Melbourne summer means (supposedly) less rain, more sunshine and longer, sand-filled days. It's the season when hay fever sufferers and Melburnians with poor auto-immune systems gather in the light, soak up the sun, and leave their dark and dodgy takeaway joints behind.
Here are Melbourne’s 50 best summer-friendly cheap eats, for the stingy saver in all of us!
1. South Warf’s Boatbuilders Yard boasts a gorgeous open timber deck overlooking the Yarra. Get their $12 Monte Cristo breakfast jaffle with pulled pork, leg ham, cheese, spreads and a devilled egg to start summer right.
2. One of Melbourne’s favourite rooftops, Naked in the Sky, offers grilled prawn skewers with bacon and red salsa for $12.50. Double protein is definitely required for that summer bod, after all.
3. It’s certainly not fine dining, but after a swim at Port Melbourne beach, you, your stomach, and your wallet will be more than pleased by Hunky Dory’s Old School pack with flake, chips, lemon and tartar for a tenner.
4. Speaking of beaches, don’t settle for maccas this summer in St Kilda. A heart-stopping combo of steak, fries, guacamole and jalapenos, Acland St Cantina’s Carne Asada Fries are perfect on the go - and only $15.
5. Or if you’d rather take a seat, Newmarket Hotel’s $12 guacamole with pico de gallo, queso, fresco and corn chips are perfect post-swim. Maybe head to the beer garden if you’re still sporting beach hair.
6. If you didn’t get the memo, grilled meats and summer fit together like a snag on a barbie. Get your share of meltingly soft brisket at Queen Vic Market’s Fancy Hanks. $12.50 will buy you a Fancy Sanga sandwich with brisket, cheese, pickles, onions and BBQ sauce.
7. Foxes Den’s hot chicken roll with thick, rich gravy is, in no uncertain terms, one of Melbourne’s best cheap eats. For a mere $9.90, get your hands on one of the tastiest chicken rolls around. Elwood beach + chicken roll = summer complete.
8. A little tattered around the edges but no less charming, Mixed Business in Clifton Hill has one of the most natural, quiet courtyards in Melbourne. Pair it with their smoked creamed corn and avocado toast for $14.50.
9. Summer, supposedly, is the perfect season to get motivated and achieve those fitness goals. So if you find yourself being dragged along the Capital City Trail, beg to stop at Green Park Dining. With stretched panels, canteen-like chairs and an awfully tasty scrambled tofu, broccolini, kale, onion, vadouvan and multigrain brekkie, fitness has never tasted better for $14.
10. On an elevated platform in South Yarra, Jardin Tan is a little space away from summer. With nearly floor-to-ceiling walls to make the most of sunny days, their $12.50 pho chay with mushrooms, silken tofu, rice noodles, bean sprouts and chilli is delightfully light - and as refreshing as Jardin’s interior. Or, spot for a couple of bucks over budget and smash a banana blossom salad with prawns...
11. Essendon cafe Johnny Pump also boasts a cosy outdoor area surrounded by a colourful pastel picket fence and festive red chairs. Enjoy one of their Nutella and choc fudge brownie shakes (all freakshakes are $7), and forget about that calorie counter for today.
12. A $13 potato, leek, walnut, blue cheese and olive oil pizza is tempting enough at South Melbourne’s The Palace Hotel - add an elegant outdoor area with inky black frames and pale timber, and we have ourselves a summery go-to.
13. If you’re the up-at-the-crack-of-dawn kind of summer person, swing by Rococo on Acland Street for some super soft buttermilk pancakes with berry compote, strawberries, mascarpone, maple syrup and pistachios. It’s fresh and light for summer, and it’ll only set you back $13.80.
14. A quick walk away from Albert Park, Jock’s Ice Cream is the only post-running/swimming/rowing spot you should be gunning for. Their deliciously creamy, balanced ice cream is ideal for binging on, because guess what? $15 will buy you at least a small tub’s worth.
15. For a place named Grub Food Van, their food is far from grubby. Among the ping-pong tables, picnic rugs, and antiqued outdoor furniture, $13 will buy you a crispy potato tortilla, guindillas, and peperonata relish.
16. Known for its signature open-air café featuring exposed walls and windows, Industry Beans lets you embrace everything great about Melbourne’s summer weather. The menu changes seasonally, but their coffee garden with coffee custard pudding, coffee caviar, cold drip gel, chocolate soil and pistachio sponge has been around for some time ($14).
17. A stone’s throw away from St Kilda beach, Il Fornaio is a cosy, relaxed bakery-brunch spot. The $11.50 health god porridge (they get brownie points for creativity) is a goodness-packed bowl of joy.
18. Casually aged timber dominates the interior of Williamstown’s Crowded House café. Don’t mind the artistically neglected interior, their pumpkin and caramelised onion tart with petite fetta salad, tomato, and chilli jam is a bargain for twelve bucks.
19. Boasting a rustic, no-frills outdoor garden with low hanging vines and greenery, The Standard Hotel in Fitzroy is one of the best summer spots to wind down with some sticky smoked BBQ pork ribs for $14.
20. Boy & Co isn’t only home to some of Melbourne’s best milkshakes, their blue-toned courtyard out back is one of the easiest places to laze about on a summer day. Grab a Britney Spearmint with housemade choc peppermint sauce and oreo crumbs, plus some shoe-string sweet potato fries, with your $15 budget.
21. Decorated with overhead fairy lights, antiqued chairs and summery grass, the courtyard at Collingwood’s Le Bon Ton is made for warm weather. Your night can get even better with their $12 homemade whiskey pie.
22. Abbotsford’s Dr Morse houses one of Melbourne’s best outdoor gardens; spaciously pared-back and charmingly unpretentious, prep for the summer heat with their coconut sago with tropical fruits at $12.
23. After somewhere local? It doesn’t get any more local than Hampton’s Food Smith. A compact grocery store-café hybrid stocking local ingredients and products, take their $10 toasty banana bread with bananas and honey down to Hampton Beach.
24. Super close to Elwood beach with an open-style plan and airy interior, Combi’s raw beach wrap is (as the name implies) made with some summer love. A trio of dips and a pack load of herbs, salads and sprouts is wrapped in dehydrated onion bread, and will only set you back $14.50.
25. Green Refectory’s courtyard is more like a long, narrow alleyway - but rather than feeling claustrophobic, white washed walls and hanging vines make it the ideal not-so-secret summer spot. You’ll have to gun for a table here, but once you settle down with a plate of Eggs Benedict with ham, tomato, basil and hollandaise for $11, you’ll be tempted to stay a while.
26. A summer-hit list wouldn’t be a list without Melbourne’s favourite food truck park! Hosting a rotating calendar of food trucks, you’ll feel rich with $15 at Welcome to Thornbury.
27. Although Vietnam’s musky weather doesn’t stop their flow of pho, we suspect Melburnian’s will be less keen for a hot bowl of soup in summer. Instead try Uncle’s crispy pig ear bahn mi for something different. Conveniently close to St Kilda beach with a laidback timber interior, this bahn mi will only set you back a paltry $6.50.
28. Known for dirt-cheap pizzas and hangover-inducing happy hours, Elwood’s Jimmi Jamz pizzas are rarely over a tenner. There’s a wealth of choice, but their simple, flavour-packed Napoli pizza, with Napoli sauce, bocconcini and fresh basil, is a killer for $8.90.
29. Fittingly bright and open, and close to one of Melbourne’s best beaches, the Brighton Schoolhouse boasts one of the best outdoor courtyards in this city. Enjoy timber furnishing with their Ryan Gosling fruit salad - with seasonal fruit, yoghurt panacotta, tea jelly, a granola crisp and bee pollen ($12).
30. With all its nooks and crannies, Truck is easily one of Melbourne’s top outdoor beer gardens. Their summer-friendly McCarthy salad is packed with smoked turkey, egg, bacon bits, avocado, chopped cos, tomato, beetroot and cheddar for $14.
31. A quaint Newport café, Pint of Milk serves soul-warming, honest food in a casually rustic interior. Their lunch pides, all under $15, are a short stride away from Williamstown Beach. We recommend the chorizo, lemony rocket and roasted peppers.
32. Melbourne’s longest open-air bar is a perfect fit for summer and cocktails. A tenner will get you Arbory Bar’s breakfast burger, a sizzling combo of chicken sausage, fried egg, cheese and HP sauce.
33. Located on the riverside of the Yarra, Kanteen overlooks the body of water that Melbourne loves to hate. With the majority of tables outdoors, breezy summer days make for a mean brunch spot - order the black sticky rice with banana, strawberries and coconut milk for $10.50.
34. Known for some of the best cocktails in Melbourne (really – there are dangerously good drinks here), Bomba also offers some awfully affordable Spanish-inspired tapas on their rooftop palace. For $15 you can mix and match smoked eel croquettes ($3.50) and hervey bar scallop with serrano, lemon and bread ($6), or quail with pistachio ($6.50). Be a king for the night.
35. A laidback rooftop lined with lush greenery, Loop Roof’s shredded brisket sliders with hummus and slaw ain’t a bad $10 deal on a heady summer night.
36. Just on the shorefront of Williamstown Beach, swim in for one of Anchorage Restaurant’s white chocolate fondants served with mango coulis and berries for $15. You’ve been working hard digging sand castles all day, you deserve this.
37. If waffles don’t simply screeeaamm summer to you, go back to your winter-loving hole now! The Little Ox in Brighton is a suitably bright café just a jump away from the beach. Order the Noisette waffles with caramelised peach, coconut ice cream and burnt honey (it’s only $13.50) to get the sunny days rolling.
38. One of the finest outdoor courtyards, complete with elegant white furnishing and lush greenery, Stables of Como is a must for summer brunching. Go for their popular organic lamb meatball, pinenut and tomato sugo piadina for $14.
39. The ideal pit stop post-swim, and pre-train ride home, Main Street offers a juicy BLAT with bacon, rocket, avocado, tomato and aioli on addictively soft ‘n crispy Turkish bread for 15 dollies. Friendly and fuss-free, no one will glance twice at your beach hair here.
40. One of Mentone’s best cheap eats, and just around the corner from the busy beach, Tommy Ruff’s $11 salt and pepper calamari is a perfect snack to share. Or not...
41. A good majority of Brighton Soul Espresso’s menu is under $15, but with the sun shining and the birds of Brighton singing (ideally), we think their breakfast bruschetta with herb roasted tomatoes, grilled asparagus, a poached egg and whipped goats cheese goes down a treat!
42. One of Melbourne’s finest patisseries, it’s safe to say Chez Dre’s spiced fruit toast is one of the best. For $10.50, it comes with house made strawberry jam and Pepe Saya butter, and is best enjoyed in Chez Dre’s enchanting courtyard.
43. Everything on Huff Bagelry’s menu is under $15, but considering they have a dedicated Summery Brekkie Bagel for $9, we reckon it’s a top choice. With ham, cheese, avo and hollandaise on your choice of herby, chewy bagels, this is the best partner to hit Mentone Beach with this summer.
44. One of the south’s favourite local bakeries, Rustic Bakery Café, makes a mean sourdough that needs no more than a generous smear of good quality butter. The menu rotates, but if you’re after something a little more gritty try one of their cheap daily lunch specials.
45. An open, rustic courtyard, the Farm Café’s bright space is one of the best places to spend a lazy summer day. Try their mushroom pie with roasted chestnuts, white wine and served with potato salad, greens and spiced relish. At $13.50, it’s a bargain!
46. Unfortunately, some people still don’t consider ice cream a proper meal. No worries, you can cheat your way into this cheap eat. Il Melograno’s gelato filled Sicilian Brioche is stuffed with your choice of three flavours for $9.50. Yes to summer!
47. There are plenty of tables to choose from at Brunswick favourite Howler, but the main bar with an exposed, glass rooftop is a top choice to squeeze the last out of every summer evening. When you’re pekish, their Togarashi fries with sririacha, kewpie mayo, tonkatsu sauce, pickles, and sesame is a summer-friendly snack for $10.50.
48. With an open courtyard filled with greenery and some of the best brunch meals in Melbourne, Pope Joan was always going to be a hotspot in summer. Their $12 Banoffee muffin with grilled banana, mascarpone and caramel is an appropriately light, sweet start to the day!
49. The fact that Newport’s Odd Spot Café has a white picket fence out the front should give you a good idea of this cosy café’s vibe. A short walk away from Williamstown Beach (you can use the time to dry off), their adorkable chia and quinoa bircher pots are packed with fresh fruit, cinnamon, coconut milk and paleo granola for $11.50.
50. Thornbury’s Little Henri boasts a stripped-back courtyard with bare, picnic-style benches, ideal for enjoying plain old Melbourne sun. Grab a crunchy pork baguette to take with you for $11.50, with onion, avocado, tomato and queso fresco.
Image credit: Simon Shiff