Vietnamese noodle houses, Ethiopian restaurants and hole-in-the-wall style Indian snack stops; an ethnic culinary Mecca offering dishes you’re more likely to come across on travels through Africa, India and South-East Asia: this is Footscray. You can eat like a king and still have change in your pocket. With so much goodness crammed into one area it can be hard knowing where to start so here’s a list of our favourites.
Salaam Namaste Dosa Hut (Indian)
Tucked away at the West Footscray end of Barkly Street lies a tiny slice of India. It’s here you’ll find the modest Dosa Hut – a small shopfront with a hole-in-the-wall style counter and a few tables to dine in. While tearing apart crispy dosas with your hands and plunging them into coconut chutneys and spicy sambar, you are transported to a little place somewhere in South India.
Photos on the wall of authentic Indian snacks such as idly and vada tempt you but as the name suggests it’s all about the dosas here. These paper-thin crepes come with a variety of fillings including lamb, cheese and chilli, paneer and even chocolate. Pick of the bunch is the classic Masala dosa, filled with a dry potato curry, mustard seeds, curry leaves and spices.
Aside from dosas, they also specialise in Hyderabadi biryani with your choice of chicken or goat.
604 Barkly Street, West Footscray
(03) 9687 0171
Hung Vuong (Vietnamese)
If you’re coming for a lunch date, be prepared to line up at this popular haunt. Turnover is quick so rest assured it won’t be a long wait but it’s well worth it regardless. Modern cafe furniture and a polished concrete floor give this spacious Vietnamese restaurant a bit of a sophisticated feel. The prices don’t match, thankfully.
The menu is short and sweet. Try the two-mix prawn and rolls combo, which gets you a deep bowl of vermicelli noodles topped with your choice of crispy spring rolls and skewered grilled prawns, with a sweet chilli dressing on the side – all for around $12. Hung Vuong is touted as a pho favourite in Melbourne and the fresh ingredients don’t go unnoticed.
128 Hopkins Street, Footscray
(03) 9689 6002
Cafe Lalibela (Ethiopian)
Wash your hands before you dine at Cafe Lalibela – they’re your cutlery: you’ll be ripping, scooping, dipping and shoving it all into your mouth at this somewhat charming Ethiopian restaurant. Footscray plays host to a number of African eateries and this one is a little bit more up-market than the others, with wooden chairs and a rustic feel.
Order one of the platters for a selection of brightly coloured stews and curries arranged on top of a plate of injera: a floppy crumpet-style bread you rip off and use as a scooper to mop up the sour and citrusy toppings. Choose from a meat or vegetarian option or a mix of both. Wash it all down with a cold imported Ethiopian beer.
91 Irving Street, Footscray
(03) 9687 0300
Tues to Sat 11am–10pm
Sun, Mon 12pm–11pm
Sitting in a largely residential street in West Footscray, red lanterns swaying out the front, it seems there couldn’t be a more unsuitable spot for a tiny Japanese fusion fish and chip cafe. But this out-of-the way location just seems to be part of the appeal and Ebi is gaining popularity; with just one visit it’s easy to see why.
Sourcing the freshest seafood from the best wholesalers in the west, Ebi then turns it into something special. The togarashi calamari served with chips is a standout dish, and a steal at just $12. The squid is juicy and tender, lightly battered and seasoned with chilli pepper. Veggie balls – a vegetarian take on Osaka street food takoyaki (fried octopus balls) – are another must. Soft and spongy and topped with Japanese sweet mayonnaise, they are the perfect cheap snack. There are a couple of small tables or you can sit at the counter bar to watch the chefs in action.
18A Essex Street, Footscray
(03) 9689 3300