The SMH Good Food Guide Awards 2017: Best Cheap Eat Finalists

Bovine and Swine BBQ co-owner "Hillbilly" Wes.
Bovine and Swine BBQ co-owner "Hillbilly" Wes.  Photo: Jessica Hromas

It's not always about taking out a second mortgage to pay for dinner. Sometimes (actually, a lot of the time), it's about cheap, easy and delicious wins. Here at Good Food, we're celebrating great food that's also easy on the wallet.

And the finalists for Sydney's Best Cheap Eat are... 

Chicken ribs, wings, fries and pickles at Belles Hot Chicken in Barangaroo.

Chicken ribs, wings, fries and pickles at Belles Hot Chicken. Photo: Fiona Morris

Belles Hot Chicken
The fried chicken snack shack that made Fitzroy collectively unnotch their belts has enjoyed a long stint as a pop-up at Barangaroo and is about to become a permanent fixture in September. You'll need to roll four deep to do this successfully. To my mind, you can pretty easily skip the leg meat, which doesn't yield the same level of crunch, juiciness and intensity of flavour as the wings, which you should definitely double order.  Wulugul Walk, The Streets of Barangaroo

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 07:  Red ant egg salad at Boon Cafe in Haymarket on February 7, 2015 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Christopher Pearce/Fairfax Media)

Red ant egg salad at Boon Cafe. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Chat Thai opened a cafe and changed the lives of Sydney's sandwich lovers forever. Love spicy Thai food but hate rice? Boon Cafe takes your favourite spicy curries and sandwiches them between two slices of sourdough toast. Thai sausages are served with pasta and raw egg yolk – and that's just the lunch menu – by night Boon serves a traditional  Isaan menu that rivals Chat Thai itself. Som tum devotees will want to proceed directly to the dtum bpha – a green papaya salad funked up to a thousand per cent. 425 Pitt Street, Haymarket 

Barbecued meats at Bovine and Swine BBQ Co. in Enmore.

Barbecued meats at Bovine and Swine BBQ Co. Photo: Jessica Hromas

Bovine and Swine
You'll smell it before you see it. That earthy, meaty, smoky, almost visceral smell of barbecue that hits you full force as soon as you're within 50 metres of the place. This is the work of Anton Hughes and "Hillbilly" Wes Griffiths. Together, they're hell-bent on bringing the bare-knuckle taste of Texas barbecue to Enmore. And Enmore has responded extremely enthusiastically. 92 Enmore Road, Enmore

Lava (level three) tom yum at Do Dee Paidang.

Lava (level three) tom yum at Do Dee Paidang. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer


Do Dee Paidang
Do Dee Paidang ranks the spice level of its insanely good tom yum noodle soups from "nursery" (no chilli) to "super nova" (WAY too much chilli). It's the perfect place to bring someone who's just lost a bet, and once they destroy themselves on a "super nova", they can cool down with a bowl of soft boiled rice with pork and fish balls. The sweet sour soup provides a nice balance to the intense tom yum. 9/37 Ultimo Road, Haymarket

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 29:  Chicken roadie at Trunk Road in Surry Hills on March 29, 2016 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Christopher Pearce/Fairfax Media)

Chicken roadie at Trunk Road. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Trunk Road
There's no table service or menus on offer here – the idea is you walk downstairs, order off the pin board advertising a short menu of "roadies", and pay at the counter. Those "roadies" translate as a large Indian flatbread served open and topped with, say, thin slices of steak and puffy onion rings, butter chicken (the king of late-night Indian kebabs) or fresh cheese.  163 Crown Street, Darlinghurst

Want more? Check out last year's winner, Chaco Bar 

The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide award night, presented by Citi and Vittoria, is on September 5. The Guide will be on sale in newsagents and bookstores from September 6, with all book purchases receiving free access to the new Good Food app.