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10 Canberra Cheap Eats

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Canberra has an undeserved reputation as a city where eating out can be very expensive. I think this reputation is unfair and is another symptom of a city that is often misunderstood by outsiders and a sometimes transient workforce. Most Canberrans, even those who are very wealthy and can afford to eat in our finest restaurants, can name at least one place they go for a very affordable but satisfying meal. Often these cafés or restaurants keep their prices low by opening for limited hours, not advertising, relying on word-of-mouth and regular clientele for their survival.

Here’s a list of my favourite ten Canberra “cheap eats”, mostly around Civic where I work. All these eateries have been awarded three “Canberra Beanies” at www.CBRfoodie.org (for the uninitiated, a “Canberra Beanie” is similar to a Chef’s Hat or Michelin Star, but is naturally much more practical during a Canberra winter).

Noodle Café, Garema Place Civic

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Not many people know about this little gem in Garema Place as it’s tucked away in a corner behind the large audio-visual screen of the stage/performance area. The $10 lunch specials menu is long enough for one to eat there many times without tiring of new options. I’ve found the $10 Laksa and $10 Vietnamese Pho noodle soup particularly satisfying and authentically flavoured.

I’ve found it hard to convince people that there is a restaurant in the middle of Canberra providing welcoming and polite table service, dishing up delicious food (and a complimentary bowl of prawn crackers) for only $10. Out of curiosity I’ve also ordered from their main menu at lunchtimes and have never been disappointed with the quality or the value of the food. Noodle café is highly recommended.

the essentials

Where: Shop 5 Garema Place, ph 6248 8177, online menu: www.noodlecafe.com.au
When: Lunch or dinner
Recommend: Everything on the menu, great lunchtime specials

Burmese Curry Place Civic

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Burmese Curry Place Civic is a Canberra institution for office workers, students and savvy connoisseurs of authentic Asian cuisine. Located amongst the bus stops on Alinga Street the first impression of the newcomer is the lack of pretentiousness in the décor and furniture.

You line up and order at the cashier from a very limited menu of various curries. Choose two curries (preferably by number if the cashier is struggling with your accent) on a bed of rice and use the condiments provided to add appropriate heat and salt to your dish. The dishes are served to please a very broad palate, so you should, if you are familiar with Burmese curries, add a fair bit of chilli to your taste. The generous serve of two curries and rice will set you back $8 if you eat in or $7 to take away in a plastic box. Bargain!

the essentials

Where: Southside of Alinga Street Civic (near the bus stops)
When: Lunch or dinner, Monday to Friday
Recommend: Everything on the menu, don’t forget to add chilli!

Mon Thani Curry Palace

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Mon Thani seems to have followed closely the successful business model of the Burmese Curry Place. It’s at the other end of Garema Place, near the often-vandalised sculpture known as “Steps” (the round fat blokes walking up stairs reading books, with the smallest bloke still missing, please contact Crimestoppers if you have any information!)

Like its nearby competition, it has a simple menu. It also specialises in the “food of Myanmar” and the “two curries plus rice” lunch special is also $8 to eat in and well worth it. I’ve eaten here a few times and I’m not sure if it’s the slightly larger servings or more relaxed setting away from the bus-stop but I prefer it to the competition even though the food is very similar.

the essentials

Where: 3 Garema Place (near the Merry-Go_Round and “The Steps” sculpture), ph 0433 943 580
When: 11am – 7pm Monday to Friday
Recommend: Everything on the menu, great lunchtime specials

Indo Café

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Anyone who has worked around London Circuit in Civic would have noticed the usual long queue for weekday lunch specials at the Indo Café (located in the old Waldorf building). The café is run by a lovely family who have also recently opened an outlet in the lower food court of the Canberra Centre, also called Indo Café).

The curries run at a very reasonable $8, so a meal with a drink will set you back $10. That’s much cheaper than a flight to Jakarta. Goes without saying that the food is authentic Indonesian cuisine and it’s very tasty, with options including rendang curry, nasi goreng, mie goreng, gulai (red curry) and satay chicken or beef, just to name a few.

Also, if you have worked late and missed your usual lunch break it’s worth popping into the Canberra Centre Food court after 2.30pm to see if they have any boxed-up left-overs from lunchtime. You can occasionally do yourself a post-lunch-rush favour & grab $5 box &/or $5 entree pack from Indo Café.

the essentials

Where: Waldorf Building, London Circuit and Lower Food Court, Canberra Centre, online menu: www.indocafe.com.au
When: 11am-3pm Mon-Fri at the Waldorf and longer hours in Canberra Centre
Recommend: Everything on the menu, great lunchtime specials

Double Drummer

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In the second week of February in 2013 Double Drummer started serving food in Barton. First impressions are the size and bustle during the busy lunchtimes. The café is well-situated for a large public service lunchtime crowd in a new building and without much nearby competition. It’s yet to reach its full potential, with a new full-service kitchen and new breakfast menu recently opened as well.

It’s getting rave reviews and I’ve enjoyed several lunches there. Service is quick. You order and pay over the front counter and there is a separate coffee counter (with wine and beers as well). I enjoyed (devoured) this tasty Peri Schnitzel and delicious french-style salad on separate trips. With most meals at just $13 with drink Double Drummer is great value I will definitely return and try more of the tasty-looking pastas and salads at the main food bar.

the essentials

Where: 4 National Circuit Barton, ph 6248 8177
When: Breakfast or lunch Monday to Friday and open late Wednesday to Friday
Recommend: Everything on the menu, great breakfast and lunchtime specials

Global Café

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Strategically placed near the Jolimont Centre bus stop on Norhtbourne Avenue, this Ethiopian Café serves very affordable and authentic food in a no-frills and no fuss environment. My friend and I enjoyed rice, veg, two traditional Ethiopian curries (I had beef & lentil and my friend had beef, chicken, chick pea curries) all for $10 each, including a can of drink and some traditional Ethiopian bread. The curries were mild. This exotic food was very tasty and we will both happily return for more.

the essentials

Where: 63 Northbourne Avenue Civic (between the late-night Chemist and inter-city Bus Station)
When: Lunch or dinner
Recommend: Everything on the menu, great lunchtime specials

City Labor Club

Canberra’s 50-odd community clubs are often home to amazing chefs and cooks who turn out great quality food served in a comfortable environment (with very affordable prices for drinks). I think I’m a member of eight different clubs at last count and my favourite club in Civic for a lunchtime meal is the City Labor Club, located right in front of the Merry-Go-Round on City Walk.

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Although I’m supposed to be on a diet I have to admit my favourite meal at this venue is the chicken hot parmy (a chicken schnitty served with cheese, chillis, chips and salad). Schooners are cheap as well so it’s best not to attend if you have a busy afternoon at work!

the essentials

Where: 16 Petrie Plaza, City Walk, ph 6230 0404, online menu
When: 7am weekdays for coffee & breakfast, Lunch or dinner 7 days a week
Recommend: Everything on the menu, great lunchtime specials Mon-Thu

Tak Kee Roast Inn

Despite past health concerns Tak Kee has re-emerged as a force of quality Chinese cuisine in Dickson and is a favourite for many families and residents. The food arrives quickly and the bustle of lunch-time or dinner is entertaining. The beef brisket Gow Gee soup (only $11) is very tasty, as is the fried rice and spring rolls. My Ms 2 ended up eating a lot of my soup. And those tea cups double as perfectly-sized noodle soup bowls for a toddler aspiring to be a food critic.

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the essentials

Where: 10 Wooley Street Dickson, ph 6257 4939
When: Lunch or dinner 7 days per week
Recommend: Everything on the menu, Beef Brisket Gow Gee soup is great.


One of my favourite places for a quick, healthy and affordable lunch in Garema place is the Vietnamese café i-Pho. You order and pay at the counter and the standard Vietnamese fare is served hot and fresh to your table. The Pho (correctly pronounced “fur” in case you didn’t know) is very good and large enough to leave you sated for the rest of the day. Recently we also tried and enjoyed Vietnamese-style rice paper rolls, which are sold for $5 for a pair, so for $10 you can enjoy four – a quick and healthy meal on their own.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-7A6Ogjj3pmg/U3QKTL5GoUI/AAAAAAAAEXM/6hZXzHb1J50/s144-c-o/ipho%252520seafood%252520combo%252520noodles.jpg” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108454826374315674707/10CanberraCheapEats#6013442727172546882″ caption=”iPho Seafood Noodles Combo” type=”image” alt=”ipho seafood combo noodles.jpg” pe2_single_image_size=”w614″ pe2_img_align=”center” pe2_caption=”1″ ]

My favourite dish is the combination Pho, which a perfect mixture of fresh ingredients, herbs and varied meats, including a small amount of offal, making it very authentic. I’ve also enjoyed the seafood noodle soup (pictured above) for $13.50 and authentic Vietnamese ice coffee and home made desserts based on palm sugar and coconut cream. It’s also worth checking the specials board as you walk in for tasty bargains. Unfortunately my Vietnamese is a bit rusty, but the friendly staff are always happy to translate.

the essentials

Where: Garema Place, Ground Level, Shop 1, 66-68 Bunda St, ph 6247 7111
When: Lunch or dinner
Recommend: Everything on the menu, great lunchtime specials

Gaby’s Takeaway Van

Thanks to inspiration from a friend I ventured into Barton’s back-lots to search for a fabled food van that served the ‘best burgers in the inner south’. This van was legend amongst public servants from the surrounding office blocks as far as DFAT, AGs and Treasury. Sadly, I also recently learnt that the National Capital Authority has issued a closure notice on the van and its owners as it plans to redevelop the car park and land on which the van is situated.

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Gaby’s is excellent value and the burger tastes just as good if not better than the many more upmarket (and more expensive) burger joints sprouting up all over Canberra. Gaby’s is a bit of a time capsule, reminding us how small family-run burger joints and take-aways should be.

Needless to say I was very impressed with my $8 burger with the lot and a $2 drink. Unfortunately Gaby’s only opens weekdays when those lucky public servants are around in large numbers.

the essentials

Where: Blackall Street Barton (for now), ph 0418 603 669
When: Lunch on weekdays
Recommend: Everything on the menu, great burgers

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16 Responses to 10 Canberra Cheap Eats

Sarah says: 16 May, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Is this post sponsored by Coke?
Why in 7 out of the 10 shots a can of coke is prominently displayed in the photo – one of the photo has 2 cans?
Do you really need to be advertising this global brand on your fantastic site.
Coke is the scourge of our society – a rubbish drink that has contributed monumentally to the obesity epidemic that is majorly problematic for this country and indeed this city.
I dont need to see cans of it in your food reviews…
I absolutely love your site and your food reviews….but this blatant product placement really disappoints me.

Amanda Whitley says: 16 May, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Hi Sarah

The pics were supplied by Elias who took them for his blog. To be completely honest with you, I didn’t even notice the Coke cans until you and a Facebook fan commented on them.

The post is in no way, shape or form associated with or sponsored by Coca Cola…trust me, I’m pretty sure they don’t even know HerCanberra exists…


Nev says: 20 May, 2014 at 3:45 pm

I am no great fan of coke, but get a life Sarah. This review of cheap eats is excellent, and I don’t care if there is coke, water or beer shown in thehotos

Elias Hallaj says: 16 May, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for your feedback. That’s quite an interesting response… nothing about the numerous choices of affordable food in Canberra, just an insight into the scourge of our society. To be honest I didn’t realise there were diet cokes in most of the shots either (thank god for that beer and water in a couple of the shots or people would have thought I had some impenetrable addiction!). The truth is I usually just look for a cheap drink to have with bought lunch and now that you mentioned it I’ll probably try and stick to water (or beer:) in future. I’ll also be wary of brands in photos! (this being the 4 month of my blogging adventure I’m learning something new each day!) You’ll be pleased to know I had a light beer with the lunch I shared with my wife and one of our kids yesterday (and I’m yet to blog about it, hopefully will find time this weekend).


Lib says: 20 May, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Hi Elias

Thanks so much for this really useful outline of some great and cheap (love it!) places to eat in Canberra. I’m going to have to venture out and visit the burger van while I can!


Elias Hallaj says: 20 May, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Thanks Lib, glad you found it useful. I usually try and find a new pace every couple of weeks. Today walking down London Circuit I discovered a new Gozleme café that I haven’t tried yet but hope to soon. If you have any tips they will be greatly appreciated. You can find @CBRfoodie on Twitter and Facebook as well if you want to send any regular tips 🙂



Michele says: 22 May, 2014 at 3:39 pm

After reading about Gaby’s in ‘Her Canberra’ I was keen to try it for myself. Parking is tricky, as it always is in the parliamentary triangle, but it’s worth the effort. Gaby himself is charming and so are his staff. The Good old-fashioned burgers, huge enough to share, are a bargain.
The outdoor seating overlooking the lovely autumn coloured trees along Kings Ave, creates a picnic atmosphere. It’s iconic Canberra eating well worth supporting, particularly in the face of impending re-location later this year. Hopefully that just means finding a new and equally atmospheric location. Thanks so much for telling us about this gem.

Elias Hallaj says: 22 May, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Glad you liked it Michelle. Thanks for that wonderful feedback. Yes Gaby, his family and staff are very nice. I hope they find alternative accommodation quickly and Canberrans can continue to enjoy their burgers and hospitality.

Elias Hallaj says: 22 May, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Sorry, just realised there’s only one ‘l’ in Michele 🙂

Hey Michele, I also noticed your gravatar is ‘fineating’ but can’t see it on social media – do you have a food blog perhaps? (I’ve compiled lists of Canberra food blogs and Canberra foodies on twitter and like to keep it up to date).

Michele says: 3 June, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Hi Elias, I really love what you’re doing with your blog. This is the first post I’ve seen, but it’s terrific. My blog is fineeating.wordpress.com and thanks for being interested.

Ian Theslothman Jeffery says: 15 June, 2016 at 4:45 am

Its definitely not pronounced “fur” its “fu”. Like the “u” in “up”. Like you are cutting short the rude f word.

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