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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 Steph D'Souza
December 08, 2020
By Steph D'Souza
December 08, 2020


in partnership with

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

Sometimes, pulling a Jamie or Nigella at the end of a long day is more of a struggle than anyone needs, particularly when the fridge is embarrassingly empty and especially when you don't have the budget to pull together a three-course feast that hits all the food groups. But, that's still no excuse to be a slave to the food hacks you've developed in order to save some dosh.

Thanks to the abundance of great, cheap eateries in Sydney, you don't have to be bound to those instant noodles, Vegemite toast or bowls of cereal. Enter our partnership with American Express and our list of sweet spots everyone needs. If you're after delicious, high-quality food that won't kill your chances of owning a home, we know a place. Well, eight actually. And what's more, these places all take Amex, so if your wallet's currently a bit light on cold, hard cash, you're sorted.

We'll take you all over Asia for curries, dumplings and roti, or you can opt to settle in for a couple of brews over an affordable pub meal. Whether you fancy an adventurous experience or a comforting favourite, there's no shortage of establishments to choose from and still keep your wallet jingling with possibility.


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    At Bar Reggio, you can walk away from dinner completely satisfied. Satisfied by the starter you shared, the tasty main you devoured, the wine you brought and didn’t have to pay an exorbitant rate for corkage and especially satisfied by the fact that you only spent about $20. The front of the restaurant is fairly spartan, so try to secure a table in the back garden area and take in the lively atmosphere. Start off your meal with a generous serve of the herb or garlic bread before tucking into a pizza or pasta main. If the latter is your poison, you can’t go wrong with the gnocchi puttanesca. If you’d rather share a couple of pizzas, the signature Reggio chilli prawn number and Nick’s pizza are both winners. Make sure you bring your own vino, as the restaurant is strictly BYO.

    Image: Letícia Almeida.

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    You may have to endure a wait for a table at Din Tai Fung’s CBD outlet, but the dumplings are more than worth it. That’s not to imply that the Taiwanese eatery isn’t efficient — in fact, it is to the extreme — it’s just serving up its delicious eats to the masses. As you wait, peek into the kitchen to admire the hypnotising fresh dumpling production line — though beware, after watching all those dumplings go by, you may be tempted to blow your weekly budget on these meaty parcels. The xiao long bao pork dumplings are a must, filled with hot broth and tasty pork filling. Don’t forget to (delicately) puncture the top to let some steam out before demolishing these perfect morsels, or you may risk a fiery bite of soupy dumpling. Looking for something a bit more filling? Opt for the shrimp and pork wonton soup with spinach, a warming bowl of soft, fresh noodles which you can add as much chilli to as you please.

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    Any vegetarian or vegan can tell you just how difficult it can be to find affordable, convenient and delicious food to fit their diet. Laurie’s ticks all of those boxes, earning it a religious following in Bondi. The menu consistently features an assortment of hot dishes and salads, which you can mix-and-match to either take away or dine in at one of the limited in-house tables. Hot options might include the likes of lasagne, a chickpea cauliflower curry, chilli bean nachos and a lentil hotpot, while the salad list features combinations like cajun tofu with corn and carrots, and a Persian rice number. Everything is vegetarian and most of the lineup’s vegan, too. Other available dishes on the menu include vegetarian burgers, empanadas, pies, sticky date pudding… the list goes on.

    Image: Katje Ford.

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    Spice Alley is so much more than a food court. It’s a pretty little corner of the world, decorated with lantern installations. More importantly, though, there’s a handful of damn fine food outlets in the space: Alex Lee Kitchen, Bang Luck, Old Jim Kee and Hong Kong Diner, to name just a few. While Alex Lee Kitchen is your go-to for Singaporean dishes, Bang Luck stands strong as a hub of Thai street food. Then we’ve got Old Jim Kee, home of Malaysian fare; Hong Kong Diner, brimming with Cantonese comfort food like dumplings and other yum cha morsels; Japanese dining hall Kyo-to; and Viet, dishing out fresh, healthy Vietnamese street food. A perfect spot for groups, this alley of culinary delights not only caters to different tastes but also different budgets and dietary requirements. Also, Spice Alley is BYO and has no corkage. Win.

    Image: Bodhi Liggett.

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    As the Regent Street traffic buzzes outside, inside, The Lord Gladstone’s graffiti-strewn courtyard and tartan carpets make for an approachable, laid-back space, perfect for a cheap and easy mid-week dinner. The menu offers solid pub fare that’s hearty and agreeably greasy, including their famed chicken schnitty — which clocks in at just $12.50 a pop every Monday — featuring slaw, fries and your choice of sauce. There’s a solid lineup of burgers, and you’ll find $4 tacos on offer each Tuesday. Drinks range from some (very) local craft beers like Young Henrys, to a shortlist of Aussie wines.

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    This globally renowned ramen mecca is quite a treat, and there are a number of Sydney options to choose from (Central Park, Pitt Street Westfield, Chatswood or Macquarie). For first-timers, the shiromaru — Hakata-style ramen with juicy pork loin, crunchy bean sprouts and silky black mushrooms — is the speciality that put Ippudo at the top of the ramen trade. Their Sydney locations combine local products with their own flavouring and noodle concepts, as for the tori shoyu ramen — an exclusive menu item teaming chicken breast chashu with bonito dashi and chicken-negi oil. What’s more, much of the quality ramen joint’s global success stems from its client-minded approach, so expect great service.

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    Mamak is the talk of the town and with good reason. It’s one of the few places in Sydney that offers up exceptional Malaysian hawker food at a cheap price. Accordingly, it’s no surprise that this place fills up quickly with eager customers, so arriving early is recommended. Walk in past the chefs, who are on full display, and soak in the aromas. The menu is divided into roti with curry dips and spicy sambal sauce, chicken and beef satay, main plates including curries and fried chicken, and a range of noodle and rice dishes. Service is courteous but necessarily efficient, as you’d expect from the best Malaysian eats this city has to offer.

    Image: Alana Dimou

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Top image: Bar Reggio by Letícia Almeida

FYI, this story includes some affiliate links. These don’t influence any of our recommendations or content, but they may make us a small commission. For more info, see Concrete Playground’s editorial policy.

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