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.
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.
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.
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.
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: