Very cheap eats: Where it all began

There was a point I dropped off buying the Fairfax food bibles. “The Good Food Guide” segued to cover-to-cover advertising and “Cheap Eats” seemed to reinvent the definition of “cheap”. Sure things have changed since I moved to Melbourne 20 years ago. But for many years I really did have no spare cash and all dining beyond the home or someone else’s house aimed at the $5-10 mark. I’d scour the guide for a little bit of lux parading as cheap but I soon discovered that inclusion fell more into the cost of a single dish, rather than what it took to constitute a meal. Yu Yu for example, technically, has some incredibly cheap dishes all served in an exclusive setting but a serving the size of child’s hand tends to leave one a tad hungry.

Looking at the write up for this years winners of the cheapie crowns I am not entirely sure if much has changed.

“The Moroccan Soup Bar” gets a mention in the fast disappearing vegetarian section and absolutely hits the monetary goals. You can eat to the gills, with mint tea, thick coffee and dessert as well, with significant change out of a $20 note. You can do most things there except book a table for 2, eat meat or imbibe in liquor. I am not entirely sure you could fill up as easily at Bar Lourinha, Cafe Zum Zum or Mecca Bah for twice the price. Sure there will always be cheap items on the menu but rarely are they enough to satisfy. Of course, in such establishments we are just talking about food, when adding a bar tab to the bill – cheap is long gone.True cheap grub, is the string of Lebanese restaurants on Sydney Road rather than the sanitized (but certainly tasty) reinterpretations of the genre that get the gongs. Cheap is any place in Footscray where English is not the language of choice. In Northcote the most delicious feast you can have with the most stunning array of foods is the banquet nights (Friday and Saturday) at Sigri, where there is flavoursome Sri Lankan food on offer for a mere $25. I’m not the kind of person who’d usually frequent a bain marie, serve yourself style establishment but the food here is some of the best in it’s class.A cheap eat is a falafel, with freshly cooked balls of broad beans or chickpeas, crunchy salad, tangy tahini dressing, in fluffy Turkish bread (the Halal place 2 doors up from Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick is a standout). An inexpensive feast is a trip to the market for bread and deli items, sun ripened tomatoes and grapes, for a picnic. A belly filling delight is the seafood laksa at Chin Chins, in North Carlton.

But the crown of cheapness has to go to “Lentil as Anything” the collection of pay as you wish eateries (once more vegetarian and alcohol-free) – where if you so chose, you really could sing for your supper.

So what is your idea of a cheap eat?

(Originally posted by Another Outspoken Female at Confessions of a Food Nazi)