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CBD lunch guide: Cheap eats

You want something cheap, fast and tasty to fuel you up for your arvo meetings? We’ve got you covered

Sometimes a brown bag packed with last night’s leftovers isn’t what you’re feeling at midday. But never fear, we’ve compiled a list of Melbourne’s best cheap lunches you can swap out for your meal stashed in the communal fridge without going over schedule or breaking the bank.

If you’re not in the CBD, check out our guide to Melbourne’s best lunches, or make it easy with our round-up of Melbourne’s best burgers.

Cheap eats in the CBD

1. Daughter In Law

This is probably the best bang for your buck lunch in the city. Daughter In Law offers a meat and vegetarian lunch thali for $15 apiece which includes raita, rice and pappadam. Each thali has four pots of curry to soak up like a butterless butter chicken, lamb rogan josh, palak paneer and a vegan chana masala. Don’t go past their self-serve beer fridge, the novelty is worth the adventure. This may be a cheap eat, but book ahead or be faced with disappointment.

2. Butchers Diner

Its ultimate claim is being open 24 hours, but the quality here doesn’t slip at any hour. In fact, this is the perfect no-frills venue, where you can put away a burger made with cuts of aged beef, snack on skewers cooked yakitori style, cut into a leg of crisp, confit duck or chew on a falafel salad with your top button undone. The time-poor can even get any item takeaway or peruse Butchers Diner’s all-vegan vending machine out front.

3. ShanDong MaMa

There’s a reason this CBD venue won the Bang for Buck category in our Food Awards in 2013 – top-notch dumplings and efficient service are definitely worth the visit. The boiled mackerel dumplings have become an unlikely signature, with their subtle flavour and mousse-like filling, but ShanDong MaMa’s ability to churn out bowls of hand-pulled noodles, knots of spring onion pancakes and lightly tossed sweet-and-sour cabbage salads makes this a CBD must.

4. Wonderpop Deli

Wonderpop and Deli is remaking the humble pie in a shiny new image. Before traditionalists get their hi-vis in a knot, the team haven’t completely turned their backs on convention, putting their chunky beef and gravy number called ‘That Old Devil Called Tradish’ in pole position on the menu. Here, pies are ensconced in glass domes reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast and wooden panelling combined with overhanging branches create a cosiness at odds with its office-flanked location and grey exterior. People are talking about the ‘piesagne’ for good reason. Sturdy layers of lasagne sheets brimming with a slow-cooked Bolognese sauce spiked with salty bacon and béchamel are encased in shortcrust pastry.

5. Tina’s Noodle Kitchen

Spice lovers, rejoice! Dainty Sichuan now comes in a neat and tidy (but just as spicy) format, specialising in rice noodles cooked in the clay pot the dish is served in. Choose from broths rich with pickled mustard greens, heavy with dried chillies or mild, double chicken stock accompanied by duck, beef, pork, chicken or offal. Just make sure you’re not wearing a white shirt on your visit.

6. Sal’s Authentic New York Pizza

Sal’s is probably the only pizzeria in Melbourne who can lay claim to serving an authentic New York slice. Sal’s is a branch of the New York pizzeria established back in the 1970s in Little Neck, Queens and has brought his pie maker, Brian Leo, to Melbourne to ensure a true, New York slice. All the recipes have been developed by Sal himself, using Wisconsin mozzarella, Californian tomatoes and freshly milled flour from New York. Expect flavours like the classic cheese and pepperoni next to Sal’s unique Buffalo chicken or meatball topped pies. Pizzas are all available by the slice and can be enjoyed next to garlic knots, pepperoni wheels, mozzarella sticks and buffalo wings with their signature set of dipping sauces.

7. Blok M Express

Students and worker bees alike jostle to find a spot in the split-level restaurant – you’ll most likely find yourself sharing a table with someone else, but what Blok M lacks in space and comfort it makes up for with the unapologetically punchy flavours of Indonesian food. Blok M draws from every corner of Indonesia – its balado (a chilli-based spice mixture) dishes are from West Sumatra, while its grilled chicken owes its provenance to Java.

You want something cheap, fast and tasty to fuel you up for your arvo meetings? We've got you covered with Melbourne's best cheap lunches.