Melbourne’s ethnically diverse population ensures a healthy selection of international cuisines. Chinatown, in the city center, is a fabulous hunting ground for Chinese, Malaysian, Thai, Indonesian, Japanese, and Vietnamese fare, often at bargain prices. Carlton has plenty of Italian restaurants, but some of the outdoor eateries on Lygon Street target unsuspecting tourists with overpriced and disappointing fare; avoid them. Richmond is crammed with Greek and Vietnamese restaurants, and Fitzroy has cheap Asian, Turkish, Mediterranean, and vegetarian food. To see and be seen, head to Chapel Street or Toorak Road in South Yarra, or travel to St. Kilda, where you can join the throng of Melbournians dining out along Fitzroy and Acland streets. Most of the cheaper places in Melbourne are strictly BYO (bring your own wine or beer). Smoking is banned by law in Melbourne cafes and restaurants, so don’t even think about lighting up.
The Staff of Life -- The aroma of fresh bread will draw you to Babka Bakery, a Russian-style cafe-bakery that is nearly always packed. Come for breakfast or a light lunch of eggs on fresh sourdough, or any of the bakery’s quiches, tarts, and brioches. Or perhaps try the homemade borscht. It’s at 358 Brunswick St., in Fitzroy (tel. 03/9416 0091), and is open Tuesday to Sunday 7am to 7pm.
Pay What You Think -- With a novel approach that not surprisingly has become a hit, the vegetarian restaurant Lentil as Anything (www.lentilasanything.com) has a menu without prices. Here you eat—then pay “as you feel” for the meal and service (or for some people, what they can afford). The food is organic, with lots of noodles and vegetables and such things as tofu, curries, and stir-fries. Before you leave, you put your money in a box. The restaurant has four locations. The original is at 41 Blessington St., St. Kilda (tel. 0430/388 984 mobile phone), open noon to 4pm and 6pm to 9pm daily. A second outlet is at the Abbotsford Convent, 1 St Heliers St., Abbotsford (tel. 03/9419 6444), open daily from 9am to 9pm; the third is in the old Barkly Hotel, 233 Barkly St., Footscray (tel. 0414/613 695 mobile phone), open noon to 3:30pm and 5pm to 9pm daily; and the newest is at 288 High St., Preston (tel. 03/9471 3307), open 9am to 9pm daily; cash only.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.