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Nov 5, 2013 07:10 PM

Good everyday restaurant picks in Melbourne for a newcomer

Hi All,

I just moved from New York to Carlton in August and though I've been out and about, I still haven't found restaurants that I love within my usual price range ($10-15 for lunch; $20-30 for dinner). Maybe I need to adjust my budget upward or shift my sights to student fare, but I've found that the lower cost Asian places I've tried so far were pretty lackluster.

Would you help me put together a list of go-to restaurants? If I need to nudge the budget up a little bit, so be it, but I'm hoping to avoid having to take a second job to support my appetite. ;-)

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Well, you've already discovered you're in one of the most expensive cities on the planet for eating. You're also in a very affluent suburb, which means you might have to dust off that myki and go somewhere cheaper.

    Carlton's got a few gems. Colourful Yunnan is a recent opening on Swanston Street. Tiamo 1&2 are decent, if old school, Italians and DOC is still pumping for real pizza. Small Victories on Rathdowne is great for brunch/ lunch.

    But it's more kersizm's stomping ground than mine....

    12 Replies
    1. re: mr_gimlet

      Thanks for the quick reply. Already hit DOC and loved it. I will happily jump on a tram or walk a few kilometers for good food, but it's always good to have something local for weeknights when I'm too lazy to cook.

      1. re: overhear

        Don't forget:

        Carlton Espresso and the DOC Deli. Espresso does great pasta well below your price point and for mine better than Tiamo. The deli has well priced italian and local meat and cheese.

        I do love Nasi Lemak House on Grattan Street for Malaysian.

        I haven't been there in 5 years but the bar at Hotel Lincoln used to be a great sub-$20 meal.

        Saigon Pho is apparently pretty good.

        I'll also recommend The Town Mouse and the Carlton Wine room.


        1. re: kersizm

          Thanks for your thoughts. I will definitely give those a try.

          Can you recommend a particular dish at Nasi Lemak? I live next door to Norsiah's Kitchen, (a Malaysian place) which blankets the neighborhood with a pungent -- and to me, repellent -- smell from sunrise till way past sunset. In trying to come to terms with this, I've considered going in to sample the food, but haven't yet been able to take the leap. I know, I'm a terrible coward, but I am willing to try.

          1. re: overhear

            What about the nasi lemak? Just ask them! The stinky smell you live with with be salted fermented shrimp paste used for the base of sambals. You can try it with kang kong if you want.

            I'd be cheeky and tell them you live next door and try for a freebie. Or at least making friends.

            1. re: overhear

              Oh and while they are more expensive in Carlton I like Epocha and La Luna.

              1. re: kersizm

                La Luna is our 'life event' destination - weddings, deaths, selling house etc. It isn't the best restaurant in Melbourne, but it's hospitable and warm.

                Speaking of which, and going slightly OT, I had a stunning meal at The Commoner in Fitzroy last week.

                1. re: mr_gimlet

                  Sorry for the delay in replying. I've been very busy with all the eating, of course. :-)

                  I made it to NL over the weekend and on Mr. Gimlet's suggestion tried the nasi lemak. Very nice, light and delicious, and nothing like the saturated smell over at Norsiah's. The chicken leg was perfectly done, but I'm starting to think that I'm just not a meat-eater, so I will definitely try the kangkong sambal next.

                  The Commoner in Fitzroy looks great, and I've also heard good things about Hellenic Republic out that way. Has anyone tried Moroccan Soup Bar?

                  1. re: overhear

                    Yeah, Moroccan Soup Bar is an institution in both a good and a bad way. Cheap and filling, but not exactly cutting edge.

                    Avoiding meat will keep your costs down! Try the Vegie Bar on Brunswick Street, or Abla's in Carlton if you can splurge a bit.

                    Kangkong is probably more a side dish, it would be a pretty intense meal on its own. You might enjoy trying rojak, which is a slightly bizarre sweet, salty, fruity salad.

                    Didn't mean to recommend the Commoner to you (exxy), was having a side conversation with kersizm.

                    1. re: overhear

                      If you are avoiding meat don't forget Yong Green Food on Brunswick Street. It's on the cheaper end of things too.

                      1. re: kersizm

                        And I forgot the outstanding Horn Please on St George's Road. Sunday night is locals night (you don't have to be a local) where you can stuff your face with as much as you can eat for $20

                        1. re: mr_gimlet

                          Oh yeah, I've heard very good things about Horn Please.

                          For lunch you could always go to Babka (Brunswick St) for perogis and then a slice of cake or a danish. Just avoid their horrible coffee.


                          1. re: kersizm

                            In case anyone else is searching for good affordable eats, thought I'd mention that I just discovered Darac between Swanston and Elizabeth Sts on A'Beckett St. (how do you pronounce A'Beckett anyway?). Wonderful, fresh food, great atmosphere, and lovely service. We *loved* the prawn bibimbob and the spicy osam bulgoki

        2. Continuing to add to my own post here. I've just discovered Los Hermanos in Brunswick. Best Mexican food I've had very, very long time -- and an absolute shock to find it in Melbourne.

          1 Reply
          1. re: overhear

            $5 per taco is very Brunswick pricing though....

          2. we had some good ribs recently at Ike's Shack
            went great w the Mornington IPA. Prices were very reasonable -we split the triple back rack dish.

            3 Replies
              1. re: overhear

                Do they cook on site or bring in?

                1. re: mr_gimlet

                  I got the feeling they cook on site, Charles says he saw a smoker there. We also recently ate at Meatmaiden in the city, and they definitely had the wood and smoker there. I like the rustic down-to-earth charm of Ike's.

            1. Also we just tried Pastuso on AC/DC Lane - they found a table for us even w no bookings on a busy Fri night (we had to go for a 30 min walk, but that is fine) - and we got to sit right in front of the open kitchen which I love. We tried alpaca because we had never seen it on a menu before, but it is a little stringy. I enjoyed the ceviche 3 ways and the anticuchos. I think the anticuchos and the swordfish were my favorites. I'd eat there again. Service was just fine - they were slammed with people.

              1 Reply
              1. re: debbieann

                Funny, I just moved from Carlton to the cbd, right around the corner from Pastuso. Can't wait to try it. Thanks for the post.