best budget restaurants and cafes

Where To Find The Best Budget Restaurants And Cafes In Melbourne?

Melbourne owes its vibrant, delectable, and even colourful dining scene to the ethnic diversity that calls it home. Migrant populations worldwide bring their culinary culture and cooking pots permeating the air with fragrant spices and delicious aromas. 

What’s more, they serve generous portions at even more generous rates. Soon they become a byword for good food at low prices, yet another success story attains legendary status.

Are your fine dining tastes starting to take their toll on your savings? Never fear. Savvy Melburnians know that some of the best eats in this city are also the cheapest (and most cheerful). Whether juicy handmade dumplings or piping hot oven-roasted pizzas, these are the best cheap eats in Melbourne, serving up delicious food that won’t break the bank.

Here are a few of these legends serving cheap eats in Melbourne. Just in case you didn’t get it right, cheap does not translate to greasy, unhygienic, dodgy food slapped down on some plastic utensil. It just means non-pretentious good food cooked with love and served with pride yet costing anywhere between $15-20.

Top 20 Budget Restaurants And Cafes In Melbourne

Melbourne is a city where you can eat well, for really cheap providing you know the right places. So here we go, some of the best cheap eat Melbourne has.

Miznon

Miznon is about fifty shades of pita and a culinary imagination running wild. Ancient flavours from Israel have found their way to Melbourne via Tel Aviv, Paris, Vienna, and New York. 

The founder, Eyal Shani, is a judge on Israel’s MasterChef when he’s not juggling twelve restaurant kitchens. All that and not one dish over $20 in Miznon Melbourne, and that’s what makes this chef the master of his craft. 

Their grass-fed wagyu and roots stew pita with tahini, onion, and pickles are priced at $18; you get the idea.

  • Website: Miznon
  • Opening hours: 12nn to 10 pm (Mon to Sat)
  • Address: 59 Hardware Lane, Melbourne, Australia, VIC 3000

Moroccan Soup Bar

The colourful ambience of MSB lights up the Fitzroy social scene and is an appetiser in itself. This is a vegetarian diner, but you honestly don’t miss the meat as the flavours rule. They have a bustling takeaway section as well as catering if that’s what you’re after. The perennial favourite Harrira soup is available all day for $6 and a sumptuous dinner banquet for $19.50. 

If you bring your containers, your takeaway prices are even lower. They have vegan and dairy-free options on their menu. MSB is a lovely down-to-earth, socially-conscious enterprise that makes you want to return and not just for the low price.

  • Website: Moroccan Soup Bar
  • Opening hours: 6 pm to 9.30 pm (Tues to Sat), 6 pm to 9 pm (Sun)
  • Location: 183 St George Road, Fitzroy North, Australia

Very Good Falafel

They say it like it is and could add ‘at very good prices and still be legit. By sheer dint of flavours and hard work, they worked their way up from farmers’ markets to their café on busy Sydney Rd. 

They will not reveal their secret, but there’s no denying the magic of their golden falafels that have become the talk of the town. Their Ktzizot, which translates to lamb meatballs, remains unrivalled both in taste and price and yet manages a place on the list of cheap eats in Melbourne.

  • Website: Very Good Falafel
  • Opening hours: 11 am to 10 pm (Mon to Sat)
  • Location: 629 Sydney Road, Brunswick, VIC, Australia

Butchers Diner

Butchers Diner is a classic eatery serving 24-hour burgers in Melbourne. It’s the perfect answer to the question, where to eat in Melbourne CBD? It remains open all hours, serving a variety of yummy options, from grilled cheese toasties at $7.50 to steak sandwiches at $16.50. 

Just because it fits easily under cheap eats in Melbourne does not mean you can’t eat healthily; you only pay $10.50 for organic chicken with mayo and celery and $18.50 for the creole salmon cutlet. 

Side dishes range from steamed beef and pork dim sims for a couple of dollars to warm organic potato salad with parsley and olive oil for $7.50. As you can see, it is tasty, healthy, filling, and great value for money.

  • Website: Butchers Diner
  • Opening hours: Open 24 hours
  • Location: 10 Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia

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Ippudo

Take ramen dining to another level with the Ippudo experience. The internationally renowned Japanese ramen connoisseur offers amazing starters like Ippudo Teba Kara, three pieces of which cost $8, the same as Japanese Yam fries. 

A plate of Beef Sagari Yaki, which is tender Angus beef with fried enoki, costs $17.50. The healthy fare in the form of salads with ingredients like enoki mushroom, kale, cucumber, sesame, salmon slices, seaweed etc., comes with miso, citrus oil, or poke dressing and costs from $9 to $12.50. 

They also have dessert for $10 to $11 made of fresh mango, matcha-infused cheese, kokutou almonds and other fancy ingredients.

  • Website: Ippudo
  • Opening hours: 11 am to 9.30 pm (Sun to Thurs), 11 am to 10.30 pm (Fri to Sat)
  • Location: Shop 18, QV Shopping Centre, 300 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC 3000

Hi Chong Qing

Where there’s a student body, there’s a cheap eats solution in the immediate vicinity. Hi CQ Café and Noodle Bar at RMIT is the perfect illustration of this pearl of wisdom. They serve delicious and heart-warming Chinese noodle soup in various combinations for just over ten dollars, while their spicy beef noodles go for $13.80 a bowl. 

Additional toppings such as fried egg, tofu or more meat or noodles cost you another two dollars. Served in ornate bowls that belie the low price, you’ll be forgiven if you forget you’re dining at one of the cheap restaurants in Melbourne for students.

  • Website: Hi Chong Qing
  • Opening hours: 10 am to 9 pm (Mon to Fri), 12nn to 9 pm (Sat)
  • Location: 26 Orr Street, Carlton, VIC 3053

Don Don

No one uses space and time as the Japanese. Don Don is proof you don’t need an elaborate set-up to enjoy good food and that you don’t need to wait 30-40 minutes for a delicious meal to reach you steaming with goodness. It’s simple; a counter with you on one side and a limited variety of donburi on the other. 

They make it easy for you to choose, no lingering or twitching as you struggle to make up your mind, especially with a long queue waiting like a hungry dragon behind you. They have chicken on rice, curry don, sukiyaki don and a few more. 

Just pick one. You have to be exceptionally lucky or quick-witted to find seating; if not, you have the lawns of the State Library at your disposal. This is one of the best and cheap restaurants in Melbourne for students, but since you don’t have to produce a student card, you’re in.

  • Facebook: Don Don
  • Opening hours: 11 am to 9 pm (Sun to Sat)
  • Location: 198 Swanston Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia

Soi 38

Soi 38 brings Thai street food to Melbourne without losing any of its flavours or cultural gravitas. And so, you have boat noodles with beef or pork, the perennial favourite tom yum with pork or prawn, or braised duck soup to which is added your choice of noodles. You get to choose from about six different types of noodles. 

You also get to choose whether you want it as soup or dry or even half soup. You tick all the right boxes in your order form and pay $10 or upgrade to a $15 bowl if you’re exceptionally hungry.

  • Website: Soi 38
  • Opening hours: 11.30 am to 4 pm (Mon to Sat)
  • Location: 38 McIlwraith Place, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia

Delhi Streets

Indian street food at its best prepared and served in Melbourne as it would be in the streets of Delhi. Whether you want a full meal or just a bite, their menu is meant to please. You’ll be spoilt for choice because they all seem delicious and perfectly priced well below $20 at about an average of $15 per dish. 

You can get two pieces of tandoori chicken drumsticks marinated in yoghurt and spices for $9 and a mixed grill of kebab, tikka, and chicken for $14. They also have signature dishes like biryani, dosa, thali, and wraps and pizzas, all for about $15 to $18 per dish.

  • Website: Delhi Streets
  • Opening hours: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 5.30pm to 9.30pm (Mon to Fri), 5.30pm to 9.30pm (Sat)
  • Location: 22 Katherine Place, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia

Hunky Dory

Generous servings of seafood leave you feeling quite satisfied with proceedings, and the good feeling continues as you see nothing costs over $20. You can see they know their seafood and how to get the best flavours out of it. 

Not surprising since they hail from a family of Greek fishermen who hasn’t lost their touch. You get new serves of grilled barramundi, whiting, flake, or salmon in exotic marinades and sauces with sides of Greek salad, chips, brown rice or spinach salad to make a highly satisfying meal. 

They also have burgers and wraps, fried packs, grilled packs infused with flavours worldwide.

  • Website: Hunky Dory
  • Opening hours: 7 days a week, 11 am till late
  • Location: 670 Chapel Street, South Yarra, VIC, Australia

Corner & Bench

Yes, they do have a few cosy corners that give you a tucked-away feeling if it’s your I-hate-the-world kind of day. Their range of toasted sandwiches, omelettes, focaccia, pancakes, and excellent coffees will, however, soon set you straight and on your way. 

They have lunch options that include generous servings of chicken cooked in different ways, delicious stew, and burrito bowls, to name a few. You’re quickly seated with menus in hand, and food arrives with minimal fuss as soon as you have placed your order. 

If you feel pushed for time, you can order from what’s on display under the counter. They have generous portions that give great value to your dollar.

  • Facebook: Corner & Bench
  • Opening hours: 7.30 am to 3.45 pm (Mon to Fri), 9 am to 2 pm (Sat)
  • Location: 406 Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia.

Hardware Street Café

Their signature dish is soft shell crab on Belgian waffles with sweet chilli mayo for $21.90. You can tell there is a melange of influences, possibly French, Swiss, with a touch of Asian. They have vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options and all fall comfortably within the $10 to $20 range. 

The truffle and mushroom with a poached egg on sourdough bread are seasonal and priced precipitously close to $20. The Canadian Boy is reasonable at $14.90 and comes with a hot Belgian waffle, bacon, maple syrup and fig jam. They do have a way with Belgian waffles, and they come with quite a range of toppings from Nutella to blueberry.

  • Website: Hardware Street Café
  • Opening hours: 7.30 am to 5 pm (Mon to Fri), 8.30 am to 5 pm (Sat to Sun)
  • Location: 119 Hardware Streets, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia

Rice Paper

Enjoy Vietnamese speciality food at prices that whet your appetite. Have you had soft shell crab thick broth noodle soup for $16? What’s more, you can eat the shell as well as it is marinated in a rich seasoning that makes it edible before it is battered and deep-fried. The all-time favourite crispy skin chicken is just $10. 

Then there is the stir fry served with rice or noodle dishes, all about $16 per dish. Their signature rice paper rolls come with BBQ chicken, prawn, lemongrass pork, avocado, all in very imaginative combinations and for less than $4 apiece.

  • Facebook: Rice Paper
  • Opening hours: 10 am to 10 pm (Sun to Thu), 10 am to 11 pm (Fri to Sat)
  • Location: 245 Swanston Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia

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Shanghai Street

If you’re looking for good cheap food in Melbourne, you can’t go past Shanghai Street. Apparently, the dumplings here are to die for. And so, the longest queue in the world still does not deter customers from getting their dumplings and other favourites. 

But the helpful staff make every effort to get you started by coming out to the queue to get your order even before you’ve put a foot inside the establishment. In terms of seating and ambience, you really can’t be all that fussed but the food when it arrives will surely take your mind off such inanities. 

They serve pork buns, steamed buns, rice dishes, stir-fried meat and veggies, fried chicken and more and all within $15 to $20 if not lesser.

  • Opening hours: 11.30 am to 3 pm (Sat to Sun), 4.30 pm to 9 pm (Fri),
  • 4.30 pm to 8.30 pm (Sat to Thu)
  • Location: 342 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia

Roule Galette

Traditional French Creperie is tucked away in Flinders Lane, looking like it didn’t want to be found. But the popular cafe is an open secret among its increasing clientele and with good reason. They serve a variety of crepes and galettes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and of course, take away, and you can have a hearty serving for less than $20. 

There’s the added attraction of hearing French spoken as you sip your Orangina, excellent cup of coffee or French cider. Somehow your order sounds fancier when it is repeated in French. They also have vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. There is a small outdoor seating area which adds to the charm.

  • Website: Roule Galette
  • Opening hours: Mon to Thurs: 7.30am – 8pm; Sun: 9am – 5pm; Fri: 7.30am – 9.30pm; Sat: 9am – 8pm.
  • Location: Scott Alley, 241 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia

Peko Peko

Peko Peko is a Taiwanese restaurant serving an incredible variety of food from starters to dessert, all within $20 and generous portions. Perhaps, for this reason, it can be hard to get a foot in during peak dining hours and can be quite noisy with excited chatter that good food can often generate. 

They serve meat and seafood dishes in various sauces and flavours and soups, rice, and noodle options. It would be a good idea to check spice levels when placing your order if you’re sensitive to high levels. Or you can dig into some delicious dessert.

  • Facebook: Peko Peko
  • Opening hours: Mon to Sat: 12 pm – 4 pm and 5 pm – 9 pm.
  • Location: 190 Wells Street, Southbank, Melbourne, VIC 3205, Australia

Purple Peanuts Japanese Café

Japanese cuisine with an edgy twist that makes curry come alive and is great value for money. From usuals such as miso soup and sushi rolls, the menu goes on and gets exciting with items like grilled chicken curry rice, salmon sashimi rice, chicken soba and more. 

Main dishes are around $15 or so and can get even cheaper later on in the day. The seating is limited, and you sit where you can. Things move around quickly here, so there’s not a long wait for your food to arrive.

  • Facebook: Purple Peanuts Japanese Café
  • Opening hours: 10 am to 8.30 pm (Mon to Sat)
  • Location: 620 Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia

Crossways

All you can eat Indian vegetarian at unbelievably low prices. They have a cheap set menu for every day of the week with the main rice dish accompanied by vegetable preparation made of lentils, chickpeas, red kidney bean, pumpkin, or spinach. 

If you like pappadums, you’ll be pleased to know they accompany every meal. Exotic desserts made of pineapple, carrots, dates, apple crumble, almond toffee are part of the set menu. You also get to pick a drink. All this and warm, friendly service for below $10.

  • Website: Crossways
  • Opening hours: 11.30 am to 8 pm (Mon to Sat)
  • Location: Level 1&2, 123 Swanston Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000

Batch

A great place to have a hearty breakfast on a weekend or a quick bite on your way to work. They have homemade scones, cakes, and sausage rolls on display if you’re really in a hurry.  

The servings are generous, taste delicious, and offer great value for money. On top of great breakfast options, they have soups, chicken mains, and other great ideas for a lazy brunch or workday lunch. Their homemade sauces and relish take your dining experience up a couple of notches. The place can get a bit busy over weekdays.

  • Facebook: Batch
  • Opening hours: 6.30 am to 4.30 pm (Mon to Fri), 7 am to 5 pm (Sat to Sun)
  • Location: 1/320 Carlisle Street, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Jimmy Grants

Greek street food is one of the cuisines to try in Melbourne. At Jimmy Grants, you get the real deal and a wide range at that. Have souvlaki with mustard sauce and crusty chips wrapped inside along with the usual suspects. 

The souls, as they call it, cost anywhere between $10 and $16.50, or you can have it all in a bowl for $14.90 to $17.90. Salads and sweets complete the meal, and you’re still in good shape, wallet-wise.

  • Website: Jimmy Grants
  • Opening hours: 11 am to 10 pm (Mon to Thur & Sun), 11 am to 11 pm (Fri to Sat)
  • Location: 113 St. David Street, Fitzroy, VIC 3065, Australia

FAQs About Melbourne Restaurants & Cafes

There's almost no way around it—eating out will almost always cost more than cooking a meal at home. While the average cost of eating out varies dramatically depending on the restaurant you go to, most restaurants charge about a 300% mark-up on the items they serve.

For people who like to cook, that's like saying, “New Study Says Earth is Flat.” Cooking at home has to be cheaper than eating out, always, and by a wide margin. The cost of several restaurant meals versus cooking at home was around $17.99 at the restaurant and $20.52 at home.

Average Monthly Food Expenditure 

The lowest average cost of groceries per month for 2 in April 2021 was $387.00. This amount applies to families with a thrifty spending plan whose members are aged 51-70. If the family has two members aged 19-50, the cheapest food expenses are a bit over $400.

The 50/30/20 rule is an easy budgeting method that can help you manage your money effectively and sustainably. The basic rule of thumb is to divide your monthly after-tax income into three spending categories: 50% for needs, 30% for wants and 20% for savings or paying off debt.

Following the 70/20/10 rule of budgeting, you separate your take-home pay into three buckets based on a specific percentage. Seventy per cent of your income will go to monthly bills and everyday spending, 20% goes to saving and investing, and 10% goes to debt repayment or donation.

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