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Whether you’re craving a quick bite, dumplings or a Mexican feast, these tasty cheap eats won’t break the bank.
Panda's barbecued skewers are the tastiest one-handed snack in town. Starting at around $2 each, try crispy and flavourful sticks of lamb, chicken wings or pork ribs with green chilli. The barbecue restaurant at 202 Bourke Street also does plates for two if you can bear to share.
Uncle Tetsu's crepe brûlée
Is it a crepe? Is it a crème brûlée? All we know for sure is this $9.90 treat is decadent and delicious. Uncle Tetsu is known for its soft and jiggly Japanese-style cheesecakes. Can't eat a cake in one sitting? That's where the crepe brûlée comes in. It's a custard cream–filled crepe with a caramelised sugar crust to crack through.
Scoopy Milk Bar bingsu
A towering mountain of snowy shaved ice, condensed milk, boba and fresh fruit await at Scoopy. This hidden laneway dessert bar is an insta-fave for their cute offerings. You can get a single serve treat for just $9.50. That includes the new vegan lychee bingsu.
Iconic South Korean chef Jong-won Paik has opened his first Australian outpost of the hugely popular Paik's Noodle franchise. Try flaming 'Gochu Jajang', a chilli-spiked black bean broth rich with umami flavour. Or slurp up bowls of Jjamppong, the cult-status seafood noodle bowl you would have seen on countless K-dramas. Bowls start at just $11, and they stay open until very late.
Uncover a hidden pork roll gem in Melbourne's tiniest laneway. Heartbaker Bun Mee has six fresh flavours, including signature crispy pork belly and caramelised tofu. There's even a vegan roll for plant-based foodies. All the banh mi clock in at under ten bucks, so it'd be rude not to smash a Vietnamese iced coffee or two while you're there.
Build your own bowl at Melbourne's cheapest Japanese noodle bar. The bowls from Udon Yasan at 186 Bourke Street start at under $5 for flavours like teriyaki chicken, sukiyaki beef or beancurd. Customise your bowl with all your favourite noodle toppings. Add on tempura, kimchi and soft boiled eggs for $1 to $2 each. Then go hard at the self-serve garnish station.
Seoul's famous street toast
Bong Seoul Toast (or Sukbong) is a famous chain with more than 200 stores in Korea. Their one and only Australian store just opened in Healeys Lane. Start simple with egg and cheese, or go OTT with added hash browns and beef bulgogi. Everything on the menu is under $11, and the signature bulgogi toastie will only set you back $8.
All-you-can-eat vegan feasts
Hearty, healthy and kind on the earth. Head to Om Vegetarian where the bestselling meal is the $7.50 all-you-can-eat thali meal. You get three curries, rice and naan all of which you can refill to your hearts content. Need more choices? Vegie Tribe is a plant-based, pay-by-weight, all you can eat buffet restaurant. It's just $1 per 28g – an absolute steal. Or follow the sounds of the Hare Krishnas to Crossways at 147 Swanston St, where yet another all-you-can-eat vegan feed awaits for $8.95.
Royal Stacks' neon-bright Emporium outpost is serving 1990s street style. Pull up a seat in the retro caravan booths and choose your burger. Prices start at $12.90 for the single stack burger, filled with special sauce, pickles and all the trimmings. Pair it with potato gems, cheesy fries or perhaps even a $13.50 pina colada. Once you've had your fill, the inhouse gaming arcade awaits.
The pitas are bursting with flavour at Israeli street food restaurant Miznon. There are plenty of options that hover around the $15 mark. Try the classic 'cheakypita' with a falafel burger. Or the roasted cauli and tahini number that goes by the name White. Don’t be fooled: this savoury pita overflowing with charred cauliflower and chilli is anything but bland.
Soi 38 boat noodles
Soi 38 serves all kinds of noodle soups and dry noodle dishes, but the $10 boat noodles are the rightful signature, the broth rich in galangal and lemongrass, slowly simmered meat and springy noodles. The best bit about Soi 38, though? You’ll be eating lunch in the corner of a CBD carpark, along with the buzzy huddle of other diners in the know.
When a world-famous ramen shop opens a separate branch devoted to its chicken broth, you know it’s going to be good. The laser-sharp focus at Hakata Gensuke’s QV location is best seen in the signature tori ramen, a $16 simple-seeming bowl adorned with spring onion, bamboo shoots and chicken chashu.
Hawker Chan’s soya sauce chicken rice has local cult status. At $8.30 it’s also a steal. Or push the sauceboat out and order from the new crispy skin roast duck menu. A plateful of duck with rice is $13.80, with noodles $15.80.
Lunch deals at Wharf Hotel
Enjoy a cracking cheap lunch by the water at the Wharf Hotel. Stretch your legs with a walk along the river then pop in for a pub feed. Between 12pm and 3pm Monday to Friday all mains are just $15. Grab a chicken or eggplant parma, or try the goat cheese gnocchi.
Pizza Pizza Pizza
Slices of NYC-style pie at Pizza Pizza Pizza cost just five bucks a pop. That includes the oozy triple cheese or de rigueur pepperoni and pepper. Whole pizzas start at $32. With eight massive slices they're big enough to feed a crew of famished friends.
Fresh, flavourful Sri Lankan food is just a market trip away. You'll find Drums Cafe in Queen Victoria Market and it's perfect for a fast feed. Grab a loaded curry buffet plate with rice, meat, two veggie curries and pappadums to scoop it all up. The entrée serve comes in under a tenner. Don't forget some naan or roti.
At Shanghai Street, homemade dumplings come boiled or fried. They also come drenched in chilli oil or stuffed with BBQ pork starting at $11.80 a plate. Fillings also include beef, chicken, prawn and a vego mushroom bamboo combo.
Saluministi porchetta panini
Saluministi take their porchetta seriously, roasting a whole belly and loin each day for more than four hours. Fennel, rosemary and thyme give the meat its flavour. Once it’s out of the oven and rested, it’s sliced and stuffed into ciabatta rolls. The finishing flourishes on the $15.50 sandwich are artichoke paste, pecorino Romano and rocket.
More lunch inspo
Coming back to the office? Here's what's open.
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Last updated on Mon 11 Jul 2022
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