With Brisbane Festival in full swing, we round up the best places cheap cafes and restaurants in the city – whether you fancy a big bowl of ramen, delicate French pastries or beer and burgers
Mrs Luu’s Vietnamese Canteen
This is not your traditional-style Vietnamese restaurant. The family who own Mrs Luu’s used to run one of the most popular Vietnamese restaurants in Brisbane, but for this latest venture, they have taken just a handful of favourites and given them a contemporary twist. The “three little piggies'” banh mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwich) is a combination of barbecued pork, Vietnamese-style ham and their own porchetta, piled high with crunchy, fragrant salad ($7). There are six varieties of goi cuon rice paper rolls (two for $6) and daily blackboard specials, such as green papaya salad with king prawns and pork belly, or Mrs Luu’s own pho thai nam (rare beef brisket and noodle soup). Cash only, but there is an ATM on the premises.
• 25 Railway Terrace, Milton, +61 (0) 7 3369 5760
Little Greek Taverna
It’s bustling, rowdy and a bit rough-and-ready, and that’s all part of the appeal. This family-run restaurant is hard to beat when it comes to hearty, home-style Greek fare. Select from a list of mezedes, which includes homemade dips, classic zucchini fritters with tzatziki and Aunty Thea Ellie’s tiropita (crisp, golden pastry filled with a mixture of warm feta and ricotta cheese, $6). Generous servings of souvlaki come with salad for $15, or $5 per skewer. In addition to traditional yiros (kebabs) at $10 a plate, there’s a range of grilled seafood, including octopus, prawns, calamari and scallops (all under $20). You can bring your own wine (corkage $2) and they’ll throw in the party atmosphere for free.
• 1 Browning St West End, +61 (0) 7 3255 2215, www.littlegreektaverna.com.au
Double Shot Espresso
The guys who run this pint-sized neighbourhood cafe have been in the hospitality game for many years and it shows. Chef Michael manages to turn out an array of perfect cakes, tarts, terrines, sandwiches and innovative breakfast fare from the minuscule kitchen, while Ross manages front-of-house with unflappable cheer, despite how hectic it can be on weekends. You can’t beat their banoffee pie. The espresso here is well-made, and as strong as the cafe’s name suggests. There simply isn’t a dud option on the menu, with everything under $20. Be sure to take cash as there are no card facilities.
• 125 Oxlade Drive New Farm, +61 (0) 7 3358 6556.
Jan Powers Farmers Market, Brisbane City
This normally drab corner of the concrete jungle is transformed every Wednesday, bringing a little bit of the Queensland country to the Central Business District. Farmers and producers peddle their delicious wares to a bustling crowd of city workers, students and visitors. For around $10 (£6), you can take your pick from hand-crafted dumplings, German Bratwurst and tasty vegetarian options from the Nom Noms stall. This is also the place for hunting and gathering locally made cheese, hot-smoked salmon, artisan sourdough, macaroons, brownies and ginger beer – all the makings of a perfect riverside picnic in the nearby botanical gardens.
• Reddacliff Place (top of the Queen St Mall), George St, Brisbane, every Wednesday; janpowersfarmersmarkets.com.au.
At this edgy little South Brisbane fish and chippery, it’s all about sustainable seafood, with an emphasis on locally caught fish. Pull up a stool at the big communal table and help yourself to homemade lemonade, or order a takeaway and head down to nearby South Bank Parklands. Sample Moreton Bay mullet and chips ($10.90) or salt-and-pepper calamari with preserved lemon aioli and chips ($12.90). Our favourites are the mackerel cutlet with zingy pineapple and coriander salsa ($16.90) and the tempura whiting with ginger prawn mousse and fragrant, crunchy Viet-style salad ($14.90).
• 186 Vulture St South Brisbane, +61 (0) 7 3255 3715, swampdog.com.au.
It’s the city’s hippest market cafe, offering a simple, produce-driven menu, served against an industrial-chic backdrop of gourmet goodies, cut flowers and some of the best fresh produce around. The simple menu is handwritten on the white subway-tiled wall and reads like a who’s who of local artisan producers. Food is as wholesome as it is delicious – salads such as the Noosa smokehouse salmon, freekeh tabbouleh, pistachio, grapes and goat’s cheese ($12) will keep the taste buds and the scales happy. The bircher muesli and smashed avocado on sourdough are some of the best you’ll find.
• 11 Florence St Newstead, +61 (0) 7 3852 6734, sourcedgrocer.com.au
The Bun Mobile
Brisbane’s first food truck set the bar high. This is fast food with class, offering simple, freshly steamed Chinese-style buns packed with flavoursome fillings. Buns are $8 each ($10 for the daily special), and there are always vegetarian and gluten-free options. Slow-cooked Wagyu beef with soy-pickled shitake mushrooms is a menu staple, as is the char-grilled teriyaki chicken with carrot and mint ‘slaw and Japanese mayo. The twice-cooked pork version with hoisin and sakura-pickled cucumber is worth crossing town for – check the location calendar on their website as these buns get around.
• +61 (0) 401 420 922, thebunmobile.com.au
The ground floor of an office tower in the Central Business District seems an unlikely spot for what is undoubtedly the city’s best ramen, but it’s worth battling the lunchtime crush for a bowl of their signature Red Tonkatsu Ramen ($15.90). Made from Bangalow pork bones, the rich stock has been bubbling away for two days by the time it’s ladled into your bowl with tender, slow-roasted char siu pork, noodles, nori, seasoned egg and shallots. Naturally, noodles are made on the premises. For a tamer option, the shoyu ramen broth is a balanced blend of vegetable, chicken and seafood – or try “golden triple soup” with aged soy for a delectable umami hit ($13.90).
• 363 Adelaide St Brisbane, +61 (0) 7 3832 6358, taros.com.au.
First-time visitors stare agape at the baskets of traditional baguettes, golden croissants and exquisitely delicate cakes on display in this little New Farm establishment. With a host of French-born and –trained pastry chefs in the kitchen and cafe, all rattling off orders to one another in French, this is the most authentic boulangerie-patisserie experience this side of Paris. Best of all, despite the commitment to traditional slow-fermentation bread-baking methods and quality ingredients, you can eat like a French queen here for surprisingly little. Take your pick from any of the picture-perfect pastries – the chocolate torsade and almond croissant are standouts; add a well-made espresso and expect to hand over a meagre $10 for the pleasure.
• 19 Barker St New Farm, +61 (0) 7 3358 6336, chouquette.com.au
This is Brisbane’s unofficial craft beer headquarters. A dark, hip little hideaway in Newstead with a staggering array of craft beers and fantastic, Chicago-style bar food. Whether your chosen tipple is a Bacchus Queensland Ale or My Wife’s Bitter from Burleigh Brewing Company on the Gold Coast, the bar snacks are a drawcard in themselves. Order a hearty bowl of Grandma Kennedy’s chilli with crusty organic sourdough, or share a 1kg serving of Buffalo wings with blue cheese sauce and celery sticks (both $10). Sliders are some of the best around. It’s impossible to choose between the classic beef-cheese-onion-mustard combination and the pork belly, caramel star-anise, pickled cucumber and cilantro, so hedge your bets and go with the five for $20 deal.
• 22 Masters St Newstead, tipplerstap.com.au.
Morag writes for extravirgin.net.au. She also hosts a food tour of Queensland on 612 ABC Evenings (Wednesdays 8.15pm).
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