In the final instalment of our Editor-in-Chief’s regular column, she embraces her long-held passion for dining, sharing the unexpected, fascinating and delicious experiences from restaurants, bars, pops-up and cheap and cheerful spots all across the country. Here, she shares the best casual dining outlets in Auckland.
Last year saw a steady, but impressive growth in our casual dining scene. As such, these are the places that I found myself returning to regularly.
A much-loved weekend favourite of the Kraus family, Mount Eden establishment De Nada is a casual yet comfortable Mexican eatery. Here, start with some excellent spicy margaritas and micheladas (a drink that’s similar to a Bloody Mary, but includes beer) before launching into the main event. Think tacos, nachos and larger comidas that are true to the Mexican tradition.
Originally founded as a pop-up by New Zealand-born, Israel-raised Carmel Davidovitch and her partner Tomer, Israeli street-food spot Carmel found fans at every market it frequented. But earlier this year it put down permanent roots in Eden Terrace, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Serving handmade, fantastically fluffy pita bread with fresh fillings, Carmel’s moreish creations are of exceptional quality and full of flavour. Only open from Thursday to Saturday, 9am until 2:30pm (although keep your eyes on Carmel’s Instagram for any opening-hour updates) I recommend getting in early to avoid the crowds. If you have to wait, I promise it’s more than worth it.
Having taken up a permanent residence on Ponsonby road, Parade has risen to stratospheric heights in terms of its demand. If you haven’t tried Parade’s burgers I can assure you they’re unlike anything else. The epitome of indulgent eating, each 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 a smashed beef patty with nacho chips, cheese sauce and salsa. The Parade team is never afraid to try something new or push the boundaries of what’s expected from a burger.
Located opposite Albert Park (just a short walk from the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki) Swings is a cool drop-in from the brains behind Ponsonby eatery, Ockhee. Here, you’ll find perfectly-brewed coffee, natural wines and a menu of delicious Korean toasties and flavoursome bites, all to be enjoyed in a light-filled space. Swings offers an escape from the bustling City (despite being in its heart).
A decades-old legend of the Auckland dining scene, Swashbucklers simply cannot be passed up on a sunny day. Stop in for a seafood platter or a cold beer on the deck overlooking the marina. It’s a winning place for both young and old when all you want is something simple and good. The stories that have been shared over the decades within the walls of this stalwart establishment are those of the ‘largest fish I’ve ever caught’ category, and an afternoon spent here is the best precursor to a good night out.
It’s hardly surprising how popular Schapiro’s has been since opening as a dedicated sports bar in Eden Terrace last year. Now, it is a sought after spot for casual dining (and drinking) in Auckland. Conceived by Otis Schapiro (co-owner of and head chef at Lilian), Schapiro’s has filled a gap in the local hospitality scene by offering a classic, American-style sports bar experience. Inside, find sports memorabilia, large screens that play popular live sports and a delicious, diner-style menu, suited to every taste. Think classic burgers, fried chicken and St. Louis pork ribs alongside radicchio salad, whole flat fish and steamed mussels. There are also 12 regularly-rotating beers on tap as well as a comprehensive wine and cocktail list to boot.