It’s not uncommon to see a line gathering outside of Sushi Monger, tucked down a laneway between Bourke and Little Collins Streets. Rest assured though, it moves quickly. This is an unpretentious, no-fuss place that serves bento boxes, curry bowls and udon noodle soup. The best bargain, however, is the sushi. Three rolls — there’s a range of options including chicken and avocado, teriyaki salmon and tempura prawn — with a serve of miso soup will set you back just $7.50.
If you love Lebanese food or are keen to try it out, head to A1 Bakery in Brunswick. Peruse the menu of traditional pies, pizzas and wraps and try something you wouldn’t usually go for — most of the items cost less than $10 with enough change for coffee. If you’re saving your pennies to splurge on other Melbourne experiences, the zaatar (a mixed herb pizza) is flavour-packed and unbelievably good value at $1.50.
Burger connoisseurs are spoiled for choice in Melbourne, with new joints continually popping up and vying to become the next favourite. For an American-style diner experience that is up there with city’s best, Betty’s Burgers is a must. The Betty’s Classic burger (Angus beef, cheese, salad and Betty’s special sauce) is exactly $10. As the name suggests it’s a classic burger, but the juicy patty and tasty special sauce make it one that is made just right.
Positioned on Richmond’s Victoria Street, a mecca for Vietnamese food lovers, is Phuoc Thanh, arguably one of the best spots for banh mi in Melbourne. It’s fair to say its stellar reputation is well earned. It’s a no-frills kind of place but don’t let that deter you. The banh mi is served in crusty rolls, stuffed with fresh fillings and garnished with fried shallots and spring onion. Prices start at a mere $5, so it’s cheap enough for two servings if you’re particularly hungry.
In the battle of the baos, there are a few contenders in Melbourne town. It’s stiff competition, but for pillowy-soft, handmade and scrumptious steamed buns, there’s no going past Wonderbao. The menu has items as cheap as $2.70, including choi bao (shiitake mushroom, tofu and vegetables) and char siu bao (barbecue pork). The show-stopper, though, is the flavour-packed braised pork belly bao ($5.20). It’s served with pickled mustard, coriander and crushed peanuts that perfectly complement the succulent braised pork.
The guys behind Saluministi live and breathe Italian food, so it’s little wonder their hearty panini sandwiches have become popular among Melbourne foodies. Packed with traditional Italian fillings, the sandwiches are just like the ones nonna makes but served from trendy hole-in-the-wall cafe on Flinders Lane. For $10 or less you can order the porchetta breakfast panini ($8), mortadella panini ($10) or caprese panini ($10 and vegetarian).
Time to break bread? Head to 5 & Dime Bagels for a New York favourite right in the heart of Melbourne. Go for the classic cream cheese bagel ($4.50) or the PB and J, which is sure to be a hit with the littlies if they’re in tow. For those wanting to try something a little different, the bacon maple chipotle bagel is for you. It comes with a house-made bacon jam and cream cheese.
Think you can’t possibly get an all-you-can-eat meal for under $10? Think again. Om Vegetarian offers an all-you-can-eat thaali meal for $6.50. It puts the myth that vegetarian food isn’t filling to bed with generous curries made from potato, lentils and chickpeas, and served with fresh naan and steamed rice. Venture beyond the buffet and you’ll find samosas, aloo tikki (patty made from boiled potatoes, onions and spices) and vada (spiced fritter), each under $2.