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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Top 10 Sydney Cheap Eats for Tourists

It's easy to be distracted by the spectacle of the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and the golden sands of Bondi Beach, but we all know that the lifeblood of any city is in its food.

But how do you eat the best of Sydney on a whirlwind schedule?

I first compiled this resource in 2009, but a lot can happen in six years in the restaurant world. I've reworked this listing to include newcomers as well as maintaining a couple of old favourites.

Top 10 Sydney Cheap Eats for Tourists 
These are all located in close proximity of Sydney's city centre, either a five-minute cab ride or within a 20-minute walk.
(listed in alphabetical order)

  1. Chat Thai, Haymarket Got the midnight munchies? Deep frying pa tong go donuts at Chat Thai, HaymarketYou're all set at Chai Thai which closes at 2am every night. Night owls get to ravage the supper menu that switches over at 9pm. Make sure you order the pa tong go donuts fresh from the fryer served with warm pandan custard.
  2. Flour and Stone, Woolloomooloo has taken Australia's iconic lamington and made it even better. The panna cotta lamington is life changing. This quaint bakery has limited seating so you can make a meal of it with sausage rolls, meat pies, sandwiches, coffee and dessert.
  3. Golden Century, Haymarket is your best bet for seafood cooked fresh from the tank. Order the mud crab with ginger and shallots and pippies with XO sauce with a fried bread stick for dipping. They're open every night until 4am - after midnight you'll often spot Sydney's best chefs hoeing into a post-work feed.
  4. Harry's Cafe de Wheels, Woolloomooloo is a rite of passage for every tourist. Grab one of the legendary meat pies piled with mashed potato, mushy peas and a well of gravy and enjoy one of the city's cheapest waterfront views - seating not included.
  5. Kim Restaurant, Potts Point food beyond the usual bulgogi beef. Crunch your way through pancakes chock-full of seafood, feast on Korean fried chicken wings and make sure you try order prawn jang, fermented in soy and prawn-tastic.
  6. Malay Chinese Takeaway, Sydney It's noisy and crowded but it's all worth it for the best laksa in Sydney. If you're really worried about collateral damage to your white shirt, you can buy a plastic bib.
  7. Mamak, Sydney  has queues every night but at least you get a free show out the front as you Making roti at Mamak Sydneywatch the roti masters at work through the windows. Save room for the roti tisu, glazed with butter and sugar, and make sure you ask for condensed milk, not ice cream.
  8. Menya Mappen, Sydney might feel like a canteen, but lining up for your meal is an easy trade-off for bowls of udon or soba noodles that start at $3.90. The best part? The self-serve tempura bar.
  9. Sydney Fish Market, Pyrmont  is the best way to discover one of Sydney's best highlights: our bounty of seafood. Load up on sweet prawns, freshly shucked oysters and sashimi-grade salmon and tuna and feast on the wharf with the pelicans. If meat is more your thing, stop by Vic's Meat Market on the other side of the carpark for bbq pork ribs and smoky brisket sandwiches. 
  10. The Eight, Haymarket is Sydney's biggest yum cha restaurant with a barrage of trolleys circling the floor. Join in the fun with every other Chinese family on the weekend. And remember no yum cha is complete without har gow prawn dumplings and fung jao chicken feet. 

10 Eats for the Intrepid
for those happy to travel or test their stomach 
(listed in alphabetical order)
  1. Australian Heritage Hotel, The Rocks Always Cooking yakitori skewers over charcoal at Chaco Bar, Darlinghurst wanted to try crocodile, emu or kangaroo? Here's your chance to try them in the least intimidating way possible: on a pizza. Wash it down with a coldie (beer). The range of Australian boutique beers here will keep you busy for hours.
  2. Chaco Bar, Darlinghurst  You'll think you're somewhere in Japan at this cosy izakaya bar specialising in yakitori skewers cooked over charcoal. Get the chicken hearts, chicken tail (that's chicken butt) and chicken crackling (chicken skin) for a real treat. 
  3. Do Dee Paidang, Haymarket This many Thai customers can't be wrong. Make sure you order the tom yum noodles and test your chilli mettle if you dare with a pain meter that goes up to level seven. Tip: most people struggle with level one. 
  4. Doyles on the Wharf, Watsons Bay Take the ferry from Circular Quay and daydream about which property you'll buy when you retire. Wander the scenic walking paths at Watsons Bay to work up an appetite and then reward yourself on fish and chips on the wharf, soaking up the glorious harbour views.
  5. Gumshara Ramen, Sydney If you love Making tonkotsu soup noodles at Gumshara Ramen in Eating World Food Court, Haymarket
    tonkotsu ramen, a rich broth made from pork bone stock, this tiny foodcourt stall will change everything you know. They use 120kg of pork bones to make a soup that has so much collagen, it starts to solidify within minutes.
  6. House of Crabs, Redfern Forget about cutlery. It's all about hands-on eating with bags of crabs, prawns, clam and yabbies cooked in plastic bags and dumped in the middle of your table. Don't wear white - it's gonna get messy.
  7. Hurricane's Grill, Bondi Beach Sunbake, surf and swim and then tuck into a full rack of sticky smoky marinated ribs that will leave you licking your fingers with bliss. Bibs are provided so making a mess is half the fun.
  8. Kana Express, Sydney Is deep fried sushi is your idea of awesome, then stop by this tiny takeaway shop for Korean snackage at its finest.
  9. The Sparrow's Mills, Sydney  Korean fried chicken with spring onion and wasabi soy at The Sparrow's Mill, Sydney The only KFC you need to know about is Korean Fried Chicken. It's double fried for extra crunch with pickled daikon on the side to cleanse the palate. Get the wasabi soy for tasty dipping and give into the Snow Cheese, sprinkled with cheese powder that will get your tastebuds buzzing.
  10. Wakana Yakiniku, Artarmon If you want to get into marbled wagyu beef, this Japanese barbecue is one of the cheaper places to do it. You'll have to cook it yourself at the table, but that means less time wasted between the barbecue and transfer to your stomach.

Day Trip Food Adventures 
(listed by distance from Town Hall, Sydney CBD)

Sydney is a treasure trove of eats from all around the world, many of them found in cultural communities that cluster in suburban pockets. I often think there's nothing better than hopping on a train and spending a day browsing the fascinating grocery stores, bakeries and restaurants in the suburbs.

Why just visit Sydney when you can visit China, Vietnam, Lebanon, Turkey, Portugal and Korea as well? You won't need to pack your bags, but you might want to pack an extra stomach!

Not sure how to get around Sydney by public transport? Use the 131500 Transport Infoline website or phone 131 500.

Newtown/Enmore (11min train trip from Town Hall - Inner West line)
Once a seedy suburb, Newtown is now hipster central with raw vegan cafes jostling for space with wine and cheese bars and cronut-serving cafes. Chow down on burgers with metal heads at Mary's, try the famous strawberry watermelon cake at Black Star Pastry and stop by the Pie Tin for a massive wedge of peanut butter and chocolate tart. If you're still kicking around at dinner, drop into Hartsyard for southern fried chicken with biscuits and gravy.

Petersham (15 min train trip from Town Hall - Inner West line)
You haven't had barbecue chicken until you've eaten it Portugese-style, flattened in half, brushed with peri peri chilli sauce and cooked on a rotisserie over charcoal. Follow your nose to the row of bbq chicken shops along Canterbury Road and grab a flaky Portugese custard tart from Sweet Belem for dessert. If you arrive early enough for breakfast, swing past Brighton the Corner for homemade crumpets and The Pig and Pastry for homemade baked goodies.

Haberfield (15 min taxi ride or a 50min bus trip from Town Hall)
Ramsay Street might feel quiet but there's plenty to eat in this food rich suburb. Bring your shopping bags and fill them with fresh cheeses from Paesanella, crusty ciabatta loaves from Haberfield Bakery, deli items from Lamonica IGA, handmade chocolates from Colefax and the divine light-as-air ricotta cake from Pasticceria Papa. End your day with traditional wood-fired pizza from La Disfida.

Ashfield (21 min train trip from Town Hall - Inner West line)
Make your own Ashfield food tour through fishmongers, Asian bakeries, Chinese grocery stores, Indian spice shops and Filipino treats. Eat your weight in soup dumplings from Shanghai Night or New Shanghai. Wander into the Polish Club for something different or get your money's worth from the all-you-can-eat Yummy Chinese BBQ.

Campsie (37 min train trip from Town Hall - Bankstown line) Campsie is known as Little Korea, but amongst the Korean grocery stores and restaurants, you will also find Chinese BBQ houses, Indian spice stores and Lebanese baklava. Get hands on with the jeyuk bossam pork and kimchee in cabbage leaves from Korean favourite Se Joung or get into Malaysian assam laksa, curry puffs and more at Albees Kitchen.

Lakemba (42 min train trip from Town Hall - Bankstown line)
Never tried Lebanese pizza? It's yours for just $1. That'll score you a freshly cooked oregano pizza or try a $1.50 spinach pie. Explore Indian spice shops, Lebanese bakeries and Continential groceries on your Lakemba food tour. Work up an appetite for the best falafel in Sydney at Jasmin. You will eat yourself stupid and pay about $10 for the pleasure.

Auburn (27 min express train trip from Town Hall - Western line) The streets of Auburn are as far from everyday Sydney as you can get. The smell of charcoal in the air comes from the freshly grilled kebabs that will take you straight back to the memories of your best meal in Turkey. Wander the streets and make up your own food tour but do not leave without enjoying the unique stretchy pleasure of dondurma ice cream from Mado Cafe.

Bankstown (45 min train trip from Town Hall - Bankstown line)
Bankstown is one of Sydney's true cultural melting pots. Meander you way through Lebanese baklava, an Eastern European deli, a Chinese herbal store, spices piled into pyramids you might find in a souk, and African, Filipino and Asian groceries. Vietnamese pho noodle houses abound but it's hard to go past the famed Pho An.

Fairfield (47 min train trip from Town Hall - Inner West line)
Who needs a round-the-world plane ticket? Just stop by Fairfield for your own global adventure. Start with crispy fried rice from Lao Village and move onto Chilean hot dogs and dulce de leche sweets from La Paula. And you won't just find one Iraqi restaurant. There's two. Load up on kebabs from Aldhiaffah Al-Iraqi and get the sheep's head stew from Kebab Abo Ali

Cabramatta (50 min express train trip from Town Hall - South line)
You could almost trick yourself into thinking you're in Saigon as you walk the streets of Cabramatta with your own DIY food tour. Get yourself lost in the myriad of arcades selling tropical fruits, bolts of fabric, Asian groceries and pandan waffles. Tuck into a bowl of pho at Pho Tau Bay, feast on sugar cane prawns at Tuong Lai and crunch your way through the crispy skin chicken at Tan Viet.

Did I miss anything? Leave a comment with your tips on Sydney's best eats for tourists or provide your comments on the ones listed above. If you're a visitor to Sydney then I hope you enjoy our diverse array of culinary fare. Leave a comment if you use this list and let us know your thoughts on the food you found.
34 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/25/2015 01:01:00 am


  • At 1/25/2015 8:06 am, Anonymous john | heneedsfood said…

    Nice compilation, Helen. I'm always a little saddened when I see visitors confining themselves to The Rocks/Circular Quay and CBD. Yes there are some great eats in these areas, but there's so much more to the city than its centre.

  • At 1/25/2015 9:23 am, Anonymous Francesca said…

    Your posts always make me so hungry.I don't know which yummy thing I want the most. All I can say is, aren't we a lucky country to be so spoilt for choice. Our multi- cultural way of life is to be applauded and embraced tomorrow.

  • At 1/25/2015 9:44 am, Anonymous Hotly Spiced said…

    That's a comprehensive list! And very handy if you're taking tourists out and about and trying to keep to a budget. I do love Flour and Stone xx

  • At 1/25/2015 10:03 am, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    yummo great eats list. i need to work my through some of these I haven't tried before.

  • At 1/25/2015 10:42 am, Anonymous Cyn (The Food Pornographer) said…

    Nice list, and now I have some new ideas for my next trip to Sydney. Not top 10, but for novelty value I totally enjoyed getting hot Emperor's puffs from the hole in the wall in Chinatown. It's a thrill and good fun if you have nothing like it in your home town. I'm glad my beloved Harry's Cafe de Wheels made the list. Agreed, a Tiger pie is must-do for a tourist in Sydney.

  • At 1/25/2015 1:03 pm, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    Hellz yeah Gumshara and Sparrow's Mill!

  • At 1/25/2015 1:14 pm, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    Very nice list Helen. I'm with John, good to see options for tourists that aren't confined to the typical hotspots within the city. Wherever I go to travel, I certainly love exploring places to eat.

  • At 1/25/2015 1:19 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    I'm salivating as I read through this list of top spots to check out. Love my old faves which appear on your list, but equally excited about some new places to check out too! Thanks for the reminder!!!

  • At 1/25/2015 6:07 pm, Blogger gaby @ lateraleating said…

    Great list, so many places I haven't been to!

  • At 1/25/2015 8:35 pm, Anonymous Cindy (a foodie's joy) said…

    Hi Helen, I like your lists! Some of which I have yet to check out. I would like to suggest adding in Fairfield to your last for Day Trip Food Adventures. What do you think?

  • At 1/25/2015 10:09 pm, Blogger vegeTARAian said…

    This is great Helen - looks like I've got some day trips to do!

  • At 1/25/2015 11:39 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    Such a great resource! Your cheap eats are the PERFECT list for me!!

    xox Sarah

  • At 1/26/2015 10:28 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great list! Some faves to revisit and new ones to explore

  • At 1/26/2015 10:33 am, Anonymous racy_staci said…

    Challenge accepted. Going to work my way thru your lists. It's a tough job but somebody's got to do it

  • At 1/26/2015 1:00 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi John and Phuoc - Agreed. I guess it's always hard to work out the great food secrets in a new city but isn't that great thing about food blogs? :)

    Hi Francesca - Absolutely. I love to travel but Australia will always be home :D

    Hi Hotly Spiced - Flour and Stone is my weakness. I think I'm glad I don't work closeby!

    Hi Simon - Thanks. And that's what I love about Sydney - so much to eat!

    Hi Cyn - Haha yes the Emperor Puffs are much fun. We had them just the other day. And the Tiger pie is mandatory. The real challenge is not wearing half of it on your shirt!

    Hi Ramen Raff - lol. I knew you'd be pleased!

    Hi Alice - There's so much more I need to eat too, but I'm definitely not complaining!

    Hi Gaby - Thanks. We're definitely spoilt for choice in Sydney!

    Hi Cindy - Omg how could I forget Fairfield? Thanks so much for the reminder. Added now! You're a star!

    Hi Tara - Food day trips are the best kind of day out :D

    Hi Sarah - Ha thanks. I love to travel on a budget!

    Hi Anon - Thank you. Hope you find it useful!

    Hi Racy Staci - Haha. I'm here for you.

  • At 1/26/2015 1:02 pm, Anonymous Janet said…

    Woah. So much detail. Thanks for doing the hard work for us. Janet

  • At 1/26/2015 9:24 pm, Anonymous Sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    Awesome roundup, but I feel my neck the woods is sadly missing. Only beach suburb that visitors can jump on the train to access, and Cronulla has upped it's game amazingly food wise.

  • At 1/27/2015 6:51 am, Anonymous Nagi@RecipeTin Eats said…

    Have I ever told you how much you rock??!! Your taste is awesome. I absolutely trust your judgement and am going to work my way through this list so I can cross everything off. :)

  • At 1/27/2015 10:12 am, Anonymous Amanda @lambsearsandhoney said…

    Seriously excellent lists, thanks Helen. It seems that I very rarely get to Sydney, but next time I do I'll have all the eating info I need!

  • At 1/27/2015 1:17 pm, Anonymous bob @jugernauts said…

    Nice to see Kim Restaurant featured on here - been meaning to visit.

  • At 1/27/2015 1:24 pm, Blogger Choc Chip Uru @ Go Bake Yourself said…

    Pasticceria Papa is my favourite, what an excellent list!

    Choc Chip Uru

  • At 1/28/2015 12:20 am, Blogger Vivian - vxdollface said…

    awesome write-up, great combination of places :)

  • At 1/28/2015 7:16 pm, Anonymous Cara @ Gourmet Chick said…

    Such a great resource Helen - makes me think I should do something similar for Melbourne. But how to limit to 10!

  • At 1/29/2015 12:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Fantastic post! Even though I'm always out and about in Sydney, I still haven't been to a lot of places you've mentioned. LOVE IT!

  • At 1/29/2015 9:01 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Those are some great lists and can't really argue with any entry. Perhaps one suggestion for the cheap eats for tourists list is the Hunter Connection Food Court. Up that end of town frequented by tourists, there is very little cheap eats (except Chinese Malay Takeaway, which you listed). Pretty much everything in Hunter Conn is decent and even cheaper than CMT, and just the thing tourists would be looking for but have no hope of finding.

  • At 1/29/2015 11:31 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My other suggestion is to change the reference under "Cabramatta" from Ho Chi Minh City to Saigon. That would be how most Viets in Cabramatta know the city, and would be preferred by them (who after all fleed from Ho's oppression - Australia's gain and Vietnam's loss).

  • At 1/29/2015 11:04 pm, Blogger Annie said…

    thanks for posting this up :). lots of good suggestions on where to eat next time my relatives visit Sydney. took my cousin to Gumshara when they visited a few years ago and he ate the whole entire bowl!

  • At 1/29/2015 11:35 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Janet - Always a pleasure. Hope you enjoy it!

    Hi Sara - I agree I don't often get to the Shire as much as I should. That's a good point about Cronulla Beach though!

    Hi Nagi - Haha you are far too kind. And happy eating!

    Hi Amanda - You know where to find me! Definitely let me know the next time you're in town!

    Hi Bob - Kim is awsome. You definitely need to go!

    Hi Choc Chip Uru - Papa's is awesome isn't it? I don't think one can ever get sick of their ricotta cake!

    Hi Vivian - Thanks. We are so super lucky in Sydney.

    Hi Cara - It's definitely tough, but worth doing. Really makes you appreciate your home town!

    Hi Nessyeater - Ha, I've had a head start on you, but I agree. Sydneysiders are spoilt for choice!

    Hi Stan - That's a great point, although I do find Hunter Connection has limited seating. It's been a while since I've lunched there - will have to stop by again soon and suss out all the current vendors!

    And thank you for the very valid point re: Saigon. Have amended this as suggested. Thanks for the diplomatic pointer!

    Hi Annie - lol I can never finish my bowl from Gumshara. Epic effort!

  • At 1/30/2015 7:13 pm, Anonymous gastronomous anonymous said…

    awesome list! There's still a few places that i need to check out when i go back to Sydney! thanks!

  • At 1/31/2015 1:46 am, Anonymous Maureen said…

    Helen, this is a fantastic list that you've compiled. We're coming down to Sydney one day soon and this will come in handy. :)

    I'm not sure where to start! :)

  • At 1/31/2015 2:58 am, Anonymous Gourmet Getaways said…

    Whoa, nice Helen! We oughta try these soon! And the prices are really cheap, too. What a great variety you've gathered here. Thanks!!!

    Julie & Alesah
    Gourmet Getaways xx

  • At 2/07/2015 5:04 pm, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    Thanks for updating this! I passed this list onto a UK friend while she was here last week, and she definitely appreciated how budget-friendly it was!

  • At 2/17/2015 5:35 pm, Anonymous Amanda@ChewTown said…

    What an incredible list! Sending the link to all my mates who always ask where they should eat in Sydney.

  • At 7/02/2017 7:39 pm, Anonymous Joseph Purtill said…

    Thanks Helen. I must agree with the othe people that so many people stick to the touristy areas of Sydney.
    Its just wonderful to have such a great list to have at my disposal. I will be putting it to great use when I come for a week this coming Tuesday.
    Many thanks and keep up the great work


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