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FOOD & DRINK

The Best Cheap Eats Under $20 You Can Find in Sydney's CBD

Think giant sambos and Chinese-style burgers for a tenner, some of the city's best bánh mì for $6 or handmade pasta for $18.
By Marissa Ciampi
February 24, 2021
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By Marissa Ciampi
February 24, 2021
  shares

THE BEST CHEAP EATS UNDER $20 YOU CAN FIND IN SYDNEY'S CBD

Think giant sambos and Chinese-style burgers for a tenner, some of the city's best bánh mì for $6 or handmade pasta for $18.

After a long, quiet COVID-19 stretch, Sydney's CBD is starting to bustle with workers again. And that means it's time to hunt down the city's best lunchtime eats. If you're missing your favourite venues and dining out with your coworkers — but aren't looking to dip into your savings — you're in luck. We've rounded up the Sydney CBD's best cheap eats under $20. Think giant sambos and Chinese-style burgers for a tenner, some of the city's best bánh mì for $6 and handmade pasta for $18. Yep, we have your next few weeks of budget lunches sorted.

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    One of the things that make the humble sandwich so great, is that you don’t need to pull out all the stops to make it delicious. And this unassuming little sandwich shop in the CBD’s Bridge Street food arcade proves it. A classic lunch bar, North sandwiches come loaded with the likes of crunchy chicken schnitzel with lemon-chive mayo, slow-cooked pork shoulder with chipotle and slaw and five-spice grilled lamb. With sandwiches starting at just $10.50, you can add a bunch of extra salads or sauce, plus chips and a drink, and still keep it under $20. But, even with the sandwich alone, you’ll be stuffed to the brim.

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  • 8

    At Merivale’s latest George Street digs, nearly the entire menu is $20 and under. As the name suggests, falafel is the star of the show here. The original pita is stuffed with falafel, topped with parsley, cucumber, tomato, sumac onions and pickles, then doused with hummus and tahini. Other pitas are filled with za’atar cauliflower and fried eggplant (all $17). Jimmy Falafel’s menu pulls influence from countries all across the Middle East, including Egypt, Israel and Lebanon — so you’re getting something a little different here, too. Grab your pita from the takeaway kiosk for a quick bite, or enjoy in the lively 1970s-style back bar.

    Image: Nikki To

     

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  • 7

    The CBD’s newest pasta shop by the Ragazzi team isn’t just selling you all the makings of an Italian feast for takeaway. The store also has a dine-in aspect, and its outdoor high tables are a hot commodity come lunchtime. Fabbrica serves up an ever-rotating menu of baked pastas and sandwiches from midday until sold out. You might snag sandos like marinated eggplant, ox heart tomato, mozzarella and herb mayo ($16) or the free range pork cotoletta with dill pickles, fabbrica hot sauce ($18). Or score one pastas — think eggplant parmigiana with basil pesto and stracciatella, or a summer vegetable rotolo with swiss brown mushroom and thyme sauce ($18). While the menu is always changing, it’s also always $20 and under. Be sure to keep an eye on the venue’s Instagram stories for the latest dishes coming off the pass.

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  • 6

    A true Sydney stalwart, Marrickville Pork Roll has long been considered one of the best bánh mì shops in the city. And now you can enjoy the same quality Vietnamese sandwiches in the CBD, with the opening of the Darling Square outpost along Steam Mill Lane. Open weekdays from 7.30am, the shop bakes its baguettes fresh every morning. That fluffy-yet-crunchy baguette is schmeared with pâté and mayo, then loaded with your choice of meat, fresh herbs, pickled veg, salad and chilli. While the traditional pork is the go-to, we rate the barbecue pork and crackling pork belly. Meatball, chicken, salad and veg varieties are also up for grabs — and all for just a few dollarydoos ($6–8).

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  • 5

    To taste (what is said to be) the world’s oldest sandwich, head to the Barrack Place precinct for Chinese street food cafe Mo’st. Called rou jia mo (“meat sandwich”), this Chinese burger is said to have originated in the Shaanxi Province some 2300 years ago. Mo’st offers seven varieties on its own menu. Fillings vary from the classic, 20-spice stewed pork belly ($10.8) to oven-grilled lamb patties with pickles and Greek yoghurt ($10.8); slow-cooked miso salmon with purple slaw and kimchi mayo ($14.8); and a vego option with tofu, king mushrooms, lotus root and sesame sauce ($9.8). And, since the price is so damn cheap, you can add on a Five Senses coffee, a milkshake or matcha concoction and still keep it under $20.

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    Bringing neighbourhood charm to the CBD, Continental Deli is also feeding the hungry lunchtime masses its giant, beloved sandos — all of which ring up for $20 and under. The open deli is slinging lunch every weekday from noon, and the venue itself will transport you out of the city rat race for a short while. At the moment, you can snag a classic mortadella, salami, ham and provolone ($20), the saucisson and peppers ($16), the jamón with tomato and butter ($16) or a cheese toastie with pickles and dijon ($18). If you want to go for one of Continental’s famed tinned cocktails ($12), it’ll, of course, set you over budget — but some days you just need to treat yourself.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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  • 3

    Japanese-inspired burgers are the name of the game at Ume, which opened its Barangaroo chapter back in 2016. The simple, sustainably-focused menu ditches the bacon cheeseburger for the signature menchi burger — made with handmade pork katsu, tonkatsu sauce and cabbage ($14.80). There’s also a spicy karaage burger, a fish katsu and a veggie fritter to choose from ($14.20–15.20). If you want to ‘splurge,’ add in a yuzu soda for $6 or a bottle of Kirin for $7.50 and you’ll still be just about at the $20 mark. Even if you want to go all out with the enormous double Ume burger, you’re bill will still sit at $19.90.

     

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  • 2

    Gumshara should be a staple whether you’re penny-pinching or not. Tucked away in Chinatown’s Eating World food court, Gumshara’s rich pork broth is produced by boiling over 100 kilograms of pork bones on a daily basis, producing a bowl of ramen quite unlike most of the city’s other joints. The menu is straightforward, all of the ramen are a good choice and all of the portions are huge. First-timers should go for the classic tonkotsu ($13.50) — served with slices of pork and seaweed in an extra thick broth. The black garlic tonkotsu is our personal favourite ($14.5), and spice lovers will enjoy the bar of free condiments at the counter, too.

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Top image: Jimmy’s Falafel by Nikki To

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