Sometimes you spend money. And then keep on spending money. And then you get hungry. We’ve all been there. It’s not fun. Sure, your wallet may be light in the lead up to payday, but you still have to eat. And if you CBF to cook, you can be left in a bit of a pickle.
Thankfully, Sydney has some seriously good cheap eats—and, lucky for you, we’ve rounded up some of the top spots for feasts on a shoestring budget. Think of this list as Sydney’s most affordable food tour, filled with gigantic schnitzels, deli sandwiches, $1 dumplings, banh mi, and big bowls of pasta.
Hungry? Read on for our top cheap eats to help see you through till payday.
Mr. Chen Beef Noodle
At Mr. Chen Beef Noodle, chef Gary Yuen heads up the kitchen, armed with a casual 40 years experience in traditional Chinese cooking and, yes, he is also a dumpling master. Dumplings are made to order, so brace yourself for generously stuffed pork morsels either boiled, pan-fried, or steamed. You can grab 12 dumplings for as little as $11.80 (you do the math—that’s less than a dollar a piece) with pork and cabbage, pork and egg, beef and shallots, beef and carrots and chicken and corn variations.
Temasek serves up some of the best laksa in Sydney. So, lucky are the people that live within comfortable distance of this gem and its cosy bowls of noodle soup. Chock full of egg noodles and delicious, juicy meat, Temasek’s signature laksa is exactly what you need on those nights when you need a bit of noodly goodness in your life. Pro tip—head in at lunchtime to take advantage of its lunch specials, when you can get its signature laksas for just $16, vegetarian fried noodles for $15, and Hainanese chicken and rice for $16.
Durga’s Indian Street Food & Dessert Bar
Durga’s Indian Street Food & Dessert Bar pays homage to Mumbai’s bustling street food eateries. Here, you won’t find much over $10, which should be enough to sway you. The standout on the menu is the Vada Pav—a veggie beauty that’s essentially Mumbai’s moreish version of the good ol’ burger. And you’ll only need $4.90 on you to scoff this bad boy down. The patty is made up of a masala-soaked potato mash that gets deep-fried in a turmeric-based batter. Once this guy is good to go (that is, fried to golden perfection), it gets placed in a buttered pav (a square-shaped bun), then cooked with a heap of butter and garlic before being served with tamarind and cilantro chutneys on a thali plate. Drooling yet?
Named after the year Lebanon gained independence from French Colonisers, Nineteen43 blends traditional Lebanese culture and all its incredible food with Sydney cafe culture. Nineteen43’s in-house baked and toasted kaak (traditional Lebanese bagel) sandwiches should be top of your list if you're passing through. While usually eaten plain in Lebanon, the black and white sesame-filled kaak is wielded as the ideal sandwich bread here. Try the sujuk and egg variation packed with cream cheese, sujuk (dry spiced sausage), feta, shallots and two fried eggs. Heaven.
Out Of The Blue
Out Of The Blue is a legendary Eastern Suburbs takeaway joint known for burgers, fish and chips, and its breezy beachy location. Hit the chicken schnitzel stack (sitting at $12), which is loaded with Out Of The Blue’s iconic garlic mayo, beetroot, lettuce, tomato, and carrot. It’s a classic Aussie-style burg with all the trimmings. Is it one of the best burgers in Sydney? You’d be brave to try to convince us otherwise. You can also pick up a $6.50 bacon and egg roll, a seriously good tofu burger for $11, and chips for as little as $3.
Tamaleria & Mexican Deli
While munching down the odd taco and burrito is nice and all, if you want the real deal, Dulwich Hill’s Tamaleria & Mexican Deli is where it’s at. Headed up by Rosa Cienfuegos, what once started as a homesick foodie's pop-up venture has now escalated into a full-blown one-stop-deli for all of the most authentic Mexican essentials. Here, you’ll be loading up on chilli, tortillas, spices, antojitos, and frozen Mex meals. If you’re after ready-to-eat food, then you have to go for Cienfuegos' famous hot tamales ($9). Still hungry? You can also feast on empanadas, street tacos, and nachos for a steal.
And in good news for inner-city dwellers, sibling venue Itacate in Redfern is also dishing up A-class Mexican fare without the hefty price tag. Result!
Ever thought, who needs a knife and fork when it comes to tackling a perfect slab of chicken schnitzel? That's pretty much the idea at Tawainese takeaway joint Hot Star. Here, the main event is essentially a crumbed chicken steak that's fried to order and served up hot in a paper bag. It's crunchy, juicy, delicious, and only $10.50. Hot Star is also open late, making this our number one late-night cheap feast.
Good pho needs a nice and light, aromatic broth loaded with beefy flavour that is well balanced by the spices. It takes a long time to get right and Black Ginger in Newtown is a good example of how to do that. Their 12-hour bone broth has an excellent depth of flavour and creates a solid foundation for all their pho dishes. Thankfully they also do a great vegan broth too so everyone can share the joy. Splash out on some tamarind chicken or the exquisite fried stuffed eggplant. Best of all, the pho here clocks in at as little as $14.80. Score.
Harvey’s Hot Sandwiches
Harvey’s Hot Sandwiches is filled with retro charm and mammoth sangas packed with all the trimmings. This 50s-style American diner meets nostalgic Aussie milkbar whips up mega stacks of the good stuff with the ultimate sandwich bread—thick and fluffy on the inside, yet nice and crisp on the outside. You’ll want to try the epic bacon and egg roll loaded with a fried egg, crispy bacon, and barbecue sauce. On her own, she’ll only set you back a cruisy $8, or you can start your day right with the Brekkie Combo, which involves the roll in question and a coffee for just a tenner. Heading there at lunchtime? Get the classic ham sambo ($13) or one of its chook rolls—you won’t regret it.
Pho Tau Bay
Established in 1980, Pho Tau Bay in Cabramatta draws patrons far and wide. And it’s no wonder why, thanks to the unassuming eatery serving up some of the best pho in Sydney. The beef noodle soup is constantly in high demand, so you’ll want to get in early. Be sure to try the pho dac biet (‘the works’) or a pho ga (chicken soup), and order a traditional Vietnamese iced coffee for that quick caffeine hit.
This slick standing-room-only kebab spot may not be the cheapest one around town—but is it one of the best? Absolutely. It breaks a few rules of the traditional kebab shop set-up, and ups the ante on taste thanks to chef Mat Lindsay at the helm. And compared to his other venues, Ester and Poly, Shwarmama is very, very affordable. There’s a hummus plate for $10, a non-halal snack pack for $17, and a chicken shawarma for $16. But the real MVP is the $16 sabich pita, stuffed with eggplant, boiled egg, tahini, hummus, amba, onions, cabbage, pickles and pickled chilli. You won’t leave hungry, we guarantee it.
Marrickville Pork Roll
Marrickville, Darling Square, and Circular Quay
This takeaway Vietnamese spot is a popular lunchtime go-to. The crew at the OG shopfront in Marrickville have been churning out one of Sydney’s best banh mi for years, and the staple pork roll here remains unchanged. Created with a crunchy house-made baguette, some pate, mayo, generous slabs of BBQ pork, fresh herbs, a healthy hit of chilli, and tangy pickles, you’ll need less than a tenner to be able to dig into one of these.
This Victoria Street hole-in-the-wall has been serving Euro-style schnitzels since the late 60s. So if you’re ready to step beyond pub schnitzel and into the world of traditional European crumbed cuts, head here. The menu features authentic German Jägerschnitzel, a pork cutlet-style schnitty that’s drenched with creamy mushroom sauce, rosti and cabbage salad. There’s the Gyspy Schnitzel with spicy tomato sauce and all the trimmings and, of course, a good old staple chicken schnitzel for anyone wanting to stick to their guns. And while the mains here cost just over $20, they are absolutely massive—so, sharing is more than doable if you're not super hungry.
Simply put, there’s no venue that makes a sandwich quite like Kosta’s. This sandwich shop has a menu filled with hero sambos like the Super Deli panini, with turkey ham, basturma, marinated peppers, spinach, graviera, fennel butter, lettuce, and salsa verde, and its classic poached chicken sandwich, packed out with chicken, avocado, slaw, chives, mayo, and salsa verde on Tuscan-style schiacciata bread. Nothing here creeps over $17.
Ask any Maltese person about pastizzi and they'll spill into a misty-eyed recollection of childhood memories and family anecdotes heavily featuring the small flaky, diamond-shaped pastries filled with ricotta or mushy peas. Yes, they really are that good. And one of the best spots for pastizzi in Sydney is Newtown's Pastizzi Cafe, where there are around 20 flavours to choose from, ranging from sweet to savoury, each priced between $3.50 and $4.80.
Rounding up the crew for a night out but you don’t want to stretch the budget? Our answer: Bar Reggio. The Darlinghurst institution has been serving up cheap Italian fare to students, lunchtime office crowds, and money-saving humans for decades. Not only do you save money on booze thanks to it being BYO-friendly, but the carb-fuelled menu is reasonable too—think $20 pizzas and $15 pastas. Sure, you have to pay $3.50 per person for the corkage, but if you’re celebrating big, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better when on a budget.
Hong Ha Bakery
Banh mi is a staple when it comes to cheap eats. But, over the years, the Vietnamese roll has been on the rise—price-wise, we mean. Thankfully, at Hong Ha Bakery, you can still get your fix without forking out a fortune. Here, everything slides in under the $10 mark, which means dim sum for $1.50 each, a meatball salad box for $8.50, and its signature barbecue pork roll for $6. You’re welcome.
Haymarket and Chatswood
Chinatown bolthole Mamak is a Malaysian eatery renowned for its roti menu. The witch’s hat-like flaky flatbreads come with two curry dips of your choice as well as a spicy sambal sauce. While all the savoury roti dishes are winners, the OG roti canai is hard to pass up—particularly as it costs a reasonable tenner. More of a sweet tooth? Don’t despair, there are four delicious dessert options, including roti with sliced banana and one with pandan and coconut. Other well-priced dishes include the nasi lemak ($13) and satay skewers at $2.50 a pop.
Kingsford and Dulwich Hill
Aki and Kathy Daikos' local food hall of modern Greek cuisine, Alevri, is a must when it comes to Mediterranean delights on a budget. At any of its stores, you’ll find homemade Greek pastries like peynerli, tsoureki, and a cheeseburger pita. They also blend new and old world together with the Aussie Moussaka pie using eggplant, potato, and Greek-style beef mince. The sweet selection is where it really heats up, though, with chocolate-coated eclairs and a show-stopping, glistening baklava cheesecake. Dreamy.
Some say that Ryo's Noodles is the only establishment in Sydney to serve authentic Tokyo-style ramen. Others will debate that but, in any case, the noodles here are damn good. The no-fuss, in-and-out restaurant on bustling Falcon Street is open for lunch and dinner every day. The ideal cheap eat here is the salty pork tonkotsu ramen coming in at $14; however, all noods here will cost you $17 or less, so it’s a matter of loose change. Three are a few other non-ramen dishes, too, including gyoza ($7), karaage chicken ($9), and a chicken cutlet curry ($18).
Emma’s Snack Bar
Emma’s is the kind of place you want to head to for a group catch-up when you want good food at reasonable prices. It’s not the cheapest Lebanese restaurant in Sydney, sure, but the quality here is second to none. Plus, it’s BYO which certainly helps keep the bill down. You’ll undoubtedly want to fill up on dips, but you’ll also want to save room for the falafel, kibbe, and fried cauliflower. We strongly recommend you make a booking at this Inner West favourite, too.
Banh Mi Bay Ngo
Yes, another banh mi place has made its way onto the list. But this is another one that’s hard to beat when it comes to costs, serving up some of the best Vietnamese rolls in the entire city. At Banh Mi Bay Ngo, you have the choice of pork, pork skin, chicken, meatball, fish patties, and, most vitally, the hard-to-find fried egg roll. The bread here is fresh and crispy, and the rolls are so stuffed that you will certainly feel full after one. For less than $5, you really can’t get better. Like all good banh mi joints, things move pretty fast and can get a bit chaotic in front and behind the counter. It’s also takeaway only.
Burwood and Enmore
Yang’s Dumplings comes to you straight from Shanghai, where the chain has been serving up tasty handmade treats for more than 20 years. The fame it has garnered in Shanghai is not lost in Sydney, either, where Yang’s has venues in Burwood and Enmore. The must-try dish is the Sheng Jian Bao, a soupy mince-pork dumpling with a crispy bottom (just proceed with caution—it’s hot!) that costs $9.80 for six pieces. If it means anything to you, and we'll assume it does, the venue is known to attract those from or familiar with Shanghai and its cuisine, so you can take that as a guarantee of authenticity.
Cairo Takeaway is pimped-out takeaway food, without all of the regrets that come from a trip to your local kebab shop. You can eat in, or as the name suggests, take your feast away and perhaps enjoy a picnic in the nearby Camperdown Memorial Rest Park. The corner restaurant dishes up plates inspired by Egyptian street food—think pita pockets, koshari (lentils and rice), mixed veggie plates, and shakshouka baked eggs. The real steal is the $13 charcoal lamb kofta pita pocket—or you can turn it into a plate for an additional $3.
Ayam Goreng 99
Ayam Goreng 99 is an Indonesian restaurant located on the busy Anzac Parade restaurant strip. Popular with university students, locals and Indonesian food fans, the restaurant is known for its delicious food at excellent prices. Don't leave without trying one of their famous chicken dishes, with the enormous Ayam Goreng Mentega ($19) being one of our faves.
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Image credit: Shwarmama, Mr. Chen Beef Noodle, Ninetenn43, Talameria & Mexican Deli, Harvey’s Sandwiches, Kosta's, Bar Reggio, Alevri, Banh Mi Bay Ngo, Cairo Takeaway