Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published December 13th 2011
Shakespeare said that if everyone got what they deserved, we'd all be whipped – but doesn't everyone deserve a good, inexpensive meal now and then? Although going out and spending the GDP of a third-world country on a degustation menu can be fun, it's not exactly sustainable unless you've got the kind of bank account that people ask genies for. Luckily, most cities have a middle band of restaurants that cater to the not-rich-people demographic – hidden gems that are full of locals paying very little for amazing meals. Here's a few Sydney examples of this kind of place.
The Italian Bowl
The Italian Bowl, on 255 King Street, focuses on quantity over quality. Like an overbearing grandma who expresses her love with food, you'll find yourself staring at portion sizes that could feed a whole family. It's not particularly fancy – you won't find truffle glazes anywhere, and the only jus comes in little glass bottles – but that's not the point. Choose your pasta, choose your sauce, pay around twelve dollars, and race your plate to a table. The service is so fast that it might get there before you do. Here's a little hint: if you're ordering a creamy sauce, do not upsize your meal.
The staff try to get a quick customer turnover – it's not their fault, but the place is incredibly busy – and you'll be forced to leave half of your meal uneaten. On the other hand, half of an Italian Bowl meal is about twice the amount of food you'd get anywhere else.
Gallon Wine Bar
Gallon sits on 117 Harris Street, Pyrmont, next to Porter's Liquor. It's more of a bar than a restaurant – but what a bar. The vibe is romantic without being cloying, and private without being snobby. Gallon's also managed to avoid the trap at the other end of the spectrum: it's not pretentious either. The food is nothing special, but it's tasty and uncomplicated. Gallon's on this list for one reason and one reason only. It's possibly the best place in Sydney for a quiet date on a budget. Ask for the wine list and let some of Gallon's sophistication rub off on you. Whoever you're with is guaranteed to be impressed.
Sultan's Table is located on 179 Enmore Road in Newtown. It's a Turkish restaurant that spends its effort on making delicious food rather than beautiful decor. As a result, the only way to differentiate Sultan's Table from your average Newtown kebab joint is the crowd of locals inside. There's a courtyard out the back for people eating in, and plenty of people come to Sultan's Table to order takeaway. If you try only two things from here, go for a kebab – a hint of smoky charcoal, salty without being overpowering – and the mixed dips and turkish bread. Sultan's Table make their own bread and, presumably, their own dip. You can taste the fresh ingredients with each bite.
There's plenty of budget restaurants in Sydney: little places that locals keep secret. But let's be generous, just this once, and share what we've found with each other. If you know a restaurant that deserves to be on this list, mention it in the comments – we'd love to hear from you. And if you're interested in other budget Sydney restaurants, check the comments as well, since there are bound to be plenty of interesting suggestions there.
Pretty much any of the little restaurants in the underground foodcourt off Dixon St in China Town are fantastic for the budget concious. Try the Cambodian place for a HUGE vegie laksa for only $7.50! Amazing :)
I have to mention my favourite cheap eats Yen's Vietnamese on botany st Waterloo a family run hidden gem with no pretentious attitude but good food and Crepe and Coffee Co on Regent st Redfern! Cheap, healthy and really really filling. I am totally addicted!