Vietnamese food abounds in both Fitzroy and Collingwood but Trang Bakery and their signature Bahn Mi's stand out from the crowd.
Trang Bakery aren't 100% vegan but they have four exceptional vegan options; vegan chicken, vegan duck, vegan pork, and lemongrass marinated tofu.
The jury's out on which one of these is the best (every bloggers opinion differs!) but I'd say that my fave' was the duck. They sometimes have an aubergine option too but I didn't get to try that. This bahn mi is, as they should always be, huge and jam packed with deliciousness. I had to leave off their sauce as well as the handful of chilli that usually gets thrown on top but I was left with lettuce, carrots, cucumber, coriander, red onion, and crunchy peanuts to go with my faux meat so I was more than happy.
If you're that way inclined they have brown rolls as well as white and they actually reached for brown when making my sandwich so make sure you're paying attention! This filling sandwich comes in at $6 (cheaper than their meaty option) which is a total bargain.
My second recommendation for cheap eats in the Fitzroy area is Trippy Taco and excitingly they even have a second location in St Kilda just in case you're reading this after having booked a place to stay down south. This place is seriously good value. Most of the menu can be made vegan and you can get tacos, burritos, tamales, nachos, quesadillas, and taquitos. I'll be honest it isn't ideal if you can't eat chilli as even the vegan cheese is spice packed but Nick enjoyed a huge bean and cheese burrito with vegan cheese for just $11.
Next up is Bimbo Deluxe which wasn't even on my radar until my lovely tattoo artist Shell and I got onto the subject of pizza about 10 minutes in to my tattoo appointment. Bimbo's, as it's known locally, is an enormous bar located smack bang in the middle of Brunswick Street with a pizza menu that includes many veganisable options. Anything in the vegetarian section can be veganised with a simple and, more importantly, free, cheese switch as can a few pizzas from the breakfast section and the 4 Stagoni (remove the meat, switch the cheese) from the meat section. Nick and I tried two pizzas at Bimbo's, the Margherita and the Organico.
The Margherita was kept simple with a decent amount of tomato sauce, a healthy amount of cheese and a sprinkling of basil, whilst the organico had a roasted butternut squash layer topped with cheese, pine nuts, and, the reason that I had to order this one, rosemary oil. I love everything about rosemary, it tastes amazing, it smells great, it goes with almost everything. You can put it with choc chips or potatoes and it just works. Love! I don't get the chance to cook anything elaborate these days (Air B&B, hostel, and volunteer house kitchens are great but not the place for a masterpiece) so when restaurants make these fancy additions to their menu's I'm always happy. Never more than when the pizza's cost $4 which is exactly what they cost between 12 and 4 on weekdays, from 7 - 11 Monday - Thursday, from 7 - 9 Friday and Saturday, and all day on a Sunday. The other awesome thing about Bimbo's is that they do tots! Known in Australia as potato gems these little bites of deep fried deliciousness always make me happy and with $4 pizzas you can probably afford to splurge on a side.
Last but by no means least vegetarian bakery La Panella is another strong budget friendly dining option. They're located in Preston which is in the north of the city but it's easily accessible by bus. La Panella specialise in Aussie treats like custard and caramel slices, jam doughnuts, pies, sausage rolls, and more.
We visited with Shelley one of the owners of Red Sparrow Pizza (blog post on their amazing eats coming soon!) so she was able to give us some ordering tips. Not everything is vegan but they have a huge range, oddly the coconut croissants were vegan but the chocolate and regular croissants were not. I'm not sure why but I'm not the biggest coconut fan so I gave those a miss. Jam doughnuts are a long time favourite of mine, I loved trying to eat them without licking any of the sugar off of my lips as a kid and whilst I don't play that game any more I'm still partial to some deep fried jam filled dough.
Jam doughnuts are actually something that I take for granted in the UK (big up the co-op!) but since I've been travelling they've moved to the top of my OMG GIMME THAT list! La Panella's version definitely wasn't a disappointment and I left wishing that I'd had space for a second. Next up were these mini doughnuts, these were 50 or 60 cents each and you could get 4 for about $1.60! Madness. I obviously bought 8. The bite sized chocolate covered and (not pictured) pink icing covered doughnuts were my favourites and Nick loved the mini cinnamon sugar rings.
We were heading out of Melbourne to visit the penguins on Phillip Island the next day so we grabbed some extra treats for the journey. This caramel slice was very reminiscent of a millionaire's shortbread but just with an extra creamy caramel layer above the smooth caramel beneath. It was freaking delightful and again I wished that I'd ordered more than one.
Finally I also picked up a lemon tart which I ate for breakfast the morning after our penguin adventure. I popped it inside one of those zip seal food bags and it lasted really well. I always travel with those! I'm kind of a food hoarder so I always over buy and then need somewhere to stash my leftovers to keep 'em fresh.
I picked this because I love lemon desserts and was assured that it was super lemony. In my opinion a citrus dessert that doesn't have that sour kick to it is always a disappointment. Thankfully this tart lived up to expectations and it made a most excellent breakfast treat. La Panella is pretty great for cheap eats, I think a huge carrier bag of desserts and sausage rolls for both me and Nick cost around $20 but some of it lasted two or three days so it still worked out to be pretty cheap.
Writing this has definitely made me miss Melbourne and their fantastic vegan food scene. Do you have any other tips on cheap places to eat vegan food in Australia? Or is there an amazingly cheap vegan spot near where you live? I'm always on the look out for a bargain so let me know. I might just have to visit!