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Noodles at Soi 38
Photograph: Vince Caligiuri

The 50 best cheap eats in Melbourne

Eating well doesn't have to break the bank, so start here to find the best cheap eats in and around Melbourne, from the CBD and inner-city suburbs to further afar

Written by
Sonia Nair
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Melbourne is brimming with cheap eats but they’re getting harder and harder to find, especially with the cost of living continually rising. The good news is, we know where the best cheap eats are hiding across Melbourne, and we've rounded them up so you can satisfy your cravings without breaking the bank. We're talking a meal for under $20 at some of the best spots around town so you can save your hard-earned pennies.

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The 50 best cheap eats for under $20

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4

To know Master Lanzhou noodles is to love Master Lanzhou noodles. The ubiquitous Melbourne chain serves authentic Lanzhou beef noodle soups with hand-stretched-to-order noodles and rich soup that is pure, concentrated beef flavour. Our pick is the braised beef noodle soup that has melt-in-the-mouth braised beef chunks along with its special chilli oil, coriander and radish. Be warned; this soup is seriously addictive – thankfully, it only puts you out by $19.80.

Biang Biang Noodle House is home to springy, long and flat hand-pulled wheat noodles tossed in accompaniments like stewed pork, slow-cooked beef, and tomato and egg, as well as a ton of chilli oil. The fact that Biang Biang is perennially packed speaks to its appeal. The namesake biang biang noodles are the must-order, but if you’re feeling like something different or can’t process gluten, there are rice noodles served cold as well as vermicelli. The best part is that all the bowls come in at between $10 and $16, so you’ll have enough left over from your $20 bill to try Biang Biang’s rougamo, colloquially known as a Chinese hamburger (choose between cumin beef, pork or potato slices sandwiched between white bread). 

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  • Restaurants
  • Malaysian
  • Melbourne

Lulu’s has taken the city by storm with a char koay teow that tastes as if it were made on the streets of Penang. Thin flat noodles are stir-fried over a hot wok, imparting that beautifully charred and smoky flavour vital to any char koay teow. The noodles are tossed with prawns, lap cheong, scrambled egg, bean sprouts, pork lard, chives and chilli (that you can tailor according to your spice tolerance). At $14.90, Lulu's signature char koay teow will likely yield leftovers, unless you're ravenous, and for a few dollars more at $18.90 you can even add jumbo prawns. 

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4

Trust us when we say that this noodle shop is home to some of the most comforting bowls of Thai boat noodles in town. Although Soi 38 has since expanded into serving up sumptuous dinners, its lunchtime noodle sets are what initially garnered its fame. The smell of the fragrant broth permeates the carpark restaurant from the open kitchen. All noodle dishes are $10 and include the likes of beef and pork boat noodles, tom yum noodles and braised duck noodle soup. Our tip: try the beef. 

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Göz City
  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne

The stuffed, fried Turkish flatbread of a gözleme 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 number of fillings including herbed chicken, minced meat or mushroom and veg. The göz are even made to order by the gözleme masters who roll dough as you watch on. There are also sucuk sausage and egg pides or böreks for those looking for something else in dough form. Best part is, the most expensive of these floury treats are only $11, so you should be leaving with some serious change from your $20. 

  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne

When thinking of Indonesian food, images of nasi goreng or beef rendang might come to mind. While that wouldn’t be wrong, there’s much more to Indonesian food than the few dishes on heavy rotation in Melbourne, and Yoi is here to prove that. The family-run venue was started by mother Lie Lie Tjoa and brothers Gideon and Michael Sanusi in August 2019. Gideon’s pride and joy is the salted egg chicken rice that he invented himself – and get this, it’s only $12.90. Otherwise, try jazzed-up versions of everyone’s favourite instant noodles – indomie – with beef rendang ($9.90) or fried chicken ($13.95) or inhale a bowl of soto betawi, a traditional coconut beef soup served with rice,for just $12.90. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Burgers
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4

Butcher's Diner is the perfect no-frills venue, where you can chow down on a burger made with a seriously good beef patty for $16.50, snack on two skewers cooked yakitori-style for just $10, or put away the messy goodness of a Coney Island chilli dog for $16.50. Daily rotating specials that range from crispy buttermilk chicken sandwiches to green falafel salads also come in at under $20. The time-poor can elect to get any item takeaway or otherwise peruse the all-vegan vending machine out front.

Salero Kito Padang
  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne

Bain-marie food gets a bad rap – mostly thanks to lukewarm food court curries pooling in oil – but you won’t find any of that at popular Indonesian lunchtime spot Salero Kito Padang. Formerly nestled on the periphery of Tivoli Arcade, it’s since moved to 9 Rose Lane. What has remained the same is the amazing array of food on offer. From anywhere between $12 and $16.50, you can get different combinations of dishes with rice. Think tempeh and green beans stir-fried in red chilli paste, crisp deep-fried ox lung, spicy chicken, jackfruit curry, beef rendang and so much more. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne

For the same vibe but featuring dishes from a completely different corner of Asia, try fellow bain-marie favourite Ceylon Wok. The popular Sri Lankan lunchtime spot has affordably priced meals – all below $20 – where the options by way of the carb component include everything from fried rice and biryani to kottu roti and string hoppers with classic accompaniments like sambols (a Sri Lankan coconut relish), tempered potato curry, devilled fish, chicken curry and an eggplant moju (where shallots, green chillies and mustard powder shine).   

10. Sarawak Kitchen Express

In Malaysia, ‘economy rice’ refers to rice – either steamed or fried – served with an array of Chinese-Malaysian dishes, with its name alone testament to how economical it is. Where it’s similar to food-court Chinese is in its use of bain-maries, but that’s where any likeness ends. At Sarawak Kitchen Express, you can get three dishes with rice for $13.90 – and what these three dishes are is where things get exciting. Let's just say you won’t find any honey chicken or Mongolian beef. Common accompaniments include fried chicken, potato and minced pork, braised tofu with bitter melon, braised pork knuckles, clam curry, cumin beef and tomato egg.

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  • Restaurants
  • Korean
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4

Asian-style sandwiches are the toast of the town, and Dari Korean Café has brought Korean-inspired sandwiches into the spotlight. Yoon-Ji Park came to Melbourne from South Korea as a teenager and is now slinging Korean-inspired street food, including an array of interesting sandwiches, on Hardware Lane. At $18.70, the Idol Sandwich is four slices of white bread containing thick layers of Mexican salad (cabbage, ham, crabstick and egg dressed with sriracha mayo and ketchup), egg and potato salad, and – wait for it – lashings of strawberry jam. It sounds intense (and it is), but all the elements fuse to create creamy bursts of sweet and savoury – not unlike a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If you are looking for something a little different for your next work lunch, this is it. 

Shujinko
  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne

Shujinko is no longer an all-night ramen joint – such places are scarce post-Covid – but it's still open relatively late, making it a godsend for people seeking out a quality late-night snack. Perhaps not so surprisingly, a soothing bowl of soup with perfectly slurpy noodles is great fuel after an evening jaunt through town. The ultra-spicy karakuchi ramen ($18.50) is just the thing to clear those sinuses, while the black ramen (also $18.50) is an umami bomb you'll keep coming back for.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Melbourne

If the line snaking out of Bourke Street’s Mid City Arcade is anything to go by, Mr Ramen San is well worth your time. The pork bone broth (simmered for no less than 10-hours) is soft and creamy without being heavy, sporting a level of gelatinousness that slips rather than sticks. Thin and bitey wheat noodles, made in-house, are just the right vehicle for the lower-viscosity tonkotsu soup, while sliced spring onion, pickled bamboo shoots, seaweed and a jammy soy egg tick the customary topping boxes. Bowls range from $13.90 to $15.90, depending on the type of ramen you chose, and the best part is you can order extra noodles for free. 

  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne

For a quick, cheap, no-frills Japanese noodle experience, head to Udon Yasan. If you’ve never been before, take the lead of the person in front of you: order your udon at the front counter, grab a tray for your bowl of noodles, and proceed along to grab sides such as egg or kimchi. After paying for your noodles and sides, avail yourself of free toppings that include fried tempura flakes, spring onion, grated radish, bonito flakes and an array of sauces. Price-wise, the plain kake udon noodle soup will put you out by $4.40, whereas more involved bowls like the beancurd udon or the sukiyaki beef and half-boiled egg noodle soup will put you out by $6 and $9 respectively – before you account for sides. This cheap eat is an absolute steal. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Greek
  • Melbourne

Get (w)rapt about A+ souvas from the same Greek food legends who are at the helm of Stalactites. The menu is simple and it's cheap. There are five types of souvas, snacks, dips and pita packs, and a few ready-to-go accompaniments with each item priced below $20. Everything from the dips (eggplant, tarama, hummus and tzatziki) to the desserts (baklava and rice pudding) is made fresh daily using tried and true recipes from Stalactites.

  • Restaurants
  • Malaysian
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4

Jojo Little Kitchen is a noodle franchise from Malaysia, and the quality and respect for tradition make this a franchise to be reckoned with. Jojo specialises in pan mee noodles torn to your desired thickness, served dry or in soup and adorned with your choice of toppings. Our pick for spice fiends is the lat jiu pan mee, where minced pork, dried chilli, ikan billis (dried anchovies), fried onions and a poached egg are interspersed with housemade al-dente noodles for a flavour explosion. That's a whole lotta' flavour for way under $20. 

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17. The Borek Bakehouse

You can head to the lovely ladies at Queen Victoria Market’s borek shop for the most value-for-money lunch, or stop by the Borek Bakehouse, where the same people have set up shop a hop, skip and a jump away from the market and are dishing up snacky Turkish staples. A trip to the Bakehouse is incomplete without a crisp, bready borek stuffed with punchy feta and spinach, aromatic lamb and veggies, or spiced potatoes. If you feel like some other doughy goodness, opt for a pide stuffed with sucuk and egg or chicken and mushroom. Whatever you choose, it won’t cost you more than $20. 

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4

Dodee Paidang's first restaurant is hidden in an unobtrusive basement off Little Collins Street. The next two outposts can be found on Swanston Street and in Box Hill. Whichever one of the  colourful, low-fi and community-driven restaurants you choose, they will all be packed to the brim with Thai natives. Many dishes come in at under $20, from the pad thai and green curry on rice to the crispy pork with holy basil on rice. Dodee is proud of its origins, gracious in its delivery and delicious in every bite, and we salute it for not pandering to a Western palate.

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  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4

The grand old dame of Melbourne’s restaurant scene offers comfort food at comfort prices (unless you’re gluten intolerant, then you shall seek little comfort here). There’s something special about sitting at a 70-year-old bench on a 70-year-old stool and looking at a 70-year-old menu while you shovel into a sliding colossus of lasagne ($20). We recommend it highly. A white shirt, not so much.

  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne

One of Hanoi’s most famed food exports has done so well since opening in 2020 in its Hardware Lane hole-in-the-wall, that it’s moved into a much bigger shop just a few doors down. The first Phở Thìn branch outside of Asia, Melbourne’s outpost is known for its signature ‘stir-fried up’ rare beef pho, which sees skirt steak fried in oil and garlic before being added to a piping hot bowl of broth. This will only put you out by $16, so for an additional $2 be sure to get a side of crunchy Vietnamese donuts straight from the deep-fryer for all your broth dipping purposes. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne

Delhi Streets may be named in honour of India’s capital, but its menu criss-crosses the country. An all-in nutritious meal of thali plates (rice, naan and pappadum served with two curries) comes in between $17 and $20, while you can get a masala dosa (a thin crisp pancake made from fermented batter stuffed with spiced potatoes) for $18. Indian-inspired wraps and pizzas similarly won’t break the bank. 

  • Restaurants
  • Middle Eastern
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4

Renowned chef Eyal Shani did us all a favour when he brought his Israeli pita empire to Melbourne's Hardware Lane. For $16, the classic falafel comes in the form of Shani’s ‘falafel burger’ with tomato, sour cream and pickles. You'll also find the French Provençal stewed vegetable dish of ratatouille is given a new lease of life in pita form, with caramelised eggplant and onion finding an unfamiliar, yet perfectly sound pairing in creamy dollops of tahini and a half-boiled egg. The majority of the pitas come in at just under $20, and you’ll be full for hours. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4

At Coppe Pan, archetypal Japanese street food dishes – from gyoza (dumplings) and takoyaki (octopus balls) to chicken karaage (fried chicken) and yaki soba (stir-fried wheat noodles in a sweet and savoury sauce) – are sandwiched in pillowy white bread rolls known as ‘pan’. Don’t expect the crusty sourdough that soaks up eggs benny in cafés around Melbourne though, Coppe Pan’s bread is soft and fluffy as a result of its high percentage of water and sweeter than your average Western loaf of bread. Sandwiches are so cheap you’ll be able to splash out on a matcha soft serve or a matcha tiramisu and still come in under $20. 

Sal's Authentic New York Pizza
  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • Melbourne

Sal's is one of a handful of Melbourne pizzerias that can lay claim to serving an authentic New York slice. It's not just that Sal's chooses to make a New York slice, it is that Sal's is a branch of the New York pizzeria established back in the 1970s in Little Neck, Queens. Brian Leo, specialty pie maker, was transported to Melbourne to ensure Sal's was serving up true New York slices. All the recipes have been developed by Sal himself, using Wisconsin mozzarella, Californian tomatoes and freshly milled flour from the Big Apple. Order giant slices of pizza, doughy garlic knots loaded with crushed garlic and parmesan or half a kilo of buffalo wings if that's what tickles your fancy. Slices will put you out by less than $10 and half pies will put you out by $20 (depending on which one you get).

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ShanDong MaMa
  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4

If this isn’t the best little hole-in-the-wall dumpling den in Melbourne, we’ll eat the menu. Just watch us. More expensive than your average dumpling spot but far more refined in terms of quality, Shandong is known for its sub-$20 plate of fish dumplings – you’d be hard-pressed to find the variety, or the quality of dumpling, at any other Melbourne dumpling restaurant. The dumplings are ugly-beautiful: a loose mince of oily mackerel, fragrant with ginger, coriander root and chives, captured in the thinnest white dinner jacket. 

Shanghai Street
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Melbourne

The xiao long bao was a dumpling of intrigue and mystery to non-Shanghainese diners and the perpetrator of many burnt tongues when this dumpling house first quietly opened up in 2010. But three venues later, it has secured its place as a leader in delivering perfect XLBs. There are five different varieties available, and other classic favourites like shu mai, wonton soup, spring onion pancakes, mapo tofu and kung pao chicken. Individual rice and noodle dishes come in around the $13 mark, as do the bamboo baskets of steamed dumplings. 

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Most Melburnian diners are by now familiar with Hainanese chicken rice, the dish where silky poached chicken is served with a bowl of rice cooked in the same stock as the chicken to tantalising results, accompanied by a medley of spring onion, ginger and garlic chilli sauces. Gai Wong, which sits at the juncture of the CBD and North Melbourne, does the best Hainanese chicken rice in Melbourne, and all for the princely sum of $14.80. Each serving comes with a soothing bowl of chicken broth, but we’d also recommend ordering a side of soy-braised eggs and chicken crackling. 

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Richmond
  • price 1 of 4

Hector’s Deli originally opened in Richmond (with its most recent outpost in Fitzroy), serving up classic combination sandwiches made using high-quality ingredients and decked out with extra flourishes that inspire hour-long queues. The menu has six hot sandwiches and five fresh sandwiches – it’s hard to offer up our top picks because they’re all extremely good, right down to the unassuming HCT which may be the best ham and cheese toastie we’ve ever had. Rest assured the sangas will be some of the most luxurious, satisfying and aesthetically pleasing sandwiches you've ever eaten, and they all come in under $20.

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Nico’s first made a name for itself during those never-ending lockdown days. With the opening of its CBD store scuppered by you-know-what in early 2020, it resurfaced in a pop-up off Brunswick Street to resounding success among Fitzroy locals. The crowning glories of its menu are contingent on who you ask – some love the fresh panko-crumbed chicken thigh sandwich ($15) on a fresh country loaf slathered in nori butter, while others swear by the toasted Cubano ($16), which sees house-smoked pork belly and grandma-smoked ham complemented by koji chimichurri and American mustard. In addition to the CBD and Fitzroy outposts, a newish store has opened up in Brunswick East, so there's no excuse not to seek out one of these great value sandwiches. 

Colombian food has found a home in an industrial part of South Melbourne, where jaunty tunes radiate out of the Berbeo Bros’ confines. Hessian coffee sacks are strewn across the ceiling and the bold red, blue and yellow stripes of the Colombian flag are draped over the door. You can get three empanadas for $15 – choose from cheese and corn, beef or chicken – and all mains, like the famed Lechona Berbeo (slow-roasted stuffed pig served with rice, peas, pork crackling and an arepa), will put you out by $15 or $18 if you add chips. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Richmond

Ca Com Bánh Mì Bar is the Covid baby of fine diner Anchovy, which has now transitioned into a Laotian eatery called Jeow, and is the brainchild of chef-owner Thi Le and partner Jia-Yen Lee. Lockdowns may be over, but Ca Com Bánh Mì Bar is going strong. It’s impossible to compile a list of cheap eats without singling out the bánh mì. And while the bánh mìs here are pricier than the average roll at $15 a pop, they boast unusual fillings like jungle-spiced Laotian pork sausage, chicken marinated in turmeric and coconut, and sardines cooked in tomato sauce – all worth every penny. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Carlton
  • price 1 of 4

There’s a lot to like about Heartattack and Vine. It's inspired by Italy, the country whose immigrants gave Melbourne hospitality its heart, but unlike the old-school Italian cafés that define this strip of Carlton, Heartattack has no waitstaff out the front wooing you to try its fare – though you’ll be hard-pressed to find a table at lunchtime or after 5pm as groups settle in for post-work drinks. The absolute must-try dish is its famed porchetta roll, where slow-roasted pork is nestled in a warm ciabatta with a holy trifecta of sauces (salsa verde, sweet spicy sambal and mustard). At $17, it’s some serious bang for your buck. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Brunswick East

Tearing into the crunchy, deep caramel crust of Wild Life Bakery's sourdough feels like a holy communion with carbs. Meanwhile, the intense, chewy crumb in baguettes filled with gochujang-braised tofu ($16) and harissa-roasted chicken thigh ($17) is why locals cram this bakery for breakfast. Toasties arrive thick as a forehead and big as a face, yet achieve the all-important mission of properly melting the abundance of Comté, cheddar and asiago couched between slabs of kimchi ($15) or ham and mustard ($17). 

  • Restaurants
  • Fitzroy
  • price 1 of 4

At Fitzroy old-timer Sonido, the arepa takes centre stage. Opened in 2010 by Colombians Santiago Villamizar and Carolina Taler, the café has made the humble arepa a household name. The flatbreads are made the traditional way: whole Australian corn is cooked, mixed, ground and shaped into rounds that are grilled to produce mild-tasting disks blistered with char. They can be eaten on their own but are even better crowned with proteins and vegetables. In the ropa vieja ($15.80), shredded beef is slow-cooked with tomato, onion and spices, delivering sweetness and the kind of comfort food you’re prone to needing in Melbourne’s fluctuating weather. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Middle Eastern
  • Fitzroy North
  • price 1 of 4

As you’d expect, the crisp falafel at Just Falafs is the star of almost every dish, but the one pita that doesn’t have falafel – the Sabich, with its golden deep-fried eggplant, sliced boiled egg and sumac-pickled onion ($16) – is well worth a try. The meals are centred around everyday ingredients in the Levant region (hummus, pickled cabbage, tahini), and the fitout is just like an inviting kitchen. Also, with the Edinburgh Gardens within short walking distance, it’s the perfect spot for a takeaway summer meal. 

It has never been easier in Melbourne to procure a high-quality sandwich or toastie, and Picnic is part of the new-age bread wave. Tucked away in the space that used to house Fitzroy North institution Moroccan Soup Bar, Picnic is a laidback space – you can park yourself for a few hours and while the afternoon away, or grab a quick bite and go. The main attraction on the menu is the roast chicken sandwich – made from a century-old recipe co-owner Ryan McDonald found wedged inside a book of Greek mythology while travelling in Ireland – but our favourite is the mushroom toastie with spinach, almonds and four cheeses. Everything is around the $15 mark.

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For just $20, you can devour an all-you-can-eat feast at Sri Lankan Sydney Road restaurant Maalu Maalu. Think the likes of saffron rice or fried rice alongside chicken curry, devilled fish, beef stew, tempered potato and green beans, dahl and spinach curry, sambols (Sri Lankan coconut relishes), mango chutney, fried chillies, fresh yoghurt and crisp papadums. Come hungry, and leave just $20 lighter. 

  • Restaurants
  • Brunswick
  • price 1 of 4

A popular spot among locals and travellers alike, this Lebanese bakery serves up some delicious meals at cheap prices. Stop by for a coffee in the morning and get the A1 brekkie ($16) that comes with two eggs, sujuk, labne, cucumber, tomato, olives, mint and pita bread, or pop in for lunch and nab a halloumi cheese pie ($5) that is served up in the form of a giant doughy crescent. Most items are under $20, and that includes the toasted chicken tawouk wrap ($13), which comes with hot chips, pickled cucumbers, pickled turnips, cabbage coleslaw and garlic dip.

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  • Restaurants
  • Middle Eastern
  • Brunswick

The menu at Very Good Falafel works so well because it’s so simple. Options are limited to the falafel, sabich (fried eggplant) and ktzitzot (meat patties), which can all be served in pita bread or on a plate of dips, pickles and salad. The falafel is exactly what it should be: still steaming hot, with a thick brown crust on the outside from a flash in the deep fryer, and bright green on the inside from the parsley and chickpea mixture. Recognising that some customers are only interested in the star of the show, friends and owners Louisa Allan and Shuki Rosenboim offer the option to have just the falafels with a side of baba ganoush or hummus. Everything is comfortably under $20 and you’ll be more than sated after. 

  • Restaurants
  • Sri Lankan
  • Brunswick West
  • price 2 of 4

Sri Lankan food is having its deserved day in the sun in Melbourne, but Lankan Tucker was perhaps one of the first cafés to open Melburnians’ eyes to the wonders of Sri Lankan food. At the extremely affordable price point of $19, a village breakfast will get you roti filled with egg, green chillies and red onion alongside three different types of sambols and a creamy chickpea curry. Stir-fried shredded kottu roti interspersed with sliced vegetables and a delicious melange of soy sauce and chilli will cost you exactly $20 if you get it with a bullseye egg. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Thornbury
  • price 1 of 4

Rat the Café is a neighbourhood spot focusing on coffee and thoughtful dishes, while also doing its bit for our fragile planet. ‘Rat’ is an acronym for ‘root and tip’, and owner/chef Callum MacBain adopts a waste-free approach to building his menu by looking to the parts of an ingredient that would usually be thrown away for inspiration. The menu changes frequently, however, there’s the obligatory toast, a spelt scone, a breakfast sandwich and a toasted loaf. They're all great, and they all come in at under $15. 

  • Restaurants
  • Murrumbeena
  • price 1 of 4

This three-in-one bakery, café and supermarket serves up fresh, fabulous food and stocks all things Middle Eastern. After agonising over your order (will it be the Oasis snack pack, falafel plate, chicken shawarma wrap or lamb and feta pizza? Note: they’re all under $20), you’re handed an electronic device that vibrates when your meal is ready. In the meantime, you can browse the supermarket and take home pillowy Turkish bread or super fresh almonds.

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  • Restaurants
  • Kensington
  • price 1 of 4

La Tortilleria was one of the first tortillerias in Melbourne to use whole corn, and you can taste the difference. The crowds go wild for the tacos al pastor, which go for just $6.50 each. Free-range Otway pork is marinated in achiote, ancho and guajillo chillies and – wait for it – cola to help tenderise the meat. It’s threaded onto a vertical spit with a chunk of pineapple on top. The tortillas then get loaded with carved meat, a few pineapple chunks, onion and coriander. It’s an explosion of flavours in your mouth. We think you should always order at least three tacos to be full, and at La Tortilleria ordering three of most of the tacos on the menu will keep you just within your $20. 

  • Restaurants
  • Flemington
  • price 1 of 4

We dig a bold title, and we do indeed bow down to Laksa King as the ruling monarch of noodle soup. The broth of the King's laksa is so warm and creamy you’ll want to slip right in. The combination curry laksa ($15.50) has you gobbling up springy egg noodles and fluffy rice vermicelli while you work your way through choice toppings including tender poached chicken, silky fried eggplant and jewel-like pink prawns.

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  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • Footscray
  • price 1 of 4

Slice Shop’s storefront, with rudimentary red, white and blue signage recalling its home team, the Footscray Bulldogs, is nothing to look at, but the bold font spelling out ‘Slice Shop’ and ‘Pizza’ make it clear what people flock here for: 18-inch pizzas served by the slice, a steal at just $5. Burn City Smokers co-owners Steve Kimonides and Raphael Guthrie have swapped wood-smoked meat for enormous hand-tossed pizzas at this latest venture, inspired by the famous New York slices that are eaten on the go. 

  • Restaurants
  • Footscray

There's no shortage of exceptional Vietnamese eats in Footscray thanks to its vibrant Vietnamese population. So when it comes down to finding the best bowl of phở, you'll have a hard time settling for just one spot. With that being said, Pho Hung Vuong Saigon attracts hordes of locals looking to get a quick and decent bowl of soup noodles. Waiters dart around with bowls of sloshing soup bigger than your face, spring rolls are equipped with fresh layers of lettuce, and fresh tea is always at the ready. What more could you want from a cheap eat?

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  • Restaurants
  • Footscray

One of Melbourne’s finest bánh mì can be found here, so get in line because there is always inevitably going to be one. Crowds wait patiently for baguettes which are baked on-site daily, stuffed with housemade butter, pâté, cold cuts like pork loaf and fromage de tête, tomato-braised meatballs, lemongrass pork, deep-fried tofu and the holy trinity of pickled carrot, fresh cucumber and coriander alongside Maggi seasoning and fiery rounds of chillies. And you're unlikely to need to splash out more than $5.50. It's not just the baguettes that people are waiting for. In what would normally be the drinks fridge are containers full of that same housemade pâté, fermented pork and vac-sealed pork loaf for people to purchase so they can make their own bánh mì at home. 

  • Restaurants
  • Barbecue
  • Sunshine West
  • price 1 of 4

With its fairy-esque lights, vibrant green hanging plants that curl out of their baskets and the ever-present smell of grilled meat, Sunshine Social is the epitome of the Australian backyard barbecue, only indoors. The menu reflects the modern Australian community, jumping from Cajun slaw ($8) to hot Belgian waffles ($10.50), while old favourites like a double beef burger ($17.50) and fish fingers in white bread ($12.50) get a look in, too. But if you’re here for the big meats, the half charcoal chicken with sage stuffing ($15) and the pork belly with fennel and apple puree ($20) also come in under budget.  

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  • Restaurants
  • Greek
  • Oakleigh
  • price 1 of 4

Located in the centre of the Greek community of Oakleigh, Kalimera Souvlaki Art dishes out pork and chicken gyros ($9.50 for a souvlaki, $20 for a platter) to hungry punters who drop by this busy suburban joint looking for a hearty and reliable feed. Owner Thomas Deliopoulos relocated from Greece to Melbourne and brought with him his family and a passion for smokey souva. Go here for meat skewers, fresh pita bread, family platters, traditional salads and housemade tzatziki all for a really good price. 

  • Restaurants
  • Korean
  • Ringwood East
  • price 1 of 4

Mr Lee’s Foods is well worth the trip to Ringwood if you’re a fan of pork; all dishes are derived from this glorious animal, offering a delicious insight into the economical traditions of Korean dining, which utilises an innately cultural nose-to-tail philosophy. Needless to say, this is a vegetarian no-go zone. A housemade soondae (Korean blood sausage), steamed pork belly and pork bone broths with sliced pork, Korean sausage or both, are the only things on offer at Mr Lee’s, and you can comfortably order every dish on the menu for the price of a jug at a pub.

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