The CBD can be a little daunting when it comes to looking for great, wallet-friendly snacks. Sure there are plenty of top end places if you’re looking to impress on your lunch break. But if you’re after a good meal that won’t leave you subsisting on canned baked beans until payday, where do you go? Don’t worry, we’ve had a good look around in the beating heart of the CBD and sussed out the top 10 best eats for lunch under $10, and we found that there are plenty of places hidden here and there that’ll serve up the best and still leave you with change – even in the concrete jungle.
1. Canario Roast Pork Bocadillo at Encasa Deli – $10
135 Bathurst Street, Sydney
If you’re looking for authentic Spanish fare, this is the go-to deli, food store and café in the CBD. The bocadillos (Spanish-style sandwiches) are served hot and made with fluffy, freshly baked baguettes. Fillings cover chorizo or calamari, but the roast pork leg with queso fresco and roast capsicum is an inner city secret. The boquerones (white anchovy) bocadillo for $10 isn’t bad either – and you can pick up your Spanish pantry staples while you’re there or peruse the deli cabinet for jamon and olives.
2. Vegetable and Pork Wontons in Tangy Sauce at Din Tai Fung World Square – $9.80
DTF might be known for its dumplings and steamed golden lava buns, but another great secret is their bowls of veg and pork wontons. Take the steps up a level at World Shopping Centre on George Street, grab a seat under the giant swaying lanterns inside or find a spot outside in the sun (it’s quieter at lunchtime than at dinner), so you won’t feel rushed as you slurp the tangy sauce that these sweet little beauties are swimming in.
3. Roti Canai or Roti Telur Bawang at Mamak – $5.50 or $7
These guys have garnered quite the reputation for that perfect combination of fluffy and crunchy textures that makes for a great roti. If you’re not keen to queue for their specialty, then lunchtimes are great. It’s still a wonder that their signature dishes come in well under the $10 mark. All the roti come with two fragrant curry dips and super spicy sambal. Original canai is always a favourite, but telur bawang adds an onion and egg-laced edge to it all. And you can see the roti being kneaded and stretched in the front window with a skill that takes your breath away.
A whole bunch of the excellent noodle dishes come in around the $10 mark at this classy little outlet of the Chat Thai empire (also in Westfield CBD, The Galeries, Manly and Randwick). But it’s the sour-sweet green papaya som dtum that gets our vote. You can pick your level of spiciness; it’s crunchy, piquant and fresh; and there’s nothing quite like a Thai-style salad to get you through a hump-day lunch.
5. Salami Parlour Sandwich at Parlour Lane Roasters – $9
With chef and restaurateur Robert Marchetti behind the tight menu at Parlour Lane Roasters, it’s no wonder that his own brand of small goods feature on the menu. The pizza focaccias and Parlour Sandwiches all come in at the $9 mark, but the salami baguette steals our heart every time. Cacciatore, Enzo, Raclette cheese and chilli sauce? Sounds good to us. Plus you get to eat it in the cheeky, arty surrounds if the arcade right next to the QT Hotel entrance – which takes its theatrical cue from the State Theatre.
It’s not much to look at from the outside, but come lunchtime this takeaway joint is bursting at the seams. There are long lines for soup noodles, fried noodles and sweet and sour pork and rice. Staunch fans come back time and again for the deeps bowls of spicy chicken laksa swimming in chilli oil and rich with creamy coconut milk, or heaped plates of Hainan poached chicken fragrant with ginger and spices and served on a bed of fluffy rice flavoured with chicken stock. Sure the tables can be a bit sticky, but it’s busy for a reason.
Wrapped with flaky golden pastry, baked fresh daily and filled with sweet pork or spiced lamb, these sausage rolls are as big as you fist and hugely popular with CBD fans. You can eat in at the tiny Erskine Street store or grab a bunch of bakery goods to go. The best part is that you can get both of these legendary sausage rolls and still get change from a tenner. Now that’s a filling proposition.
The gimmick here is that you can shop for your tailored goods at the same time that you sip a cocktail, all in elegant small bar-style surrounds. What you might not know is that these guys do a neat range of sophisticated sandwiches too until 2pm. These aren’t your sandwich bar affairs. Rather, they’re sandwiches for grown-ups and include fillings like roast eggplant, labne and za’atar. But we fell for the pastrami, beet and washed rind version for the tang of the cheese. Plus, if lunch rolls on, you can stay for after-work drinks.
9. Polenta Rounds Stuffed with Cheese and Silverbeet, or Steamed Vegetables in Garlic and Chili Butter at York Lane Bar – $10 or $7
Both these dishes have got the vegetarians covered. And both are winners when the cooler weather sets in. There’s a cabinet of rolls and sandwiches that come under the $10 bar as well, but sometimes there’s nothing better than a cooked meal, and silverbeet and cheese were made to be together. Add polenta and you’ve got the makings of the perfect bite. This is comfort food, pure and simple, and it nurtures you like a hug from the dusty, unsuspecting depths of York Lane.
10. Smoked Salmon Pretzel at Palomino Espresso – $8
The Reuben (with homemade gherkins and Swiss cheese) also gets a shout-out here. But slices of smoked salmon on a dense, homemade pretzel is a bargain that screams: “Why would you order anything else?” These guys change it up regularly though and you might find anything from a detox salad to those pretzels stuffed with other goodies that still come in under the $10 limit. And if you can grab a seat in the cosy white, orange and timber surrounds then you’ll be laughing. And another thing – the brown sugar and cinnamon brioche is worth stretch the budget to have for dessert.