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By Sarah Ward
October 07, 2017

Where to Eat When You're Saving but Don't Feel Like Another Meal at Home

Places for a weeknight feed that won't blow the budget.
By Sarah Ward
October 07, 2017


in partnership with

Places for a weeknight feed that won't blow the budget.

Your tastebuds or your bank account: it's a familiar battle. Ravenous urges and thrifty needs don't always see eye-to-eye. But, sometimes the stomach wants what the stomach wants, even when you're saving. And sometimes knowing that you're stashing away your pennies for a good reason — a big overseas trip, a shiny new purchase or some killer festival tickets, for example — just isn't enough to quell the desire to get out of the house. We've all been there.

Thankfully, grabbing a meal and keeping your funds in check don't have to sit at loggerheads if you know the right places to go. That's why we've partnered with American Express to whip up the ultimate guide to wallet-friendly eateries — aka when you're watching your finances but just don't feel like another meal cooked on your own stove.

Indeed, from sticky wings to hefty burgers, and including a feast of Italian, Japanese and Vietnamese dishes, there's no shortage of inexpensive yet delicious dinner options scattered around Brisbane — also, these cheap eats haunts accept that Amex card you've been trying to collect all those points with. Whether you're hankering to slurp up a bowl of ramen or conquer a plate of ribs, we know a spot that'll vanquish your hunger without breaking your budget.

Got yourself in another dining situation and need some guidance? Whatever it is, we know a place. Visit The Shortlist and we'll sort you out.

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    There’s a particular noise that you should hear at any good ramen place — and you’ll hear it in abundance at Taro’s Ramen. Their Ascot, Edward Street and Queen Street eateries are alive with the sounds of people enjoying their Japanese soups — with their famous tonkotsu ramen on the menu, it’s understandable. Taking two days to make — which is why its stock is so rich — the ramen comes in standard, fire (with four types of chilli) and red (with a mild homemade chilli sauce) varieties.

    Apart from their beloved take on the titular dish, there’s plenty of other reasons to visit: grilled meats, gyoza and green tea ice cream, plus specials like Jiro ramen (which Taro’s calls ‘Japanese bogan food’), and shoyu, shio and miso-based ramens too. That’s a hefty list, so you won’t leave here hungry. You will leave with slurps echoing throughout your head though, of course.

    Image: Anwyn Howarth.

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    Eateries come and go in Fortitude Valley, but The Vietnamese Restaurant is an absolute institution. Continuously owned by the Le family since its inception in 1983, they’ve been serving up just the type of cuisine you’d expect in their nondescript confines. The decor may not be fine dining-level fancy, but that doesn’t mean that their dishes aren’t flavoursome, altogether moreish and also excellent value.

    Pick almost anything on The Vietnamese Restaurant’s menu and you’re in for an inexpensive delight. Should you need any recommendations though, we have plenty. Their salt and pepper squid ($16.50 as a main) is some of the best in Brisbane, offering crispy and spicy explosions in every mouthful. Other gems include the perennial chef’s special, the crispy duck ($17.50) with Asian greens and mushroom sauce, plus the chilli and lemongrass chicken ($14.50). And, for an entree, make-your-own ‘fun rolls’ ($13) is something that everyone needs to try.

    Image: Anwyn Howarth.

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    Gangnam style isn’t just a song that you now have stuck in your head as you read this; it’s also a wet and spicy flavour of chicken wings ($17) at Zero Fox. Located at the bottom of the London Woolstores, the craft beer bar and Japanese-Korean kitchen hybrid heartily embraces the concept of Asian fusion, in what might be Vernon Terrace’s most affordable hangout.

    On the beverage side of the equation, nine taps — rotating through whichever local and international kegs happen to be attached at the time — offer up quite the range of thirst-quenchers, with a trio of red and white wines available, too. When it comes to food, expect bibimbab ($13), Japanese curries (from $15), kimchi fries ($9) and the likes of spicy pork, bulgogi beef and soft shell crab bao (two for $15), all to be enjoyed within the eatery’s walls or to take home with you.

    Image: Anwyn Howarth.

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    South Brisbane’s Izakana-Ya Okuman knows that you can never have too many options when it comes to fresh sushi, sashimi, ramen, tempura, udon and the like. Whether you’re after lunch or dinner, their menu is the epitome of the word sizeable; think bento boxes available in seven varieties, plus platters showcasing the eatery’s daily fresh fish deliveries. Make sure you also wash it all down with a rice lager or one of ten types of sake.

    Of course, the food is the first part of the Izakana-Ya Okuman experience. The second, as in any good restaurant, stems from the atmosphere. That the space is styled like a traditional Japanese bar and dining room certainly boosts the latter. Kimono-wearing waitresses, ordering via iPad and a very lively vibe also do plenty.

    Image: Anwyn Howarth.

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    Ribs. Burgers. The name really does say it all. Let’s start with the first option. Giant, Flintstonian racks of meat come flowing from the open kitchen and are served on beautiful, grain-swirled, wooden chopping boards. And beneath these boards of meat sit generous portions of seasoned chips that soak up the smokey flavours of the ribs, capturing that perfect, slightly soggy, slightly crunchy balance.

    Towering high with a lofty bun and massive patties sandwiched in the middle, the burgers are equally as impressive — tasty, fresh and sure to satisfy. The Wagyu Tower ($17.50) features all the usual suspects (lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles) plus onion rings, barbecue sauce and Aunty Joan’s pink sauce (like a tangy tomato-mayo). It’s the bee’s knees, but the regular beef, chicken, lamb, veggie and salmon options are also available, less expensive and go down a treat, too.

    Image: Anwyn Howarth.

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    Ze Pickle

    Brisbane isn’t found lacking when it comes to burgers, but Ze Pickle ranks up there with the city’s favourites. Starting out in Burleigh, these meat-and-bread lovers already had a cult following before they came to Brissie — and their fanbase has only been growing as they keep opening new eateries.

    Word of Ze Pickle’s extreme, specialty creations — think stacked burgs like 12-hour smoked beef brisket topped with mac ‘n’ cheese ($16), crispy fried chicken paired with maple-smoked bacon ($17) and hand-pressed wagyu patties with cheese sticks and guacamole ($18.50) — is enough to get any stomach rumbling. And then, to tempt you and your wallet, there’s their famous Triple Loco ($39), which combines three wagyu beef patties, triple maple bacon, brisket, cheese, slaw and jalapenos between two grilled cheese sandwiches. How could you stay away from a burger joint that sells this?

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    Come for the tipples, stay for the cheap and tasty meals at The Defiant Duck. With 24 beer and three wine taps, plus a selection of southern-inspired American fare, diners will find their eating and drinking needs taken care of — which is what you’d expect from the folks behind Gerard’s Bistro, Hatch & Co. and Laruche.

    The beverages span craft and local brews, and much of the food is infused with the smoky tenderness that can only come from a 100% charcoal-powered oven and grill. That pivotal appliance cranks out meals morning, noon and night, with buffalo wings ($12), beef, chick and veggie burgers (from $12) and cola-glazed beef ribs ($25 for half rack) among the highlights on the menu. Starting your meal off with mac ‘n’ cheese croquettes ($12) is recommended, then top it off with a defiant duck brownie ($9) with peanut butter ice cream, hazelnuts and dark chocolate.

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    Lord of the Wings

    If chicken wings make you hiss “preciousssssss”, then Lord of the Wings is your kind of chicken joint. Located at Carindale and Indooroopilly shopping centres, the pun-loving wing palace has accrued quite the diehard following with its traditional and grilled poultry pieces. The chook comes in servings of eight ($13.90) and 12 ($19.90), and with 20 different sauces on offer, ranging from mild honey pomegranate to super-spicy Buffalo Suicide.

    For those after something other than the titular pieces, build-your-own burgers, sandwiches and signature ribs, plus salads, snacks and sides are also on the menu. Drinks-wise, sip your way through alcoholic slushies, adult milkshakes and Corona-ritas ($17) — an upside down Corona in a margarita. Yes, really.

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    Pub grub fans rejoice. (Your wallets will, too.) The Flying Cock isn’t just a Brunswick Street bar brimming with late-night fun, live music and quirky cocktails, it’s also one of the best places to eat in the Valley if you’re after a decent-sized feed for next to nothing.

    Welcome to The Coop, their on-site bistro and the place to take care of all your chicken needs. Whatever day or time you’re dropping by, you’ll find a deal waiting, and all for less than a blue or red-coloured piece of currency per person. $10 burgers for lunch, eight-piece boxes to share for $30, two parmigianas for $19.99 every Wednesday, fried chicken burgers for $15 — the list keeps going. Non-poultry lovers will also find beef cheeseburgers and wagyu bolognaise on the menu.


    As you drink and dine with your American Express, reap all the sweet rewards of being a Card Member. Explore the many ways American Express has your back here.

    Top image: Anwyn Howarth.

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