If there's one thing the new edition of Good Food Under $30 proves, it's that Sydney's cheap eats scene is booming. Some of last year's obsessions grew stronger: anyone for burgers or ramen? Everyone, it seems. There was even a ramen burger for those who couldn't pick a team. We also remain preoccupied with American diner digs and Latin American food.
A few newer foodie love affairs have started, too. Jewish deli dishes are easier to find (think pastrami sandwiches, matzo ball soup, and brilliant bagels), small bars with great food are more prevalent, cafes are going above and beyond and serving restaurant quality fare without restaurant price tags.
There's some serious local pride on show, too. Suburbs such as Bondi, Fairfield, Alexandria and Rosebery continue to flourish, with existing businesses welcoming the competition with open arms - seeing them not as a threat but as an extra feather in the suburb's cap - another reason for people to visit.
It was tough to pick a winner from such an impressive line-up of new eateries, but this year's Good Food Under $30 award for Best New Restaurant went to Alexandria's Cipro Pizza al Taglio. We love the smart casual space and simple produce-driven food and confess an addiction to their flourless chocolate cake. More, please?
Other top new spots in the inner west included Abbotsford's Prato Cafe & Diner, the MezeBar at Efendy, Balmain, Mary's at Newtown, and In the Annex at Forest Lodge.
Chur Burger at Surry Hills set the burger bar high early in this Year of the Burger. Meanwhile, the choices for vegetarians widened with the arrival of Sydney's first Lord of the Fries outlet, George Street, city, and its all-veg menu of fries, burgers and dogs.
We've struck it lucky with authentic global gems, too. Among our favourites are Ramen Ikkyu at Haymarket, Per Kilo for Colombian food on Erskine Street, Lotus Dumpling Bar at Walsh Bay. Super sandwich makers and Pyrmont and Bondi market regulars Ruby & Rach have just ended their run at Strattons Hotel but word is there'll soon be two new venues hitting Sydney.
It's been a case of ''when you're onto good thing, expand'' in Sydney's eastern suburbs. Rosebery's hotting up with several additions including Pizza Mario spin-off Da Mario and a bigger second store for Newtown's Black Star Pastry. Long-time Campsie favourite, Albee's Kitchen, opened a new branch in Kingsford, and from the crew behind Buffalo Dining Club at Darlinghurst is Chester White Cured Diner at Potts Point, a guaranteed fun night out. Redfern's Three Williams cafe and Bondi's Lox Stock and Barrel though are stand-alone new loves.
North & north west
Khao Pla at Chatswood and Marciano's at Lindfield were two cracking additions to Sydney's north, serving authentic Thai and Italian, respectively, plus a perpetual full-house happy vibe.
There's plenty more to look forward to, too, with Lane Cove's Via Napoli set to open a sequel at Hunters Hill, The Baron cafe at Castle Hill having just opened a new joint in Glenhaven called The Tuckshop, and Chur Burger coming soon to Manly.
South & south west
Pilgrims vegetarian cafe in Cronulla was probably the most highly anticipated and instantly adored addition to Sydney's south last year. A branch of the long-time loved cafes on the NSW south coast, the all-veg menu is right on the mark.
Meanwhile, cheap eats hub Hurstville lost old favourite Shanghai Yangzhou House. Good news is its replacement is a branch of the ever-popular Taste of Shanghai.
Fairfield continues to evolve in no small part thanks to Tona Inthavong and partners, whose latest ventures James' Bistro and Tona's Coffee Shop, while still finding their groove, are winning fans and promise great things.
In Blacktown we were blown away by the great value and big flavours at Sun's Burmese Kitchen (our Best Value award winner). And in Penrith, Henri Marc cafe blew our socks off, too.