50 must-try Cairns cheap eats for $15 or less

We'd be lying if we said 'cheap eats near me' didn't regularly appear in our search history ...

Luckily, Cairns has stacks of places to pick up a bargain bite. 

From sweet to savoury, breakfast through to dinner – it's all made its way into Tropic Now's handy list of 50 cheap eats for $15 or less. 

Oh, and bookmarking this page for future reference wouldn't be a bad idea either. Just sayin'.


1. Sushi Roll and Dumplings at Bento Paradise = $12

One of our favourite office lunch runs. We tend to gravitate to a sushi roll or two, with pork dumplings of course. If we're really hanging for a hit, we'll also grab a cheeky pack of takoyaki (octopus balls).

GO THERE: 99 Mulgrave Rd, Parramatta Park

2. Gyros lunch special at Nick's Souvlaki = $15.00

100 per cent Tasmanian lamb wrapped up with fresh salad, tsatziki and crunchy chips, plus a soft drink can.

GO THERE: Rusty's on the weekend, or Byrne's Quality Meats in Portsmith during the week 

3. Nasi goreng at Bagus Cafe = $13.90

Who doesn't love fried rice? Bagus Cafe do it best, trust us.

GO THERE: 149 The Esplanade, Cairns

4. Beef and potato roti at Roti Shack = $13.50

Melt in your mouth taste of the Caribbean. Enough said. 

GO THERE: Shop 4, 93 Lake St, Cairns

5. A pie from Meldrum's = around $8

This much-loved bakery on Grafton St has long been a favourite for those partial to a good pastry, with lots of varieties to choose from including a popular gluten free option.

GO THERE: 97 Grafton St, Cairns

6. Salt and pepper squid with chips at Richard's Salt & Pepper = $15.00

Richard's famous for his goat curry, but this cheaper option is also worth a whirl. Find this food van cooking up delicious curries from Wednesday to Sunday. 

GO THERE: Holloways Beach Access Road, Holloways Beach

7. Cheesy Evo at Evo Burger = $13.90

A classic burger, with cheese, tomato, lettuce, red onion, mustard, ketchup, mayo, pickles, plus (of course) an Angus beef patty.

GO THERE: 105 Lake St, Cairns

8. Magic Mushrooms at Ellis Beach Bar & Grill = $10

If you find yourself caught in between the beaches, a good ol' sandwich with some new age combos is bound to hit the spot. 

GO THERE: Lot 13 Captain Cook Highway, Ellis Beach

9. BLT at Bang and Grind = $11.90

One of the classics with homemade mayo. Enough said. 

GO THERE: 8/14 Spence St, Cairns

10. Lunch deal at Jambo Pastry = $10

The menu changes but it's all delicious traditional Filipino fare, served buffet style. Don't leave without trying the jackfruit ice cream.

GO THERE: 1/180 English St, Manunda, or Rusty's on the weekend

11. Avocardio at Waffle On = $13

Homemade waffles served with some big brekkie flavours: smashed avo, scrambled eggs, bacon and spring onion.

GO THERE: 62 Shields St, Cairns

12. Waikiki Classic chicken burger at Burger Urge = $14

As it turns out, the burgers are not better at Hungry Jack's. Burger Urge is a chain but their grub is surprisingly good, with most options under $15 and a pretty extensive plant-based menu.

GO THERE: Shop 040/537 Mulgrave Rd, Earlville

13. Tandoori-spiced Cauliflower Bites at Rattle n Hum = $15

Served with pickled onions and a mango chutney. Yum! 

GO THERE: 67 The Esplanade, Cairns

14. Greek sausages at Fetta's Greek Taverna = $10

Lightly spiced sausages with cooked onion, cucumber and chili sauce, served with pitta bread. A bargain at ten bucks.

GO THERE: 99 Grafton St, Cairns

15. Lunch special at Jade Chinese Restaurant = $10

One of the best value lunches in Cairns. Includes a meat seafood or vegetable dish with steamed or egg fried rice plus salad or soup of the day.

GO THERE: 313 Kamerunga Rd, Freshwater

16. Bagel Dog at Bury Me Standing = $13.20

A meat-free dog with your choice of cheeseburger-syle toppings. Yum. 

GO THERE: 49-51 Spence St, Cairns City

17. 3 Whole Wings at Howlin' Jay's = $14

Nashville-style fried chicken with bread and pickles in a great location. You can also get 'crap tequila' and 'shit beer' for a fiver. 

GO THERE: 1 Pierpoint Rd, Cairns

18. All-you-can-eat at Kitchen Hub = $15

Open on weeknights, Kitchen Hub is a former English language school which transformed into a tuck shop-style eatery to survive COVID. You'll find an ever-changing menu of homestyle food, across a variety of cultural influences!

GO THERE: 55-65 Poolwood Rd, Kewarra Beach

19. Buffalo Wings at Pacifico = $10

Served with blue cheese dipping sauce, head here on Wednesdays for this wicked deal. They also do amazing frozen margaritas! 

GO THERE: 183 Bunda St, Parramatta Park

20. Jalapeno Poppers at Calaveras Street = $12

Four pieces of house-made Philadelphia cheese poppers at this Korean-Mexican takeaway haunt. 

GO THERE: 39-49 Lake St, Cairns

21. Udon at Happy 4 10 = $12

Seafood, tempura, beef, veg and chicken noodle options. Too easy.

GO THERE: 82 Sheridan St, Cairns

22. Homemade soup of the day at Cafe Botanic = $12.90

Served with a crusty bread roll, of course! A great cafe to get some peace and quiet in the beautiful Botanic Gardens. 

GO THERE: Lot 400 Collins Ave, Cairns City

23. Tonkatsu Pork Rice Bowl at Goong = $12

You can also get a chicken katsu, teriyaki chicken or karaage chicken with your rice bowl for less than $15. 

GO THERE: 16 Aplin St, Cairns City

24. Caesar Salad at Cock and Bull = $15

The rest of the pub grub at this Cairns institution is pretty cheap too! 

GO THERE: 6 Grove St, Cairns

25. Falafel at Falafellicious = $15

The best Middle Eastern in Cairns, hands down. The menu's also 100 per cent vegan!

GO THERE: 49 Grafton St, Cairns City

26. Fresh seafood meals at Preston Fresh Seafood = around $12

With options like tuna tataki, seafood laksa, Penang mackerel curry with rice noodles and creamy salmon linguine, you'd be mad not to try it.

GO THERE: 10 Mac Peak Crescent, Smithfield

27. Veggie and tofu soup at Café Thailand = $14.90

A winter warmer for the Tropics! 

GO THERE: 7/93 The Esplanade, Cairns

28. Tropical spiced muesli at Nu Nu Restaurant = $12.00

Spiced pineapple and coconut cream soaked muesli, mango, fruit and toasted coconut. No further explanation needed. 

GO THERE: 1 Veivers Road, Palm Cove

29. Bacon and egg roll at Ozmosis = $13

Enjoy the atmosphere as you eat a mouth-watering bacon and egg roll.

GO THERE: 1/116 Collins Ave, Edge Hill

30. Baguette Roll at Chezest Cafe = $12 to $13

A whole range of vego and non-vego options available, all are delicious. Our pick is the hot sopressa with gherkins, eggs and mayo, in the freshest bread imaginable! 

GO THERE: 2/135 Grafton St, Cairns City

31. Small pizza at Giants Pizza = $14.90

Anything on the menu on a 10 inch base, for less than three fivers. Bargain. Team up with a mate and get two for less than $27!

GO THERE: 31 Anderson St, Manunda

32. Chicken Katsu Curry Rice Bowl at Sushio Tokio = $9.80

This Smithfield hideaway boasts a variety of delicious curry rice bowls. The chicken katsu is just the tip of the iceberg.

GO THERE: 75 Captain Cook Hwy, Smithfield

33. Chin-Tan at Ganbaranba = $14.95

Undeniably the best ramen joint in Cairns, most of their dishes are around $15. It's also well worth getting 10 pork gyoza for an extra tenner. 

GO THERE: 7/12-20 Spence St, Cairns

34. Aloo Tikki Chaat at Spicy Bite = $14.50

Chat-spiced fried potatoes topped with salad, mint, yoghurt and tamarind chutney. Absolutely banging. 

GO THERE: Shop 1/138 Collins Ave, Edge Hill

35. Truffle and tofu toastie at Guyala Café = $15.90

Okay, we lied. This one's an extra 90 cents, but it's absolutely worth it. This unreal toastie combines mushroom, cashew and truffle pate, confit tofu with shiitake salt, gruyere and gouda, and soy pickled onions to finish.

GO THERE: 2 Smith St, Cairns North

36. Eggs benny wrap at Wharf One = $14

The breakfast classic, in a tasty wrap form.

GO THERE: Wharf Street, Cairns 

37. Gourmet wraps and brioche rolls at Dundees Waterfront Dining = $14

Choose between shaved leg ham, grilled chicken breast or bacon with your choice of salads and a dressing. 

GO THERE: 1 Marlin Parade, Cairns

38. Ramen lunch deal at Ramen Street Cairns = $10

New ramen joint in Manunda with seriously delicious and authentic dishes. Amazing value for a lunch deal!

GO THERE: Shop 2, 1 Jensen St, Manoora

39. Monte Christo at Herbie's Diner = $13

Three layer french toast-style sandwich with ham, mustard and cheese, drenched in egg wash and grilled. 

GO THERE: Bottom floor of Orchid Plaza, Lake St, Cairns City

40. Tempura Prawn Udon at Wara Sushi = $13.00

Japanese udon noodles in a delicious broth, served with tempura prawns.

GO THERE: Shop 144, 1-21 McLeod St, Cairns

41. Tom yum noodle soup with prawns at Café China = $14.90

Spicy, zesty and vibrant. Just like Cafe China’s famous laksa (which is only a few dollars more) tom yum hits like something else.  

GO THERE: 79 Mulgrave Rd, Parramatta Park

42. Dahl tadka at Punjabi Nights = $14.50

Traditional tempered dahl with garlic chillies, onions, tomatoes, curry leaves and mustard seeds. Chuck a few dollars on for naan – you won’t regret it.

GO THERE: 229 Kamerunga Rd, Freshwater

43. Fish or Prawn Tacos at Lucky Fish = $10-$12

Served with Asian-style slaw and garlic aioli in a sort tortilla. Yum!

GO THERE: 18/111-117 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove

44. Beer cheese dip at Hemingway’s = $15

Served with pickled onion and grilled flatbread, this is one of Cairns’ best plates to pair with a good brew.

GO THERE: Wharf St, Cairns City

45. Tacos at Muddy's Cafe = $14.90

Three super filling tacos, with your choice of chicken, pork, salt & pepper calamari, falafel or fish. Even better, they're just $12 a serve on Tuesdays! 

GO THERE: 174 Esplanade, Cairns City

46. Crispy wings at Tasty Road = $12.50

Six wings from the best fried chicken joint in Cairns. We recommend Gal-bi or Mama's Sweet & Spicy for your your choice of dipping sauce!

GO THERE: 2/80 Sheridan St, Cairns City

47. Traditional panino at Angelo’s Deli = $12.50

Prosciutto, pickled eggplant, capsicum, and olives with mozzarella on the crunchiest piece of pane. Ring to order ahead as Angelo’s is well-frequented by people working in Portsmith.

GO THERE: Shed 1/81 Fearnley St, Portsmith

48. Pork larb at Imm Thai = $14.90

Spicy minced pork packed with traditional Thai flavours of lime, fish sauce, coriander and mint. And a good dose of chilli, of course.

GO THERE: 60 Abbott St, Cairns City

49. Margarita toastie at Newell Street Café, Tattooed Sailor = $10

House-made passata, flame-torched tasty cheese, and garlic on woodfired focaccia. The best toasties in Cairns, trust us. 

GO THERE: Corner of Newell and Barry St, Bungalow

50. Sausage rolls at Mama Coco = $9.50

Served with a homemade tomato and pink peppercorn relish, this Filipino-style sausage roll is gargantuan-sized. And we’re so here for it.

GO THERE: 4/196 Mulgrave Rd, Westcourt