Lowbrow

Denizen’s guide to Auckland’s best cheap and cheerful restaurants

Dining out is not always the best activity for the wallet, but that doesn’t stop us from living a lifestyle beyond our means. That is until our bank account gets absolutely rinsed and we can no longer go any deeper into the overdraft.

However, going out for dinner doesn’t always have to be expensive. Nowadays, you can dine at a lively restaurant and eat delicious food without stressing about the bill. In this spirit, here are some of Auckland’s best cheap and cheerful establishments.

Kiss Kiss Fried Rice
Kiss Kiss Fried Rice

Kiss Kiss

This Thai eatery was designed for big group gatherings with its spacious seating, table arrangements, colourful lighting and fun fit-out. Kiss Kiss is a strong favourite amongst Aucklanders for a relaxed and casual dinner with friends and family and on weekend nights, this place is heaving with customers. In terms of pricing, Kiss Kiss is a bargain with its generously filled baos going for under $10 and a mountain of pad Thai noodles for under $20.

Umu Pizza

This eatery’s sourdough pizzas hit the spot every time. Petite enough to eat a whole one to yourself (although, you definitely want to share a few different ones with dining companions), the exceptional dough and beautifully fresh toppings will help to ensure you don’t feel ultra weighed down afterwards. And, as is the case with most pizza joints, a few pizzas shared between friends makes for an undeniably cheerful and inexpensive night out.

Good Dog Bad Dog Hotdog
Good Dog Bad Dog

Good Dog Bad Dog

To satiate a good old hot dog craving, we recommend visiting the good people at Good Dog Bad Dog. With locations in Point Chevalier, Onehunga, Flat Bush and Commercial Bay’s Harbour Eats food hall and helmed by the team behind Gochu, Good Dog Bad Dog initially began life as a pop-up in Newmarket before it put down roots, and we’re all much better for it. The menu includes different variations of the universally-loved delicacy, including the Chilli Cheese Dog, Good Dog, a Pepperoni Pizza Dog and a Mac n’ Cheese Dog in addition to the more familiar Classic Dog.

Eden Noodles

If lines are a testament to a restaurant’s success, then there is none more successful than Auckland’s Eden Noodles. The 2022 Hospo Heroes winner of the Cheap & Cheerful category is a household name across the city, adored by everyone for its hand-pulled noodles and famed dumplings (we’ve heard that the chefs here handcraft upwards of 3000 dumplings every day). Now with outposts on Dominion Road, the CBD, Newmarket, Albany and most recently, Commercial Bay, there’s really no excuse for you to have not tried this cheap and cheerful stalwart — you won’t regret it.

POCHA's Spicy Seafood Soup
Pocha’s Spicy Seafood Soup

Pocha

If you haven’t wined and dined the Korean way, Pocha is the place to have your first experience, as this restaurant and bar has been in the business for over a decade and knows how to throw a party. The dishes here are all huge and designed to share (as eating is never cheating in Korean drinking culture). These dishes are large enough to feed four, costing less than $40 each which works out to be $10 after splitting the bill. For drinks, soju, a Korean distilled tipple, is the only way to go, but please be cautious as this stuff is strong, having the potential to make or break your dining experience.

Fatima’s

This faithful takeaway favourite has been serving up pita and shawarma to hungry Aucklanders since 1995. The flagship Ponsonby store has been around for what feels like forever (although it recently underwent something of a refresh), with an additional Takapuna location and a space at Commercial Bay’s Harbour Eats too. Serving satiating pitas, chawarmas, salads, sweet treats and easy bites for the kids, too, Fatima’s is the easy, breezy, reliable spot that we head to when we feel like flavoursome, filling and no-frills good food.

Fatima's Chawarma
Left: Fatima’s Chawarma  Right: Chop Chop’s Cobra Kai

Chop Chop

A mainstay of our Denizen Hospo Heroes Cheap and Cheerful category for years running, Ponsonby Central’s Chop Chop Noodle House is a certified crowd favourite. Offering a raft of signature ramen and rice bowls, and a number of tasty, pan-Asian ‘street food’ dishes, this welcoming drop-in is always busy and always delicious. Next time you go, order the cobra kai. Filled to the brim with BBQ pork, pork belly, kimchi, various veggies, a jammy boiled egg and a flourish of fried chicken for good measure, this delectable bowl of goodness hits the spot every single time. And won’t

Sri Pinang

From the outside, you wouldn’t expect Sri Pinang to be one of the best BYO spots Auckland has to offer. But on weekend evenings, this Malaysian restaurant turns into a party house and, the later it gets, it progressively gets more bustling. That being said, anyone who is familiar with Sri Pinang has enough respect for the owner Aunty Angie to rein it in when needed, so they don’t disrupt the restaurant. The must-have dish from this restaurant is the beef rendang; perfectly fragrant with a delicious depth of flavour, it hits the spot every time — and make sure you finish your meal with the restaurant’s signature creamy sago coconut pudding.

Lowbrow

Fast, fun and fancy are three words that perfectly define Lowbrow. This place has cracked the code when it comes to serving food that would usually be classified as ‘junk’ such as fried chicken and hot sandos as high-quality dishes by using premium-grade ingredients. Although the menu is more expensive than the regular fast-food offering, it’s worth the extra dollars as the taste of the food and the ambience of the space is infinitely better.

Fishsmith

A bona fide Herne Bay stalwart that becomes one of the busiest spots on Jervois Road in summer, Fishsmith has garnered a vast and loyal following of locals who flock to the spot for classic fish and chips. Alongside the classic, Fishsmith also does one of the tastiest fish burgers in town, alongside its famous spicy fish tacos with a good dose of fries or slaw on the side.

Auckland's Best Fish Burger
Left: Fishsmith’s Fish Burger  Right: Satya’s Dahi Puri

Satya & Satya Chai Lounge

Sammy Akuthota is a beloved personality on the Auckland hospo scene and his Satya restaurants have been firm favourites since the first was opened by his parents Swamy and Padmaja Akuthota in 1999. He has a knack for creating a convivial vibe, with Satya Chai Lounge specialising in fun and delicious South Indian street food and craft beer. The dosa and idli always hit the spot, made even better with a side of Satya’s famous dahi puri.

Cotto

A night of pasta and wine sounds somewhat luxurious, but you can do it for quite a humble price at Cotto. Nothing on the Italian-inspired menu exceeds $22 and this includes the list of handmade pasta. The smoked ricotta beetroot ravioli along with the kumara gnocchi is a crowd favourite, and you can’t go past the appetisers, including the lamb ribs and the spinach and goat’s cheese dumplings. For the ultimate final course, burnt orange pana cotta.

Cotto's Kumara Gnocchi & Burger Burger's Cheese Burger
Left: Cotto’s Kumara Gnocchi  Right: Burger Burger’s Beef & Cheese Burger

Burger Burger

Another fast yet fancy delicacy, Burger Burger takes a classic burger but executes it to its optimal potential. The quality and quantity of meat in the patties are second to none and the fluffiness of the buns always has us impressed. No matter what, the beef and cheese burger can do no wrong. Make sure to check out the cocktail menu and pair the burger with one of their jazzy creations.

Green Door Pizza

At Commercial Bay’s Green Door Pizza, New York-style-meets-Napolese pizza with its puffy, crispy sourdough base takes centre stage. With experts at the helm and a menu of delicious and classic ingredient combinations that don’t skimp on flavour (from pepperoni to Hawaiian to four cheese) Green Door is the perfect place to take your next pizza craving.

Kai Eatery's Taiwanese Fried Chicken & Green Door Pizza
Left: Kai Eatery’s Taiwanese Fried Chicken  Right: Green Door Pizza’s Pepperoni Pizza

Kai Eatery

Started by a couple who missed the Taiwanese street food of their home, Kai Eatery has evolved from a market stall to a fully-fledged (and highly sought-after spot) now with locations in Albany, Takapuna, the CBD, Commercial Bay and Ellerslie. Serving some of the most delicious fried chicken you’ll find in Auckland, alongside crispy kumara fries, bao buns and boba tea, all with a distinctly flavoursome, Taiwanese twist, Kai Eatery is a must-try for something indulgent, filling and memorable.

Canton Cafe

Anyone who has lived near Kingsland would’ve dined at this institution. Canton Cafe has been around for decades and has hosted too many events to count as it’s the perfect spot for large group bookings, cheap yet delicious food, renowned for its attentive service and strong BYO game. Even if drinking is not in the equation, a dinner with friends is always fun at the vivacious Canton, as long as there’s a plate of king chilli prawns and hot and spicy squid on the table.

Nishiki

Tucked away in Freemans Bay, Nishiki is the local favourite spot to satisfy Japanese cravings along with some refreshing Asahi beer. The ordering system features an iPad, where diners can place their food and beverage order and dishes arrive quick smart — if that’s not fun, we don’t know what is. The must-have dish is hands down the miso and cheese eggplant, it’s unbelievably tender and indulgent, we forget that we’re eating a vegetable.

Parade Burgers Auckland
Parade

Parade

Even if you haven’t tried Parade (and trust us, you’re missing out), you’ll likely have seen its burgers. They’re unlike anything else. The epitome of indulgent eating, each Parade burger is served in a house-made pretzel bun, with decadent fillings that have been known to include fried chicken with macaroni and cheese or smashed beef patties with nacho chips, cheese sauce and salsa. As far as flavours go, the Parade team are never afraid to try something new or push the boundaries of what’s expected from a burger. Now with a permanent spot on Ponsonby Road, this is the perfect place to pull up to with friends for a cheap and cheerful dinner out.

Taco Medic

Taco Medic was founded originally as a food truck by cousins Anthony Wilkins and Robbie McGillivray, who became enamoured with the cuisine while surfing in the Pacific coastal town of Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. Now with three brick-and-mortar locations, as well as two Taco Trucks that can be booked all around the country, Taco Medic is accessible for even more people to sink their teeth into. As with its two Queenstown locations, its Ponsonby Road and CBD spots (the latter on the corner of Quay Street and Lower Albert Street) offers the taqueria’s signature high-quality fare, where everything is 100 percent gluten-free, all the meat rubs and corn tortillas are handmade daily and only the freshest ingredients are sourced. The “absurdly tasty” tacos here are healthy yet full of flavour, with a menu that spans “Land”, “Ocean” and “Soil” to offer some seriously mouth-watering combinations.

Taco Medic & Shake Out
Left: Taco Medic’s Chips n’ Dips  Right: Shake Out’s Double Cheese Burger

Shake Out

With locations in The Goodside on the North Shore and Commercial Bay in the City, Shake Out is a burger spot that serves utterly delicious burgers just as they should be. Tasty, filled with high-quality ingredients, and without any fuss. Here, find great burgers, perfectly-cooked fries (with indulgent cheesy sauce if you want), satiating shakes, housemade sodas and a few sweet treats for good measure. If you’re in search of a delicious takeaway that hits the spot and doesn’t break the bank, this is exactly where you should go.

Tianze Dumpling House

Tianze’s dumplings are indeed excellent, but they’re not the only thing you should be ordering from this Sandringham Chinese eatery’s menu. The mapo tofu is excellent, as are the green beans (hack: both can be made sans pork mince for vegetarians or vegans); the crispy fried chicken in hot chilli sauce is moreish and spicy, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, the jelly fish and chinese cabbage salad is deliciously vinegary and fresh. All the portions are very generous, so if you don’t leave with leftovers we’ll be impressed.

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