You don't need a stash of cash to eat well in Melbourne. Cheap eats have long been part of the city's dining scene and there are plenty of places to treat your tastebuds without stretching the credit. Discover the local favourites keeping students and cheap dates alive.

1. Soi 38

Who says eating out in the city has to be pricey? Follow your nose down a laneway off Bourke Street and through an above-ground parking lot, to transport your tastebuds to the streets of Bangkok. On Soi 38's menu you'll find everything from papaya salad to scallop and king fish, served as cerviche. For something special, order the ultimate bowl; instant noodles in a spicy Tom Yum soup. Yum indeed.

2. Meals with Impact

After a dish that makes a difference? Social enterprise Meals with Impact employs women from migrant and refugee backgrounds. In their cafe you'll find culturally diverse food, where traditional family recipes have been refined under the head chef. It's feel-good food at its best; a percentage of profits go towards food relief for disadvantaged communities across Melbourne.

3. LadyBoy Dining and Bar

Wok and roll your way out to Richmond and grab a table at this colourful and affordable restaurant. LadyBoy's modern menu riffs on the classics, offering traditional pad thai and a spicy panang curry alongside BBQ lamb ribs, salmon cerviche and pork crackling. Round out the meal with fried ice cream, steamed sticky rice or a colourful cocktail.

4. La Tortilleria

Kensington favourite La Tortilleria serves up authentic Mexican food at affordable prices. Snack on totopos and cerviche, then pick from plates of tacos, tostadas and quesadillas, filled with battered fish, al pastor (pork) or plant-based Fable protein. As the name may suggest, this colourful cult restaurant is serious about their tortillas, which you can take away in stacks; fresh or vacuum packed.

5. Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen

Rush to Russell Street for ramen at Ikkoryu Fukuka. Keep it simple with the original tonkotsu base, or mix it up with miso, black garlic, and additional toppings like kimchi, pork ribs or kikurage. Then sip, slurp and enjoy.

6. Saluministi

The team behind Saluministi say their childhood dream was to serve top quality salami in a relaxed setting. Well, the proof is in the panini. These sumptuous sandwiches are available from their Dockland's cafe and the hole-in-the-wall panino bar over on Flinders Lane. Grab brekky or lunch on the go or linger over a caffettiera (Italian stovetop espresso), served with biscotti. Delizioso.

7. Moroccan Soup Bar

It's said that soup nourishes the soul and that's certainly true of Moroccan Soup Bar. For 25 years, this North Melbourne institution has been serving up a heartwarming vegetarian menu; from spinach and lentil soup to stews, chickpea bake, falafel and salads. And don't forget the vegan baklawa or Turkish Delight to finish.

8. Dragon Hot Pot

Listen and ladle up; the spicy noodle soups over at Dragon Hot Pot lead the way. The process is simple. Grab a large golden pot, fill it with a combination of noodles, meat, veg, seafood and tofu. Then select your broth and level of spice; the signature ma la tang, Sichuan hot and sour, collagen bone and even a vegan broth are some of the options on offer. At last count there are 11 locations around town, with their Russell Street restaurant open well into the night.

9. The Happy Mexican

You'll find all your favourites at The Happy Mexican – from tacos to burritos and quesadillas, served with tasty garnishes and homemade salsa or chipotle mayo. Pull up alongside a classic margarita or a choice of authentic Mexican brews, and don't forget the golden churros to finish.

10. An Di Docklands

Cheap and cheerful doesn't have to mean food you'll love now, but regret later. Flock to An Di for authentic Vietnamese food that won't sit in the stomach, like vermicelli noodle salad, stir fry, spring rolls and a pho-nomenal broth that's cooked for 12 hours. The prices are equally easy to digest.

More cheap eats

Wherever you go in Melbourne, there's a choice of locations and cuisines that'll fill the tummy without breaking the bank.


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