Too skint to go out? Think again. Here’s where to feast your way through some of Melbourne’s best cheap eats when all you’ve got in your wallet is a lobster.
Cheap authentic Thai – Thai Baan
Looking for cheap eats packed with flavour? The menu at Thai Baan is easy on the wallet with most items on the menu under $20. Pull up a stool and order warming dishes like the hearty pok pok noodles ($14.90) featuring sliced bbq pork, tofu and meatballs. For something a little lighter try the refreshing lotus root salad ($15) with chilli, lime and tomatoes.
Cheap CKT noodles – Lulu's Char Koay Teow
Order a big plate of glossy stir-fried noodles and decide once and for all, is this Melbourne’s best char koay teow? Hardware Lane eatery Lulu’s makes its eponymous dish true to Penang street food form, for just $17.90. Pick your protein, perhaps duck egg or blood cockles, then choose your spice level. The heat goes all the way up to a fiery 3X that will have you reaching for the teh tarik.
Michelin starred yum cha – Tim Ho Wan
Tim Ho Wan is famous for being a tiny, budget dumpling joint in Hong Kong that earned itself a Michelin star. The Melbourne branch is more upmarket and the dumplings here are excellent. The steamed-to-order prawn and chive dumplings will set you back just $10.60. And make sure you order the barbecue pork bun ($10.20). Pork ribs, beef balls, congee and chicken feet all come in under $10 per plate.
Noodles under $6 – Teow Teow
For authentic boat noodles and tasty little bites like chicken wings and and deep fried skewers make your way to Teow Teow. The restaurant is part of Bourke Street's huge multi-venue food hall. Order a small bowl of noodles for just $5.90. Try pork or beef boat noodles, dry noodles with pork balls or get them with soup. Need something more substantial? A big bowl starts at just $13.90.
Melbourne’s cheapest noodles – Udon Yasan
Build your own bowl at Melbourne's cheapest Japanese noodle bar. The bowls from Udon Yasan at 186 Bourke Street start at $5 and you can customise your bowl with all your favourite noodle toppings. Try flavours like teriyaki chicken, sukiyaki beef or beancurd. Add on tempura, kimchi and soft-boiled eggs for $1 to $2 each. Then go hard at the self-serve garnish station.
Cult-status noodle bowls – Paik's Noodle
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 $11.80, and it stays open until very late.
Famous ramen – Hakata Gensuke
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. This $19 simple-seeming bowl is adorned with spring onion, bamboo shoots and chicken chashu.
All-you-can-eat vegan feasts
Hearty, healthy and kind to the earth. Head to Om Vegetarian where the bestselling meal is the $9.90 all-you-can-eat thali. You get three curries, rice and naan, which you can refill to your heart's content. Vegie Tribe is another plant-based buffet restaurant. Load up your plate with a one-time fill for $16.90 during the day. Or head to Crossways at 147 Swanston St, where yet another all-you-can-eat vegan feed awaits for $9.50.
All-day burgers – Butchers Diner
Butchers Diner is Melbourne’s best all-day burger joint, open from midday to midnight, Tuesday to Saturday. Cop a no-mess, no-fuss hamburger with pickles and mayo for $12. Keep it under $20 with a lemon gelato cup for dessert. The grilled cheese toastie is an excellent grab-and-go cheap eat option for $9.80, too.
Indian street eats – Delhi Streets
Delhi Streets offers Indian thali and street chaat in the style of markets – traditional and full of flavour. Keep it to a round $20 with the vegetarian thali. You’ll get to try two different curries plus rice, naan, pappadums and pickles. Or nibble your way through pani puri, samosas and more on the stacked chaat platter. It’s $35 for two, that’s just $17.50 each!
Retro burgers – Royal Stacks
Royal Stacks' neon-bright Emporium outpost is serving 1990s street style. Open for dinner on Thursday and Friday nights, pull up a seat in the retro caravan booths and choose your burger. Prices start at $14.20 for the single stack burger, filled with special sauce, pickles and all the trimmings. Pair it with fries, or better yet, gooey cheesy fries! Once you've had your fill, the in-house gaming arcade awaits.
Cheap and cheerful dumplings – Shanghai Street
At Shanghai Street, homemade dumplings come boiled or fried. They also come drenched in chilli oil or stuffed with BBQ pork starting at $16.80 a plate. Fillings also include beef, chicken, prawn and veggies. A plate of steamed veggie buns is even cheaper, clocking in at $8.80! Bring your friends and order one of everything for the table. You’ll go home with a full belly and a full wallet.
Best pub deals under $20
Pub night – The Clyde
A classic Aussie pub in Carlton, The Clyde Hotel dishes up a hearty meal deal every day of the working week. From Monday's burger and chip deal ($17.50) to Friday night fish and chips ($14.90), you won't go hungry. Crack open a cold one and enjoy live jazz on Sunday, then head up to the open-air courtyard and rooftop space.
Rooftop parmas – Prince Alfred
Smoked ham, napoli sauce, mozzarella and chips. It's simple, and it's the best. The Prince Alfred parma is a classic dish, right down to the mottled, caramelised cheese layer on top. Usually it comes in at $26, but on Thursdays you can feast for just $19. Which leaves plenty of cash for happy hour bevs and triple choc brownies. You’ll find more daily specials clocking in under $20, including burger night, salads and fish and chips.
Daily specials – General Assembly
Whatever your pub-grub go-to, there's a deal with your name on it at General Assembly. This waterside bar in South Wharf even has the vegos covered. Monday is $20 chicken or plant-based burgers. Tuesday is $20 chicken or eggplant parmas. And on Thursdays you can grab a steak sandwich for $20.
Prices and details correct at time of publishing. Contact venues to confirm before visiting.
Last updated on Fri 8 Sep 2023
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