The get in my belly bit

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. Laksa King

Gather the gang for a hearty and affordable feast at Laksa King — a beloved Melbourne eatery with locations in Flemington, Southland and Glen Waverley. Alongside their famous spicy curry laksa, the menu is packed with delicious dishes drawing on Chinese and Malaysian cooking influences. Bring a bottle of your favourite vino and tuck into generous plates of rice, noodles, meat and seafood.

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. Shop Ramen

Head to Fitzroy for ridiculously good ramen at Shop Ramen. Keep it simple with the classic shoyu pork belly, or mix it up with fantastic flavours like miso barbecue chicken, beef brisket or creamy veggie miso with organic tofu. Then sip, slurp and enjoy.

6. Butchers Diner

The team at Butchers Diner on Bourke St are slinging deliciously affordable cuts of meat, sandwiches and burgers until 1am, Tuesday to Saturday. Whether you're after a lunchtime treat or a late-night feed, they've got you covered. Check out the daily sandwich specials or snag a cheeseburger, small chips and a drink for just $20. It would be rude not to!

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 more than 15 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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