Ten dollars. Ten minutes. Ten countries. Eating cheap in Footscray

One fine summer’s day this food-obsessed writer and a hungry photographer were looking for meal in Footscray for $10 or under, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. Just to make it more fun, we decided that the eateries had to be within a ten-minute walk from the Footscray Railway Station. And we wanted to sample cuisines from ten different countries. Was it possible?

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We don’t even leave Footscray station to get to that venerable institution that is Olympic Doughnuts (51 Irving St). Doughnuts as a meal? Decadent, but perfectly acceptable we think. Greek-born Nick Tsiligiris has been doing a roaring trade for 35 years, frying up his legendary jam doughnuts from the van’s petite interiors. At 80c each, they’re a steal.

A hop, skip and a jump away is the Korean-inspired Snow Tree (12/119 Hopkins St – enter from Leeds St), where you can have the colourful and well-balanced lunchtime special of Bibimbap with a bottle of water ($9.50).

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A few doors down at Kitchen Samrat (36 Leeds St) their window display boast an Indian curry, rice and naan bread ($6.95, take-away only).

Around the corner on Hopkins Street, the options are endless. There’s the Vietnamese Nhu Lan Hot Fresh Bakery (116 Hopkins St), where you can jostle with the hordes (hrmm, I mean line up in an orderly manner) for freshly baked rolls filled with either shredded pork, meatballs or BBQ chicken ($4), leaving enough change for a large moon cake ($3.50). The queue attests to the popularity of this place, but thankfully, it moves along more speedily than the Paris to Madrid fast train.

If you’re in the mood for comfort, there’s no going past the soothing flavours of a beef or shredded chicken Phó at Hung Vuong Saigon (128 Hopkins St). Even this greedy writer struggled to get through a medium-sized bowl ($9), although admittedly we started with the delicious spring rolls (6 for $7.50).

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However, that didn’t stop us from following it up with afternoon tea at another Footscray institution, T. Cavallaro & Sons Pasticceria (98 Hopkins St), where Tony Cavallaro will happily provide you with an espresso ($2.50), their famous ricotta cannoli ($3.40) and a tale about how his Italian-born parents started the business by selling cannoli at the MCG in1956 (the story comes free).

Just a few doors down, you can try Ethiopian cuisine with Awash (82 Hopkins St). Mains are a bit beyond the $10 limit, but you can sample ful, an aptly named fulsome bean dish ($8) or salad ($5).

If you’re hankering for Turkish cuisine, you can’t go past Amasya Kebab House (134 Nicholson St). There you can pick up a large kebab ($9.50), falafel sandwich ($8.50) or pide ($4).

DSC_8407For a cheap night out, try the funky Dancing Dog Café’s (42A Albert St) South American-inspired Wednesday night special, with tacos ($2 each), open mike and extended happy hour until 10pm.

Recover the next morning with the Eggs Hemingway ($10) at the Reading Room Café (Building P, Victoria University, 88 Ballarat Road) with its distinctly English feel.

Finally, finish your culinary tour of Footscray by trying the truly international, not-for-profit vegetarian café Lentil as Anything (233 Barkly St), where you can sample delicious curries and salads. Patrons contribute according to what they feel their meal and experience is worth, and according to what they can afford to pay.

Ten dollars. Ten minutes from the station. Ten countries. Of course it’s possible – this is Footscray after all.

by Writing Spirit
Contributor to Footscray Life
Read more of her work at The Tribal Tomato

Photography by George Mifsud