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Top10 Best Cheap Eats in Sydney

Tuck in without forking out - here are our favourite meals for under $20.
Anna Lisle - May 2014
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This Thai Town institution has queues running out onto the street every opening hour and it's no surprise because the food is a cut above the rest and service is snappy. Attracting shift and hospitality workers, Chat Thai opens at 9.30am and closes at 3am, churning out authentic dishes such as green papaya salad, larb and pork satay. Our go-to? The beef shin massaman curry ($14) with steamed jasmine rice ($3) will even give you change from a $20 for a post-dinner N2 Extreme gelato.
Don't be put off by the constant queue that spills onto neon-lit Goulbourn Street; you'll be entertained by Mamak's dedicated roti (flatbread) chefs in the open kitchen, who prepare the thin, sticky dough in an elaborate dance of slapping, stretching and dousing in lashings of butter before frying on a hotplate and then moulding the round, flaky bread into shape. Served with two curry dips and a rousing sambal, dinner doesn't get much cheaper than this.
There's something so utterly satisfying about a big, sloppy bowl of piping hot ramen with shreds of rich pork and silky smooth noodles, especially when it doesn't break the bank. The bright orange exterior makes the restaurant hard to miss, but if the colour doesn't catch your eye then the number of people milling about outside waiting for a table is sure to pique your curiosity.
Ignore the painted pictures of palm trees on the glass windows outside and plastic tablecloths because this bustling Indonesian restaurant serves the best nasi goreng in town. Located a short drive from Sydney's renowned Indonesian eating precinct of Anzac Parade in Kingsford, Java is Sydney's best kept secret… until now.
Hidden away in a Surry Hill's laneway (and now in a pop-up restaurant above the London Hotel in Paddington), Chur Burger delivers trendy Sydneysiders a gourmet meat-on-bread dining experience. There are six $10 burger options; beef, chicken, pork, lamb, fish or veg and they're each served with a gourmet touch (think: grated beetroot and honey labne). Side orders of hot chips with smoked chilli salt and the Heilala vanilla milkshake come highly recommended.
In an otherwise pricey suburb, The Shakey (as locals call it) has earned a reputation as ‘home of the $12.50 meal' and it's not just shnitty and chips on the menu. Lads and ladies alike can keep their diet intact with a handful of calorie-friendly dishes such as grilled barramundi, poached chicken salad and fish curry.
Old Joe's is a humble milk bar specialising in share plates from the deep south (we mean deep South of the Yeww-Nited States – not the deep south of the Shire). Rather than a diner-style fit out, this Cronulla favourite boasts a breezy, beachside vibe with white washed walls, an eclectic mix of multi coloured seats and lounges and a red and white striped counter awning, but the pièce de résistance? The second hand surfboard outside with “Old Joe's” emblazoned in pastel pink alluring passers-by.
Ever found yourself on Oxford Street, in the wee hours of Sunday morning with a slice of pizza or a bagful of Oporto in hand? The arrival of Mr Crackles has ended this too-familiar scenario. Instead, tuck into the “Crackles Classic” – a fresh baguette roll generously stuffed with crispy skinned, five-spice pork belly, topped with a fragrant Vietnamese salad. It might be a smidge more than a Bondi Burger meal at $12, but it's worth the extra coin.
While the fine dining "Fish Face" has relocated to Double Bay, now standing in the original Darlinghurst Road shopfront is “Fish & Chips by Fishface”, a more humble version of its older sister. Widely regarded as one of Australia's best fish chef, owner Stephen Hodges prides himself on sourcing the freshest seafood and this fish 'n' chipppery stays true to this philosophy.
Packed in like sardines, customers to this Potts Point stalwart know what they're here for, and it's certainly not the service or décor. You'll have to wait outside until you're briskly summoned indoors to perch on plastic chairs or rub shoulders with a random on a wooden bench. We wouldn't suggest coming as a group, this place is best enjoyed with your other-half over a plateful of mixed pan fried dumplings.
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