Ultimate Guide

Auckland's Cheap & Cheerful Eats

By Shae Parsons
Food placed on white table

Modern problems require modern solutions–When your cravings are Michelin-esque, but your bank account is decidedly more McDonald’s-friendly, what is a hungry foodie to do? Well, fret no further, because below is your brief, yet trusty, guide to Auckland’s best food picks for any person on a budget. 

Barilla Dumpling

Chinese
571 Dominion Road, Balmoral

With the variety of fantastic food offerings on the famed Dominion Road, one restaurant leads the pack–The mighty beast that is Barilla. The staples are all there; noodles, fried rice, and of course, dumplings. The food is consistent and so is the overall experience that this landmark eatery has to offer. Many of the other stops on Dominion Road have nailed the food they serve, but Barilla shines in a more consistent manner overall. Where many competitors on Dominion Road can be inconsistent with more holistic aspects such as their décor or service, Barilla provides a top-notch experience in all regards.

Lowbrow

American
125 Queen Street + 183 Karangahape Road
Lowbrow's famous Chicken Sando

Who said that the gourmet fast food trend was dead? Nestled in the Queen’s Rise Dining Precinct on Queen Street and a newly opened Kevin's Arcade location, Lowbrow offers a localised take on fast food in the most convenient locations possible. With top-notch ingredients, a photogenic atmosphere and most importantly, one of the best beef brisket sandwiches around, the restaurant goes to show that a classic sando ‘n’ chips can have the quality of a more highbrow establishment at lowbrow prices. With eating in, taking out, or delivery options available, this joint embodies convenience in every sense of the word. 

The Shelf

Cafe
50 High Street, Auckland CBD

For those wanting something that hits all the right spots, The Shelf is cheap, cheerful and consistent. Tucked away on High Street, its dimly lit atmosphere and small entranceway make you feel a million miles away from the havoc outside. Their food and drinks are to die for–With a wide selection of delicious cabinet food that can satisfy the peckish bruncher to their wide range of mains which will fill the belly of even the most ravenous eater. A suggestion at this little hidden gem is the chicken fettucine or the eggs benedict, coupled with a deconstructed mocha or hot chocolate if you’re feeling a little generous.

Sha Xian Snack

Chinese
285 Dominion Road, Mount Eden

While Barilla leads the pack on Dominion Road, another strong contender is hot on their tails. A nod to the famous Shaxian Delicacies food chain in China, this establishment brings the famed cuisine to our very own Dominion Road. Sha Xian Snack allows you to have a little more freedom with your dumpling fillings, but only ordering dumplings is absolutely heinous and is potentially a crime. With wontons that remind one of clouds, spicy beef noodles oozing with a marriage of divine flavour and unbeatable texture and skewers that would put Gogo Music Café to shame, Sha Xian Snack is for those unafraid to experiment. The best part? You could easily get a three-dish meal for under $25 per person.

Happy Boy

Asian Fusion
705A Manukau Road, Royal Oak
Bao Burgers and Fries from Happy Boy Eatery

A nod to the garishly beautiful arcade world of the ‘90s, Happy Boy brings a fusion of the East and the West in their food and in what they offer beyond the plate. Choose from a burger or a bao and sit down to enjoy the gorgeously decorated restaurant in its neon-lit glory. There are also culinary collaborations with other Auckland favourites such as Kiss Kiss and Love Exposure, so it is best advised to come in with an empty stomach and without a headache.

Gogo Music Cafe

Chinese
559 Dominion Road, Mount Eden

The late-night Balmoral go-to, Gogo Music Cafe serves up hot $1.20 BBQ skewers and Chinese dishes cheap as chips. Head upstairs to the second-level restaurant on Dominion Road and you'll be greeted by rows of tables, full of happy dinners with a bursting ambience, no matter the time of night. Noodles, dumplings, and taro shakes are the go, with their XinJiang style chicken being one of their most talked-about meals. Cheap, cheerful, and open late, it doesn't get much better than Gogo. 

BannSang

Korean
47 High Street, Auckland CBD

Nestled amongst the sneaker stores, book shops and other contending eateries on High Street lies Bannsang. A staple spot for the savvy university student, Bannsang blends a relaxed atmosphere away from the chaos of the central city and incredible food. Their dedication to serving top-notch Korean cuisine has not gone unnoticed. The eatery features on many a food article but most importantly, many a recommendation from your cool foodie friends. And the recommendations are most certainly acted on, this place is never empty.

Cafe BBQ Duck

Chinese
42c High Street, Auckland CBD

A central-city staple, Café BBQ Duck justdelivers. Whether it be their dumplings, their spicy fried chicken or their black bean beef noodles, everything here oozes comfort. Settle into their restaurant and enjoy the ambience or enjoy the food in your own home, Café BBQ Duck caters to everyone with their availability on almost every food-ordering platform there is. A particular favourite is their lemon chicken.

Kiss Kiss

Thai
1 Rocklands Avenue, Mount Eden
Khao Soi Kai from Kiss Kiss Eatery

The funky Thai eatery taking over your Instagram feed, Kiss Kiss in Mount Eden specialises in authentic Thai cuisine. Order for the table from the range of buns, noodles, rice dishes, shares, and sides, all coming in under $18. The portions are large, the food is fresh, and the atmosphere is electric, what more could you need? 

Soul Thai

Thai
158 Williamson Ave, Grey Lynn + 96 Mount Eden Road, Mount Eden

Soul Thai is true in their namesake as it feeds your appetite and your soul. Their Pad Thai is truly excellent–A Westerner’s hallmark of a good Thai joint. Venture further into their food offerings with their ‘Gold Bags’, their Spicy Beef Salad and Green Curry. Perfect for those in a rush, they make quality food in time to serve those with even the most ravenous of appetites. 

The Mexican Cafe

Mexican
67 Victoria Street West, Auckland CBD

Finally, one of the CBD's most popular spots for a quality catch-up over some much-loved Mexican. Let's kick things off with The Mexican Cafe's happy hour – They have a food menu available with a full plate of nachos for $8.50 and $5 quesadillas. If you're arriving outside of happy hour, their Cheap Eats menu still provides some of the cheapest Mexican around, arriving filled to the brim and made with fresh, tasty ingredients. The themed restaurant also dishes out complimentary chips and salsa on arrival, if you're not already enticed. 

Related categories
Ultimate GuideCheap and cheerful
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