Lowbrow

Denizen’s definitive guide to Auckland’s best cheap and cheerful eats

Dining out doesn’t always have to mean going all out. There are a number of exceptional eateries across the city offering up delicious fare at prices that won’t break the bank. From tasty Thai to brilliant burgers to delectable dumplings and more — these are some of Auckland’s most exceptional cheap and cheerful eats.

Kiss Kiss Fried Rice
Kiss Kiss Fried Rice

Kiss Kiss

This Thai eatery was designed for big group gatherings with its spacious seating, 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. In terms of pricing, Kiss Kiss is a bargain with its generously filled baos going for $12 and a mountain of pad Thai noodles for just over $20.


denizen_weekly
Feel like you're missing out?
Be the first to know about what's new & noteworthy.
Sign up to our free EDM subscription today.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Lebanese Grocer

A delicious deli serving shawarma, falafel and traditional pantry staples, Lebanese Grocer is one of our failsafe, go-to spots in the city for exceptional grab-and-go fare. The menu is ever-changing, based on what’s available and in-season, but no matter what it is that Elie Assaf whips up on any given day, it’s guaranteed to be delicious. And this month, the Pitt Street-based eatery has unveiled a new courtyard space for diners to take repose and enjoy the many, many delights on offer.

Baby G Burger

Baby G Burger

 Baby G Burger is widely credited as serving some of the best burgers in Auckland, courtesy of the signature, American-style smash patties (boasting unbelievably crispy edges and a thick, flavoursome centre), served between pillowy soft buns, with fuss-free fillings — usually a combination of American cheese, onions, pickles, mustard, mayo and/or hot sauce. Baby G’s first official burger joint opened in Avondale late last year, much to our delight, serving a concise edit of burgers and a few sides (all of which very much have our seal of approval).

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.

Cheese on Toast

If there’s one thing we know about Aucklander’s appetites, it’s that when we find something indulgent, we can’t get enough. Enter Cheese on Toast, which now has outposts in Newmarket, Three Kings, and Birkenhead. This cult sandwich shop has been serving delicious toasties since taking the City by storm at market stalls years ago, and offers an array of epic toasties sure to satisfy, starting at just $10 a pop.

Broke Boy Taco

Broke Boy Taco

From scrappy pop-up to cult-followed culinary sensation, Broke Boy Taco‘s permanent address in Mount Albert has become a go-to for many of us since opening late last year. Serving up a concise menu with Sean Yarbrough’s signature birria tacos at the forefront, here the ethos is no frills good food, and we can vouch for Yarbrough’s faultless execution of exactly that.

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 3,000 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). 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.

Lil Ragù

Lil Ragù

With a permanent food truck on the main street of Takapuna, Lil Ragù serves pasta “just like Nonna makes it.” Fresh pappardelle, tagliatelle, bucatino and rigatoni all grace the menu; some come smothered in a three-hour slow-cooked ragu, others doused in cacio e pepe, with guanciale added atop for good measure. One might describe the offering as fuss-free food, but the details (like handmade pasta and a focus on the best ingredients) are what make it so distinctive.

The Sando Guy

A delicious new addition to Auckland’s vibrant food scene is That Sando Guy — a food truck making waves for its unique blend of Japanese and Korean-inspired sandwiches. Founded by Jiaxin Qi and her husband VeeShen Teoh, the masterminds behind the beloved Phat Philly’s joint in Morningside (another great cheap and cheerful option), That Sando Guy is bringing affordable gourmet fare to the streets, all while offering a laid-back ‘camping style’ 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.

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.

Left: Fishsmith. Right: Lowbrow

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.

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.

Brew’d Hawt

Brew’d Hawt

Brew’d Hawt does one thing and one thing well: fried chicken. Brew’d Hawt’s epic offering has been meticulously tested and crafted to retain its flavour and crunch, even when picked up as a takeaway and eaten 20 minutes later, with an exceptional array of dishes on offer — from wings to burgers to boneless fried chicken, plus a concise list of salads and fries.

Loco Bro’s

Starting out serving authentic Mexican tacos from a Titirangi taqueria, and having opened a second outpost in Commercial Bay late last year, Loco Bro’s pays homage to true Central American flavours and ingredients, where everything is made from scratch and the authentic essence of Mexican cuisine shines through in every bite — from tasty tacos to epic burritos, nachos, fried chicken and more — all on offer at incredibly reasonable prices, particularly given the quality and size of the dishes on offer.

Left: Burger Burger. Right: Otto

Otto

A night of pasta and wine sounds somewhat luxurious, but you can do it for quite a humble price at Otto. Nothing on the Italian-inspired menu exceeds $28 (with plenty on offer for $18) 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.

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.

My Fried Chicken

My Fried Chicken

Since opening its doors in Ponsonby Central in 2019, My Fried Chicken has solidified itself as a go-to for those looking to get their Korean fried chicken fix in the city. Now, with five locations across Newmarket, Mission Bay, Ponsonby, Takapuna, and now, Britomart, it’s obvious that My Fried Chicken’s inventive, comforting and utterly delicious fare has become a beloved staple on Auckland’s dining scene. Here, you’ll find all manner of epic fusion fare on offer, from street food to vegan options, all at a very reasonable price indeed.

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.

Munch

If you, like us, have developed a penchant for the mouthwatering flavour of Korean fried chicken (blame the plethora of exceptional Korean spots we have in Auckland), then you’ll want to know about Henderson’s Munch — where you’ll find an array of high-quality Korean fried chicken dishes at accessible prices, which play with different flavours, whether you prefer something spicy or something more indulgent.

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

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.

Wise Boys

Nobody likes the token vege burger, and especially not the team behind Wise Boys. That’s why they set out to make the best plant-based burgers this wonderful planet has ever seen. Starting as a food truck, and opening their first outpost in Grey Lynn in 2019, Wise Boys now also slings epic burgers from their Commercial Bay eatery within Harbour Eats. So if you’re looking for delicious burgers sans the meat, you know where to find them.

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.

Gastronomy

Pie Rolla’s is the epic new pie purveyor on K’ Road drawing a crowd
Soul’s new cocktails are just the tonic for the inclement weather ahead — these are our go-to orders
One Queen Dining is unveiling an elevated Aperitivo Hour this week, and we have all of the details