It can be pricey to eat out every day, especially if you are a student living in Melbourne with a limited budget for meals.
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Many kinds of cuisine will cover your meals, from brunch to dinner in Melbourne.
Put down the instant ramen. Melbourne might be one of the most expensive cities globally, but if you know where to look, affordable lunches and dinners are everywhere.
We’ve gathered our cheap favourites to help make your dollars last that bit longer. Take your pick from gözleme, bagels, gyoza, falafel and more.
Top 22 Affordable Yet Delicious Gems In Melbourne
If you're like me and find your schedule sadly does not accommodate the Melbourne Sunday Brunching Tradition (or rather your budget doesn’t), and you’re running out of excuses to tell your friends why you can’t come out and eat a $20 acai bowl – look no further.
We compiled a list of the Top best affordable restaurants in Melbourne – ones that won’t sacrifice taste for affordability. Your bank account will thank you in the future.
A cosy space hidden away at the end of an alleyway in the heart of Chinatown, Yamato Japanese is a small restaurant that serves authentic Japanese food.
Stepping into the charming little restaurant immediately transports you to an izakaya in Japan, the air filled with the smell of delicious greasy bar food and friendly Japanese waitresses taking orders in fluent English. The menu serves a wide variety, from everyone’s favourite sushi rolls to curry rice bowls and ramen.
On a cold day in Melbourne, tucking into their Shabu Shabu (A$15.80/pp) served on a hotpot is great for keeping warm in this homely restaurant.
- 28 Corrs Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
- Mon to Thur: 11.30 am – 2.30 pm, 5 pm – 10.30 pm
- Fri: 11 am – 2.30 pm, 5 pm – 10.30 pm
- Sat and Sun: 5 pm – 10.30 pm
This little café is also tucked away in an alley outside Melbourne Central shopping centre. It is a gem that many only know through word-of-mouth recommendations. Despite being located right next to the ever-crowded Swanston Street, Little Rogue provides an escape away from the city's hustle.
A popular favourite amongst its young visitors is the Matcha Latte (small for A$4.30, large for A$6) and the Iced Matcha (A$6.50), which is also available in a large takeaway bottle for enjoyment in the comfort of your own private space.
It is easy to understand why these are favourites as they are not overly sweet, which allows the fresh bitter and earthly taste of the matcha flavour to come through just right. Start your weekend right with one of their coffees and a cake pairing.
- 12 Drewery Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
- Mon to Fri: 7.30 am – 6 pm
- Sat and Sun: 9 am – 6 pm
Sushi is a popular lunch option for Melbournians looking for a quick bite. Sushi Hotaru is one of the few sushi joints in Melbourne that serve the well-loved Japanese dish on a conveyor belt.
Dishing out a wide variety of hand rolls, sashimi, sushi and nigiri, Sushi Hotaru is a favourite for its no-frills ordering system, sushi train and budget-friendly experience if you’re tired of the usual hand rolls.
- Midcity Arcade, 118/200 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
- Mon to Sun: 11.30 am to 10 pm
A great casual breakfast or lunch alternative is Brown Bagels.
Choose something sweet with a coffee for breakfast or switch it up with one of their gourmet bagel sandwiches, some of which take on a unique Korean twist.
- 25 Equitable Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
- Mon to Fri: 7.30 am – 3.30 pm
Situated right beside Brown Bagels is Dodee Padang, a casual Thai restaurant usually packed with students and workers.
Instead of sitting along the lane outside, head down the stairs to a larger seating area. Their menu offers a wide selection of food, including the usual favourites of Pad Thai with Chicken (A$10.90) and Pad See Ew with Beef (A$10.90), as well as an extensive menu of customisable noodles: from the noodle type to the spice level.
- 353 Little Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
- Mon to Sun: 6.30 am – 1 am
Cj Lunch Bar
Right along the ever-popular Hardware Lane is the simple CJ Lunch Bar, which serves value-for-money casual Korean food with generous portions, from dons to Bentos.
A favourite amongst diners is the Cheese Chicken Bulgogi (A$17.50) and comes out smoking with a heaping pile of chicken marinated in spicy Korean sauce.
- 391 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
- Mon: 11.30 m – 10 pm
- Tues to Sat: 11.30 am – 9 pm
- Sun: Closed
Near the famous Flinders Street Station is Roule Galette, a cute little French creperie concealed from the busy Flinders Lane.
Upon stepping into the creperie, you will be given the option to either sit outdoors or the cosy and homely indoors, where you will be able to observe them making crepes while singing along to French tunes. Offering sweet and savoury options, their crepes are warm and perfectly soft yet crispy.
- 237-241 Flinders Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
- Mon to Thur: 7.30 am – 8 pm
- Fri: 7.30 am – 9.30 pm
- Sat: 9 am – 8 pm
- Sun: 9 am – 5 pm
A favourite amongst Melbournians for cheap eats, Don Don, has several joints spread across the city serving quick Japanese rice bowls at great budget prices.
Choose from a Teriyaki Don (A$7.70) to Beef Curry Don (A$8). Their food is great for students seeking a quick bite to eat that isn’t greasy fast food.
Albeit the outside of this store doesn’t look like much, Don Don’s are known for their lightning speed meals and customer satisfaction. Under $10 for a Japanese style box, this restaurant is perfect for broke university students looking to break their 4-day Maccas bender.
- 198 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
- Mon to Sun: 11 am to 9 pm
Red Sparrow Pizza
Even if you aren’t a ‘save the animals’ advocate, Red Sparrow will still have your mouth watering for their all-vegan, gluten-free pizzas – sans the usual, stringy disappointment that is vegan cheese. With a pleasant ambience, reasonable prices, and top-notch service, Red Sparrow is a must for all you broke vegans out there (and non-vegans, too!).
Located in between RMIT building 80 and Melbourne University on Swanston St, Works is a popular restaurant for students and CBD workers alike. Specialising in flavoursome Thai street food well worth the price for their large servings, it’s a restaurant that will certainly provide you with the sustenance you need for that busy day ahead – without breaking the bank.
Located inside a Bourke St arcade, owners Ying Hou and Meiyan Wang serve dishes inspired by the fishing town of Yantai on the Shandong Peninsula. Although every dish is a hit, Shandong is known for its seafood (the fish dumplings need to be on your bucket list); and with the highest menu item being $17 for ten dumplings, this hidden gem doesn’t have to remain hidden for your broke self.
La Tortilleria’s authentic Mexican cuisine will put you in the mood for a siesta – and with their low prices, you can sleep without regret.
The Borek Bakehouse
Cheaper than most Melbourne coffee, The Borek Bakehouse in the CBD sells their original brews for $3.50, made fresh and available with or without yeast. Warm, cheesy bread to get you through the day or mediocre coffee? You decide.
With two stores in Footscray and Maribyrnong, this Malaysian restaurant is famous for the captivating roti-making show provided by the chef, with the quality and price of the menu almost as good as the chef’s freestyling Chinese pop.
On the corner of Swanston and Bourke St, 8bit’s interior pays homage to the 80s arcade era inside a cosy setting. Their soft bun burgers, hotdogs, and milkshakes will give you that vintage diner feels with prices before inflation hits the economy.
Kalimera Souvlaki Art
Although this restaurant isn’t found at the heart of the CBD, Kalimera Souvlaki Art is a must for those wanting both affordable and authentic Greek cuisine.
Hank in Carnegie
Only $10 for the lunch special, the Korean owned restaurant is the place to go if you’re looking for cheap, wholesome Korean food as if it was made by a Korean grandma on the streets of Seoul. If you’re looking for value for your money, Hankki in Carnegie is a must for all you broke students out there.
Pepper Lunch is the place to go if you’re feeling a little fussed over who (and how) your meal is being prepared. A hotspot for students and CBD workers alike, Pepper Lunch puts you in charge of cooking your meal, so if your food tastes a little burnt…that’s on you.
Very Good Falafel
Only $8.50 for a falafel pita, Very [very] Good Falafel in Brunswick provides you with the glorious sensation of freshly cooked pita warming your soul. Suitable for all diet types without the usual extra cost.
The Dan O’Connell Hotel
If you’re stretching your budget, the $2 bean tacos at The Dan O’Connell Hotel has got you covered. From 5.30-9.30 pm, this special includes beef tacos and mini enchiladas for $3. It is a super chill place to sit back and relax or play a game of pool post-dinner.
Five & Dime Bagel Company
Using traditional baking methods in their special bagel oven, Five & Dime are well known in Melbourne for their bagels that won’t break the budget.
Just a short walk away. Don Tojo is conveniently located on Cardigan Street – an easy location to visit for a quick meal for all Melbourne University students (especially if you don’t want to head back to the CBD during your short break). Time is money, so save yours.
Fantastic Strips In And Around Melbourne
NEED to know where to get your next gastro meal, tasty treat or delicious drink?
Wonder no more.
We’ve done the hard work for you with this quick tour of four famous eat streets in and near Melbourne.
Gertrude St, Fitzroy
Hungry? Thirsty? From fine dining to casual drinks, you’re spoiled for choice on this hip strip. Here’s a handful of the best, writes Megan Miller.
59-61 Gertrude St
FUN corner cafe is putting an Asian spin on brunch and lunch faves. Go for the baked eggs with Thai sausage, or for lunch, the pad thai noodles with chicken or tofu, roti wraps with pulled lamb shoulder or the rice paper rolls with duck or pork and prawn of which owner Mark Peou’s mum lovingly makes 200 of each day.
It’s all excellent value with Mighty boy, nothing priced over $14. Chow down — weather pending — at footpath seating as Gertrude St whirls by.
Belle’s Hot Chicken
150-156 Gertrude St
The HIPSTER-heavy diner where Nashville-style crispy chicken rules. The trick here is that you choose your spice level from “mild” to “I dare you” to “really find’ hot” and apply it to wings, bone-free tenders or dark meat.
Wet wipes are provided at each table for greasy mitts. Fish, oysters and mushrooms also get the chilli treatment. Co-owned by Aaron Turner, who ran the beloved Loam on the Bellarine Peninsula.
Lumberyard At The Workers Club
51 Brunswick St (corner of Gertrude St)
ADORNED with handyman’s tools and rocking a log-cabin vibe, this dining room inside the corner Workers Club pub brings British barbecue to the inner north. Think brisket, lamb ribs and even celeriac cooked low and slow in a pit smoker, plus black pudding for diehards. Blues and jazz over the stereo cement the mood and provide a change of pace from the Fitzroy bustle.
Builders Arms Hotel
211 Gertrude St
BAR and bistro at the front, posh Moon Under Water dining room out back and a new events space called The Bowery, this 1853-built pub is more than just a local boozer. The fish pie on the bistro menu is worth crossing town for. It’s part of chef Andrew McConnell’s empire, including nearby fine diner Cutler & Co at 55-57 Gertrude St.
136 Gertrude St
OPEN since 2009. Charcoal Lane is a social enterprise of Mission Australia giving on-the-job hospitality skills and training to Aboriginal youth in partnership with William Angliss Institute of TAFE and the Accor hotel group.
The 50-seater’s menu is punctuated with indigenous ingredients such as strawberry gum, wattleseed, lemon myrtle, wallaby, kangaroo and emu. The best-selling dish is the twice-cooked saltbush lamb.
234 Gertrude St
TRIPPY Taco began life in 2002 at the Earthcore outdoor festival before opening on Smith St, Collingwood, in 2006. It moved to its current location in 2011. The offering is Mexican-style vegetarian food, with the top-seller the tofu Asada burrito.
Clientele includes office workers, local shopkeepers and families, and the obligatory hipsters. Owner Simon Fischer (above) hopes local legend Bert Newton and US fitness guru Richard Simmons will visit as both have been unofficial mascots since day one.
Victoria Ave, Albert Park
THIS gracious Victorian-era strip at the end of Bridport St is metres from the beach and has a relaxed vibe with cafes, eateries and restaurants to tempt all taste buds, writes Jane Howard.
The Petty Officer
113 Victoria Ave
The Petty Officer, JUST like its big brother, Hawthorn’s Axil coffee roasters, there’s a reverence for beans here. They source and roast their own and swap single-origin options daily. Grab an egg and Turkish bacon roll with relish on the run, or settle in for avocado smash with mint, feta, pepitas and coriander for a longer, languid affair.
95 Victoria Ave
THOSE in the know have followed owner Ken Yuen since his days at his former restaurant, Asiana, two blocks away. Yuen‘s fare is mainly traditional Cantonese served in a modern style, and devotees swear by the coconut scallops and roast duck with plum sauce, not to mention the pumpkin pancakes.
Jock’s Ice Cream
83 Victoria Ave
ASK Jock Main the secret behind his addictive ice cream flavours, and he jokes he’d have to kill if he told. Queues snake outside the compact outlet that’s become a local institution. Try signature treats such as hokey pokey or catch a limited edition after-dinner mint, blood plumb sorbet and cinnamon-fig ripple.
135 Victoria Ave
THIS family-friendly artisan pizzeria with a striking marble bar has built a reputation for simple, honest Italian food. Part of the D.O. C group, with siblings in Carlton and Mornington, try the San Daniele prosciutto number with black rice and farro salad on the side. A slice of Italy that feels like home.
111 Victoria Ave
A STRIKING renovation has awakened The Vincent from its slumber. Featuring pub grub with flair, it’s an evolving modern European menu with seasonal fare. There’s a big nod to the locals with surf and turf on Tuesday, the popular burger and brew on Wednesday and tacos on Thursday, as well as movie nights.
19 Victoria Ave
A FRAGRANT fragrant bayside oasis, renowned for its modern take on Middle Eastern and North African mezze dishes. It’s a cosy, aromatic hub and share plates rule. Be it long breakfasts. The 5-7 pm “witching hours”, early family noshes, casual bites or functions in rooms from The Arabian Nights, Kamel adds spice.
So you're in Melbourne, and you're looking for a good, affordable meal. But where do you start? There are so many restaurants to choose from, how can you tell which ones are the best value for your money? Fear not, intrepid diner: we've got you covered.
Here are the most affordable restaurants Melbourne has to offer. Note that these places may not be the fanciest or the trendiest, but they'll fill your stomach without emptying your wallet. Bon appetit!
FAQs About Melbourne Restaurants
Here's how to save money and eat out at your favourite restaurants for less.
- Buy gift cards below face value. You'll get more food for your buck when you buy restaurant gift cards at less than face value.
- Ask for a discount.
- Join the club.
- Make wise menu choices.
- Dine on national days.
- Take a survey.
- Leave room in your budget.
Melbourne is officially the most expensive city in Australia to enjoy a casual dinner date with a couple of drinks – costing an average of $61. Eating out in Australia can sometimes be eye-wateringly expensive. And diners who thought Sydney racked up the most overpriced bill - well, think again.
McDonald's, Hungry Jack's and KFC are the cheapest fast-food chains in Australia, by average monthly spend, with Aussies paying no more than $70 a month to eat on the cheap (or $840 per year), according to our survey.
If you're looking for something tasty, healthy and cheap, consider these expert-recommended items:
- Brown rice.
- Canned tuna or salmon.
- Chuck roast.
- Corn tortillas.
Meals to Make When You Have No Money
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
- Pasta and jarred sauce.
- Bean and cheese burritos.
- Grilled cheese sandwiches.
- Chili cheese dogs.
- Sloppy Joes.