, pad see ewe chicken for $13, or the $14 prikking crispy pork. It’s not quite as cheap as in Bangkok, but hey, you’re saving big on the flight!
There are heaps of cheap and cheerful Asian eateries around Melbourne, but at Shophouse Kitchen you can go cheap with delightful décor. In fact this restaurant on QV Square is somewhere you could happily take your mum – and even pay the whole bill! Live large with 12 dumplings for $8.90 and $9.90 Hong Kong-style beef brisket with noodle soup. Or a $6.60 pork belly gua bao burger and the $10.90 panko prawn rice set. Seriously, the nicely priced options go on and on …
Yuzu At Degraves
Melbourne just can’t get enough Japanese food, especially when it’s the tasty, affordable kind you’ll find at Yuzu At Degraves. They’re big on snacks: sub-$10 options include chicken karaage, edamame, marinated baby octopus and nori seaweed fries. For not much more, feast on rice bowls like classic chicken teriyaki and veggie curry (both $14) or crispy katsu don ($15). In other words, even more reasons to love Degraves Street.
Kaneda Japanese Restaurant
A place of contrasts, this tiny Midcity Arcade eatery has a poster of Hokusai’s famous Great Wave of Kanagawa woodblock print. The menu’s massive but the prices are low. So even if you arrive with a big appetite you’ll leave with your little budget intact. Most of Kaneda Japanese Restaurant’s deluxe bento boxes are only $15.80, but even the top-of-the-range spicy gyu tan set is just $19. Other irresistible options include the 10-piece assorted sushi for $17, and five kinds of ramen all for $13.80.