Melbourne is regarded by many as Australia’s second city, but when it comes to food, even Sydney can’t keep up. Home to an ever-growing immigrant community from across Europe and Asia, Melbourne’s vibrant culinary landscape presents options from every corner of the globe and at every price point. For the best way to navigate this rich food scene, simply look to the locals—many of whom prefer to eat on the cheaper side. Here's how to eat like them.
Leave The CBD Behind
As with any city center, Melbourne’s CBD is home to some of the city’s most expensive restaurants, along with the majority of the city’s hostels and hotels. In order to really take advantage of Melbourne’s more vibrant culinary offerings though, your best bet is to leave the CBD behind and visit its surrounding neighborhoods (or suburbs as they’re referred to locally) to find the real hidden gems. For instance, if you find yourself heading north into the Brunswick neighborhood, you absolutely must stop at A1 Lebanese Bakery, a local institution that attracts eaters from every corner of Melbourne. With each flatbread and pizza on the menu costing less than $8—and many less than $5—A1 is one of the most deliciously unique and cost-effective places you can visit in the entire city.
Explore Victoria Market
At the epicenter of Melbourne’s food world is the Queen Victoria Market. Known for its vast range of produce, meat, and seafood, Queen Vic also houses a number of vendors that are only too eager to sell you delicious foods that won’t empty your wallet. The most famous stall at Queen Vic might be Bratwurst Shop & Co., which sells every variation of bratwurst you can imagine, each of which is massive and will set you back less than $7. However, your best option might be the Borek Shop, located right next to Bratwurst Shop & Co. For just $3 you can choose from any of their massive boreks, rolled Turkish flatbreads filled with spinach and cheese, lamb, or spiced vegetables.
Melbourne’s Chinatown has been a staple of the city for over 150 years and continues to draw massive crowds of hungry visitors each day. There are tons of restaurants to choose from, depending on which corner of Asia you’d like to dine in; and like most Chinatowns, restaurant prices are actually pretty reasonable. However, if you’re looking for the best of both taste and value, then head to Shanghai Village. Locals flock to this BYOW institution for their spring onion pancakes and legendary dumplings, of which you can get 15 for under $10. The Chinatown location can get swamped at times, but Shanghai Village has a second location just down the way which handles the overflow of enthused dumpling connoisseurs.
Although there are a bunch of vegetarian restaurants to choose from, with Om Vegetarian being a staple of local students and backpackers alike, Lentil As Anything offers delicious meals that anyone with a few dollars can afford. The restaurant, which has a number of locations around Melbourne, is built on a pay-as-you-feel model, meaning that you’re asked to pay whatever you think your meal was worth once you’ve eaten it.
Venture Out For Vietnamese
If you’re looking for some of the best Vietnamese food outside of Hanoi or Saigon, Melbourne is the place to be. The huge local Vietnamese community is essentially split amongst two neighborhoods, Footscray and Richmond; however, when it comes to the food, you really can’t go wrong with either area. Be it pho, bun bo hue, or banh mi—with some of the best for under $5 from the Nhu Lan Bakery’s locations in both neighborhoods—you can find it all on the cheap.
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