1. Banh Mi at N. Lee, $4 to $6
220 Smith Street, Collingwood
The delicious result of blending Southeast Asian and French flavours, banh mi (pronounced ‘ban-mee’) rolls are delicious baguette sandwiches slathered with pork liver pate and topped with freshly chopped vegetables, barbecued pork bits and a special hoisin sauce. At N. Lee you can customise your rolls to your liking and revel in the knowledge that you won’t go a cent past $6.
2. T & T (Tofu & Tempeh) salad at Las Vegan, $10
22 Smith St, Collingwood
Heading to Las Vegan feels like going to your friend’s mum’s place – you know that your plate will always be heaped with delicious food with that warm, homemade feel. Even the chai tea is all-you-can-drink for $3. The T & T salad comes piled on a plate with plenty of crispy fried tofu and tempeh slathered with satay sauce and sprinkled with crunchy sprouts.
3. Huxtaburger at Huxtaburger, $9
106 Smith Street, Collingwood
If you’ve been to Huxtaburger, you’ll know how it feels to stand in front of the cashier and still not know which burger you’ll be devouring that day. With three options under $10, including their new tofu burger, at least you can rest assured that once you’ve made your choice, you’ll still have enough coins for their $2.50 serve of fries.
4. Lunchbox Special at The Cutting Table, $10
126 Smith Street, Collingwood
Every weekday, The Cutting Table kitchen puts out a new assembly of lunch goodies that will put your soggy, primary school-style sandwiches to shame. Think chickpea patty and salad (Monday) or lentil wrap with Greek salad (Wednesday), all of which comes with a choice of Zlabia (African donut) or fresh fruit to sweeten the palate. If you’re in a hurry, you can order ahead to pick up through the restaurant.
5. Makizushi (tuna and salmon sushi) at Peko Peko, $10
199 Smith Street, Fitzroy
Feeling like something light? Treat yourself to dainty bites of Peko Peko’s tuna and salmon sushi. The small serving is great for those days you don’t feel like sitting down to a massive meal, but want something a bit less rushed than your regular sushi roll and paper bag combo.
6. Grilled lamb kafta wrap with hummus and tabouleh at Bayte, $10
56 Johnston Street, Collingwood
Make a switch from your usual panini for a more Mediterranean option with Bayte’s grilled lamb kafta wrap, complete with delicious hummus and tabouleh. The side of fresh cucumber with plain yoghurt makes a refreshing touch, and once you top it all off with a cup of Lebanese coffee you’ve got yourself a pretty fancy lunch for next to nothing.
7. Toasted sandwich of the day (with side salad) at Proud Mary, $9
172 Oxford Street, Collingwood
They don’t make your everyday ham, cheese, tomato toastie here at Proud Mary. The sandwich line-up changes every day but they’ve previously had salmon, pork belly and lamb, all of which are served with fresh salad. Make sure you wash the toastie goodness down with a freshly brewed cup of Proud Mary’s all-star coffee.
8. Rice paper rolls at Ming’s Noodles and Sushi Bar, $4.50 for a pack of four
254 Smith Street, Collingwood
Nothing beats these refreshing, light rice paper rolls on hot summer days. The mixture of crunchy veg, stringy vermicelli and tasty bits of prawn or chicken is perfect for days when eating anything remotely tepid is out of the question. And at $4.50 a pack (do the maths, that’s just over a dollar a roll), this is great bang for your buck.
9. Spanakopita at Melissa’s Cakes, $5
118 Smith Street, Collingwood
Spanakopita should be as much a part of typical lunch fare as sushi rolls, sandwiches and pies. The flaky, thin pastry and melted feta cheese mingling with steamy spinach makes this Greek delight the perfect light meal. Word has it that Melissa’s makes the best spanakopita in town, so if you haven’t tried these little wonders before then here’s where you should start.
Crusty baguettes at Tomboy, $9.50
356 Smith Street, Collingwood
Mix things up with a freshly made baguette from the folks at Tomboy, who whip up a different filling for their crusty long rolls every day. One variation, the fresh smoked salmon, caper and rocket with mustard dill dressing, is the perfect complement to the thick floury bread, filling you up while not weighing you down. Many of the options are vego, like the cream corn and avocado, but get in quick if its bocconini basil pesto day. What you’ll save on lunch can go towards one of Tomboy’s a gluten-free cakes to get you through the rest of the afternoon.