Can’t look at another sushi roll? There’s much more exciting lunchtime fare to be had on the cheap.

Mr Kitchen, $5

Make your way down to the basement levels of Melbourne Central and you’ll find Mr Kitchen. This tiny Asian-fusion joint offers congee for $6.50, salad rolls for $5 and more bites under five bucks. For those on a really tight budget, go for the $3.50 pate and mayo roll.   

Heart of Carlton, $5

Heart of Carlton really is the low-price gem of Melbourne’s inner north. The husband-wife duo behind this local spot is here to serve you big bowls of pasta, homemade soups and hearty curries for just a few gold coins. The atmosphere is priceless too, with live music on the piano and a cosy fireplace.

People sitting in front of a cafe
Heart of Carlton

Chapter House, $10

Nestled in under the arches of St Paul’s Cathedral in the city is Chapter House Coffee. This tiny cafe serves up quality brews, homemade sandwiches and baked goods all for some pretty decent prices. Go for the coffee and toastie deal for $10 or a falafel wrap or soup for $12 then pull up a stool and enjoy.

Soi 38, $10

Soi 38 serves all kinds of Thai dishes, but the boat noodles are the rightful signature. The broth is rich in galangal and lemongrass, with slowly simmered meat and springy noodles. The best bit about Soi 38, though? You’ll be eating lunch in a corner of a CBD carpark, along with a buzzy huddle of other diners in the know.

Three friends eating noodles at a restaurant
Soi 38

Fishbowl, from $11.90

Fishbowl has a new street food menu, perfect for people on the go. Jump online and pre-order a fresh rice bowl, topped with tom yum chicken ($11.90), spicy beef ($11.90) or miso salmon ($14.90). The bowls come with umami cashew crunch, roasted sesame and veggie slaw. Time to sit? The Flinders Lane and Wesley Place locations have plenty of seats for a solo lunch.

BKK at HER, $15

It's back! Thai canteen BKK is slinging a $15 noodle special once again on Monday to Friday, from 11.30am til late. The menu rotates on occasion, but recent dishes have included wok fried pork and prawn noodles, glass noodle bowls and more. Vegan and vegetarian options are also available on request.

A bowl of noodles
BKK

Poke Bibimbap, from $12.80

Don't snub Melbourne's food courts. The crew at Poke Bibimbap (in the Paramount Centre and Spencer Outlet) serve up a steady stream of Korean rice bowls for just $12.80 a pop. There's spicy chicken, crispy chicken, teriyaki chicken or fried tofu on steamy servings of rice. Each bowl comes with Korean-style veggies and sauce.

Butchers Diner, from $9.90

Butchers Diner is Melbourne’s best all-day burger joints, open from midday to midnight Tuesday to Saturday. Cop a no-mess, no-fuss hamburger with pickles and mayo for 12 bucks. The grilled cheese toastie is an excellent grab-and-go cheap eat option for $9.90, too.

A cheeseburger on a plate at a restaurant
Butcher's Diner

FooDao Express, $7

Venture down to FooDao Express in the lower ground food court at Melbourne Central for fast and filling Chinese street food. Be sure to try the house specialty – baked-to-order fooshao wheat pastries. They're stuffed with your choice of filling, perhaps black pepper beef or spicy Korean chicken and cheese. And at just $7 - $7.50 a pop, you can try them all. More treats under $7 include congee, spring rolls and sour plum tea.

Heartbaker BunMee, $12.80

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 under fifteen bucks, so it'd be rude not to smash a Vietnamese iced coffee or two while you're there.

A bread rolled filled with pork belly
Heartbaker Bun Mee

Udon Yasan, from $5.30

Build your own bowl at Melbourne's cheapest Japanese noodle bar. The bowls from Udon Yasan at 186 Bourke Street start at just over $5.30 for the base kake udon, and $6.90 for udon with egg, kimchi 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.

Pizza Pizza Pizza, $5

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.

Two pieces of pizza on black plates
Pizza Pizza Pizza

Mamao Thai food, $12.90

This new Thai food sensation at 338 Queen Street is a must for noodle-loving lunchers. The Mamao loaded boat noodle bowl ($12.90) comes stacked with pork or beef balls, sliced meat, sprouts, veggies, garlic and more. They also serve a hearty dry noodle bowl for the same price, with your choice of beef or pork. Splurge and add on pork crackling for $4.90.

Seoul Toast Bong, under $15

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. A tonne of the menu items are under $13, and the signature bulgogi toastie will only set you back $11.80.

An egg sandwich with neon sign behind it
Seoul Toast Bong

All-you-can-eat vegetarian, under $10

Head to Om Vegetarian where the bestselling meal is the $9.90 all-you-can-eat thali. You get three curries, rice and naan, all of which you can refill to your hearts content. Or wadner up to Crossways at 147 Swanston St, where yet another all-you-can-eat vegetarian feed awaits for $9.50 (concession $7.50).

Coppe Pan, from $4.20

If gourmet sandwich spots are a bit of a stretch for your current budget, Coppe Pan has you covered. These thick, juicy cuts of crumbed chicken breast cushioned in freshly baked bread will set you back a slight $7. The wholesame handmade onirigi rice balls are a mere $4.20 each, with fillings like tuna mayo, fried chicken, lobster and mentai (fish roe).

A chicken sandwich on white bread
Coppe Pan

Khao Kang, $12

Head to Midtown Melbourne on Bourke Street to find Khao Kang – a tasty Thai joint with a not-so-pricey lunch special. The dishes here are authentic and packed full of flavour, and get served up for just $12. Try the stir-fry pork belly with shrimp paste, the sour curry with fish and bamboo shoots or the Thai chilli basil with minced chicken.   

Banh Mi Bearguette, under $12

Looking for a cheap and quick bite on your way to the train? Outside Flinders Station at 211 Flinders Street is Banh Mi Bearguette – a tiny shop serving up this much-loved lunch to busy passers-by. Here you’ll find tasty rolls with fillings like BBQ pork, tofu and vege or egg omelette for just $11.50.   

Information correct at time of writing. Prices may change at short notice.

More lunch deals in Melbourne

Last updated on Mon 12 Feb 2024

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