An eclectic and vibrant suburb in Melbourne’s inner north, Brunswick has a diverse cross-section of cafes and restaurants flaunting a spectrum of global flavours. From grab-to-go pastries to generous noodle meals, here's a host of wallet-friendly deals for under 15 bucks.
Falafel Pita at Very Good Falafel – $9
The falafels here are up there with Melbourne’s best. You can get a pita stuffed full of the freshly-fried treasures, hummus, tomato and cucumber salad, pickles, chilli, tahini and sumac onions. The last falafel poking out the top of the pocket is the chickpea crown this vibrant dish deserves.
The Lil Cheese at Beatbox Kitchen – $6
A $6 burger made from real ingredients is good value by any measure. Especially when said burger is one of Melbourne’s best. Okay, okay, it’s a kid-sized version of one of Melbourne’s best. But for lots of people this 70-gram patty with cheese, pickles and onions might be enough for lunch. If not, order two and you get 140 grams of beef for $12. That’s not only $1 cheaper than Beatbox’s full-sized 120-gram cheeseburger – it gets you an extra 20 grams of beef. Genius.
Pastrami Roll at Juanito’s – $10
Served from 10.30am Monday to Saturday, the rolls at this Brunswick cafe don’t have fancy names. “Rolls – Pastrami, Salad, Vegan, $10” reads the chalkboard above the counter. A bread roll from Chimmy’s bakery in St Kilda is sliced in half, then pastrami (from a local butcher), Austrian cheese, fresh tomato, cucumber, finely sliced basil, mayonnaise (made in-house every day), lettuce and avocado are all piled inside. People cross suburbs for this roll.
Spitfire Souva at Spitfire – $14
Spitfire’s souva range has developed a loyal following throughout Brunswick and beyond. There’s the Colonel, filled with hunks of fried eggplant dressed in chipotle mayo and tomatillo salsa; then there’s Dolly, with slow-roasted lamb, chips and onion on a kiwi-onion-dip base. Best of all is The God Feather – roasted chook, chips, ladles of gravy, dollops of oozing cheese, all showered with chopped chives. All souvas come wrapped in made-to-order flatbread. And on Fridays and Saturdays, they’re available until 2am.
Pączki – Polish doughnuts filled with custard or plum jam at Ovens Street Bakery – $4
They may not have the same thick, cracked glaze as Babcia’s (grandma’s) pączki (pronounced pon-shkee), and they’re a hell of a lot lighter, but if you like covering your cheeks in sugar, a pączek from Ovens Street Bakery is one of Brunswick’s best breakfasts.
The vanilla-bean custard is thick but slurpable, and requires a double-handed grip and napkins on hand. The plum jam (the traditional Polish filling) is tart enough to make your mouth water, but balanced by the confidently browned exterior of the fried dough. Wash it all down with a filter coffee, which waits outside in a self-serve urn for a gold-coin donation.
Bun bo xiao (vermicelli-noodle salad with lemongrass beef and mint) at Green Field – $8
We all know pho, but bun is another dish you should be acquainted with if you fancy a Vietnamese feed. Nothing to do with bread, Vietnamese bun is a dish of vermicelli noodles served with salad, mint and nuoc cham (a sour-and-spicy dipping sauce). It’s fresh, vibrant and a satisfying alternative when you’re not in a soup mood.
Wonton soup with noodles at Kao Thai – $9.90
You can’t beat wontons for a comforting and filling lunch. On a bone-chilling day, treat yourself to a bowl of steaming chicken soup surrounding a mop of egg noodles, shrimp and pork dumplings. Your stomach will thank you.
Spinach and cheese pastry at A1 Bakery – $4.50
A1 is a neighbourhood institution serving Lebanese bread and pastries baked onsite daily. Four bucks apiece, the pillowy Turkish breads stuffed with spinach and ricotta are baked to perfection to make for an easy grab-and-go lunch. You’ll even have some change from a tenner to get a second pastry – the shanklish pie is a winner, or even a baklava.
Salad at The Green Refectory – $8.50 small, $10.50 large
Stepping into The Green Refectory you’ll find an array of sweet and savoury snacks in the display cabinet. The salad bar here offers at least six options daily, from hearty choices like ricotta pasta and sweet-potato couscous to lighter roasted vegetables, lentil salads, and caprese. A healthy, colourful mix-and-match plate of three salads will keep you full for the whole afternoon.
Filled baguette at Acústico – $9, $8 for students
Nothing beats a hearty sandwich for a satisfying yet very cheap meal. The baguette menu at this down-to-earth, eco-friendly Central American joint varies weekly, but there are usually three options to choose from. On a sunny day, the outdoor curb-side seating under the big tree is a perfect spot to unwind with a cup of Espresso Syndicate after lunch.
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on August 6, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.