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Overview

Cheap eats

You don't need a stash of cash to eat well in Melbourne. Affordable eateries have long been a feature of the city's dining scene and there are plenty of places to treat your tastebuds without testing your credit limit.

Dining precincts

Every neighbourhood has its local low-budget favourite (usually a busy joint with fluoro lighting) keeping students, the overmortgaged and cheap dates alive. Richmond's Thy Thy, Flemington's Laksa King and the CBD's Camy Shanghai Dumpling are among Melbourne's many dining institutions frequented by the coin-challenged. But not all neighbourhoods are made equal: some truly favour the fiscal foodie.

For unbelievably cheap and tasty Asian food, try the restaurants and grocery shops along Victoria Street, Richmond. Go west for affordable pho in Footscray where you'll find fabulous, budget-friendly African restaurants as well as a great produce market.

Run the gauntlet of spruikers along Little Bourke Street to choose from dozens of economical eateries in Chinatown and scout surrounding Russell, Swanston and Bourke streets for student haunts of all culinary persuasions: Indian, Malaysian, Korean, Japanese and more.

Further afield, Box Hill boasts some of the city's most popular yum cha and other affordable Chinese feasts.

Markets

To feast for next to nothing, wander the aisles and deli halls of Melbourne's favourite produce markets. Embrace tradition and join the throngs of locals queuing for the famous kranskys at Queen Victoria Market and dim sims at South Melbourne Market. They're worth the wait.

Food trucks

Track down budget bites from upwardly mobile food trucks – Beatbox Kitchen, Taco Truck and Gumbo Kitchen – at a hipster hangout near you. Keep track of the coolest meals on wheels on social media.

Luxe lunches for less

Budget dining doesn't have to be all Laminex tables and laminate menus. Affordable lunch specials are a growing trend in Melbourne's high-profile fine dining restaurants where during the day you can eat like royalty on a commoner's budget. Popular choices among the lunching crowd are The Press Club, Café di Stasio and Esposito. So before you shell out on that special dinner, see if there isn't a 'special' lunch.

Pub grub

Pull up a bar stool and keep an eye out for daily specials, especially on Mondays and Tuesdays, which are popular two-for-one and parma-plus-pot type nights. Any night of the week, try local stalwarts like the Espy Kitchen in St Kilda, or the Napier Hotel in Fitzroy, whose famous Bogan Burger is big enough to feed a small village. Look too for the cheaper bar menus in gastropubs, where you'll often get the same grub for a lower price if you forego the table-cloth and service.

Find some of Melbourne's favourite budget-friendly restaurants below:

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City

Cheap eats

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Cafes

Pellegrini's

Do your bit to ensure Pellegrini's gets to its centenary as it's a known fact Melbourne would be poorer without its charm and comforting Italian food.

Restaurants

Supper Inn

Soak up the bustling atmosphere of late night dining in Chinatown and tuck into a tasty Cantonese menu, featuring favourites like suckling pig.

Restaurants

Wonderbao

Bow to the bao for many reasons, including the taste sensation enveloped in a soft steamed bun, the cheap prices, speedy service, and super soymilk.

Restaurants

Miss Chu

Dial-a-dumpling or appear in person before the 'queen of rice paper rolls' for fast Vietnamese favourites like fine pho and of course, ripper rolls.

Restaurants

Shandong Mama

Try the mackerel and 'Melbourne' dumplings at this unpretentious family-run dumpling house specialising in cuisine from eastern China's Shandong province.

Restaurants

HuTong Dumpling House

Linger long enough at HuTong to give your scalding xiao long bao meat and soup dumplings time to cool, scoffing the rest of the menu while you wait.

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Northside

Cheap eats

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Restaurants

Fonda Richmond

Sip a funky martini or horchata from a jar and nibble healthy soft tacos and charred corn while you watch Richmond go by from your curb-side stool.

Restaurants

Meatmother

Meatlovers unite at Meatmother – a celebration of all things carnivorous. Choose your flesh and chase it down with whiskeys rye, bourbon or scotch.

Bars

Naked for Satan

Fill a plate with pintxos (tapas-style morsels), order a house-infused vodka cocktail and tally your toothpicks at the end of the night for the bill.

Restaurants

Rockwell and Sons

Visit an upmarket diner that matches fine dining with the best of American fast food goodness. Book ahead for the weekly fried chicken dinner.

Restaurants

La Tortilleria

Bring your amigos to share platters of tacos, chilaquiles, quesadillas and tostadas, and taste the most authentic tortillas in town. ¡Buen provecho!

Restaurants

I Love Pho 264

You're not really supposed to eat pho beyond breakfast o'clock, but the aromatic broth fits the bill just as well at lunch and dinner, too.

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Southside

Cheap eats

Restaurants

Acland Street Cantina

Kick start your day with a single origin brew and breakfast tortilla or swing by after the daily grind for gluten-free pizza and house red.

Restaurants

Dainty Sichuan

Search high and low for a hotspot (or hotpot) fierier than Dainty Sichuan, a two-level, sweetly decorated space serving a menu of 60-plus specialties.

Restaurants

Radio Mexico

Turn up your radio, 'cause you're gonna like what you're about to hear. Fresh. Healthy. Tasty. Democratic. Goes great with beer. It's Radio Mexico!

Restaurants

Colonel Tan's

Arrange an introduction to Revolver's Colonel Tan and experience the combination of US diner charm, zinging Thai-pop flavours and skinny jean rock.

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Luxe for less

Cheap eats

Book in for lunch specials at these high-end restaurants

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