by Jodi Panayotov
Hidden away in Brisbane's neighbourhoods are a cache of super cheap eateries that are known and frequented by locals while few others are aware of their existence. What they lack in frills they more than make up for with tasty great value food that will leave change from $20 and that is not of the fast or formulaic variety. Having hunted them down here are twelve of the best excuses we've found to pass up the cooking for a good cheap lunch/dinner out:
Taro's Ramen Café
An authentic taste of Japan can be found nestled under the Boeing building, in this simple out-of-the-way eatery that occupies a protected terrace. Specializing in pork ramen, the menu runs the gamut of ramen dishes as well as a number of other Japanese favourites. Open for both lunch and dinner, it's one of the very few city eateries where a delicious satisfying dinner can be had for under $20.
By night the careworn shopping strip by Darra Station has an air of semi-abandonment save for the couple of restaurants plying their trade to local Vietnamese families and adventurous visitors. And just around the corner, Que Huong is the biggest of them all, with 2 levels to accommodate the crowds that can often be found dining here. The Chinese/Vietnamese menu is stupendously large, the service more than a little chaotic, but the food comes in generously sized portions at basement prices.
More of a takeaway than a restaurant, Gopal's is a handy stopover for westsiders heading to the Brisbane Markets at Rocklea. Yet its absolutely delicious mostly Indian fare – that is about as cheap as it gets – makes it a destination unto itself. Think 2 course: curry, rice and trimmings, dessert and a lassi for $12.
A street away from all the Euro glitz of Park Road is a simple 1960's brick building that houses the character-filled club that, happily, time forgot. Swirly carpet and cabinets of memorabilia line the route to the small dining room and large bar eatery and the food – a mix of traditional hearty Polish fare and some Anglicised dishes – will leave enough change from $20 to enjoy a Polish beer or vodka.
This lively restaurant started as an Italian community club decades ago and still performs that service as well as being a go-to place for hearty home style pastas and pizzas that are about as cheap as it gets. And the no-frills policy has bypassed this one, with Italian wall paper frescoes, table top games and the odd mirror ball having found their way in, adding a touch of party atmosphere.
Eight Mile Plains
This funky Korean eatery is a suburban, but by no means poor cousin to its two city namesakes â€“ on the contrary, it's a little more slick and, being newer, feels fresher. Come here for Korean BBQ, steam boat, sizzling hot plates, stir fries noodle soups and the standout kimchi pancakes.
In the student-priced strip of shops nearest UQ on Hawken Drive, this tiny Persian diner is a bit of a blink-and-miss affair but those who find it will be rewarded with some delicious traditional Mid-Eastern fare. Although the menu is somewhat westernized to accommodate the local clientele, a handful of dishes including the kebabs and the chicken walnut and pomegranate stew (served with fattoush salad and rice) come recommended.
During the week this Darra restaurant has an Indian menu but on Sundays it's Sri Lankan day, when well-dressed families flood in for the traditional Sri Lankan buffet, featuring tiffin (a form of tasting platter). The latter, which is very copious, would have be the best lunch deal around – this is one meal that comes in at around $20 for two.
Pho Ha Long
Upper Mt Gravatt
Pho Ha Long, a basic little family run Vietnamese restaurant nestled amongst some Indian retailers near Garden City, is a gem of a place and one of Mt Gravatt's best kept secrets. With all of the dishes on the compact menu priced well under $15 it's hard go wrong here but the pho and vermicelli are the crowd pleasers.
Another strictly lunch only affair (and a weekend one at that), this Indonesian diner can be found in the unlikeliest of places, in an industrial estate buried in suburbia. Rock up on a Saturday or Sunday and what looks like an Asian street food market appears like a mirage in the midst of a deserted warehouse city. Take a seat under the marquee where a bunch of Indonesian families are tucking into a traditional 'jananan' light meal) and join them for the cheapest and most authentic Indonesian dining experience to be had.
Sing's Asian Kitchen
Thai food rules in this bustling little Rosalie Village institution, although the menu also dabbles in Chinese and Vietnamese dishes. Regardless though, westside diners have been flocking here for years because of the consistent tasty well-presented meals (all under $20) the kitchen churns out in mind-bogglingly high numbers and speed, thanks to the never-fail efficiency of the service.
Most pedestrians walk along Russell St oblivious to the striking blue and white Greek temple overlooking them from its rocky perch and even of those that notice aren't necessarily aware that behind the ionic columns lies the cheapest Greek restaurant in Brisbane. It also happens to be a good one, especially on Friday nights when souvla (spit-lamb) is on the menu.
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