The Hearty Hungarian is like eating at grandma's house - well, if grandma was Hungarian and had a bain-marie. Make up a plate with your choice of mains and sides, and either take away or eat in at the handful of tables, spread with plastic tablecloths. The food is warm, comforting and exactly as the name suggests - maybe hearty, tender chunks of beef goulash with creamed spinach and nokedli (Hungarian gnocchi).
Hearty Hungarian, 156A Carlisle Street, St Kilda, 9537 0700.
At Ragusa on the Williamstown waterfront, good glassware, high ceilings and a black-and-white portrait of old Dubrovnik combine to create an elegant feel. A glass of Croatian malvazija goes down a treat alongside "rizoto'' with halved, grilled yabbies. Chicken soup, loaded with al dente house-made egg noodles, soothes both sniffles and soul. Come early with children for some of Melbourne's smartest kids' meals.
Ragusa, 139 Nelson Place, Williamstown, 9399 8500; ragusarestaurant.com.au.
Minutes after you've ordered at A Taste of Poland, owner Lidia Glodowska is the stove firing up a jet. Water goes on to boil for a plate of pierogi, house-made dumplings with fillings such as cabbage or mashed potato. Beetroot borscht is vibrant in colour with flavour to match. It's sweet, tangy and loaded with uszka or "little ears'' - tortellini-like dumplings filled with finely chopped mushrooms. Groceries and frozen dumplings are also available.
A Taste of Poland, 1B Bell Street, West Sunshine, 0423 441 080.
When you hear about folks buying broken-down farmhouses in Europe, it's usually in France or Italy. Not so for Frank Moylan and Melissa Macfarlane, who bought "a little dump in a little town'' in Bulgaria. So began an Eastern European obsession that has culminated in The Crimean. The menu here takes its cues from the countries that ring the Black Sea. Try the vareniki - Ukrainian-style dumplings with a smooth potato and quark filling.
The Crimean, 351 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne, 9329 3353; thecrimean.com.
It's the charcoal that you smell the minute you walk into DD's Grill, a humble little spot on a busy road in Epping. The Ds in question are Dragan and Dragica, a husband-and-wife team who offer a small menu of simple yet delicious Macedonian fare. Hearty mixed grills come piled high with chicken thighs, lamb chops or juicy kebapi (skinless sausages), plus a hillock of crunchy cabbage salad. Up the greens quota with shopska - a salad of cucumber, tomato, onion and green pepper.
DD's Charcoal Grill, Shop 3, 772 High Street, Epping, 8405 3820.