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Best Melbourne Cheap Eats 2024

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Melbourne is a great city for dining including cheap and affordable eats! Check out our best cheap eats in Melbourne. For the student and city worker there’s a plethora of cheap eateries where quality and price converge.

Paik's Noodles Melbourne - CBD and various locations

Get your noodles on! Noodles heaven launched by Paik the Korean rock star chef, with house specialties such as Jjangmyeon with black bean sauce noodles. 

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Also indulge in the Gochu jjamppong Noodle Soup, Jaenban Jajang Noodles and the Tang-suyak noodles. A legit Korean experience with first class handmade noodles, super tasty dishes and great service.

Mr RYU - South Yarra

Mr RYU has made a large impression with its high quality and affordable Japanese cuisine. The World Loves Melbourne was invited along to experience an "omasake" selection of dishes including the lunch set box Teishoku. We feel Mr RYU stands out with a touch of class and deserved to be in our Best Japanese Restaurants in Melbourne 2019.

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The exceptional Teishoku set meal for lunch featured high quality ingredients at excellent prices from a top notch trained chef Seung, who has worked in notable restaurants including head chef of iconic Kumo Japanese in East Brunswick and senior chef de partie at no 35 restaurant located at Sofitel on Collins. Smart, delicious dishes with top presentation and technique are a standout in the precinct. 

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A highlight of the Teishoku was the fresh quality Salmon sashimi, as well as tender Chicken katsu with obvious high quality cut of chicken, tangy Miso soup, refreshing pickled daikon, generous bowl of rice, a surprise element of Onsen egg cooked at 65 degrees, and finally a superb a sexy Green tea panna cotta. What a great range of dishes for your lunch. The tender Chicken katsu was a great indication that the Donburi menu served with rice is a winner.

Mr Lee's Food - Ringwood East

Mr Lee's Food is a now famous restaurant in Ringwood East and one of the best Korean restaurants in Melbourne. Located in a humble strip of shops diagonally across from the Maroondah Hospital Mr Lee's Food has attracted diners from all over Melbourne with it's simple menu of only a handful of dishes. 

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Written up in Time Out Melbournereceiving the Best Cheap Eat award is no mean feat. Impressive accolades from a local hero in the burbs. Eastern suburbs locals are rejoicing at this small eatery in Ringwood East, a hidden gem of the burbs.

The menu is limited but there's a string of hits, notably the house-made soondae (Korean blood sausage), steamed pork belly and dwaeji guk bap (pork soup with rice). Comfort food at its best and an authentic Korean food triumph. We're glad we are locals that live around here too. No frills and no website, the attraction is in the food. 

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The Korean blood sausage soup is out of this world with flavoursome pork broth from the bone. My only slight quibble is I like it sllightly saltier so I added a little salt. The inclusion of organ meat was a revelation; as an offal lover I was excited by double offal.

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Steamed pork  belly is pure joy melt in your mouth.

Highly recommended but keep the secret to yourself as there's only 20 seats.

No 22 Cafe - CBD

Focaccia heaven at this Puglia inspired focaccia panini cafe. Every focaccia is made with 00 flour and is generous in size and filling. The super fresh focaccia are a revelation and we can't get enough, including the Autentica with Mortadella, Stracciatella and Australian Pistachio. Another favorite is the La Campineira with Hot Soppressa, Marinated Eggplants, Stracciatella and Rocket. 

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Biggie Smalls - lunch, late night, whenever! (Melbourne Airport, T3)

Biggie Smalls is the fix for your lunch date and your late night craving. Shane Delia is a man of the people with his fine dining Maha but also with his kebab haven Biggie Smalls (no pretension here). The menu keeps evolving but basically consists of delicious kebabs of generous size with many elements in each one. Order up as sides are compelling as are desserts.

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This is casual dining at it's best with R&B playing in the background and a cool vibe. You can see from the above these are generous sized kbabs (his spelling) including Dirty South Fried Chicken, East Coast Grilled Pork, West Coast Roast Lamb, Piggy Smalls Crispy Pork Belly and Bronson Coconut Fried Beef Brisket, to name a few.

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Bahari - The Hellenic Plate - affordable Greek feast! (Richmond)

Bahari in Richmond excites - I've included in the "affordable feast" bracket more than a cheap eat as such. Bahari is a staple dining destination for those in the know, ticking the boxes of excellent Greek food at a good price, top notch service and a buzz of an atmosphere. It's the kind of place to go with a group where you want to have a great time but not spend a fortune.

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The food here is fresh and lively - Greek with a modern twist - championed by Philip Vakos ex Masterchef and described by him as "gringlish". If you love your skewers and your octopus and your lamb and your saganaki, this is the place to come. The idea is to order a selection of dishes and then share in the spirit of communal dining. 

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Get your stuffed calamari on! This is rustic food in the Greek style, full of flavour. This is a menu for the punters rather than a menu for the chefs (if you know what I mean).

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Lamb glorious lamb shoulder! Perfect with a beetroot salad.

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Decor is modern with plants and white walls, and the lighting (naked light bulbs) is dimmed down at night. You can also enjoy a few tables on eclectic Swan St - near a lively intersection.

Bahari feels like your best friend; a favourite you love to hang around. 

Butchers Diner - CBD 

Butchers Diner is a crowd favorite hole in the wall restaurant on Bourke St serving us affordable daily specials with a fabulous open burger. It's got an old school diner vibe and arguably prices to match. Nostalgia central and a popular place for a late night feed and a beer.

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Tommy Ruff - Next level fish and chips! (Windsor, Elsternwick, Mordialloc)

When fish and chips becomes a serious business - not just a take away option. Visit one of the Tommy Ruff eateries alone or with a group for a decent great value feed! Select from the extensive One for All menu of shared dishes, or go for the Packs, Platters, Saucy Grills, Market Fish and more. As far as we are concerned this is next level for anyone with a fish and chips mindset.

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Or if you just want simple fish and chips Tommy Ruff delivers. Check out their own brews and wines; I thought their beer was refreshing and excellent.

A modern restaurant greets the diner; it's casual not fine dining, and has a cheerful and playful as well as chic atmosphere.

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Staff work tirelessly but keep their friendly and cheerful disposition; with banter flowing.

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Chefs Platter is the pinnacle. Is this the best value platter in Melbourne? Spectacular, diversified and rewarding. A platter full of fresh fish of high quality. Tommy's fish tacos, oysters, grilled fish, skewers, fish wings, prawns, calamari and chips. We had crabs and mussels added.

I have to photograph it from different angles because it's beautiful and there's so much there.

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Perfect with a pint of Tommy Ruff beer!

Embers Grill - burger gem (Heathmont)

Grill heaven deliciousness in Heathmont, with plenty of finesse and savvy and sensational burgers. A foodie haven with a well constructed menu, generous portions, and sourcing the best of ingredients. There's a lot to be said for cooking chicken for 6 hours then basting it with Peruvian spice rub.

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Since 2019 owner and ex-Rockpool chef Yenni has been shining a light in Heathmont. You can go healthy or go "naughty" and there's excellent gluten free options.

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Skewer heaven.

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Rock Sugar - Thai Fun (South Yarra)

Rock Sugar is a great "go to" Thai joint with a touch of chic and a fun appealing menu. Take your date here for a vibrant night out. I would say the starters are worthwhile but definitely order a few mains. Fortunately you can taste across the menu as the dishes can be shared, so we covered quite a bit of ground.

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Give me all your Chicken and Prawn Dumplings!

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Sexy fit out!

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And all your Steamed buns! Some of the best steamed buns we've had - Crispy Pork Belly Bun and the Soft Shell Crab.

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 Delhi Streets - Indian Affordable (CBD)

Delhi Streets is an exciting colourful if not chic Indian restaurant in The Archway precinct and has become our new Indian favourite. The World Loves Melbourne feels Melbourne has decent Indian restaurants but not that many of them. Delhi Streets captivates with its approacheable street food, Bollywood posters and fun ambience. In terms of smart cheap eats Delhi Streets has burst on to the scene as a chart topper. We were impressed by the quality of cuisine and the overall experience, having been invited to imbibe the lunch menu.

Delhi Streets is about fun, but with substance. Spectacular is the Pan Puri, Indian street food at it's best, with a sense of theatre. Pour the jug of spiced water into the Pan Puri and get an intense hit of flavour and freshness. Crispy lentil cracker balls stuffed with potatoes, chickpeas, onions, tamarind chutney.

Delhi Streets boasts a funky fit out by the guys at BrandWorks. Modern lighting and seating with a dose of colour, along with playful use of design and textures. The ambience is enhanced by the open kitchen. Service was exceptional during our visit, with staff keen to please.

Delhi Streets had us impressed already, but the high standard continued with the Mixed Thali, including Lamb Curry and Butter Chicken (also told Paneer is good). The Thalis come with rice, pappadums, naan bread and a small amount of salad. The spice was right for us, and you can always amp it up.

Wraps and burgers are also a highlight on the menu. Specialising in Indian street food, nothing is particularly expensive. We think it's the perfect meeting place for friends and groups to catch up.

We enjoyed the modern look with Bollywood posters, artwork including Indian flag artwork, excellent use of timbers and metals, exposed brick, concrete floor, and chic naked bulb lighting. The space is well utilised with modern tables and chairs, but also with stools and counters. Bollywood style music playing also brought colour to the experience.

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Image above credit: Delhi Streets

For dessert we enjoyed Chocolate naan bread, another specialty. Delhi Streets captured our imagination. Highly recommended.

 Maker & Monger - Prahran Market cheesy affordable

Love a gourmet cheese toastie/grilled sandwich or Swiss Raclette? Maker & Monger, operating out of a new fabulous store, take it to another level with their cheese offerings and incredible grilled sandwich creations. Think gourmet ingredients with large amounts of oozy cheese dripping down the sides. To be honest we need a couple of their toasties when we visit, even though one may be enough. It's just so delicious!

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Trading from a sensational new store, Maker & Monger is the brainchild of world class cheese-monger, Anthony Femia.

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Tempting shoppers with the theatre of oozing raclette and stringy cheddar, Maker & Monger is famous for its all-American grilled cheese sandwich and the traditional Swiss raclette served over potatoes and pickle. It's a must visit when at the classy Prahran Market.

Son in Law - Thai affordable (Melbourne Central)

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Son In Law is a delightful modern Thai restaurant that hits the spot on all fronts. Traditional names are present but this is about modern Thai or "Thai with a twist". Good restaurants are run by good people and Tony is an excellent front of house, eager to please. We remember the previous restaurant Ayatana but this is something different. The World Loves Melbourne (David and Mario) was invited to sample the bright vibrant experience that is Son In Law.

Every dish we consumed was on point. And comment should be made about the beer and wine list; the best we've ever seen in a Thai restaurant (if that's not patronising). Craft beer overdrive and iconic well chosen trendy wines.

Son in Law Eggs are a must order; Instagram art on a plate but more than that delicious textures and flavours for a simple dish. It set the trend for the night; bright modern food with decent and appropriate levels of spice. Sweetness with heat featuring sweet tamarind, chilli, fried shallots.

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Crispy Barramundi Fillets are another highlight, with many of the dishes bringing a crispy style. Delectable small fillets of crispy barra with a fair amount of kick. Roasted dry chilli, mint and coriander, red onion and roasted ground rice come together wonderfully for a flavour packed dish.

Roti came as a separate dish and could be considered a small dish in itself. Well cooked fluffy roti with pleasing peanut sauce was refreshing.

Service here is excellent with staff vibrant and cheerful.

Another high point was the Crispy Soft Shell Crab and Tiger Prawns; a variation on the traditional Thai Green Curry dish. In fact you can order the Thai Green curry straight up, and if a traditionalist, Son In Law is still for you. Yet we enjoyed the modern and adventurous dishes, with the soft shell crab and tiger prawns cooked perfectly and combining as a seafood triumph against spicy green curry. Enjoyed with coconut rice this was a hugely rewarding dish.

Having eaten plenty, we now imbibed the Twice Cooked Crispy Pork Belly stir fried with chilli jam, green beans, bean shoots, and kaffir lime leaves. We enjoyed this crispy dish; and you need to heed the words "twice cooked crispy" as this is not the typical crispy on the outside tender inside pork belly dish. It's crispy all the way. We love that it is not served as a pile of pork but with crispy beans and bean shoots, and a compelling sauce. Again, this is crispy heaven. 

We highly recommend Son In Law as a modern, vibrant, affordable, savvy and cheery Thai restaurant.

Hawker Hall - Hawker affordable (Windsor)

Hawker Hall offers a world of fabulous Asian dishes to satisfy pretty much everyone. Hawker Halls are places where there's a communal feel, and with tasty and affordable dishes. Ok, so you're not going to get a huge bowl of food for $5 here like you might in Singapore, but we're not expecting that. In fact the prices don't seem to be a whole lot more.

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Hawker Hall is the latest venture from the people behind flavour institutions Chin Chin, Baby Café & Pizzeria and Kong BBQ. Housed in a historic-turn-of-the-century horse stable, Hawker Hall is a food and beer hall inspired by the vibrant hawker centres of Singapore & Malaysia.                                          

Capturing the spirit of the lively hawker street-food culture of Malaysia and Singapore, the Hawker Hall menu showcases the best of South East Asian cuisine. With almost 70 dishes based on the rich and varied culture of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, China, India and more - expect to find Hawker classics such as Nasi Lemak, Char Kway Teow and Hainanese BBQ Chicken Rice.

The World Loves Melbourne loves the Penang Duck Curry with Peanuts and Eggplant. Creamy, tangy and all round delicious with duck perfectly cooked.

The size of the menu creates a unique opportunity to share dishes from all over South East Asia. 

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Replicating the many stalls of a hawker market, the Hawker Hall menu is broken down into sections found in a hawker centre. Highlights include:

  • CKT (Char Kway Teow) – rice noodles, prawn, lup cheong & smoky soy
  • Hainanese BBQ Chicken Rice – with rice, bok choy & chilli sauce
  • Otak Otak – salmon in banana leaf
  • Nasi Lemak – coconut rice, sardines, shredded omelette & sambal peanuts
  • Nasi Goreng – chicken, shrimp, fried egg, prawn cracker & sambal
  • Mutton Biryani   with fragrant rice, sultanas & spiced yoghurt
  • Fragrant Chickpea Curry – with vegetables, cumin yoghurt
  • Carrot Cake (Chai Tow Kway) – stir fried daikon cake, egg & sprouts
  • Char Siu Pork – with bok choy.

The Hawker Hall spirit is all about sharing a range of delicious dishes. Guests can simply ask for the ‘Hawker Feast’ in the "feed me" mode and they will be served a banquet of favourite dishes including dessert. The building was originally a stable, which is most evident in the back half of the building with visible trusses. In a state of disrepair, the building was fully renovated over approximately 12 months with Craig Tan Architects and interior designers, Eades & Bergman.

Din Tai Fung - Chinese Affordable (CBD)

Din Tai Fung, arguably the world’s most famous dumpling specialists, have officially opened the doors to their biggest Australian restaurant yet, and the first outside of NSW at the world-class shopping mecca, Emporium Melbourne.

Located on Level Four, Emporium Melbourne (with internal as well as direct external lift access on Caledonian Lane), the 235-seat restaurant boasts three private dining rooms, an Australian-first for the group.

Earning cult status since introducing Australia to its delicious Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings) in 2008 at its flagship World Square Sydney restaurant, the latest venue will, of course, feature Din Tai Fung’s signature glass-enclosed dumpling kitchen where customers can watch the masters at work.

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For two talented restaurateurs heading up Din Tai Fung for Australasia, Dendy Harjanto and his wife, Shin, are two of the most lovely, down to earth people you’ll ever meet. With an endearing mix of humility and pride in his craft, Dendy explained to our table of food enthusiasts how the dumplings are lovingly made.

The dumplings are all made fresh for the restaurant’s customers and weighed twice throughout the creation process: between 4.8 and 5.2 grams without filling, and between 20.8 and 21.2 grams with filling. Each dumpling has at least 18 delicate folds (the chefs count).

The Shrimp and Pork Shao Mai is by far the cutest dish on the menu with the petite pink shrimp resting on the top of the dumpling like a crown. We needed no further inviting.

Vegetarian Jiao Zi is a dumpling with beautiful texture and shape—perfect for vegetarians and makes you feel healthy. Bonus!

The Mango Tango is fresh and smooth, and who doesn’t love a straw that’s almost as thick as the glass?

The Egg Fried Rice with Fried Pork Chop isn’t stingy with its core ingredient, which is a big tick for The World Loves Melbourne. The soft egg throughout the rice contrasts well with the crispy fried pork (perfect after three different types of dumpling).

For dessert, Shin had organised for the North and South Pole to be brought to our table! This picture doesn’t quite do their size justice, and we had fun game of it chipping away at the Triple Strawberry and Triple Mango Crushed Ice. The person who topples the mountain onto the table loses, so wield your spoon with skill but beware of a Princess Diaries brain freeze moment! We had the large size, but smaller portions are available.

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The Mango Pudding is good on its own, but when you add a capful of condensed milk (as per Din Tai Fung tradition) it takes it to the next level. Check it out if you’re wanting something fruity (without the brain freeze).

We finished this stunning meal on a high note with Taro Gelato & Golden Taro Bread. The unique texture of the taro, a popular root vegetable, adds a complicated layer to a simple looking dish.

All of Din Tai Fung’s venues have their own unique design identity, and Emporium Melbourne is no different. 

Din Tai Fung Emporium Melbourne is located on Level 4, 287 Lonsdale Street (or lift access via corner of Little Bourke St and Caledonian Lane) and open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

For information on the stores please visit:

Kata Kita - Indonesian gem (CBD)

Kata Kita is a new Indonesian sensation with dishes cooked over charcoal with expert use of spices, including this Pomfret fish below. 

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All about bold flavours in a bright setting, Kata Kita is a place to relax and unwind and enjoy Balinese favourites such as Babi Guling as well as ever popular Nasi Goreng and Dang Bakar. 

Jinda Thai - Abbotsford - Thai affordable (plus Ya Jinda in Doncaster)

Jinda Thai has quickly established itself as a formidable modern Thai restaurant and has a large fan base.

Dishes are authentic, with the odd modern twist, and the staff are upbeat and service excellent. Jinda Thai is also giving back to the punters with a meagre $3 corkage. Walk in to a vibrant modern space full of natural light, which has a different but alluring ambience at night with chic lighting.

Jinda Thai don't "dumb it down" for Western tastes. This is about fresh, tasty, authentic, well presented food.

First up the starters are a highlight, with these Prawn twisters pleasing adults and kids alike with minced prawn, coriander roots, Thai pepper and a spring roll like casing. I could eat these all night... 

Jinda Thai has a modern feel with large warehouse converted into a trendy restaurant. Exposed brick and wooden floors ensure vibrant noise levels. Here at 6pm the restaurant was soon full, with more diners arriving later for a second sitting...

Moo Ping Sticky Rice is a rewarding dish with marinated pork skewers and homemade nam jim. Jinda Thai doesn't hold out on the heat and spice, but discreetly they serve the sauce in a separate bowl. These Skewers with sticky rice were a highlight. Oh we love sticky rice and find it's not always available at the Thai establishments we dine at.

Here we have Grandmother Jinda portrayed on the wall. Note the attractive, not cheesy, artwork around the room. Cool lanterns and hip decor. No kitsch here...


We ordered another serving of the Skewers (love the cane basket for the sticky rice)...

The Barramundi Fillet featured a wonderfully crispy skin, with delectable white flakes of barramundi inside. The fish has the right kind of texture and sweetness to suit Thai cooking. This was deep fried fish with green apple salad dressing of green apple, red onion, fresh chilli, coriander, lemon juice and fish sauce. A great combination. We should have ordered another serving of this, as the kids also loved it. One for next time...

Jinda Thai has a casual but hip modern ambience.

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Green Curry Chicken was creamy, spicy and a delightful amount of spice. The heat in this dish creeps up on you...

I find many Thai restaurants in Melbourne cook great pork neck dishes, and the Thai style marinated pork neck at Jinda Thai from the grill was top notch.

The Thai special fried rice with chicken was a meal in itself and one for the kids...

We also enjoyed the Seafood noodles, that surprised us with the level of spice. The kids balked at this dish and its level of spice, finding out that noodle dishes can be hot and spicy...

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Jinda Thai offers simple but enjoyable desserts. I'm tipping more people order these because they're not too heavy, and are affordable.

Jinda Thai impresses at every level for its freshness and enthusiasm and is surely one of the best Thai restaurants in Melbourne...

Belle's Hot Chicken - Southern American affordable (Elizabeth St, Fitzroy)

Excuse the pun but The World Loves Melbourne has a fried chicken bucket list. Belle's Hot Chicken is a Nashville style standout dude food mecca that The World Loves Melbourne finally visited (and have now been to about a dozen times), and we left on a spicy fried chicken high. Get it right - this is not just fried chicken - but spicy fried chicken. Chilli meets chicken in a wonderful connection. Belle's Hot Chicken is the masterstroke of (ex Loam) Aaron Turner and Morgan McGlone (ex Husk in Nashville and Rumours), who flew in to town to work their magic after a stint in a fine dining kitchen in Nashville.

How can you not fall in love with this? A basket of delicious juicy spicy fried wings with golden crinkle cut Old Bay Fries sprinkled with Paprika. Imbibe your fried chicken in various cuts. Wings, tenders, Dark Meat (Drumstick and Thigh), Fish and Mushrooms are the main options. There are degrees of spice and heat - Southern, Medium, Hot, Really Hot and the extreme Really F**kin Hot (for the brave).

The joy didn't end there,  having also ordered an additional tender of spicy (extra) hot fried chicken chicken, quality pickles and a smoky Almost Arnolds Beans side.  The spicy hot tender was substantially hot (they did warn me) but we enjoyed the heat. What amazed The World Loves Melbourne was that with every Meat dish you also receive a side included. Great value! Don't underestimate the power of the beans side - it rocked my world. The whole meal was substantial and didn't break the bank.

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While waiting for the food we nipped out into Gertrude street to find Matt Beyer, a Belle's devotee, with the legendary Morgan McGlone.

All the chicken is quality La Ionica chemical free chicken. The chicken is not soggy and greasy but features a crunchy exterior and juicy interior. Quality cuts make a huge difference. On weekends they serve Waffles and chicken (now famous).

The ambience of this diner is modern and chic, with booths and retro signage of the DINER sign a talking point. Located below The Everleigh, large windows overlook trendy Gertrude Street.

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American beers grace the drinks list, as well as "natural" wines.

Belle's Hot Chicken lives up to the hype as far as The World Loves Melbourne is concerned and we look forward to future visits. Highly recommended. 

Mr Ramen San - Authentic ramen (CBD)

Mr Ramen San is an authentic ramen house in Mid City Centre (access Bourke or Little Bourke St), with owner Roystan having been trained by Japanese masters and bringing influences of the Kyushu area of Japan. Melbourne is undergoing a ramen revolution and Mr Ramen San is at the forefront. Mr Ramen San is well known for it's traditional charsu pork ramen featuring the cloudy white broth; this is the result of cooking the broth in pork bones for 10 hours. There are no shortcuts here. Mr Ramen San has been receiving widespread acclaim for its ramen experience; high quality and affordable!

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Broth is a key to great ramen! We consider Mr Ramen San to have some of the best broth in Melbourne. It's authentic. The time is taken to make it properly and with pride. And of course no MSG in sight! The World Loves Melbourne doesn't enjoy some of the thin weaker flavoured ramen broths going around; we crave for the in your face thicker pork bone stock broth! Bring it on! And we don't feel guilty about slurping!

Cheap eats are about both quality and quantity; value for the price. When it comes to meat in ramen,  The World Loves Melbourne considers Mr Ramen San to offer a generous serving compared to many other ramen houses. We enjoyed the charsu pork with several thick slices of ramen (some places give you a couple of small ultra thin pieces). We found the meat (and tofu and seafood) in the various ramen dishes to be consistently generous.

Also great value is the ability to order extra noodles free. A feature at Mr Ramen San is the house made noodles made fresh daily. Not only are they sumptuous in themselves, Mr Ramen San offers FREE extra noodles upon request. This is unlike most places who charge for extras.

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Mr Ramen San is great for city workers, and they often run promotional deals. Customers enjoy the sheer variety of ramen with a host of options including Charsu traditional Ramen, Beef Miso Ramen, Spicy Chicken Ramen, Vegetarian Tofu Ramen, Seafood Ramen, Spiced Pork Nabe Ramen, and Teriyaki Charsu Ramen, to name a few.

Service is paramount here with eager staff greeting customers on arrival and attentive to tables, all with a smile. You feel welcome here! Many people comment on the pleasing ambience at Mr Ramen San and a vibe you may also expect in Japan. There's decent room in the restaurant and tables are not crowded together. In no way are you rushed in your dining experience. Highly recommended.

HuTong Dumpling Bar - Classy affordable dumplings (CBD, Prahran) 

Hutong Dumpling Bar is a serious contender for Melbourne's best dumplings. The Xiao Long Baos are sublime and a well crafted and tasty dumpling. The food here is of a high quality for a reasonable price. Added with excellent ambience, this restaurant is a winner.

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The dumplings are a class above most others. You can see the chefs preparing the dumplings by hand with fine skill through the kitchen window. The excellence of those Xiao Long Baos is in the fine casing that only takes a little bump or prick to break. Yet these dumplings hold together well. The meat filling inside is tasty and of quality. But the high note is the soup or broth that fills these dumplings. When you eat them they just explode in your mouth with wonderful flavours. 

People who say they can find cheaper dumplings nearby – honestly, they need to consider the great quality of HuTong dumplings. Getting 1000 dumplings for $5 might sound great but if they’re average to start with who cares. And the atmosphere here is excellent. The upstairs section has a great ambience with attentive staff.

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On my first of half a dozen visits to Hutong I was given a lesson in dumpling consumption by a waitress... Never I repeat never cut a dumpling in half. Always consume in one hit. First dip the dumpling in soy and chilli... When eating those Xaio dumplings the waitress told me to put the dumpling in my mouth then suck the broth in the dumpling - before eating the rest. Absolutely sensational.

Huxtaburger - Gourmet affordable burgers (Hawthorn, Bourke St CBD, Collingwood, Prahran, Footscray)

Huxtaburger is a popular burger joint that delivers big time on quality gourmet burgers, great crinkle cut chips and beer. A killer combination. The value here is incredible and might just get you through the latest Global Financial Crisis.

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Huxtaburger has done its homework on what makes a great burger. They simply have great buns. Glazed brioche buns. The burger bun melts in the mouth. You don't get that heavy starchy hit of bread but rather the bun combines wonderfully with the rest of the burger.  

Shandong MaMa in Mid City Arcade CBD and 5 Centre Place CBD - Chinese affordable 

Shandong Mama is an exciting addition to the Melbourne culinary scene in Mid City Arcade and can lay claim to the best dumplings in Melbourne. Mama is a retired ex accountant from China who spent years cooking for friends in her social circle in Shandong Province. She's had the courage to start this homely restaurant with her delightful family here in Melbourne. Friends and relatives are part of the scene. Mama has a passion for healthy, delicate cuisine. It's exciting to see a Shandong Restaurant (one of the 8 major Chinese cuisines) in Melbourne.  

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Mama is particular about process and having the best ingredients. You may find her at Footscray or Springvale markets sourcing the finest ingredients for her dumplings. The fish dumplings include expensive mackerel in the filling, for example, hand picked by Mama.

Mama is not keen to use electric kitchen tools to stir the dumpling mixture, but she throws her shoulder into every batch. These dumplings have the perfect (thin) casing, exciting fillings and broth. There is more imagination here than most other dumpling houses in this city.

For example the Prawn, Black Fungus and Chives Dumplings are delectably filled with large chunks of prawns with chopped chives and black fungus, a small amount of mince for texture and flavour, wrapped in thin dumpling skin in-house.

Mama uses the highest quality prawns in these dumplings, not shrimps. Being from the coastal city of Yan Thai in Shandong Province Mama has an affinity with the sea and loves to cook seafood.

The Fish Dumplings consisted of fresh mackerel fillet mixed by hand with coriander ginger and chives, into a mousse-textured filling, wrapped in home-made thin dumpling skin. The dumpling holds together well, and is tasty without being overpowering. This is a delicate dumpling.

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The Pork and Cabbage Dumplings also have spring onions, ginger and a dash of dried shrimps for a superb dumpling.

When you think you've just had some great dumplings, out comes the Melbourne Dumpling. It's Mama's nod to multiculturalism in Melbourne. This baby sings! I managed to catch an aftertaste of the lemon rind and it was wonderful.

There's also a beautiful Vegetarian Dumpling with zucchini...

For me these dumplings are the most delicate, tasty, and well made dumplings I've eaten in Melbourne. Both the pan fried and boiled dumplings were both sensational.

You can get the larger Shandong dumplings here, bigger than the usual size around Melbourne.

The fit out is pleasant and spacious with some plants, menu boards, and plenty of tables.

Filmaker Colin is part of the crew and his high quality clips of Mama making dumplings appear at the front of the restaurant for passers by to see...

 Given the quality the prices are reasonable, and accessible for students.

I highly recommend Shandong Mama as the highest quality dumplings and a homely ambience with passionate owners... (David was a guest of Shandong Mama and had the privilege of meeting MaMa in person...)