These culinary secrets of Sydney’s outer west are easily unlocked with a train ticket and a pocketful of spare change. Each snack is conveniently situated within walking distance to one of the line’s stations: take this guide and hop on board.
Scuttle up an almost-hidden set of stairs and enter one of the first (and last) traditional Italian joints in Sydney’s inner east. The decor is basic and has been left untouched since the venue was established in the 1960s, when it sat atop an old pinball cafe. Plates of hot pasta and schnitzels are churned out without a shred of fanfare. Once seated, a free loaf of white bread in a woodchip bowl, and a salad of crisp cos lettuce drenched in vinegar will skid to a halt on your table. If that’s not enough while you wait for your order, keep yourself occupied with free refills of orange cordial. The tried-and-true favourite is the split plate of spaghetti bolognaise and schnitzel. Why have one when you can have both?
2 Chapel Street, Darlinghurst
A hole in the wall with a trail of locals snaking out the door daily. Bun King is an institution. It delivers its namesake pork buns (as big as your outstretched hand), for a mere $1.60. Steamed in a tower of bamboo behind the counter, of which each level holds a different flavour (chicken, vegetables and mushroom and red bean), your parcel is delivered in a plastic bag to be eaten right then and there in Campsie’s street mall.
U5/2–6 Anglo Road, Campsie
Dong Hae Sushi
On the corner of bustling Beamish Street is one of Sydney’s most understated and authentic sushi bars. A complimentary Japanese salad tossed in sesame sauce is served straight away, and if you manage to secure a spot at the bar in front of the sashimi chefs, order the salmon, which melts like butter on your tongue. The highlight of the Dong Hae experience is undoubtedly the takoyaki (fried octopus balls). These crisp little balls topped with shallots, Kewpi mayo and special takoyaki sauce are exceptional and only $7.
5/199 Beamish Street, Campsie
The only thing better than the thickly frescoed walls of this cathedral-like eatery is the food. Squeeze past tables of chattering local families to a table of black marble. Then gaze at the luminescent fridge of savoury yoghurt near the counter. A plate of pickled chillies, tomato, fresh mint and garlic sauce comes free with the mixed plate; the fluffy garlic sauce is the type you want to sit and eat with a spoon. The felafel is great on its own, or dipped into Jasmine’s creamy, zesty hummus. The mixed plate is a great place to start, featuring all the classics: chicken shish kebab, lamb kofta, tabouli, baba ghanoush, hummus, felafel and kibbeh.
30B Haldon Street, North Lakemba
A charming, traditional, Lebanese sweet shop welcomes you with a glass-case arrangement that itself is a truly sweet experience. Trays line the counter, proudly sporting pyramids of flaked, baked pastries that you can pick and mix and pay for according to weight. Try toasted coconut semolina cakes or gleaming diamonds of baklava. The neat takeaway package with printed motifs on waxed paper may ward off greedy hands until you get home. Although that’s not guaranteed.
129 Haldon Street, Lakemba
Many have attempted the tough task of finding perfectly cooked charcoal chicken. The answer has been found. Disembark the train and follow your nose (literally) to a Mecca of “the quarter chicken, chips and Coke”. Or forget the chips and go straight for a whole chook with El Jannah’s famous garlic sauce, which will only set you back $11. Eat in and receive a complementary side of Lebanese bread and pickles. If a little freshness is needed, the fattoush salad offers a fresh and sweet zesty punch to The Bowl.
701 Punchbowl Road, Punchbowl
Viet Hoa Hot Bread
Here, large portions of various innards are stuffed inside the mouth of a no-frills bun. Viet Hoa’s bânh mì ingredients include fresh chicken-liver paté, barbequed pork, Vietnamese Devon and “normal” pork (don’t ask, just eat). With pickled carrot and radish to add zing to the starches, creamy mayo, coriander, fresh chilli and drizzled-in warm salted sauces, this baguette will fill you right up for only $2.80.
48 Hill Street, Cabramatta