Frugal Foo

Foo Thinking Money"Money can't buy me love"... But everything else is in this blog.

El Gran Cafe - "It's corn Jim, but not as we know it."

Beef Arepa2010 UPDATE: EL GRAN CAFE ON LONSDALE ST HAS BEEN REPLACED WITH MADAM KAYES PLATZ WITH A MALAYSIAN THEME. I just noticed this while walking past and fell over all the tables and chairs out front. Nothing struck me as particularly good value for money and Madam Kayes after my quick glance at the menu board while brushing myself off. El Gran is now located in South Melbourne on St Kilda Rd. I can't say if my original post below is still accurate. If anyone has tried El Gran in it's new location please comment.

The irony of the Beef Filled Arepa is that it is the cow that ends up inside the corn. Arepas are a corn bread which can be stuffed with a filling a bit like we would fill a pita bread. El Gran Cafe offers an authentic taste of South America off busy Lonsdale St in Melbourne. For $7.95, they offer a range of Arepa hot fillings you can choose from. The uninitiated gringo visiting here for the first time won't know what fillings to order for their Arepa without asking the staff. Upon request, they will produce a handwritten list of fillings from which you can choose. I ordered the Beef with Cheese Arepa for lunch (pictured). Interesting, but I found the beef to be a little stringy. I'm still flossing it out that evening. I'd be prepared to give the Arepa concept another try with perhaps the Chicken and Avocado next time. Other Latin American discoveries are Empanadas $4 (looking a bit like a pastie) or Spanish Frittata $5.95.

Chicken Pesto Penne PastaThe best value lunch has to be the Pasta Dishes for only $4.95. Behind the glass counter you'll find little white bowls of pasta ready to be heated and served. Not huge, but just about the right size for a light lunch. Be early for those.

Breakfast also can't be overlooked. The most simple fare is raisin toast for $2 a slice. Thickly cut it's served with strawberry jam. A bagel is $4.50. Coffee is $3.60. Tea $3. There are all manner of traditional and contemporary hot breakfasts ranging in price between $9 and $16.

El Gran Cafe
South American food.
Open 7 days for breakfast and lunch.
139 Lonsdale St

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Melbourne Breakfast 2009 Coffee and Toast Round Up

Coffee and ToastSome people are strictly meat and potatoes, but when it comes to breakfast, I'll admit to being a coffee and toast man. In the morning I'm a light eater. What I'm really after is good coffee. Add toast to that and we can call it breakfast. Luckily I live in Melbourne where making good coffee is taken seriously at many cafes. Any kind of food outlet not at least running an espresso machine just doesn't cut it in this city.

You can expect to pay between $2.50 to $3.60 for a small cup of coffee in Melbourne. Unlike parts of Europe which are also serious about serving good coffee, the coffee here in Melbourne, Australia is cheap enough to enjoy as often as you have a spare 15 minutes.

Since the toast makes this breakfast, I usually go for a gutsy raisin or fruit toast, topped only with a little butter. These are my staples. I have been known to be tempted by the odd crumpet (of the kind served on a plate) dripping with honey, but will again return faithfully to fruit toast with butter.

Listed below are some of my favourite good value cafes for a pleasant coffee and toast breakfast in Melbourne.

Open 7 Days
Covering overheads for staff on weekends, you can expect to pay up to $8 for coffee and toast at these cafes open any day of the week. Note that some cafes also charge a 10% surcharge on weekends and public holidays. Most businesses in Melbourne are closed on the mornings of Christmas day, Good Friday and ANZAC day.

The Bean Room. 261 - 265 Russell St, Melbourne. $4.50 for two slices of poppy encrusted raisin toast, or $2.50 for a single slice. $3.20 for coffee.
Brubakers at Crown. Crown Complex, Southbank. $3.50 for two slices of thick cut raisin toast. $3.50 coffee.
Café Aniamo, 36-38 Degraves St, Melbourne. Plain toast $4. Raisin Toast $4.20.
Degraves Espresso, 23-25 Degraves St. Crumpets or Toast with condiments for $4.50. Coffee is $3.40.
El Gran Cafe. 139 Lonsdale St, Melbourne. $2 per slice of thick cut raisin toast. Coffee is $3.60. Tea $3.
Five66. 566 Flinders St, Melbourne. $4.50 Blueberry Bagel. $5 Sultana & Cinimon Bread Toast. $3 Coffee. $3.50 Tea.
Journal Canteen. Shop 1, 253 Flinders Lane, Melbourne. $7.20 Coffee & Toast.

Open Monday to Friday
Usually better value if you're in town during the week, these places will see you through breakfast for as little as $5 to $6. Keep your eyes open for blackboard specials in any part of town during the week. "Coffee & Muffin" combinations are widely available for around $5 but make a poor excuse for a nutritious breakfast in my opinion.

The Maj. 219 Exhibition St, Melbourne. $5 Raisin loaf toast with coffee or tea.
Olivino. Shop 1, 50 Lonsdale St, Melbourne. $6 coffee with 2 slices of fruit or raisin toast. Or $5 for one less slice of toast.
Hydra Cafe. 480 Collins St, Melbourne. $5.50 Coffee & Fruit Toast.

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Subway Subs - Size doesn't matter after all.

Time now to tackle the big issues. The Subway 6 inch sub versus the 12 inch. This is a conspiracy I tell you. If man did not go to the moon, and if Princess Diana of Wales was murdered, then it's also no coincidence that the 6 inch Subway subs never seems to satisfy the hunger compelling you each lunch time toward the 12 inch option. Who buys the 6 inch anyway? It's a good sandwich for little children and super models I suppose. But you know if you eat only a 6 inch sub for lunch you'll be snacking by mid-afternoon. On the other hand, 12 inches of carbohydrate as a regular lunch seems surplus to dietary needs, and there's no way that one whole foot long bread roll is going to remain absolutely silent in your tummy all afternoon at the office while you attend to an executive round table or that important client power point presentation. It seems choosing the length of your Subway Sub is quite the conundrum...

Fortunately I have the answer. Firstly you must altogether resist the lure of fresh smelling bread from the glass door ovens just behind the counter (another clever part of the conspiracy). Then stand back and take a moment to read the menu board. You will discover that any of the 6 inch Subway subs can be made as a salad for around $1.50 extra. Basically they ditch the bread roll and put all the fillings in a bowl. It seems that you get much more filling this way but it should be said that I haven't actually measured the quantity of salad in anyway. For anyone on a low-carb diet avoiding the bread makes sense. In fact depending on the dressing you choose, you're reducing the carbohydrate by up to three quarters. Keep it healthy by sticking to the low fat fillings and dressings you would normally choose for a sub.

My personal favourite for value for money is the Veggie Delite as a Salad (don't forget the cheese which adds a little substance to any green salad) for around $5.25 at most Subways in Melbourne. Or if you must have a cow (ie eat meat) perhaps the Roast Beef sub as a salad for $6.45 will do the trick.

Subway sandwich outlets are located all around town. The Subway website doesn't list all of them. In this map I have marked Melbourne city Subway locations for the ones I have discovered so far.

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"Grungy Chic" Alleyways in the Melbourne CBD

If you believe large shopping malls are soooo 1999, and you'd prefer to remain unseen and insulated from the orderly consumer culture of mainstream Melbourne, then this hodge-podge of lane-ways could be the place for you. Hence forth in this blog these lane-ways will be known as the “Grungy Chic Alleyways”. This is where you come to potter through unpretentious little booth sized boutiques, before perhaps stopping for a latte which you sip while sitting curbside on a timber crate outside a cafe with a European sounding name.

Aspiring to be at the opposite end of high fashion, these alleyways are in contradiction to the elegance of Melbourne city within which they are embedded. Within the boundaries of Bourke St and Flinders St to the north and south, and Elizabeth St and Swanston St to the east and west (see shaded area on map), the grungy chic alleyways are punctuated by gratify and other "street art" not often tolerated in an Australian central business district. Kept busy 7 days a week as locals traverse narrow path ways from Flinders St Station to the main shopping precinct, compact little cafes offer a range of great value breakfasts and lunches. Leave behind the fake posh accent from south of the Yarra and staff at these hole-in-the-wall businesses serve you with a smile even if you have a sensible haircut and did shower this week.

This list of my favourites for breakfast or lunch is under constant review.

B3 Café et Pâtisserie, Centre Place
Outright favourite of mine for lunch. Superb Baguettes for only $4. I could easily eat their Smoked Salmon Baguette for lunch every day of my life. Soup $4. Huge rice paper rolls $5. Why ever cut your own lunch?

Centro Espresso Café, Shop 2 Centre Place
Open 7 days Breakfast and lunch
Sandwiches from $4.50

Health Cosmos, Centre Place
"Lunch time special" on week days is a decent sized Ham, Salami or Salmon role for only $3.50.

Degraves Espresso, 23-25 Degraves StDegraves Espresso Cafe
Open 7 days Breakfast and lunch. Open for Dinner on Mon-Fri.
Wait to be seated, the staff are the ones wearing the most black. Arrive for breakfast before 8 am to claim prime people watching position behind the big frame glass windows looking out into Degraves St. Best value breakfast here is Crumpets or Toast with condiments for $4.50. Coffee is $3.40. Porridge is $7.50. Cooked breakfasts start at $9.50 for plain eggs on toast, up to $15.90 for Eggs Florentine. Degraves Espresso sets the tone for grunge chic in this area.

Café Aniamo, 36-38 Degraves St
Open 7 days all day except closed Sunday for dinner.
A tad less expensive than Degraves Espresso across the lane. Plain toast $4. Raisin Toast $4.20. Other hot breakfaCaffe e Torta Raisin Toaststs up to $15.

Caffe e Torta, 314 Little Collins St
Open 7 days for Breakfast and lunch.
Not especially cheap but a convenient launching place before setting out on a day of hard core shopping. Fruit toast is all of $6.90 but it’s a substantial serve of 3 slices which should provide sustenance without snacking at least until lunch time. When I requested only two pieces, they served two thicker cut slices for the same price. Toast or croissant with condiments $6.50. Coffee is $3.40. Tea $3.70. Add 10% on weekends and public holidays.

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