Best Cheap Eats in Melbourne

Updated 2 months ago


Put down the instant ramen. Melbourne might be one of the most expensive cities in the world, but if you know where to look, affordable lunches and dinners are everywhere.

Here, we’ve gathered our savvy specials and cheap favourites to help make your dollars go that bit further. This guide counts diners with dishes under the $15 mark; all-you-can-eat joints that offer bang for your buck; and weekday specials that promise a meal and a drink for around $20.Take your pick from gözleme, ramen, pot and parma nights and more.

  • Let the good times roll with $9 puttanesca and napolitana pastas. There’s also a ratatouille with grilled zucchini, gold capsicum, squash and spiced cannellini beans for the same price. Feel like a drink? Negronis and wines carafes are also $9.

  • At this home-style Sri Lankan buffet, $23 buys your ticket to a feast of meat and veggie curries, rice, sambol – you name it. On the weekends it’s just $25, with unlimited hoppers for $5 extra. And by day, there’s $10 takeaway meals.

  • Bangkok-style Thai fare for a steal. By that, we mean $15 papaya salads, grilled pork skewers and punchy noodle salads. Plus, plenty of aromatic soups, deep-fried dishes and natural wine.

  • There’s far lot more on offer than what’s in the name, but it’s hard to go past the falafel pita pockets. You can get one for a keenly priced $14. It comes with hummus, pickled cabbage, Israeli salad, sumac pickled onion, pickles and tahini.

  • A good burger isn’t hard to find these days. A cheap, well-made one? That’s a different story. But Butchers Diner has you covered with a $12 hamburger that’s among the city’s best. And it’s available until late.

  • A South Asian eatery and specialty supermarket where you can buy dinner for around $10. The bain-maries might be filled with anything from a creamy eggplant masala to bright-red chicken tikka, and your choices come with an enormous plate of rice. Cheap roti, samosas and lassi are also on the menu.

  • Another all-you-can-eat Sri Lankan feast. You’ll find 15 or so dishes from all over the country, including yellow-lentil curry, spiced potatoes, fried soybeans, hot buttered fish with peppers and more.

  • The $20 lunch special here is available every weekday – and it’s nigh unbeatable. Choose a schnitzel, parma, pie or burger and receive a schooner of beer on the house. Plus, a cracking rooftop view for the win.

  • Somehow, this colourful spot still manages to pump out $5 pizzas all day, every day. This isn’t true-to-form Italian stuff – but it is fun, filling and exactly what you’ll want to eat after a few of those fresh cocktails.

  • A $15 brisket and short-rib cheeseburger so good, it’s a wonder why this retro ’70s den doesn’t jack up the price. Throw in some cheesy poutine for the win.

  • Thank goodness for Goz City. After all these years, it’s still serving satisfying gozlemes for $14 a piece. Also, pide for $8 and a stellar ricotta, feta and herb borek finger for just $5.

  • A cool $11.50 at this family-run Lebanese bakery will net you the A1 special: a za’atar pizza base with tomato, onion, black olives, capsicum, beef sujuk, spinach, Danish feta and haloumi. And many more items on the menu (including the crowd-favourite cheese pies) are less than $10. Also in Fitzroy and Fairfield.

  • From Tuesday to Friday, you can grab a hearty lunch at this Brunswick Street boozer for just $15. There’s a satay chicken wrap, a meatball sub and a schnitzel burger (all come with fries), plus a classic Rueben sanga with a side of crisps. While veg lovers can lean into the Greek salad with house-made falafel.

  • Tucked away inside an arcade, this tiny Chinese restaurant is all about affordable noodles and dumplings made fresh daily. Many dishes sit around the $15 mark.

  • Why stop at Taco Tuesday when you can also do Burrito Thursday ($12) and Margarita Friday ($12)? If Tuesday is the day you decide to hit this colourful cantina, all tacos are half-price. And you can snag that same deal at its CBD rooftop cantina on Wednesdays.

  • This lovingly restored boozer runs specials every day of the week. But the pick of the lot is the $24 pot and parma deal on Wednesdays, featuring a 300-gram chicken breast that’s brined, crumbed and fried until crisp, then topped with a braised tomato sugo, three cheeses and Virginia ham.

  • Little Ramen Bar has some solid renditions of ramen’s greatest hits: tonkotsu, miso, shoyu and tantanmen. Order a soul-warming tonkotsu with classic toppings of chashu, spring onion, black fungus, nori and bamboo shoots for $15.90.

  • Taste true flavours of Penang without having to hop on a flight to Malaysia. The smoky, namesake dish will set you back a little over $17. But when the vegetarian version lands at just $11, there’s a strong argument for missing out on the meat.

  • The king serves laksas and rice dishes such as Hainanese chicken starting at less than $15. Many of the dishes on the menu – which spans curries, noodle soups, satay skewers and more – won’t set you back more than $20.

  • Betty’s classic burger – a weighty thing featuring an Angus beef patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and special sauce on a glossy white bun – doesn’t pull any punches on quality. And you can have it for a mere $11.90.

  • Considering it’s the only option on this list with Michelin-star cred, it’s a wonder how this Hong Kong dim sum master manages to keep a lid on its prices. Plates of glistening prawn dumplings and chicken wonton noodles? Right this way.

  • You can’t argue with a $15 bowl of pasta on a Monday night. The selection changes weekly, with a vegetarian option always available. And if you come down on a Thursday night, all burgers are $18.

  • A sibling duo are behind this snug Cambodian restaurant, and they want to help Melburnians get better acquainted with dishes from their homeland. You might kick that off with the signature Cambodian noodle soup, fried pork, or fried combination meatballs – which are reasonably priced.

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  • This family-run spot has served up reliably good pastas and desserts for decades. There’s nothing fancy here – just classic pastas starting at $22.50 a bowl, good wine in glass tumblers ($11.50 and up), and a chalkboard of hearty Italian classics.

  • Chicken, chips, gravy and salads by a former Mamasita chef. A standout is the quarter chicken with your choice of side, and hulking meat rolls that come in under $15. Forking out extra for the gravy is worth your money.

  • After 20 years in business, there are still lines out the door at this modest Egyptian canteen. Its falafels and kebabs are generously packed with ingredients meaning you can easily fill up for less than $15. The Colibaba – stacked with roasted cauliflower, family-recipe baba ghanoush and house-made falafel – is easily one of Melbourne’s best falafels.

  • Pick up one of Ray Capaldi’s famous pies to take home (or eat it on the spot). Flavours range from the classics like braised beef mince and gravy to a lasagne rendition filled with sheets of pasta, Wagyu mince and bechamel – and most come in around the $10 mark.

  • Miznon’s satisfying vegetarian pitas, which come in at $15, are all you need when the lunch hour pangs hit. The soft and fluffy white pita might come stuffed with hot chickpeas, cauliflower or falafel.

  • Fast hawker-style food in a bright canteen. This global chain started in Singapore’s famed hawker canteens and continues to churn out high quality classics like char siu, roast pork and crispy skin roast duck.

  • Healthy fish and chips on the go.

  • The tables at this bustling diner fill up fast between 6–7pm on Sundays. That’s when the happy hour runs. Order $10 curries (the eggplant is a staff favourite) and drinks specials.

  • This Greek family’s popular souva mobile found a permanent home on High Street. Here, you can create your own Greek spread of stacked souvas, crispy pita, meat skewers and Greek salads generously topped with salty feta – all served on old-school enamel plates.

  • A small Lebanese bakery with a local home delivery service.

  • Rotisserie chicken and chocolate ripple cake in a former petrol station.

  • El Jannah is the go-to for top-notch Lebanese-style charcoal chicken. Most of the menu is reasonably priced. But the quarter chicken plate – with smoky chicken, signature garlic sauce, mixed pickles and warm Lebanese pita – is the biggest steal at around $12.

  • This vegetarian north-side spot always offers bang for your buck. Find plenty of options for $15 or less like quesadillas, taquitos, tacos and elote (Mexican grilled corn). And for an extra dollar, the standout tofu asada burrito (with two types of cheese) is a solid choice.

  • At this Sri Lankan restaurant, the main drawcard is the colourful buffet with more than 20 dishes. Go for aromatic cashew curry, tender Sri Lankan tempered potatoes and mango lassi. Eat everything you can manage for $25, and add on unlimited hoppers for $3. Plus, it's BYO.

  • Despite changing hands in 2023, this classically Italian pub honours its forebearers with affordable pasta options. Three of them will set you back just $17.50, including the broken pasta, a take on the classic pasta in brodo (broth) with poached mussels and calamari.

  • Tuck into a huge bowl of its signature Lanzhou Beef Noodle Soup for $15.80. The noodles are available in nine different widths and come in a clear, consommé-like broth. Plus, there are lamb skewers, Lanzhou-style spicy lamb burgers and steamed buns for under $11. It also has spots on Elizabeth Street and in Box Hill.

  • Since 1992, this family-run Lebanese bakery has served up affordable Lebanese pies, pizzas and falafel platters in Brunswick. At its city-side outpost (which is mostly takeaway) go for spinach triangles, haloumi pies and chicken pita wraps, alongside flakey baklava and hot coffee.

  • Since 1998, Hana Assafiri’s Moroccan Soup Bar has gained a loyal following for providing comforting Middle Eastern food at extremely affordable prices. That rings true at its North Melbourne iteration – where the cult chickpea bake starts at $14, pita wraps are $15 and tangy soups are $7.50.

  • A small-scale Ethiopian restaurant with tradition securely at its heart.

  • Delicious treats abound at this long-standing Vietnamese bakery.

  • A cheery Malaysian-Chinese eatery along the Barkly Street strip.

  • Choose-your-own-pasta adventure at this fast-casual Italian spot. Pick your sauce (be it creamy carbonara or hearty ragu) and marry it with your favourite pasta shape, before adding toppings like anchovies, prawns and kalamata olives.

  • Danny’s is the second oldest burger shop in Melbourne. But it’s kept up with the times, plus you can nab one of these old-school fish’n’chipper-style burgs (and maybe a dim sim spiked with soy sauce) until late every night.

  • The lines form early (and out the door) at this no-frills deli. Its main draw is the Rocco Roll – an Italian-style sub that’s made-to-order with antipasti, cold-cuts and cheese. But the cannoli, jam donuts and coffee by Reverence are also worth the wait.

  • With only the word Green on the window – Green Refectory is a slim, spirited space where food is the hero.

  • Now-closed Bimbo Deluxe pioneered the beer-and-cheap-pizza formula. Lucky Coq replicates it just as well. Come for $5 pizzas on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 12 beers on tap.

  • Your west-side after-work beer is here, but that’s just the entry point. Come on Tuesdays for $9 pizzas and $6 sides (think loaded fries and potato croquettes) until sold out. Or on Thursdays for $10 parmas (until sold out).

  • A menu that flits between classic pub grub and Asian-inspired “beer food” are what separates this historic pub from others nearby. There’s also its standout $20 workers’ lunch and drink weekday special. So, what’ll it be – a rump steak, chicken parma, vegan cheeseburger or otherwise?

  • This compact 25-seater flips a tight menu of beef and plant-based cheeseburgers. And its classic cheeseburger – with a single beef patty, cheese, onion, pickles, 300’s secret sauce and tomato sauce – is just $13.50.

  • Saul's is the sandwich king of the south east. Taking inspiration from New York’s delis and diners, it serves fully-loaded sangas such as smoked pastrami and chicken parma. And the breaky roll is less than $13.