Cheap eats: Melbourne
Food that’s cheap but yum
By Jess Wilkinson & Ellie Schneider
Melbourne is renowned for its dining culture, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a rich fancy-pants to enjoy it. We've scouted the streets of Melbourne to bring you nine of our, and soon to be your, favourite cheap-as eateries.
Eat in Melbourne like a local
Hanoi Hannah Express Lane, Windsor
Avoid the queues at Hanoi Hannah and head to its no-frills eatery next door. The space is dedicated to Hanoi Hannah's takeaway operations, but they have a tiny communal table so you can get nice and close to strangers as you eat your beef pho, or pork belly banh mi.
Jimmy Grants, Richmond
There’s this chef, George Calombaris (from MasterChef Australia), and he set up this string of souvlaki restaurants that, if we’re honest, are probs the best thing to happen to Melbourne.* Imagine, if you will, fluffy pita packed with tender meats, prawns or falafels, CHIPS, and salad. Also, do not leave without eating all of the loukomades – Greek doughnuts with walnuts, honey and cinnamon.
*We’re not below unadulterated exaggeration.
Love burgers? 8bit is your jam. Order the towering Double Dragon (double beef, double cheese and double bacon) or the Golden Axe (crispy fried chicken, sriracha mayo and slaw), with a side of crispy onion rings or beer battered fries. If you’re really hard-core, top it off with the salted caramel milkshake.
Belles Hot Chicken, Fitzroy
Taking the humble southern-style fried chicken to greater (and spicier) heights. At Belles you start by choosing your protein – chicken tenders, drumsticks, wings, fish or mushroom – then choose from five levels of heat, ranging from mild to extremely “my tongue is sweating” hot. Throw in your favourite sides, such as collard greens or Old Bay fries, and slather with sauces. Too easy.
Lentil as Anything, Abbottsford
Lentil as Anything is a non-profit vegetarian restaurant where you pay what you can. Yep, that means if you really do only have a fiver to your name, that’s all you have to pay. There is a strong focus on Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine and most dishes are vegan and gluten-free. The menu changes daily and features everything from curried coconut laksa to crunchy fried onion pakora and Nepalese halwa with cashew, cardamom and coconut cream.
Miss Katie's Crab Shack, Melbourne
Hidden within the live music venue Ding Dong Lounge in Chinatown, Miss Katie’s Crab Shack serves up some darn good southern soul food. Think pots of prawns, fried chicken and waffles, fish tacos and a build-your-own Louisiana-style boil in Old Bay seasoning. The best part? Bibs are supplied so you can be throwin’ sauce all over yo’self.
Smith & Daughters, Fitzroy
This is a takeaway-only vegan joint that offers a hefty menu of (actually) delicious vegan food. They have sandwiches, such as the Friend Zone, a vegan take on the classic ham and grilled cheese toastie, and the Reubenstein, made from mock pastrami, sauerkraut, pickles and Russian dressing. They also serve pies, soups and baked delights such as Twix tarts and challah sticky buns.
Tina's Noodle Kitchen, Melbourne
If you’re not afraid of a little Sichuan spice (or a queue of people) head to Tina's Noodle Kitchen on Swanston Street. The giant bowls of noodle soup here are legendary. The menu covers all bases, from chicken, wagyu and fish, to the more… um, acquired flavours of intestine and pork kidney. The level of spice for each dish is indicated on the menu – don’t order a three-chili dish unless you’re ready to cry in public.
Biggie Smalls, Collingwood
Named after The Notorious B.I.G., this New York-style diner is turning out some of the tastiest kebabs in Melbourne. Slide into a booth and tuck into an East Coast, which packs pork, raw slaw, crackling, coriander and spiced peanut mayo into a round of pillowy pita bread. Their soundtrack is old-school hip-hop and drinks include the Brooklyn Shake (cherry, bourbon and white chocolate) and Root Beer Float (root beer, vanilla vodka and ice-cream).