Finding a top feed outside the ample degustations, chef's menus and pop-up dinners on offer in Brisbane has never been hard, but making a night of it on the cheap is now easier than ever.
Explore a short and sharp New World wine list over Chinese food that leaves your local shopping strip China diner for dead. Down Japanese craft beers and fine whiskies over bits of a chook you didn't know you could eat but are suddenly in love with. Pair tequila flights with superbly fresh tacos that wouldn't feel out of place in a country where people can understand that neon Spanish sign on the wall.
Less money on food equals more to spend on booze. Order the tequila flights. Pair a wine or three. Heck, crack open the Dom.
Cheeseburger at Ben's Burgers. Photo: Supplied
No alterations. It's a bold ask from a burger bar that offers just four types – beef, cheese, chicken or vegetarian. But Ben (not his real name) knows best, and evidently the perfect hamburger needs pickles whether you want them or not. Twenty bucks scores you a burger, fries and a craft beer, and with locations either side of the river there are few good excuses to say no.
5B Winn Lane, Fortitude Valley, 07 3195 3094, bensburgers.com.au
Deep-fried tofu with shallots and bonito flakes from Bird's Nest. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
Skewers of chicken entrails arrive two-by-two hot off the coal grill. Do order the classic thigh with shallots but don't skip chicken hearts with salty 'tare' sauce. It's easy to turn a cheeky snack into a full-blown banquet, so only you are responsible for keeping this in cheap eats territory. Fill out your meal with tasty coated rice balls, edamame, spicy pirikara fries and other sides. Best of all, drinks are $5 until 7pm.
Shop 5, 220 Melbourne Street, South Brisbane, 07 3844 4306, birdsnestrestaurant.com.au
No wonder the "elote en vaso" is also known as "crack corn" – it's fire-roasted, mixed with butter, lime juice and chipotle, and served warm with crema de queso. Eagle Lane's authentic taqueria explores a slow fast-food philosophy. Seven handmade soft tortilla tacos form the menu's core, from steak to a changing ceviche using local seafood. In the evenings, Mexican share-style dishes are added – ideally paired with that week's tequila flight.
Eagle Lane, rear, 359 Queen Street, Brisbane City, 07 3236 1989, coyotito.com.au
The wall of wine at Greenglass. Photo: Chris Hyde
Look for the skinny, well-worn staircase between a gentlemen's club and a discount chemist. Greenglass's menu is loosely French with a roaming, hand-scrawled chalkboard of daily-changing dishes. The real value happens at lunch, where roasted chicken maryland with carrot pilaf plus a mousse-y, plum-topped sabayon will leave you with change from $30.
336 George Street, Brisbane City, 0403 966 671, greenglasswine.com
Happy Boy's prawn and pork wontons. Photo: Heath Missen
Muse over the chalkboard wine list deciding between two whites, two red and a rosé – all boutique, all Aussie - before sitting down to a knock-out Chinese dinner. Prawn and pork wontons, green beans with pork mince and half a duck is a great way to get you started. Happy Boy is always buzzing, hence why it's moving to a new digs (1 East Street, Fortitude Valley) very soon, but the original is still wok-frying in the meantime.
Shop 2, 36 Mein Street, Spring Hill, 0413 246 890, happyboy.com.au
Horiatiki salata at the Little Greek Taverna. Photo: Michelle Smith
Little Greek Taverna
Lamb. Haloumi. Octopus. Grilled. There's a lot to like about Greek food, especially at this price and quality. Spot northern Greek specialties on the menu of this family-owned West End favourite, where galaktoboureko (custard slice) is just $4. Pop into the bottle shop across the road before claiming a table on the skinny triangular wedge on a busy corner of Boundary Street.
Shop 5, 1 Browning Street, West End, 07 3255 2215, littlegreektaverna.com.au
Pho Hien Vuong Pasteur
Nothing beats a revitalising bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup when you're facing a dusty morning. It's even better with fresh chilli and an iced coffee on the side. The pho at this fluoro-lit institution may be the best in Brisbane (the sweet and salty balance is bang on) and the Sunnybank eatery opens at 10am so you can make a late-morning adventure out of your medicine mission.
Shop 21, 319 Mains Road, Sunnybank, 07 3219 5688
When Pizzantica isn't hauling a Ferrari-red pizza oven to parties all over Brisbane, it fetches up at the Casa Italia Community Centre, where Aperol spritzers fizz and old men argue over card games. From Friday to Sunday, it slings thin, blistered wood-fired pizzas and classic pasta alongside Green Beacon brews.
Casa Italia Community Centre, 26 Gray Street, New Farm, 0449 624 739, pizzantica.com
Fire tonkotsu ramen at Taro's Ramen. Photo: Supplied
There's an ancient Japanese saying: "Know ramen, know life". Actually, that's what's written on the T-shirt you earn after redeeming your Taro's Ramen loyalty card. Like a jazz musician who obsesses over hitting the right notes, Taro Akimoto aims to perfect ramen. Bangalow Sweet Pork (cooked for two days), hand-made noodles and free-range eggs make the creamy pork tonkotsu a staple.
480 Queen Street, Brisbane City, 07 3839 4840, taros.com.au
This chilled warehouse co-op takes you just far enough off the beaten culinary track. On Thursday and Friday nights three kitchen windows rotate different small makers testing their ideas. From Peruvian snacks to alternative Malaysian curries, make your order and find a long table beneath fairy lights in the carpark.
1 Fish Lane, South Brisbane, 07 3844 6000, wanderingcooks.com.au
The Good Food Guide goes national this year with hats awarded across Australia. The Good Food Guide 2018 will be launched in October with our presenting partners Citi and Vittoria and will be on sale in newsagents and bookstores.