There’s a vastness to the suburb of Thornbury that can overwhelm even the most intrepid food explorer. With residential suburbia for miles, you can easily get lost in the backstreets without so much as a corner shop selling milk and bread for blocks. And at even at the most affordable eateries you’ll be hard pressed to find a meal under $10. But there are some roses hidden in amongst the Thorn. So we’ve covered Preston as well, for an even more comprehensive list of lunchtime eats under a tenner. And it’s a pretty varied spread.
1. Two tacos at Cornutopia – $9
Preston Market, 2/30 Centreway, Preston
An ode to corn on the cob and tacos, Cornutopia’s permanent food stall at the Preston Market (open market days) serves two soft-corn tortillas filled with lettuce, red cabbage, tomato salsa, sour cream and your choice of filling: marinated and grilled chicken, seasoned ground beef, pan-fried fish with lemon or the veggie option (freshly sautéed beans). Add guacamole or cheese for $1.
2. Banh Cuon at Chumanchu – $10
2 Gilbert Road, Preston
An affordable and healthy Vietnamese eatery opened by Misschu’s brother Marten Chu in 2013, Chumanchu (formerly known as Fumanchu) is a family friendly restaurant on the border of Preston and Thornbury. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, we suggest the steamed crepes with pork, where simple, punchy flavours stay true to a classic pancake-style dish the Chus grew up with at home.
3. Bowl of pho at Pho Hung – $9
144 High Street, Preston
The chicken and the cow, as this place is known to many from its iconic window-fronted signage, is an ever-bustling Vietnamese diner serving little more than big hot steaming bowls of pho with piles of fresh herbs, chilli and bean shoots. At Pho Hung (it’s real name), there’s hardly a bowl of pho over $10, and you’ll be unlikely to finish what you have anyway. Sweat over it and slurp it down. This might just be the most satisfying pick of the bunch.
4. Toastie at Disco Beans – $8.50
539 Plenty Road, Preston
Disco Beans is a home-style Japanese cafe and upstairs gallery in the heart of Preston. After relocating from Osaka, owner Yuka Harte moved her cafe from Northcote to Preston, but the concept has remained the same. The menu is predominantly vegan and abundant in gluten-free options, often with a Japanese twist. The toastie (not gluten-free) with organic tofu and homemade tomato sauce, coriander, pesto and spinach is a winner. Just try it.
5. Lebanese pizza at Cedars Bakery – $3.50
33–37 High Street, Preston
Cedars Bakery sells Lebanese pizza and pastries, and is also likely to be the largest Lebanese supermarket in Melbourne. It offers an array of baked, doughy things, savoury and sweet, at crazy-cheap prices. Try the lamb pizza (fold in half to eat) or the cheese-and-spinach pie (like a calzone). You’ll probably be able to get a piece of baklava or Turkish delight in for dessert too.
6. Nachos at Brother Alec – $10
719 High Street, Thornbury
Along the High Street strip in Thornbury there is a small, laid-back cafe, Brother Alec. You won’t find anything too obscure or challenging here – just some simple, homemade food that strikes a nice balance between basic and something a little more fancy. For a dish at $10 try the nachos – corn chips, chipotle black-bean chilli, green salsa, sour cream and cheese.
7. Bruschetta at Pizza Farro – $7.50
608 High Street, Thornbury
Though Pizza Farro is known for its gluten-free pizza, none of these come in at under $10. What does, however, is the bruschetta. There are two on offer: one with sautéed mushrooms, roasted peppers and Meredith goat’s cheese, or the more traditional bruschetta with tomatoes, red onions, olives and buffalo mozzarella. Go the former.
8. Toasted blueberry bagel at Pearl Oyster – $8
114 Miller Street, Thornbury
There’s really not much on the menu at Pearl Oyster under $10, but this is one we love. Served with cream cheese, Tofutti or jam, this feels more like breakfast than lunch, or a sweet kick in the middle of the day. The only thing that will break that bank is the coffee you’ll have with it.
9. Ham sandwich at Pomona Cafe – $10
474B Murray Road, Preston
Owned by the same people at Pizza Farro, Pomona Cafe specialises in gluten-free products. For its sandwiches, Pomona uses organic spelt and gluten-free multigrain tin-loaf. Combined with Virginia ham, scamorza cheese and tomato inside, you’ll believe there’s just nothing better than a simple ham sandwich.
10. Three cheese toastie at Little Henri – $9.90
848 High Street, Thornbury
Follow the painted silhouettes of children decorating the outside of the big corner building at the Dundas Street intersection and introduce yourself to Little Henri. With a varied menu from breakfast through to dinner some nights, for lunch try the three cheese toastie with toasted pepita crusted grain bread, smoked mozzarella, gruyere and parmesan.