Melbourne Street Food, Markets & Splurge Spots
Australia’s natural beauty, beaches and friendly locals provide an endless number of reasons to travel there. The food and nightlife are also exceptional. Though some things in Australia are on the more expensive side, deals can be found. Melbourne has been named the official cultural capital of Australia. (Though it isn’t the best idea to bring this up with your mates from Sydney.) The city is very walkable with museums, common spaces and a free City Circle Tram that circles the Central Business District (CBD). There are also a range of free activities here. Add to that some Melbourne street food and trips to the local markets and I’ll show how it’s possible to do this city on a budget.
I would also recommend at least one night out with a higher budget. I’m not talking super expensive but the level of cuisine and nightlife in this city should be experienced by everyone who visits. For this reason, I’ve included a few splurge ideas, one of which blew me away.
“Make sure to say Mel-b’n, not Mel-born.”
Make sure to say Mel-b’n, not Mel-born. More about the interesting aspects of ‘Australian English’ later. There’s also a map of locations at the bottom. Enjoy your time here!
Note: All prices are listed in Aussie dollars.
With 7 street food trucks and 4 stores, the easiest way to find a location is to check the Mr. Burger website.
Hours vary by location, $10-18 per person
After asking a few locals, it was clear that Mr. Burger is the go-to street food burger in Melbourne. Their website says Mr. Burger began in 2012 after the two owners, “ate their way through as many food trucks and burger joints in San Francisco, New York, Austin and Miami as they could.” The two returned to Melbourne full of ideas and Mr. Burger was born.
Since then Mr. Burger has grown to 7 trucks and 4 stores throughout Melbourne. Check out favorites such as the Mr. Meat burger made with bacon, caramelized onions and barbecue sauce; Mr. Hot with jalapenos and chili mayo; or the Mr. Veg made with a falafel patty.
I went with The Texican made with cheese, chipotle mayo, spicy onion rings, salsa, slaw and jalapenos. Then I made it a double, which can be done with any of their burgers. It was a massive meal for $16.50 and it really hit the spot. A great combination of savory with a hint of spice.
On my next trip I’d love to try their Trucker Chips with added cheese, bacon and trucker sauce.
Melbourne street food pizza shops are everywhere in the CBD
Hours vary but they’re open late, $2 per slice
A good, fast and cheap option for Melbourne street food is to grab a slice or two at any of their many pizza shops. Located throughout the CBD and just about everywhere around town, their pizzas will be on display and after choosing a slice or two, they are heated up in the oven and handed over within a couple of minutes.
Most are busy so turnover in pizzas is high. This means the busy shops offer fresh and simple pizzas. Eat the pizza there or grab it to go.
Lord of the Fries (Vegetarian & Vegan)
Locations throughout Melbourne, check their website
Hours vary, $4-12 per person
Lord of the Fries had me as soon as I saw the name. Looking at the menu I realized everything was vegetarian. Not only that, they’re also kosher and halal with vegan and gluten-free options. A true paradise for anyone with dietary restrictions.
I wanted to try one of their vegetarian hot dogs or burgers but ultimately I went with The Lot Munch Box. For $10 it came with their signature fries, veggie nuggets and onion rings. It also came with one sauce and I selected the garlic aioli. The fries were crispy and flavorful, the nuggets tasted almost exactly like chicken and were very good. The onion rings were juicy and delicious. It was hard to pick a favorite.
This is a delicious Melbourne street food option for everyone, including carnivores, vegetarians and people with other dietary restrictions.
American Fast Food in Melbourne
If you happen to be traveling to Australia and are new to their subtle language difference, you may need to know a few things ahead of time. The easiest way is to watch this video called How to Speak Australian: Abbreviate Everything.
“So many Aussies abbreviated the name to Macca’s that McDonald’s actually changed their signs to adapt.”
For McDonald’s, this meant that so many Aussies abbreviated the name to “Macca’s” that McDonald’s actually changed their signs to adapt. No joke. Welcome to Australia!
Burger King goes by Hungry Jack’s but the only story there is that the company is owned by Jack Cowin who franchises or sub-licenses the stores under Burger King throughout Australia.
Personally I’m not a big fan of either fast food chain but these are two fun Aussie cultural differences worth knowing about.
Welcome to Thornbury – Food Truckstop
520 High St, Northcote VIC 3070
Open Mon-Fri from 5pm, Sat-Sun from 12pm
Welcome to Thornbury was designed by the owners of Mr. Burger. The venue offers a bar as well as multiple food trucks on a rotating schedule that can cater to as many as 700 people at a time. The food truck stop is located in the northern suburb of Melbourne.
Schedules of food trucks, drink menus and directions can be found on their website.
Queen Victoria Market
513 Elizabeth St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Tues. & Thurs.-Sun. Open early morning until afternoon, closed Mon. & Wed. Check for exact daily hours
The Queen Victoria Market spans across two city blocks and offers food, clothing and more. The market is open Tuesdays and Thursday through Sunday each week. Though the market itself is closed Mondays and Wednesdays, some surrounding shops remain open. When I was there I had a chance to try some freshly prepared chicken wings and dumplings from The Corner Chicken Shop. They were fresh out of the rotisserie, flavorful and were very affordable.
The market portion had all sorts of nuts, meat, fish and fresh produce. All appeared cheaper and better quality than what I found in local supermarkets. I would highly recommend checking it out both as a fun activity and a way to stock up on groceries. It’s also possible to enjoy a good Melbourne street food meal here and save money compared to many nearby restaurants.
Queen Victoria Market also hots seasonal events like the Night Market and Spice Trade Sundays.
Spice Trade Sundays on Queen Street
Located at Queen Victoria Market
Seasonal days/times, prices vary and are some of the best deals in the city
The Spice Trade Sunday Bazaar is held at Queen Victoria Market during select dates in April through June. The event offers a huge variety of Melbourne street food and food trucks, spices, fresh produce and many other wares. There was so much food there when I visited it was difficult to keep track.
Though I’m not usually one for sweets, two French girls I met asked me if I would like a jelly filled doughnut from American Doughnut Kitchen. I agreed and really enjoyed it. Freshly fried, dusted with sugar and filled with jam, it made me wonder how many sweets I had missed out on.
Nearby, enjoy chicken or beef satays from Poppy’s Thai Street Cuisine, Indian street food at Babaji’s Kitchen, a bread bowl from the Soup Factory, freshly sauteed mussels from a specialized food truch, and much more.
Budget Groceries, Booze & Happy Hour
- Markets are the cheapest places to buy groceries and freshly prepared meals. Grocery stores are more expensive but they aren’t too pricey.
- Some hostels offer free breakfast. Others offer free wifi. Not many offer both.
- Beer, wine and alcohol is rather expensive at bars and restaurants in Australia. Wine in the store is generally one of the best deals available. Beer and alcohol in the store can still be on the pricier side.
- For good deals on happy hour food & beverages, check out an app called The Happiest Hour that uses a phone’s GPS and lists nearby happy hour deals and times. It isn’t 100% accurate but it’s a good place to start. I would recommend confirming specials before ordering.
1/11 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Call to ask about a reservation +61-3-9650-3821.
Check website for hours, $20-30 per person
As I mentioned before, there’s some really incredible food in Australia and at least one or two splurge meals are recommended. For me, my favorite meal in Melbourne was at Mamasita. It came highly recommended from a local and I had to check it out. Mexican food is one of my favorites and it had been very hard to find while traveling.
Walking into Mamasita for lunch it was filled with a happy crowd and good energy. The dining room was full but there were some spots at the bar. I asked if I could sit there and the bartender welcomed me with a smile and agreed. The bartender reviewed the beers on draft, tequilas and walked me through the menu. When asked about recommendations, he was happy to explain his favorites. I was ready for a good meal and I felt like I was in the right place.
“Brilliantly assembled Mexican fare perfected by a chef who is master of his craft.”
I started off with the elote, chargrilled corn with cheese, chipotle mayo and a squeeze of lime with a dusting of paprika ($5). The corn was cooked perfectly so that each kernel came off the cob, there was not a soggy piece to be found. The chipotle mayo was a simple upgrade from most elote recipes that use standard mayo. The cheese was spot on, lime made an appearance but wasn’t overpowering and just the right amount of paprika. It was one of the best pieces of elote I’ve tasted. I could hardly wait for the next course.
Next up, I went with the bartender’s recommendation of duck and pineapple flautas ($14). I had never heard of such a combination. They were a new item so I trusted the recommendation and went for it. Holy crap these were good! Savory duck combined with sweet pineapple, all inside a crunchy shell. The tomato reduction added a hint of acid and the salad, though appearing unnecessary at first glance really added a hint of herbs and freshness and brought the flavors together.
I began considering what other wonders may be listed on the menu. Somewhere around this time the bartender began talking about how the maize for the tortillas was farmed locally and crushed between limestone. I decided to take on at least one taco ($6 each) to give those fresh tortillas a try. I went with the braised beef. It delicately fell apart with each bite and paired well with the red pepper salsa, onion and coriander (cilantro). Another beautifully balanced combination of flavors.
On the way to meet friends for a drink the following night I had to return to enjoy the fish and prawn tacos ($6 each). The prawn was packed with slaw, buttermilk dressing and a hint of spice. The fish was on the lighter side with a flavorful salsa, lime and chipotle mayo. They complemented each other quite well.
My experiences at Mamasita revealed brilliantly assembled Mexican fare perfected by a chef who is master of his craft. I highly recommend dining here at least once when visiting Melbourne.
Naked for Satan
285 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, Vic 3065
Open 12-12 weeknights, 12-1am on Fri & Sat, $9+ per person
Don’t worry, this place isn’t as weird as it sounds. The name Naked for Satan is described on the website as having been the nickname for an old moonshiner who brewed vodka during the Great Depression. This was when booze was very expensive. The name Satan was short for Satanovich as the brewer was a transplant from Russia. It was so hot where Satanovich brewed that he worked and drank in his skivvies. Others who shared in the local brew joined in the tradition of wearing very little clothing.
Naked for Satan is a good spot to head for a high-end drink and a high rooftop view. Waitresses pass through the dining area with tapas style dishes for selection by diners during some hours. They also offer a standard menu and specials. Good, simple, fun.
Unfortunately, I missed the rooftop view. I waited too long until my last night and there was a huge line at the elevator to get to the rooftop bar. Make sure not to make the same mistake.
Ponyfish Island Cafe
Southbank Pedestrian Bridge, Southgate VIC 3000
Open 11am until late, $10-25 per person
Ponyfish Island Cafe is exactly how it sounds. A small cafe with a bar on an island under a pedestrian bridge in the middle of the CBD. They have a seasonal menu of sandwiches, salads, nachos and share platters. They also have a great beer and mixed drink menu. I spent around $25 for a sandwich and a beer.
The food and drinks are good but the view is incredible. There aren’t many places where you can enjoy a good, affordable meal or drink and enjoy people watching surrounded by a 360-degree view of the city. I stopped by during the day to eat and quick look there at night. It was beautiful. I highly recommend checking it out.
Locations for Melbourne Street Food Market & Splurge Spots
Melbourne Street Food, Market & Splurge Spots
Whether it’s burgers, pizza, killer Mexican food or rooftop cocktails, Melbourne has a little something for everyone. Melbourne street food, markets and the occasional splurge meal and a drink or two will help you to make the most of your trip here and can all be done without breaking the bank.
Did I miss your favorite Melbourne street food, market or spot to splurge? Please let us know!
What’s your favorite meal in Melbourne? Please comment below!