1. Butchers Diner
Who says eating out in the city has to be pricey? Footsteps from Parliament Station is Butchers Diner, an American diner-styled eatery offering an affordable feast of (mainly) carnivorous delights. Snack on blood sausage and devilled egg roll, Japanese fried chicken, or duck heart skewers; or step up to a hand-selected steak, cut fresh daily.
2. The Workers Club
Venture out to what was once working-class Fitzroy for a feed at old-style pub and band room, The Workers Club. Emerging from the busy kitchen are pub classics aplenty, from parmas and schnittys to burgers and gnocchi. The lunch menu delivers the best bang-for-bucks via a Classic Reuben Sandwich, hearty Meatball Sub or a zesty Felafel Salad.
3. Royal Stacks
If burgers are your bag, look no further than Royal Stacks. With seven locations including two in the CBD, it’s easy to get stacked. Think burgers piled high with thick beef patties (multiples, in many cases) or juicy chicken, crispy bacon and melted cheese. There’s a tempting choice of milkshakes and ‘stack-a-ccinos’, too. The diet will have to wait until tomorrow.
4. Very Good Falafel
Cheap and cheerful doesn’t have to mean food you’ll love now, but regret later. Out in Brunswick, Very Good Falafel has been living up to its moniker for years with Middle East-infused goodness. Have yours in a freshly-baked pita, or plate it up alongside a salad. It won’t abuse your wallet, either.
5. 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, felafel and salads. And don’t forget the vegan baklawa or Turkish Delight to finish.
6. ShanDong MaMa
Follow Mama’s advice and dig into a delicious variety of dumplings and potstickers at either of ShanDong Mama’s two CBD locations. And while it’s mostly about the dumplings, there’s noodles, buns and some surprising sides, such as the jellyfish and Chinese cabbage salad. The prices are equally easy to digest.
7. The Happy Mexican
Who doesn’t love a Happy Mexican? All your favourites are here 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.
8. Laksa King
A favourite of locals and food critics alike, Laksa King’s authentically Malaysian laksas naturally lead the way. But there’s plenty else to tempt including noodles (with or without soup), fried rice dishes, and a long list of staple dishes from across Asia, including several vegetarian options. Four locations include the Flemington original, which opened 25 years ago. All hail the King.
9. Gami Chicken and Beer
Fried chicken served with cold beer – it’s such a good pairing that Koreans even have a name for it, ‘chimaek’. Melburnians evidently agree, because Gami is spreading like wildfire. At last count there are more than 20 locations around town, bringing Korean-style fried chicken to the masses plus burgers and fried rice, too.
10. Fancy Hank's BBQ
Aussies love a barbie, but we’re also partial to some American-style, slow-cooked BBQ treats. Fancy Hank’s delivers in spades with brisket, pulled pork, ribs and fried chicken, plus a mouth-watering array of side dishes such as buffalo wings and the ever-popular mac ‘n cheese. A central location makes Hank’s a favourite hangout for the Bourke Street business set.