Fifteen years ago you could have bought two large sausage rolls, three party pies and a Nippies chocolate milk for your Friday school lunch order and still get change from five bucks. Now you can barely get a happy hour G&T for $10.
To help save you some cash, we’ve put together a list of Melbourne's best cheap eats $10 and under in our beautiful yet expensive city to help you distance yourself—ever so slightly—from the poverty line.
Banh Mi At Trang Bakery
Collingwood, Prahran & Camberwell
As a self-proclaimed banh mi connoisseur, I know a good banh mi when I see one, and Trang’s are exceptionally tasty. What really sets Trang apart from the many other Vietnamese bakeries in Melbourne that qualify for this list (shout out to Footscray and Richmond’s Victoria Street for consistently bringing the goods) is how they spoil their customers for choice. As well as the usual barbeque pork, crispy pork (which is cut to order) and roast chicken, there are several different vegan options. Tempura eggplant, vegan roast chicken, vegan duck and lemongrass tofu are available to have in your banh mi.
It’s true you wouldn’t to find an authentic banh mi with mock meat off the street in Vietnam, but Trang has recognised that many Melbournians are continuing to ride the plant-based wave and have acted accordingly. The banh mi is generously filled, and if you become one of many devoted regulars you’ll soon be on first-name basis with the friendly staff.
Pizza At Bimbo's
A fire in mid-2018 saw Fitzroy favourite Bimbo Deluxe temporarily close its doors, and many uni students go hungry. Luckily, almost exactly a year on, Bimbo’s is back, this time without the Deluxe on the end of their name, but with their iconic $4 pizzas.
If you’re South of the Yarra fear not, Bimbo’s not-so-little sister Lucky Coq also has $4 pizzas at certain times of the day, so make sure you double-check the times here so you don’t get caught paying the (still a bargain) $9.90 for full-priced.
Dumplings At Maeve Fox
This cocktail bar just off Swan Street has some of the best happy hours in the Melbourne with half-price tap beer, $5 wines and $12 modern cocktails every Friday between 5 pm and 9 pm. But it isn’t just the drinks that are on special at Maeve Fox. Melbourne’s obsession, the humble dumpling, go for just $1 a pop.
The only catch is that you have to buy five in one go, but I really can’t imagine that being a problem. If you want to try some boujee wagyu beef dumplings, they’re a little more pricey, and $5 will get you four of the bite-sized parcels.
Tostados And Tacos At La Tortilleria
La Tortilleria is your go-to if you need a hit of authentic Mexican cuisine. All of the tacos and all of the tostadas are under $10, and all of them are delicious. As the name suggests, tortillas are their jam. They are the makers and suppliers of this crunchy corn staple, and you can try them fresh from the oven in their small Kensington restaurant, topped with prawns ($8), cauliflower ($7), slow-cooked pulled lamb ($7.50) and more.
And even though everyone thinks they make the best guacamole, La Tortilleria’s guac is particularly exceptional, and you can grab a tub to take home for $9.50.
Bao At Wonderbao
This tiny hole-in-the-wall lunch spot serves up little heavenly steamed fluffy little pillows otherwise known as bao. There’s vegetarian options (the silken tofu gua boa is incredible) and even a sweet dessert bao, but you can’t go past the traditional chicken bao with egg and shitake mushrooms ($3.50), or the roast pork belly gua boa with cucumber, pickled carrots, daikon, and hoisin ($4.2).
These steamed buns are cheaper than your morning coffee, and at price points like that, you can afford to try both.
Parma At Forrester’s Beer Hall
Every night of the week, Forrester’s dishes out parmas for just $10. Yep, you read that right. We know what you’re thinking but you needn’t worry, this isn’t a pathetic half-sized morsel that will leave you hungry. We’re talking a full-sized free-range chicken or crumbed eggplant parma with Napoli sauce and melted cheese served with a green salad and chips.
As if that’s not enough, they also have a penne puttanesca permanently on offer for just $10, with olives, capers, anchovies, and all the good stuff you’d expect from this classic pasta dish. Come between 4 and 6 pm Tuesday to Friday for a $6 beer or house wine.
Chicken Katsu Curry At Don Don
Authentic, and most importantly affordable Japanese, Don Don is a favourite amongst corporate office workers just as much as it is amongst students. With everything on the menu under $10 and generously portioned, Don Don is just about the best value for money meal you will find in the CBD.
With prices this cheap you have probably guessed Don Don is almost always busy. The line may be long, but the wait is unbelievably short, and the chicken katsu curry will be in your hands faster than you can order it. You’ll be extremely lucky to nab an outside table, but you can always take yourself across the road to the lush lawn outside the State Library and enjoy your lunch in the sunshine.
Pasta At Good Times
It didn’t take long for Good Times in Fitzroy to become a local staple thanks to its $9 pasta. Using only the freshest of ingredients, the pastas, albeit simple, are decadent and delicious. The menu of this pasta bar is ever-changing, but rest assured there will always be $9 pasta options available for those on a budget.
The wildly reasonable prices doesn’t stop there: there’s $9 wine carafes, negronis, and craft beers. With an almost nonexistent online presence, Good Times has to be seen to be believed.
Croissant At Agathé Pâtisserie
South Melbourne & CBD
This little place is a pastry lover’s dream. There is a range of pastries available including some pretty unique flavours, but the croissants are the stars of the show. There’s matcha croissants, red raspberry croissants, croissants make with coffee extract, pandan croissants, squid ink croissants… Pretty much any type of croissant you can think of, Agathé Pâtisserie has made it.
For first-timers, we recommend going with the OG plain croissant. But rest assured, there ain’t anything ordinary about this flakey, buttery French treat. No doubt it will be love at first bite and you’ll be back to try one of the more experimental options again soon.
Chicken Tawouk Wrap At A1 Bakery
Melbourne’s original Lebanese bakery, and Brunswick’s favourite destination for cheap eats. Almost everything on the menu at A1 is under $10, but our favourite is the chicken tawouk wrap: marinated chicken, hot chips, pickled vegetables, coleslaw and garlic, wrapped and toasted for just $9.50.
If you only reserve garlicky wraps for after 2 am, try the Shanklish (yoghurt-based cheese) pie for $5.50, or the A1 Special Pizza, a zaatar pizza based topped with Turkish beef sujuk, olives, spinach, and two types of cheese.
Oysters At Galah
Oysters are an acquired taste. Whether you love them or hate them, there’s no denying that one-buck shucks are fantastic value for money. Windsor's Galah provides freshly shucked oysters every Wednesday from 5 pm for just $1 each, meaning the briny molluscs are no longer reserved for champagne-drinking fancy cats.
They’re served with river mint and cucumber, using local Australian ingredients like everything else on the menu at Galah. If you’re new to the oyster game, we’ll give you an expert tip: chew. It’s not true that you should slurp down the shellfish whole, just one or two chews release the true, sweet flavour of the oyster.
Want more cheap things to do around Melbourne? Here's our rundown of the best things to do in Melbourne under $50.
Image credit: Bimbo's