Never judge a book by it's cover, likewise, never judge a restaurant by its name. This week I bring you 5 places that serve a pretty great fare of foreign food, despite having bizarre, almost off putting names. And, killing two birds with one stone, this guide serves almost as a sneaky unique “Cheap Eats 201” of Auckland. (i.e. not Barilla Dumplings/Giapo that we’ve seen reviewed a million and one times)
1) Happy’s Café
For some of us happiness comes from diamonds and fast cars. For the simpler to please, happiness comes from a burrito. I lie. It is not actually a burrito, it’s better. Sitting above Newmarket on Khyber Pass, Happy’s Café serves a traditional Taiwanese fare that you cannot find anywhere else in Auckland. The best way to describe it is basically a julienned potato salad, shredded meat of your choice (though you can chose the vegetarian option- meaning just more potato salad), more salad and some herbs and spices, all skilfully wrapped in a freshly made pancake. Sounds good? Trust me; you won’t be reaching for anymore Mexican burritos after this!
2) Hare Krishna
With a name better suited for a temple, this K Road gem is relatively well known amongst university students especially amongst the vegan/vegetarian circles. Now, now meat lovers please don’t run away. With your student ID and only 5 bucks you'll get a curry, a big plate of rice, a bowl of lentil soup, a few pakoras and a dessert. Anywhere else, $5 would only get you a small bowl of rice. Another perk of vegetarian is that this leaves a sense of wellbeing, as opposed to a week of “Butter Chicken Breath.”
3) Dae Bak
No, not just confusing to pronounce, this is one of many $19 Korean DIY-BBQ buffet restaurants that line Upper Queen Street. If you’re ever feeling like you could eat a horse but don’t have a fortune to spend on 20 share plates of fine dining, these Korean BBQs provide you enough meat to turn anyone vegetarian for a few days. This is at the opposite ends of the spectrum to eatery no. 2, this is guilty infinite meat heaven!
4) Try It Out
Along with a tacky sign, this Otahuhu based Vietnamese eatery practically screams at you not to “Try It Out”. Plastic signs and bright colours to boot. But, forget all the posh Vietnamese places in the city, sure they look pretty and all, but you’re really missing out on the authentic Vietnamese experience if you don’t try it out at Try It Out. Having travelled and eaten all over South East Asia, this is as close as it gets to the real thing. And everybody in Otahuhu knows, as it is packed at lunch and dinner times. It’s a bit of a hike for us more centrally based, but nothing around Auckland does authenticity like this place.
5) Meet Fresh
Sounds like yet another vegetable shop or Chinese fish market, but I promise you it’s anything but. Your first thought walking into this new Lorne Street establishment is “Damn, am I in Asia?” This is the newest place all the hip Asians have decided to hang out in (apart from iPhone 6 displays at Vodafone). They do dessert, despite the name. It’s not cake or ice cream but I can’t really describe what it is without either in my vocab. Simply put, it’s a bowl of jelly with various Asian dessert toppings. But it’s much more appetising than how I just described- you're gonna have to take my word on this one.
So for a quick sign off, make sure you give these places a google, hit them up next time you're on a lunch break from work or study, or trek out to Try It Out in Otahuhu for some of the most authentic Vietnamese you've ever had. Well, ever had in Auckland.