Time Out Food Awards 2013: Best Bang for Buck

This award recognises the restaurants which consistently deliver an amazing dining experience and charge us bugger all for the privilege. And the winner is...

Winner: Shandong Mama

It’s a simple canteen in a Bourke Street arcade, and you can’t even drink on the premises, but Shandong Mama takes the value-for-money crown hands down. This tiny little joint has bowled Melbourne over in the past year with incredibly fresh Shandong-inspired dishes and the friendliest service in Chinatown. Punters are lining up for the delicate steamed fish dumplings – balls of oily mackerel, fragrant with ginger, coriander root and chives, captured in the thinnest skins. There’s the bright, fresh crunch of super-fine cabbage and jellyfish ribbons tangled together in a citrus-sesame dressing, and spicy fat-marbled slivers of Chinese sausage. It’s all made daily by Meiyan Wang (aka Mama), for whom running the restaurant constitutes retirement after 40 years dutiful service to the Chinese government as an accountant. Mama’s godson Colin Chee beams around the room handing out peanuts – softened and salty from a boil in soy and Chinese five spice – to those caught waiting, and he tells us that Wang is regularly up past midnight, prepping dumplings and stretching noodles. “She has so much energy because this what she does for herself – this is her legacy for her daughter.” They really aim to please at Shandong Mama, and they really do. We love it, and you will too.

Runners Up


Carlton South

We grieved when pizzaiolo Pietro Barbagallo left town a couple of years back, and we praised the pizza gods when he returned, filling a Carlton South garage with vintage signs, perfect buttery leek pizza at $12 a pop and ethereally light gnocchi.

Dr Juicy Jay’s Fried Chicken and Crab Shack

North Melbourne

We can’t get enough of Mick and Will Balleau’s down and dirty Louisiana-style crab shack. Bring a bib and use your hands to monster your blue swimmer crab that comes back-stroking in garlicky butter, with sausage and corn.



There’s not a lot that can rouse us from a boozy stupor better than buttery, fluffy roti at 1am. Mamak (another import from Sydney - shock) dishes out Malaysian street food thick and fast including a hell of a nasi lemak till the wee hours. 

Teriyaki Anarchy Sake


Forget burgers and tinnies, Patrick Roberts’ first venture is a Japanese themed rock’n’roll dive bar where you can go hard on frosty Asahis, Pocari Sweat cocktails and teriyaki salmon skewers for chump change.


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First published on 16 Jul 2013. Updated on 13 Jun 2014.

By Time Out Melbourne editors   |  

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