Lunch can make or break you during the work day. A disappointing midday meal can set the tone for your entire afternoon, while dipping out for a meal that is fresh, fast and delicious can be just the boost you need. These eateries – all of which are considerate enough not to have eftpos minimums – are so popular that you might want to consider arriving slightly earlier to beat the inevitable lunch rush.
Depending on how hungry you are, a $20 note will buy you a souva and some chips or salad at Jimmy Grants with change to spare. George Calombaris’s cheap eats restaurant chain borrows menu items from its higher end siblings – the souvas and garlicky chips with feta is started life at Gazi, and the grain salad is a version of Hellenic Republic’s famous Cypriot freekeh salad. It’s a great way to eat food by a big time chef without breaking the bank. If you’ve ever eaten at Calombaris’s other restaurants, you’ll know that the best way to get a feed is to pick the ‘Feed Me’ option and it’s no different at Jimmy Grants. Tell them you want to ‘Eat like a Greek’, and you’ll get a full spread for two for $35. Never change, Jimmy.
Given that this colourful Mexican street food eatery now has five locations across the city, it would seem that Melburnians can’t get enough of beef brisket tacos, fresh fish burritos with chipotle aioli and shaved cabbage, and grilled chicken and quinoa ensaladas. Lunch at the Flinders Lane eatery is a flurry of city workers refuelling, but there are also locations in Hawthorn, Richmond, Windsor and Knox.
Hot beef, cold beer. What you see on the sign is what you get at this Collingwood burger haven, which now has sister restaurants in the CBD, Prahran, Hawthorn and Ringwood. These days, they’ve expanded their no-frills beef patty offering to veggie burgers and mini burgers – all of which are available to take away.
At the #cleaneating side of the takeaway lunch spectrum is Hanoi Hannah Express Lane – the teeny-tiny sister to popular Windsor restaurants Saigon Sally and Tokyo Tina. A serving of prawn and pork rice papers rolls with a fresh coconut makes for a flavoursome light lunch. For something with a little more crunch, go for the pork belly banh mi with crackling, fresh chilli and Thai basil mayo.
If you're already a fan of George Calombaris’s mod-Greek diner (we dream about those soft shell crab souvas regularly) then you'll need no convincing that Gazi's Bend Over Box is where you want to be at lunchtime. For $27.50, you'll get olives, pita, dip, meat, fish, salad, Gazi's delicious garlic and feta chips, and something sweet to seal the deal.
No one knows how service at this Japanese eatery in the CBD is so insanely efficient. You order a don box (that’s meat or tofu on rice, the most popular by far being teriyaki chicken) and you’re handed a hearty bowl of super-fresh deliciousness in two minutes, max. It’s this near-instant gratification, coupled with consistently great food and low prices that has earned Don Don a cult following.