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7 Best Places for Cheap Food In Sydney!

SydneyI normally don’t write food “reviews”, but this is mission critical. Sydney is a great place to eat, and I talk to other people who never escaped from the bar areas to find out.

(But again, don’t expect food to be a continuing trend. This, however, is a high value contribution.)

Pro tip: China town is great and cheap, while anything close to the Opera House is expensive and/or bad.

 

When we first went to Sydney in 2012, I think it cost me 1.4 US dollars to get 1 AUD. When we were last there, end of 2015, it was 0.7 USD to 1 AUD.

It is a great time to earn in USD, let me tell you folks! And it gets better…

What I learned the second time in Sydney, is that there are amazing Asian restaurants in Sydney, and you can find some super cheap food. Like under $3 cheap. We spent a little less than two weeks there this last time, and as someone who loves food, I was having the time of my life.

Not only is USD up, and not only did we find the cheap corners, we found some of the best food of my life.

1) Mamak

Order a Roti for $7 AUD ($5 USD), which is Indian influenced Malaysian.

Onion Roti

Onion Roti

But also they have a very authentic Nasi Lemak for $10.50 ($8 USD). This is just real Malay food.

Nasi Lemak

Nasi Lemak

 

2) Oiden Bowl Bar

Small [Japanese] rice bowl starts at $3.90 AUD ($3 USD), yes, you read that right. My favorite bowl, I’d get as medium (totally enough food for me) for $5.90 AUD ($4.40 USD). And it’s tasty!

Yes, for just a little over $4, I could order a filling bowl of authentic Japanese curry!

You can imagine, that I’ve been to this place a number of times.

Oiden Sydney

Oiden Rice Curry Sydney

3) Menya Mappen Noodle Bar

But if you prefer noodles (I’m a rice guy), go to the restaurant right next door and grab a bowl of Soba or Udon.

The big price difference is that there’s no small, and a medium starts at $3.90 AUD ($3 USD). Thus, a totally filling meal would cost you $3 here. But… I still prefer the rice place.

Just, wow, I miss Sydney thinking about this.

 

4) Chat Thai

Some of the best Thai food I’ve had (and I’ve spent close to 3 cumulative months of my life in Thailand), was in a mall.

The green curry is absolutely amazing (but doesn’t come with rice!?), and costs $14 AUD ($10 USD).

I’m telling you, for this quality of food, $10 is a steal. We only went twice, and I guess being so cheap, the Japanese place or other Thai places seemed irresistible, but in hindsight… obviously we should have paid the extra few bucks and made it our lunch spot.

 

If my logic about paying a little bit extra to have phenomenal Thai food doesn’t strike you as obvious (as it was only obvious to myself in hindsight), there are plenty of great Thai places in Sydney.

Another one I thought interesting was Dodee Paideng, near the Holiday Inn Darling Harbor. (Although, if anyone can tell me what type of Thai food these “dodee” dishes are, that would be cool. Totally new to me).

Definitely worth a try. Small “dodee” bowls start at $4.90 AUD ($3.60 USD) and the more common Thai dishes were usually $9 – $11 AUD ($6.60 – $8 USD).

 

 

5) Malay Chinese

This place is right next to the Radisson Blu, which meant I ate there more often out of ease.

The good news is that this place is really unique. Some of the curries were just flavor combinations I’ve never had. Clearly Malay, but new to me.

The bad news is that these bowls are so frickin big that we never finished a dish. But for some reason if Carrie got the noodle dish, I’d want a rice curry to mix it up… and my eyes always proved oversized.

The Chicken Laksa was $9.70 AUD ($7 USD).

Malay

(By the way the Thai restaurant right next door had some stupid cheap deal after 2pm. Not the best, but would be good for Austin, TX standards).

 

6) Sushi Rio

I’ll admit, this was my first sushi train experience, despite (or because?) being a sushi lover. But it was recommended, full of Japanese people and had a long wait (in the evening).

I mean… really, it pulled me in with the price.

$3 AUD ($2.20 USD) for all trays of sushi. Does life get any better? Unlikely. If I saw those prices for sushi anywhere else, I’d stay away.

Despite being “cheap”, I’d see Japanese guys next to us with the specialty plates piled to the sky.

Sushi Rio Sydney

 

 

7) Chinese Noodle House

Get some actual Chinese food in Chinatown at this hole in the wall.

Chinese Sydney Chinese

 

And for desert…

Emperor’s Puff stand on the main street in Chinatown (more cheap than good).

puff emperors puffs sydney

 

 

Conclusion

While I certainly enjoy Australian food (does that exist?) as much as English or German food (ouch), the opportunity to eat all kinds of SE Asian food in Sydney is extraordinary. And of the places we usually ate at, we rarely heard english.

My guess is that being so close to SE Asia means they can support real authentic restaurants, and it’s probably pretty competitive too.

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17 Comments

  1. Glad you guys are posting again! I was starting to get afraid you gave up the nomadic lifestyle!! :)

    Reply
  2. Yay!! A post from Drew! You made my day. Been waiting for some travelisfree activity again. :)

    Reply
  3. Hey… I just spent the first week and a half of this month in Sydney;-)

    I was there also in 2010, very expensive then, however, even with the better exchange rate I still found myself scratching my head at house expensive Sydney was. Beautiful place. Just really expensive.

    Reply
  4. Glad to see you back. :)

    Reply
  5. Glad to see you back!!!

    Reply
  6. When I was in Sydney about 15 years ago, we had the most amazing Yum Cha (dim sum) at a giant place near the market. I wish I knew exactly what and where it was. It was my first dim sum experience and the standard by which I judge all dim sum after. I don’t think I found a place as good in Sam Francisco or Oakland.

    Reply
  7. Awesome research you guys! This kind of angle in thrift is totally cool, because the food tastes just that much better when it’s cheap and plentiful.

    My plans don’t yet include Australia right now, but I’ll be reading up on the best methods to fly to Sydney; Sydney’s my choice destination, and then maybe a car or bus to a smaller, nearby city, and then maybe fly to the other coast, etc. That’s how my travel plans develop sometimes. It’s always exciting to visit another Global city.

    Reply
  8. We bought an Australian beef pie at a take out window near the Park Hyatt (staying on points). We got back to our room and it was still hot and I don’t think it was over $5 (each), but very delicious.

    Reply
  9. Grrrrreeeeaaat to have you back! I visit this site every single day.

    Awesome post. That chicken laksa looks super yummy. Interesting how some of the best [cheap] food can be found outside of their countries of origin.

    Reply
  10. Dixon House Food Court. Bunch of Asian restaurants that are cheap, great portions and quite yummy.

    Reply
  11. Like others, I’m glad to see you posting again! I’m also glad that many of the same places I enjoyed in Australia when I lived there (Chinese Noodle House, Mamak, Chat Thai) are still going strong. While there’s nothing wrong with eating at these places, I must admit that part of the reason that they’re as cheap as they are is because of the following phenomenon:

    http://firstwefeast.com/eat/2013/01/20-things-everyone-thinks-about-the-food-world-but-nobody-will-say/refusing-to-spend-money-on-non-western-restaurants-is-racist

    As for sushi train sushi – its not uncommon to get sushi train sushi in Japan for around 100Y a plate. I’ve also had AYCE sushi in Osaka for <1000Y, but I must admit that it wasn't very good.

    Reply
  12. A few more to add to the list:
    – Golden Fang near Sydney University
    – Thai La Ong or Newtown Thai

    Some places do Banh Mi (Vietnamese pork roll) cheap and good too. Let me know if you are coming to Melbourne too and can give you some tips for here

    Reply
  13. Great to see you posting. I was just checking your hotel maps. They’re still the best!

    Reply
  14. Cool!! I’ll be there in a few weeks and again in 2016.

    Reply
  15. Thanks for this post. I’ll be spending 3 weeks there end of August and always looking for more info. They have some of the best seafood there you just can’t get in the States unfortunately.

    By the way, great to see some posts again!

    Reply
  16. HI guys,

    Good places, specially the Oiden Bowl Bar, but there is an Asian bias here :). There is much more cheap food in Sydney that is non asian.

    As example, Frankie’s Pizza (amazing Pizza, dirt cheap), Encasa deli – Spanish Bocadillos from 8 dollars http://grabyourfork.blogspot.com/2011/12/encasa-deli-sydney.html

    A great resource is Clipp – http://clipp.co/ . You can get 40% discount on restaurants, pubs, eateries, sandwich places…so you can dine really well for little money. And they give you a 10 dollar welcome bonus witht his Code KHKY7 . http://clipp.co/refer/KHKY7

    Reply

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We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
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