Our little red dot is brimming with a wonderful diversity of cuisines, but with ingredients being imported from everywhere from Argentina to Kenya, dining out at every whim can damage to your wallet. So where can you go for a cheap meal, apart from food courts and hawker centres? We set a limit of $15 and asked our editors to reveal their personal favourites for a casual meal that won’t break the bank. And if that’s not enough for you, see even more great cheap eating out options here.
Din Tai Fung (various locations)
If we ever leave Singapore, there are three things I’d really miss: personal safety after dark, year-round swimming in the open air… and lunches at Din Tai Fung. As branches of this dim-sum chain pop up in shopping malls island-wide (14 at last count), consistent excellence has been maintained.
On my own, I’d go for the cold vegetarian oriental salad starter (under $4): a tasty ginger and sesame laced pile of glass noodles, strips of red pepper, tofu and more; followed by special braised beef tendon soup with greens (around $9). A free flow of hot green tea costs another dollar.
For each additional person you can order another one or two dishes – steamed pork and crab dumplings, fried rice with egg or prawns, garlicky doumiao (snow pea shoots). They’re all divine. Get there early to avoid a wait.
Cedele All-Day Dining Restaurants (various locations)
Great sandwiches and salads, plus a super-healthy soup of the day such as lentil and carrot or apple pumpkin ($8): includes helping yourself to their own good bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add on a cappuccino for $5.80 (and take away a slice of the best chocolate cake in town for $8, for afternoon tea).
EwF by Everything With Fries (various locations)
Here’s a great spot to satisfy hunger pangs and your palate in the city area without busting the $15 budget. EwF serves made-from-scratch burger buns, patties and flavoured fries. It’s fast food, but without the fast-food taste (or lack thereof).
For only $9.90, you can get a sizeable burger of your choice, fries and a drink. Filled with mushroom and cheese sauce, the battered white fish burger is delicious – crunchy on the outside and tender and juicy inside. EwF’sfries have extra oomph with flavours like sour cream and onion, garlic, and salt and vinegar.
There’s still some change left, so you could order the famous Nutella tart ($4.90) for dessert. Now, this is one happy meal.
East 8 (City Hall)
The latest tapas bar, East 8, now serves lunch on weekdays. Choose from thetiger prawn mesclun salad ($11.90) topped with cherry tomatoes and sherry dressing or thepork cheek burger ($13) with Gruyere cheese and sweet mustard, with fries on the side.
Chye Seng Huat Hardware (Farrer Park)
Get a classic BLT sandwich made with white toast for only $11. Comes with crisps and greens.
Flock Café (TiongBahru)
Head to Flock Café, the latest establishment in the hip Tiong Bahru residential enclave, for casual all-day breakfast fare that is light on your wallet.While the braised pork cheek and Gruyere cheese sandwich ($12.90) won’t leave you with much change for drinks, you can squeeze in a latte or cappuccino ($4.80) if you order the deliciously sinful French toast with bananas topped with maple syrup ($8.90) or a heart-healthy rocket and portobello salad ($8.90).
Food For Thought (Botanic Gardens)
If I were back home I’d steer well clear of a restaurant slap-bang in the middle of a tourist spot, for fear of mediocre food and inflated prices. Not so at Food For Thought, a café in the primest of prime positions in the Botanic Gardens. Pop by over lunchtime and you can order a sizeable portion of magnificent meerebus for $5.
Add a mug of local kopi($1) to wash down your noodles, and you’ve still only spent what you’d pay for a few litres of milk at a supermarket. So what to do with the change? I’d either tuck a cranberry raisin scone with fresh cream ($4) into my bag for later, or, depending on the day, choose a different kind of fuel altogether – an iced lime tea wine cooler ($8) laced with a refreshing glug of red or white vino.
Ichiban Boshi (various locations)
Finding sushi for under $15 isn’t hard, but finding good quality sushi that’s a meal rather than a morsel, is. Adonburi, or rice-bowl dish, is the best of both worlds: a decent amount of food for a reasonable amount of money.
A favourite is Ichiban Boshi’s Ichiban jyu. Just think of it as one giant piece of salmon nigiri sushi. Salmon sashimi seasoned with sesame oil covers a generous serving of rice, and the chilli and spring onion garnish gives it an addictive kick. It comes with a miso soup on the side, so for $13.90 you get a complete meal. If you’re forgoing the carbs, the kaisen salad, consisting of salmon and tuna sashimi, salad vegetables (not just lettuce) and a delicious toban miso sauce dressing, comes in at $9.90. Add a cup of hot green tea to that for $1.20 and you’ll still come out with change, just.
Sushi Tei (various locations)
Negitoro don ($10.50), a rice bowl with minced tuna, spring onions and shredded seaweed, topped with a very lightly poached egg; plusmiso soup ($2.50).
La Petite Cuisine (Serene Centre and Upper Thompson Road)
Decent French food for under $15? Do away with fancy tableware, implement a self-service policy and that’s what they offer at La Petite Cuisine. This hole-in-the-wall restaurant is all about simplicity. Go straight for the mains: the ravioli of prawn and a decent portion offoiegras in light lemon cream is only $14.50, while the crisp duck confit with potato gratin is right on budget at $15. They serve complimentary bread and butter too. If you’re willing to shell out a little more cash and have 20 minutes to spare, try the apple tart ($6.50).
SweeChoon Tim Sum Restaurant (Lavender)
A well-loved supper establishment among foodies; don’t be surprised to see a full house at this casual restaurant, even at 2am. Try the salted egg yolk custard bun ($2.70 for 3) and meesuakueh($2).
Nakhon Kitchen (Bedok and Serangoon)
Where can you find tasty, authentic Thai food at very reasonable prices in a local neighbourhood? We’ve always queued to eat here, so either the food is good, or the cheap prices keep people coming back. We suspect it’s both. The staff sensibly take orders while you are in the queue, so by the time a table is ready (15 to 20 minutes), the food is not far off. It’s not air-conditioned, and half the tables are set outside in the shadow of HDB block 136, but this adds to the atmosphere. There are lots of seafood options, but as they don’t fit the budget, we opt for: fish cakes ($6) with a sweet peanut sauce, and a moderately spicy red chicken curry ($8) plus a side of rice ($1). Water is free, or swap the fishcakes for icy cold Singhabeer ($6). Our latest visit followed a trip to Bangkok, and Nakhon Kitchen more than matched the fare we sampled in the mother country.
One Kampong Bahru – new! (Harbourfront)
At a mere $10, the lunch special at One Kampong Bahru – or OKB as it’s known in the ’hood around Outram – includes a sandwich, burger or wrap plus your choice of soup or salad. Pretty standard stuff, right? Not so fast. The secret to the success of this new bakery-by-day and bistro-by-night is that everything – from the focaccia in the roast beef sandwiche s to the blueberry glaze on the burgers – is homemade yet doesn’tcost a bundle. The soups change daily – the spicy tomato is a standout – and salads range from leafy greens to not-so-traditional takes on old favourites; try the Asian-spiced sweet potato salad. At this price, you’ll have enough pocket change to spring for three mini-scones ($2.50), a wildly addictive sticky bun ($2) or a salted caramel chocolate mini-cupcak e ($3).
Dinner – albeit on the light side – can hover around $15, too. Shepherd’s pie, seared scallops and oyster shooters are under $10, while sharing plates, like the baby back ribs, start at $14. There’s no GST, and wine by the glass starts at just $6.
Orange Lantern Vietnamese Restaurant (various locations)
Hunting down a bowl of pho at least once a week is a sport I very much enjoy. One haunt is Orange Lantern on Killiney Road.
The restaurant offers a great value lunch set from 11am till 2pm, although if you arrive outside lunch hours you can still get a large bowl of pho for under $13, filling enough in itself. Back to lunch however, and the Set A, for $11.90, has a choice of four appetisers and four noodle soups, as well as a soft drink or jasmine tea. A creature of habit, I always choose the sliced beef pho, and butterfly prawns or minced chicken rice paper rolls.
Set B still comes under $15, at $13.90, and I can recommend the hearty beef stew with rice noodles. Sometimes I like to imagine I’m eating it on a cold, rainy day in England (it helps if the restaurant’s air-conditioning is turned up).
Ythu Wendy’s Authentic Vietnamese (313 Somerset)
Pho tai, sliced beef noodle soup ($7.20), Vietnamese green salad with grandma’s homemade dressing ($4.90) and Wendy’s special prawn crackers ($2.50).
The Pantry (Loewen Road)
A favourite with mums before and after kids’ activities in the area, The Pantry has a casual set up that is suitable to bring messy toddlers to and is always reliable for a caffeine fix to start the day. It’s one of the few places where you can grab a bite to eat while the kids can run around withinsight, use the swing set and burn off some sugar on the trampoline.
The Pantry has just launched $6.50 daily specials; on a Wednesday it’s a chicken wrap with salad, leaving change for a dessert (brownies are $2.50, carrot cake is $4.50) and an espresso ($4). Their quiches ($16 served with salad) fly off the counter (quiche Lorraine is a winner) and area more filling option for when you’re running on empty. To stay within budget, you’ll have to borrow that extra dollar – but it will be worth it.
Fish Mart Sakuraya (various locations)
This is basically a dine-in Japanese store and fresh fish deli, so it scores low on atmosphere, but you can choose your fish at the counter and they will cut it into sashimi slices for you. Or try salt grilled mackerel ($7),salmon nigirisushi– two pieces for $4,tamago ($2) and free-flow green tea ($1.50).
Toss & Turn (ION Orchard)
Want to grab a quick, healthy and delicious meal in Orchard without the gourmet price tag? At Toss & Turn,you can customise a salad withpick-and-mix ingredients likebrown rice,c ouscous, grilled chicken and sautéed mushrooms. Two serving sizes are available – regular ($9) and small ($7.80). Add a drink ($3) or soup ($3.50) to make a full set.
This salad and soup bar is not just for veggie lovers; they serve four different grilled sandwiches too. I always get the prawn avocado cheese with spicy jam. The jam gives it a tangy zing, contrasting with the creamy avocado and sweet prawns. Whether you prefer rosemary, white or plain rye, their breads are freshly baked daily. The set includes a side of greens or soup. All for only $12.90.
For a more filling meal, get the teriyaki chicken tofu noodle or ham and chicken sesame rice ($10.90 each). Add soup ($3.50) or a drinkof juice or iced tea for $3 to make a set.
If you liked this dining round up, we’ve got heaps more! Check out the below…