All posts filed under: dirt cheap

Oppa Kitchen

I’m a big fan of Korean food, so it was exciting to stumble on this little eatery on Swanston Street recently. Oppa Kitchen has been around for six months or so, always brimming with hip young Koreans, and it’s easy to see why. The bright and minimalist decor is the first thing to entice punters off the street, and the cheap and cheerful menu is a close second. This is not the best Korean cuisine in Melbourne by any stretch — you won’t be getting any exciting little kimchi side-dishes here, for a start — but at $10-$12 for most mains, this place is great value and damn tasty nonetheless. I ordered the very enormous and delicious Korean Beef Bulgogi Meal Bucket — and it really was a bucket. The meal came in a wooden dish, full to the brim with rice, beef bulgogi, tasty salad and an orange slice. It was thoroughly satisfying, and the whole experience — from the self-service ordering system to the bustling atmosphere — was really quite fun, and made …

Lentil as Anything

Nestled among the trees in graceful Abbotsford Convent by the Yarra River is a little Melbourne miracle. Lentil As Anything is a volunteer-run restaurant and cafe serving up simple, hearty self-serve vegetarian food that is, quite literally, priceless. Payment at Lentils works through an honour system whereby diners give whatever they can afford. There are no cash registers here — no waiters handing out bills. There’s just a little wooden box asking for donations — whatever you feel your meal is worth. Photos by Marleena Forward Originally opened in 2000 in St Kilda, Lentils is now a registered not-for-profit organisation with four restaurants in operation: St Kilda, Abbotsford, Preston and Footscray. The Lentil As Anything website explains its evolution and philosophy thus: “Money was influencing the trends in the community, leaving many disenchanted. Lentil As Anything aimed to re-engage those who where left behind. It seemed that money was often a barrier to people participating … We used the money left in the box to run the restaurant. Money became a unifying force. Trust began to feel at home. The quest …

Hien Vuong 1: pho extraordinaire

Ladies and gentlemen, The Melbourne Local has a new favourite pho shop. It’s in Footscray, of course, as most of Melbourne’s best phos are. Tucked down a road off Barkly Street, Hien Vuong 1 is aesthetically modest (none of those shiny black counter-tops here) and gastronomically magnificent. The pho’s broth is fragrant and deliciously spiced, and it just gets better once you’ve added condiments and fresh herbs to your liking. As in most pho places in Footscray, soups here come in three sizes (remember, small = large, large = mammoth-sized) and are dirt cheap at around $8–$10. The staff are very attentive, particularly the friendly owner of the restaurant who has a smile for every customer. Give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.   Hien Vuong 1 Address: 37 Leeds St, Footscray Tel: 9687 1470 Open: Monday–Sunday for lunch and dinner     Read more reviews at  

A1 Lebanese Bakery

Located in upper Sydney Road in Brunswick, A1 Lebanese Bakery is a big, breezy, slightly dishevelled place serving up cheap and delicious Lebanese pastries with zero pretentiousness. The front of the bakery is occupied by a bunch of tables, while down the back is a shop section offering a variety of Lebanese treats including dried herbs, dips, lentils and canned goods. The bakery is to the right, where you’ll find an enormous oven and all sorts of tasties including spinach triangles, halloumi pies and za’atar pizzas for just a few coins each. You can also get coffee here, and some baklava to finish off. If you love Lebanese food, you’ll love A1.   A1 Lebanese Bakery Address: 643–645 Sydney Rd, Brunswick Tel: 9386 0440 Opening hours: Sunday–Wednesday 7am–7pm, Thursday–Saturday 7am–9pm   Read more reviews at  

Shanghai Street Dumpling

I’m a big fan of a decent Chinese dumpling. Quick, light, not too oily, with individual ingredients you can really taste — these, to my inexpert but enthusiastic Australian taste-buds, are the hallmarks of a fine dumpling. Shanghai Street Dumpling in Little Bourke Street are purveyors of such exemplary dumplings. Having tried a bunch of dumpling restaurants along Little Bourke, I believe I can safely declare Shanghai Street the best of the lot — at least at the cheap ‘n’ cheery end of the dining spectrum. You’ll pay a couple extra dollars for a plate of dumplings here compared with, say, Shanghai Dumpling House in Tattersalls Lane, but the dumplings are far tastier, you won’t have to shout to be heard inside the restaurant and you won’t have to contend with rude staff. Shanghai Street specialises in xiao long bao but a couple of my favourites are the pork and prawn wonton soup — light and delicious on a cold Melbourne day — and the deceptively filling pork fried dumplings, both around $8.50–$9.50 for a serving …

Don Don Japanese restaurant

Melbourne’s delicious and cheap range of authentic Asian food has to be one of the things I love most about this city. And Don Don Japanese restaurant on Little Lonsdale Street in the CBD ticks all the right boxes. This eatery, which used to be tucked into a tiny room on upper Swanston Street, has now stretched its wings a little in its new location. But beware: this place still booms at busy times of the day. (I remember my first experience ordering food at the old Don Don during the lunchtime crush — it was really quite scary.) The food here isn’t the best in Melbourne, but it is tasty and very cheap; most meals are between $6 and $9. My favourite is the yummy soba salad (noodles with salad and tofu), although a very hungry tummy might prefer one of the larger meals. A great pick for a quick, affordable city meal.   Don Don Address: 198 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne Tel: 9670 7113     Read more reviws at   

Böreks at Queen Vic Market

    Mmm. Böreks. Just thinking about those tasty treats is making my mouth water… If you find yourself in Vic Market and needing a snack, head straight to the börek stall in the delicatessen section of the market. It’s easy to miss — it’s just a single, simple shop front — but you can usually spot it for the crowd. Here you can buy a freshly baked börek with various fillings (cheese and spinach, spicy potato, or spicy lamb — my personal favourite) for only $3. The börek shop also sells wraps for $3, as well as a few other snacks, but everybody comes here for the famous böreks. During peak hour you’ll need to battle your way to the front of the crowd to get your order heard, but it’s all worth it.   The Borek Shop Address: Shop 95, Deli Hall, Queen Victoria Market Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 6am–2pm, Friday 6am–5pm, Saturday 6am–3pm, Sunday 9am–4pm Damage: $3   Read more reviews at

Emerging Writers’ Festival 2013

    Tomorrow the 10th annual Emerging Writers’ Festival begins, bringing together writers, editors, publishers and performers for 50 events across Melbourne. Many of the events are free, and the ticketed events are generally affordable. For a full run down of the EWF 2013 programme, click here. You can also find a full list of participating writers here. Many events have already booked out, so get in early if you want to secure tickets. If you love writing, this one’s for you.   Emerging Writers’ Festival 2013 Date: 23 May — 2 June 2013 Festival Hub: Thousand Pound Bend, 631 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne  

cheap and cheerful at crossways

  If you don’t know where to look, you won’t find it. And trust me, if you’re looking for a cheap lunch in Melbourne’s CBD, you will want to know about this place. Tucked away up a stairwell on Swanston Street is the Crossways Hare Krishna vegetarian restaurant — aka the best value meal in Melbourne. Two courses. Vegetarian. Papadams. Lassis. Dessert. All you can eat. Cost? $7.50 — or $5.50 for students and concession-card holders. Yes, I’m being serious. On the first floor above street level you’ll find a room filled with large tables, which you will most likely share with strangers on a busy day. At the back of the room you’ll find the bain-marie, cutlery and self-serve drinks. There’s no table service here, so make sure you remember to return your dirty dishes to the designated area and scrape any left-overs into the buckets there. On the second level, you’ll find another room filled with more tables, plus a bookshelf stacked with titles on Indian spirituality. This space is usually nice and quiet — a good option if the main room below is too noisy or full. You can …

on the big screen

      Nowadays, what with the high value of the Australian dollar compared with many major world currencies, Australia is one of the more expensive countries in which to live and travel. For some reason, cinema tickets are particularly pricey in this country; you’ll pay around $18 for a standard adult ticket and up around $22–$25 for 3D films. But where there’s a will, there’s always a way. Most cinemas have a ‘cheap-arse’ day, always at the beginning of the week, when ticket prices are slashed. Here’s a run-down of inner-city Melbourne’s cheap-arse cinema days and times for your cheap-arse viewing pleasure…   Cinema Nova Address: 380 Lygon St, Carlton Cheap arse: Mondays Tickets: $6 before 4pm, $9 after 4pm   Kino Cinemas Address: 45 Collins St, Melbourne Cheap arse: Mondays Tickets: $7 all day   Sun Theatre Address: 8 Ballarat St, Yarraville Cheap arse: Mondays and Tuesdays Tickets: $10 ($3 extra for 3D)   Astor Theatre Address: 1 Chapel St, St Kilda  Cheap arse: Wednesdays Tickets: $10   Hoyts Cinemas Address: Various Cheap arse: Tuesdays Tickets: $11.50   Village Cinemas Address: Various Cheap arse: …