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- Posted:Friday, August 12, 2011
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Born and raised in the South Island of New Zealand, Dave started travelling late last century and hasn't quite figured how to stop yet. Currently based in Melbourne, he writes about life as a long term traveller at What’s Dave Doing, spends too much time on Facebook and Twitter, and is busy preparing to head off again on his next set of round the world adventures.
Melbourne is renowned as a food lover’s paradise. With an ethnic mix that spans the globe, finding great food should be the least of your concerns. Finding it at a reasonable price, however, may not be quite so easy for the backpacker on a budget.
Like the rest of Australia, Melbourne is no longer a low-cost destination. Never fear, though – it’s not hard to find great places to eat where both your stomach and your wallet will be thanking you at the end of the day.
If you’re enjoying the attractions of Melbourne’s central city when hunger strikes, there are a vast array of cheap dining options available – at least during the week.
Rock the Wok - Goldsbrough Lane
A recent find for me, this hole in the wall Thai restaurant is the epitome of a great lunchtime eat. Hidden away in a laneway off William Street, look for the lines out the door to track it down. Most meals are under $10, and because everything is cooked to order you can customise flavours and spices to your heart’s content. Tasty, filling, healthy and cheap – perfect.
Queen Victoria market - Cnr of Elizabeth & Victoria Street
Both iconic tourist attraction and vital part of local life, this is the largest open air market in Melbourne. Nearly half of the floor space is devoted to fresh food of every kind. Grab some fruit or a bratwurst for a snack, make your own picnic from the deli or just ask to sample a few options as you make you way around the market. You’ll never leave hungry.
Central city food courts – everywhere!
Long the domain of greasy hamburgers and lumpy Chinese food, Melbourne’s food courts have had a makeover in recent years. Museli, fruit and yoghurts for breakfast, fresh salads and a range of Asian, European and Middle Eastern options for lunch – if one location doesn’t have what you’re after, walk a block and try another. Many of the better – and cheaper - options are smaller places at the bottom of office blocks on Bourke and Collins Sts.
The best of Melbourne is found outside the confines of the central business district, and the city’s eateries are no exception. All of the places mentioned here are a short walk or tram ride away from the downtown area.
Lentil as Anything – St Kilda, Abbotsford and Footscray
A bit of a legend amongst the vegetarian and budget crowds, Lentil as Anything has grown to three locations in recent years. There are no set prices, you simply pay what you think the meal and experience were worth. For a unique Melbourne dining experience, pick your closest location and head on down.
Vegie Bar – Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Another vegetarian stalwart, Vegie Bar has been serving up fantastic cheap vegetarian fare (and a kick-ass sangria) for 20 years. I used to live just down the road and this where I went when I had no money and less desire to cook, learning in the process that vegetarian food really can be amazing. It’s a big old warehouse of a place and yet it has been full every time I’ve been, day or night.
Thai and Vietnamese restaurants – Victoria St, Richmond
Just northeast of the central city is a strip of Asian restaurants and grocery stores that stretches along Victoria Street for several hundred metres. Primarily Vietnamese and Thai, with a few Chinese, Indian, Lao and Cambodian options thrown in, this is one of the best places to find an awesome cheap eat near the city. A couple of my favourites include iSpicy (Thai) and Thanh Phong (Vietnamese), but it’s hard to go too far wrong anywhere. The ultimate budget option is grabbing a couple of spicy pork baguettes from one of the bakeries – super cheap and super tasty.
South Melbourne Market – Cnr Cecil and Coventry Sts, South Melbourne
Famous throughout the city for its dim sims, the South Melbourne Market has plenty of other budget bites if the line for those particular delicacies is too long. Much smaller than the Queen Vic market, it’s a more relaxing experience as well. Wander round, grab a coffee and a bite from a few different stalls and just people watch. Sightseeing and cheap eats all in one go. Perfect!
These are obviously just a small selection of the hundreds of budget-friendly eating options in Melbourne. Ask a local where the closest places are or just head out with a few bucks and a keen nose. Either way you’ll have a great time dining out on the cheap in Melbourne.