Best Cheap Eats 2016: Grey Lynn/Herne Bay/K’Rd Precinct/Ponsonbyby Kate Richards
Above: Esther Jeong and Matt Shephard of Tiger Burger. Photo: Ken Downie.
BIRD ON A WIRE
Ponsonby Central, 136 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
Free-range rotisserie chicken is still the hero at Bird on a Wire's new Ponsonby Central home, but Ottolenghi-style salads and versatile burgers and baguettes with satisfy diets of all kinds. The new flagship has table service, a bar and an expansive seating area.
Chicken, licensed, open late, free range
BOY AND BIRD
222 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
Around here, we love a brined bird. Actually we just love chicken – brined, fried or otherwise. In the chicken precinct, Boy and Bird delivers the goods in the form of chicken sammies, whole and half chooks and, on another note, some bloody excellent cauliflower fritters.
Chicken, licensed, free range
Ponsonby Central, 136 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
Still, still the best burgers in all the land – or at least in the wider Auckland region. A prime example of how doing one thing, and doing it properly, offers a real air of credibility to a restaurant. Medium-rare beef, sharp pickles and melty cheese will fulfill all of your burger-related dreams. Take a date; you'll know they're the one if they can stand the sight of you with sauce all down your face.
Burgers, vegetarian friendly, licensed, free range
166 Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn
Since moving from Onehunga to Grey Lynn, Epolito's have had fans traverse town for their authentic New York- style pizza delights. Owner and chef Chickalena Rose is an NY native who was taught by a Sicilian, so pizza is in her blood. Some love the artichoke and lemon, others swear by the homemade meatballs or sausage.
200 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay
The mantra of Scott Brown (ex-Sofitel and Huka Lodge) is freshness, starting with his hand-cut twice-fried potato and kumara chips to his salads and slaw and the fish he sources at the markets. Less traditional options include calamari, soft-shell crab and spicy chickpeas – served in buns – and spiced fish tacos.
Fish and chips
113 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
The sign outside boasts "the best pizza in the whole wide world" and we think they're pretty close. Loads of options by the slice, and great for vegetarians. There's also coffee by eighthirty, which we like very much.
Pizza, vegetarian friendly, free range
JIMMY THE COOK AT GREY LYNN RSA
1 Frances St, Grey Lynn
The menu is blackboard-short, orders are cash only and the shoe-box of a kitchen is open for just two hours on a Wednesday to Sunday nights. But don't let that deter you. Seafood maestro Jimmy "The Fish" Gerrard (ex-Ponsonby Central), born again as Jimmy The Cook, chalks up an oft-changing menu of mostly steaks, pasta and seafood (go for the smoked fish pie with salad, if it's on). A bit of friendly banter with Jimmy is usually on offer, too.
Fish and chips, licensed, new listing
LUCKY LUCKY DUMPLINGS
339 Karangahape Rd, K'Rd Precinct
Lucky Lucky used to be a strip club, and still looks like one. As you can imagine, it's fun, it's loud and it's cheap, in all senses of the word. The menu is short but good and there are cocktails served in bubble tea cups with ridiculously large straws. The dumplings are not to be missed. Also great are the bao with pork belly, soft and pillowy, or the fried chicken brushed with shrimp paste.
Modern Chinese, new listing
PIZZERIA ROSA POMODORO
356 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn
Sandwiched between two garages and opposite a petrol station, this authentic, (and a bit 90s) Italian pizzeria seems like a well kept secret. Pizza-maker Luca Malerba knows how to wood-fire to fluffy perfection, with bases that withstand generous toppings without sogginess. Pizzas are $15 on Tuesday and Wednesday nights; we recommend the crudaiola.
Pizza, vegetarian friendly, licensed, BYO
27 Cross St, K'Rd Precinct
Like the (now-closed) Little Sheep Hotpot, which was in this spot before, you cook your own food at Master Bowl in a simmering bowl of stock. The big difference is Master Bowl's version is Sichuan, so be prepared for aromatic, mouth-numbing sichuan peppers. Try the half-and-half hot pot, but save room for the fragrant dan-dan noodles and crispy spring onion pancakes. A cooling cucumber salad is advised.
Sichuan, licensed, BYO, new listing
261 Karangahape Rd, K'Rd Precinct
On a sideways-rain kind of night, sit in the window, order the massaman curry with wild goat and smugly watch the tail lights blur outside. Head chef/owner Max Yangkongkaew makes his own curry pastes, hence the name – "pok pok" refers to the sound of a mortar and pestle in action. Good on a sunny day, too, of course – leave room for black sticky rice pudding and coconut ice cream.
Thai, currently pending license
339 Karangahape Rd, K'Rd Precinct
For reliable South Indian comfort food, you can't go wrong with Satya. The massive menu boasts a range of Indian street snacks (the dahi puri is legendary), dosas, dhals and carefully spiced curries. The flaky paratha are quite addictive, and the rasam – a spicy tamarind and tomato soup – is just the thing for a head cold.
South Indian, vegetarian friendly, licensed, BYO
Mercury Plaza, 23-31 Mercury Lane, K'Rd Precinct
It's the dishes stuffed with fresh, seasonal veges and a decent kick of fresh chilli that set this food-court favourite apart. Overlook Mercury Plaza's sometimes sticky floor and gentle decay in favour of Som Tum's Thai Issan and Vietnamese flavours, which rise above what we've come to expect from the ubiquitous mix-and-match menu offering a choice of rice and noodles with "chicken, beef or pork".
Issan and Vietnamese
356 Karangahape Rd, K'Rd Precinct
Having opened in 1990, Sri Pinang now welcomes the grown-up offspring of adults who have been coming here for years. With her chef husband Kun, owner Angie Siew knows them all. Their rempah (spice paste) is made fresh every day and is the main reason beef rendang is the most popular dish. the abbreviated lunch menu includes perennial favourite Hainanese chicken rice, which is only served at lunchtime. Go early to avoid missing out.
Malaysian, vegetarian friendly, BYO
549 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn
Esther Jeong and Matt Shephard quit their jobs in the media and started a Korean burger stall over a year ago. It's now a hip, minimal restaurant nestled in the Grey Lynn shops, serving dripping, indulgent burgers with a difference – homemade traditional Korean sauces, mayos, pickles and kimchi – with gluten-free and vegan options. Zesty cocktails and Asian beers help cut through fast-food richness.
Burgers, licensed, free range, new listing
TOP CAFE DUMPLING HOUSE
22A Cross St, K'Rd Precinct
Hidden away behind Karangahape Rd, Top Cafe keeps things simple: it's dumplings all the way. Pot stickers or steamed, 11 in a serve, mostly $11 per serve, all plump, just-right chewy and freshly made. While you can't go wrong with the pork and chives or beef and carrot options, it's worth branching out: their tofu, cabbage, coriander and "black fungus" vegan dumplings are real flavour bombs. We come here for lunch or to fill up before a boozy night out.
Northern Chinese, new listing
277 Karangahape Rd, K'Rd Precinct
Tucked into a nondescript corner of K'Rd, Uncle Man is a Malaysian favourite. Avoid the Chinese and Western parts of the menu and stick to the good stuff. We love the smoky char kway teow and the roti canai, especially.
Malaysian, vegetarian friendly
Eden Terrace/Mt Eden/Dominion Rd
Mt Roskill/New Lynn/Blockhouse Bay/Titirangi
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