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Food at Lanzhou Beef Noodle
Photograph: Graham Denholm

31 cheap lunch eats for under $15 in Melbourne's CBD

You want something cheap, fast and tasty to fuel you up for your arvo meetings? We've got you covered for less than $15

By Rushani Epa
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Sometimes a brown bag packed with last night’s leftovers isn’t what you’re feeling at midday. But never fear, we’ve compiled a list of Melbourne’s best cheap lunches for $15 or less a pop that you can swap out for your meal stashed in the communal fridge without going over schedule or breaking the bank.

To be clear, these aren’t just snacks, these are meals. It's also important to note that cheap eats still come at a price for those making your food, so while it’s a treat to enjoy a meal for a low price, we do encourage you to tip the venue if you have the ability to.

RECOMMENDED: Start working your way through our guides to Melbourne's best cafés and 50 best bars. Bon appétit! 

Cheap eats for $15 or under in the CBD

Lulu's Char Koay Teow
Photograph: Supplied

Lulu’s Char Koay Teow

Restaurants Melbourne

Lulu’s has taken the city by storm with a char kway teow that tastes as if it were made on the streets of Penang. Order a takeaway container or dine-in meal of Lulu's signature char kway teow, which will guarantee leftovers (unless you're ravenously hungry). Thin flat noodles are stir-fried over a hot wok lending it that beautifully charred and smoky flavour vital to any char kway teow. These are tossed with prawns, lapcheong, scrambled egg, bean sprouts, pork lard, chives and chilli (which you can tailor according to your tolerance). 

Farmer's Daughters
Photograph: Supplied

Farmer's Daughters

Restaurants Melbourne

Executive chef Alejandro Saravia (Pastuso) owns Farmer's Daughters and is also the official food and beverage ambassador for Gippsland. Here, he champions all things Gippsland through a selection of fresh produce. Make a beeline towards Farmer's Daughters on weekdays to nab takeaway lunches like an organic roasted veg ciabatta, a three Gippsland cheese toastie, organic grain and veggie salads, or hot bowls of soup with toasted sourdough. 

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Porchetta at Saluministi
Photograph: Supplied

Saluministi

Restaurants Melbourne

There’s a lot to love about a porchetta roll – be it the lashings of crisp crackling or the thick, herby layers of roast pork, it’s a satisfying amalgamation of textures and flavours all nestled in a soft ciabatta roll, and that’s what you get here at Saluministi, which amps it up with artichoke paste, rocket and pecorino Romano. This is one for the books.

Sri Lankan rice and curry at Ceylon Wok
Photograph: Supplied

Ceylon Wok

Restaurants Melbourne

Ceylon Wok is located in Paramount Food Court and has city lunch-goers going gaga over Sri Lankan curries. Order two meat and two vegetarian curries if you’re feeling frisky or looking to share, or one meat and two vegetarian curries and choose from the likes of traditional chicken curry coated in a rich, spice-laden gravy, or dhal loaded with turmeric, coconut milk and cumin powder and mop it all up with string hoppers or rice.

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Ronnie's
Photograph: Supplied

Ronnie's

Restaurants Melbourne

Ronnie’s is nestled away in the Rialto’s Piazza and might feel a tad schmancy, but its range of cicchetti provides an affordable-yet-schmick little lunch. Go for the cacio e pepe waffles – fermented potato waffles topped with grated cheese and cracked pepper, or the vitello tonnato jaffle inspired by the Piedmontese dish of sliced veal doused in tonnato sauce on bread.

Udon Yasan
Photograph: Supplied

Udon Yasan

Restaurants Melbourne

Udon Yasan is a little Japanese eatery specialising in, you guessed it, udon noodles. It's a humble ode to the thick, springy noodle we all know and love, and you can get your noodles swimming in a broth with sukiyaki beef, beancurd, teriyaki chicken or even kimchi. There are also rice options for those looking for a drier option.

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Goz City at Madame Brussels Lane European Night Market
Photograph: Supplied

Göz City

Restaurants Melbourne

It’s almost impossible to visit a market without smelling the fried goodness of a gözleme. The stuffed Turkish flatbread is best enveloped around a combo of cheese and spinach, but the legends at Göz City (whose humble origins started at South Melbourne Market) offer a variety including herbed chicken, minced meat or mushroom and veg, too. There's even sucuk sausage and egg pide for those looking for something doughier.

Killiney Kopitiam Hainanese chicken rice
Photograph: Supplied

Killiney Kopitiam

Restaurants Melbourne

If it’s Singaporean street food you’re after, then Killiney Kopitiam is the spot for you. The venue dishes up everything from fluffy roti prata with silky chicken curry or peppery beef rendang to Hainanese chicken rice served with soup, creamy laksa to nasi lemak. 

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Sal's Authentic New York Pizza

Restaurants Pizza Melbourne

Sal's is known for slinging New York-style pizza slices bigger than your head. You could opt for half a pie at $16, and if you decide to do so during work hours, well, you do you. But want to know our tip? Go for the Little Neck Combo, which comes with two massive slices, two doughy garlic knots, Sal's Legendary Sauce (essential for dipping) and a can of soft drink. That’ll do you. Trust us on this one.

Katsu don generic
Photograph: Flickr/Creative Commons

Don Don

Restaurants Melbourne

A staple for any uni student, Don Don has fed the masses Japanese donburi for years. If you’re on a budget, you’re in luck. There's tofu curry don – rich Japanese curry swaddling morsels of tofu over a bed of rice, soba salads or even sashi don – raw salmon with rice.

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Greta sandwich
Photograph: Supplied

Greta

Restaurants Melbourne

The menu at Greta is separated into two sections: 'sandwiches' and 'not sandwiches'. If you’re looking for the best thing since sliced bread there’s the mortadella sandwich with melted scamorza cheese, housemade anchovy and olive tapenade, its bread pan-fried, buttery and crisp. If you’re not feeling like a sandwich there’s the farro salad with peas, broad beans, curd and herbs, or a petite list of bar snacks including its house pickles and the aforementioned tapenade.

Nana Thai mookata Thai barbecue
Photograph: Ben Moynihan

Nana Mookata Thai BBQ and Hotpot

Restaurants Melbourne

Nana Thai might be making waves for its central Thai-style moojum (hotpot) and mookata (barbecue), but its lunch specials are well worth trying too. Sample the likes of a mid-week pad thai with prawns, or, for a spicier option (because Nana Thai doesn't hold back on the sweltering Thai chilli) pad gra prow – Thai basil and chilli stir-fried with beef served atop a bed of rice. 

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Burger and fries at Butchers Dinner Melbourne
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Butchers Diner

Restaurants Burgers Melbourne

Load up on American diner-style goodies at late-night eatery Butchers Diner. Grab a cheesy with bacon and a 160g beef patty or keep it simple with a grilled cheese toastie, but true to its name, meat is what you come here for. Our tip? The Coney Island chilli dog loaded with burnt ends chilli, jalapeños and cheese. Good luck going back to work and not to sleep after that.

Food at Lanzhou Beef Noodle
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Lanzhou Beef Noodle

Restaurants Chinese Melbourne

Lanzhou beef noodles are addictive, and Lanzhou Beef Noodle (a whole venue dedicated to the dish) is the type that will pop into your mind randomly. Maybe you’ll be sitting at your desk daydreaming and, bam, you’ve conjured up images of its light broth, slippery, springy noodles, thin slices of beef and chilli crisp so inviting you could swim in the stuff. This bowl of noodles is what dreams are made of and is most definitely what you need for lunch on a cold day.

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Atiyah Streetfood
Photograph: Supplied

Atiyah Streetfood

Restaurants Melbourne

Atiyah is Australia's first 100% renewable-run streetfood zero-carbon kitchen run in the heart of Fed Square. The kiosk dishes up Lebanese street eats including manakish – a foccacia/pizza hybrid that's generally topped with thyme. Here, it's topped with za'atar and your choice of cheese (or vegan cheese) and vegetables if you so choose.

Banh Mi at N. Lee
Photograph: Michael Pham

N. Lee Bakery: CBD

Restaurants Melbourne

N. Lee Bakery is a purveyor of one of the best portable lunches you can find – bánh mì. Melbourne is blessed with a vibrant Vietnamese community, and as a result, we’re lucky to have spots like N. Lee slinging Vietnamese baguettes in the heart of the CBD. Get yours filled to the brim with lashing of roast pork or mixed ham and make sure to choose all the trimmings including pickled julienned carrot and ribbons of fresh cucumber. 

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Food at Captains of Industry
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Captains of Industry

Shopping Melbourne

Captains of Industry might be the most Melbourne venue to ever exist. What does that even mean? Well, you need only know that it has a café, barber, shoe cobbler and gentleman's outfitter all under the one roof, and it serves a mean sandwich. The specials board changes quite regularly, but the one to look out for is the three-cheese toastie – a holy union of bocconcini, gruyere, cheddar with basil and molten tomato. Sweet dreams are made of cheese.

Noodle soup at Soi 38
Photograph: Vince Caligiuri

Soi 38

Restaurants Thai Melbourne

Soi 38’s coveted boat noodle dish is available to purchase at lunch-time and, for those not in the know, is made with a pork broth loaded with Chinese five-spice powder and star anise and served with your choice of braised pork or beef. It’s a must-try, but the venue also offers a Thai take on laksa, for those seeking something creamier.

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Baguette
Photograph: Pixabay

French Fix

Restaurants Melbourne

French Fix offers a taste of Paris in Melbourne. It's not your average boulangerie, with the team baking fresh baguettes and sandwich them with all sorts of fillings. Le Roast Beef comes with layers of roast beef, crisp pickles, a healthy smear of Dijon mustard, mixed lettuce, tomato and mayo and might just be our top pick.  

Little Ramen Bar

Restaurants Melbourne

Chances are you’ve spotted Little Ramen Bar with a line populating outside its little venue, and folks gather around to sample its classic ramen. It's a creamy tonkotsu soup loaded with pork broth is topped with seaweed, bamboo shoots, spring onions and chashu pork, and you can choose to amp up your base with shoyu, miso or shio. 

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King William Takeaway
Photograph: Supplied

King William Takeaway

Restaurants Melbourne

Say hello to one of the newest sandwich wunderkinds on the block. King William Takeaway offers a rotating selection of sangas, and each one is set to delight. Thick meatballs are doused in Napoli sauce and served in soft subs, roast chook is layered in soft bread rolls, steak sandwiches make an appearance along with bolognese toasties and even three cheese and kimchi toasties. It’s a sandwich haven just a few blocks down from the masters of the porchetta roll, Saluministi.

Meet Sando prawn sando
Photograph: Supplied

Meet Sando

Restaurants Melbourne

Based in Queen Vic Market, this Japanese café dishes up sandos with fluffy shokupan and your choice of prawn katsu, panko-crumbed chicken, egg salad, pork schnitzel or portobello mushroom with truffle mayo. Pair it with some fries if you have an extra fiver and be on your way.

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Asado-to-Go
Photograph: Supplied

Asado-to-Go

Restaurants South American Southbank

Yes, another sandwich, but not just any sandwich, this is Argentinian eatery Asado’s pollo frito sandwich – a fried chicken concoction featuring egg salad, mozzarella and chipotle mayonnaise available at its spin off sandwicheria, Asado to Go. Not feeling that frisky? Grab an empanada instead.

A plate of pan fried chicken and prawn dumplings at ShanDong MaM
Photograph: Graham Denholm

ShanDong MaMa

Restaurants Melbourne

You’ll find some of the city’s best dumplings at Shandong Mama. Also on our best restaurants list, Shandong Mama specialises in juicy Spanish mackerel potstickers, but you can opt for pork and Chinese cabbage dumplings or pork dumplings loaded with fresh dill and ginger to fit the bill instead. 

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Mie goreng at Blok M Express
Photograph: Parker Blain

Blok M Express

Restaurants Indonesian Melbourne

Students and worker bees alike jostle to find a spot in the split-level restaurant – you’ll most likely find yourself sharing a table with someone else, but what Blok M lacks in space and comfort it makes up for with the unapologetically punchy flavours of Indonesian food. Blok M draws from every corner of Indonesia – its balado (a chilli-based spice mixture) dishes are from West Sumatra, while its grilled chicken owes its provenance to Java. 

5 and Dime: the Archway

Restaurants Melbourne

There’s always a time and a place for a bagel. Breakfast? Sounds good. Dinner? Sure, why not. And lunch? A resounding yes. It’s not quite a sandwich, but it works to fill your stomach with thick rings of dough. At 5 and Dime, everything bagels are dotted with herbs and seeds and primed with smoked salmon and blueberry bagels are tarted up with cream cheese, proving that this is the spot to go for the crème de la crème of boiled bready delights.

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Pho Thin
Photograph: Jo Portwine

Pho Thin

Restaurants Melbourne

For North Vietnamese phở (the type you’d find in Hanoi), head to Pho Thin. Here you’ll find “stir-fried up” rare beef phở with flat rice noodles in a rich broth topped with spring onions and coriander. Spice it up with condiments like house-made chilli sauce, fish sauce, pickled chilli and/or a wedge of lemon and order an additional Chinese doughnut to eat alongside and dip in it.

Earl Canteen salad
Photograph: Charmaine Moorhous

Earl Canteen

Restaurants Melbourne

Earl Canteen is a one-stop-shop for sandwiches, salads, sweets and excellent coffee. Think of it as your work mum that packs you nutritious and tasty lunches so you can be the envy of your colleagues. Go for the classic chicken sandwich with the Callebaut chocolate chip, walnut and sea salt cookie - one of the city's best cookies.

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Belles Hot Chicken
Photograph: Supplied

Belles Hot Chicken: CBD

Restaurants Melbourne

We take a venue that offers six different levels of spice culminating in Sex Panther very seriously, and we take its chicken sandwich even more seriously. You might argue that it's more like a burger than a sandwich, but whatever you call it, the crimson red chunk of thigh coated in American cheese with lettuce, onion and Belles' good-good sauce is worth trying at least once. There’s a mushroom alternative available for vegetarians, too.

Miznon
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Miznon

Restaurants Middle Eastern Melbourne

Grab any of Miznon’s vegetarian pitas for a memorable mid-week lunch. The hot chickpea pita is dripping with tahini, chilli, onion and a creamy hard boiled egg, while the cheakypita comes with falafel, tomato, slashed with sour cream and pickles that give it its wow factor.

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Baguette
Photograph: Pixabay

B3 Café

Restaurants Melbourne

We have another baguette contender – one that offers petite baguettes and grande baguettes. You could get two grande baguettes for $15, which makes them ridiculously affordable and equally delicious. The trimmings are of your standard deli variety, and if baguettes aren’t your thing, you can nab a croissant to go.

More of Melbourne's best meals

A plate of ten pieces of fried gyoza at Hakata Gensuke
Photograph: Ryan Noreiks

Where to eat lunch in the CBD

Restaurants Cafés

It's lunch o'clock in Melbourne CBD and you need some food, stat. Make your midday meal a deadset winner every day of the working week with our handy guide.

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