In an ideal world the week would be one continuous crawl of award-winning restaurants. Mondays would start uptown and wind through the inner west, landing in the beaches come Sunday lunch. But in reality we’re much more sensible, especially before payday. Put down the can of tuna and hit one of these places instead.

Southern fried chicken at Hub House Diner – $6.50
Dulwich Hill’s buzzy burger-and-fried-chicken diner has opened a smaller outpost at Broadway with prices to please the surrounding uni-student contingent. A couple of Southern-style drumsticks or breast fillets will set you back $6.50. Sides such as Pimp Fries (truffle oil and manchego) and red slaw are extra. Its burgers also sit around the $10 mark.

Barbeque Pork Roll (Bánh Mì Nem Nướng) at Marrickville Pork Roll – $5.50
In a suburb with no shortage of bánh mì, this one stands out for one reason: generosity. Lashings of housemade pork pâté give it plenty of flavour and ensures it’s not dry. This place is just as heavy-handed with the coriander and pickled daikon, but trust us, it’s a good thing.

Plain Za’atar Manoush at Du Liban –, $3.50
Meaning “from Lebanon” in French, du Liban’s original Marrickville outlet (it now has three more) has plenty of Middle Eastern favourites, pizzas and pies, but it’s the manoush that has locals queueing up at lunchtime. These unleavened Lebanese flatbreads are baked in-house before they’re topped with a range of ingredients. It’s hard to go past the Plain Za’atar: oregano, sumac, toasted sesame seeds and olive oil. If you want to beef it up, do so with the creamy house-made labneh.

Cheeseburger at Jack’s Newtown – $10
A sharp menu featuring just a cheeseburger, a bacon cheeseburger and a vego burger shouldn’t deter you; Jack’s proves less is more. Working with Anthony Puharich of Vic’s Meats to perfect its 80:20 meat-to-fat ratio gives these patties their edge. The molten cheese, spongy milk buns and tangy sauce has these burgers being compared with those of US cult burger chain Shake Shack. On the weekend there are the queues to match. Go all out with a serve of crinkle-cut fries and a frozen custard shake.

Lamb shank and red wine pie at Black Star Pastry –, $8
Five hours of braising gives Black Star’s shank filling its richness, which is only heightened by the buttery shell – the pastry is so short it threatens to shatter on first bite. Generous in size and ingredients, this pie is as hearty as a pub version, but you’ll find room to chase it with a Ginger Ninja.

Xiao Long Bao at Taste of Shanghai Ashfield – $9.72
A piping hot, pork-flavoured soup encased in a silky, twisted-top case – these Shanghai-style dumplings are incredibly addictive. While you generally have to queue up for a table, it’s not nearly as long a wait here as at other spots on the strip. The first Taste of Shanghai opened in Ashfield in 2005, but there are now three more in the stable. Members pay the uneven sum of $9.72 for a boat of xiao long bao and it’s around $1 more for regular punters.

Portuguese chicken burger at Frango’s Charcoal Chicken – $5.50
The butterflied charcoal chook is good and the service is brisk, but the Portuguese-style chicken burgers are the big drawcard here. A decent smear of S&W whole-egg mayo and Frango’s signature lemony, garlicky chilli sauce on thin, crumbed chicken pieces, sandwiched between two old school buns, seal the deal.
8 New Canterbury Road, Petersham

Kimchi dumplings at The Mandoo – five for $10
Mandoo, or Korean dumplings, are a rising star of the Korean food world in Sydney. They’re burlier than traditional dumplings and filled with a variety of ingredients, such as the house-made kimchi version with minced pork, tart kimchi and sweet-potato noodles. The Mandoo’s take on the fermented Korean cabbage staple isn’t as sharp as the traditional version, but has plenty of punch to keep you going back for more.
12A The Boulevarde, Strathfield

Lamb yeeros at The Yeeros Shop – $9.90
When it opened its doors in 1976, this Greek fast-food joint was one of the first yeeros vendors in Sydney. Little has changed since then; chips and potato scallops are still hand-cut and food continues to come out wrapped in butcher’s paper. Inside the modest shopfront you’ll likely see a congregation of Greek men speaking loudly over their meals, which, if it’s lamb yeeros, will yield smoky, meaty scents.
431 Illawarra Road, Marrickville

Bowen’s bacon-and-egg roll at Orange Grove Markets – $7
Traditionally breakfast fare, this bacon-and-egg roll is brawny enough for a lunch meal. Just follow your nose when you get to the Orange Grove Primary School grounds on any given Saturday until you hit the unmissable queue – it moves quickly thanks to keeping its offering simple: crisp, wafer-thin rashers of bacon and a fried free-range egg on a gimmick-free white bun. DIY sauce if you wish, but the perfectly runny yolk is usually sauce enough.
Corner of Balmain Roadd & Perry Street, Lilyfield