Because eating cheaply is not all about $20 mains, here's a list of one dish wonders that cost half that, sometimes less.
1. Xiao long bao at We Love Dumpling, $7.80
320 Clayton Road, Clayton, 03 9548 8695
Going solo on a basket of eight plump, porky sweet xiao long bao might feel like a personal eating competition: guaranteed, your body will be crying out for something green, like Chinese broccoli (also, under $10). Come with a friend for back-up.
Beef boat noodles with egg noodles at Soi 38 in the CBD. Photo: Wayne Taylor
2. Boat noodle soup at Soi 38, $10
38 McIlwraith Place, Melbourne, soi38.com
Because it's not so well known here, let's call it Thailand's pho. Choose which of the five types of noodle you'd like to lurk in your dark broth topped with thin-sliced rump, house-made beef balls and a braise, plus cracking pork crackle.
Roti canai at Roti Road. Photo: Simon Schluter
3. Roti canai at Roti Road, $5.90
189 Barkly Street, Footscray, 03 9078 8878, rotiroad.com.au
Hot bread is a thing of beauty, and when it's just crisp at the edges and soft yet elastic in the folds of its expertly worked being, it's glorious. The only thing better is tearing it to shreds and swiping it through scented curry, sambal and dhal.
4. The Gringa at La Tortilleria, $8.50
72 Stubbs Street, Kensington, 03 9376 5577, latortilleria.com.au
This dish has been known to lure folks across town. A fusion of Lebanese and Mexican flavours that is an icon of Mexico City, you might recognise the spices used on a gyros, here used on free-range spit-roast pork, and topped with cheese and pineapple.
The 70 centimetre dosa at RV1 Dosa Corner. Photo: Josh Robenstone
5. Dosa at RV1 Dosa Corner, $8.95
587 Barkly Street, West Footscray, 03 8528 5120
Not even a large serving tray is large enough to hold one of the 70-centimetre dosas, which jut out over both ends. The crisp fermented rice batter pancake is rolled into a giant tunnel that's stuffed with paneer, and served with cooling coconut, curry and chilli.
8Bit burger with cheese. Photo: Wayne Taylor
6. 8Bit burger with cheese at 8 Bit, $9.50
231 Swanston Street, Melbourne, 03 9687 8838, eat8bit.com.au
One beef patty, tomato sauce, lettuce, pickles, cheese, red onion, tomato and mustard on a squishy bun. If that doesn't take you back to the carefree days of childhood, the arcade-game theme might make you wonder whether you still have that Atari stashed in a cupboard somewhere.
The falafel hot plate at Tahini. Photo: Darrian Traynor
7. Falafel at Tahini, $9
518 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, 03 9939 9119, tahinilebanesediner.com.au
Proving that deep-frying can give even the humble chickpea mass appeal, the just-fried falafel at tucked-away Tahini are tightly coddled in pita bread along with chopped lettuce, parsley, tomato, radish, mint, pickles and tahini sauce.
8. Banh mi with tofu at Pho Nom, $8
567 Collins Street, Melbourne, phonom.com.au
More than providing permission to eat crusty white bread, it's the anticipation of when those bursts of fresh raw chilli are going to hit, and whether the soft, warm tofu layered with pickled carrot and coriander will follow to temper it.
9. NSK Classic at New Somali Kitchen, $10
284 Racecourse Road, Flemington, 03 8589 7361
A regular-sized serve of the Somali Kitchen's equivalent of meat and three veg is a comforting full meal with satisfaction levels akin to a Sunday roast. Choose from slow-braised and gently spiced lamb, beef, chicken, goat, fish or falafel. It comes with rice, veg and leaves – and a banana.
10. Doughnuts at Mesa Verde, $10
Level 6, Curtin House, 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne, 03 9654 4417 mesaverde.net.au
So, we're down at the end of the list, at No 10. It must be time for dessert. Why not finish with a bowl of bite-sized doughnuts doused with Callebaut chocolate and mescal topped with pepita praline brittle?