Discover the food you have to say yes to as you eat your way through Australia’s melting pot of cuisine.
While you can certainly find ample health food, a la Southern Cali, in Australia, the biggest culinary scores come in the form of rich dishes that make you forget about the state of your waistband. We believe a big element in the delish-factor of these foods is that many of them are handmade, instead of factory-made, filled with ingredients that are high-quality and locally sourced. Maybe that’s why we didn’t feel like total crap after downing a family-sized mound of fish and chips.
However, just like any popular dish, it’s not created equal in every eatery, which is why we highly recommend doing an online search for the best spot to nosh on a particular food in whatever Aussie locale you’re exploring. And for the areas we’ve already performed reconnaissance in, we’ve filled you in below on where to go.
Health Tip: To make sure your Australian adventure isn’t devoid of nutrients, eat a side salad with many of the following dishes, and balance out your restaurant selections by occasionally grabbing a meal at one of the many health-conscious cafes or markets sprinkled throughout the coastal cities.
1. Fish and Chips
While fish n’ chips found in many restaurants in the US are pretty heavy on the batter and grease, Australian fish and chips joints have perfected the art of selecting thick, super-fresh, flaky and non-fishy assortments of fish they cover in a moderate amount of optimally-seasoned crumbs or batter (we prefer the crumbed fish) and fry for just enough time to get the fish crispy, but not swimming in grease. The fish is served on a bed of thick, salty chips (aka fries), with a side of (often housemade) tomato and tartar sauces. In addition, some eateries sprinkle health in there by adding roasted corn and greens.
Tip: Amp up the deliciousness by seasoning your fare with chicken salt.
Best fish and chips in Brisbane’s Scarborough neighborhood: The Boat Shed
Best fish and chips in New South Wales: Pelican Rock Café at Greenwell Point
2. Meat Pies
Originating from economically-strapped Englishmen and women (many of whom were later relocated to Australia) who could get the ingredients for pie crust cheap, and wanted something to do with scraps from their wealthy employers’ elaborate parties, meat pies are now an Australian staple, regardless of the status of one’s bank account.
These savory treats are often single-serving and have a variety of ingredients ranging from beef and onion or mushroom, pepper steak beef, or chicken curry, to breakfast staples, or heaps of veggies. These ingredients are often mixed with water, bouillon cubes, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, oregano and nutmeg to make a gravy-like filling. While the filling is primo, our favorite part of a meat pie is the combination of the flaky, crunchy top, and a denser, buttery base, which makes it easy-ish to hold in one hand. To score freshies, hit a local bakery first thing in the morning. And to round out the goodness, top your pie with tomato sauce.
Best meat pies in Queensland: Yatala Meat Pies and Byron Bay Meat Pies
3. Sausage Rolls
The same puff pastry that goes over the top of a meat pie is used to wrap up ground, deliciously-seasoned sausage that results in a sausage roll. The sausage is sometimes cooked with finely chopped onions, celery, carrots, garlic, and other fresh additions to create a full-flavored culinary experience. Much like the meat-pie, this is a heavy option, so if you’re planning on some surfing, hiking or another active pastime, save this bakery selection for after.
Tip: Don’t forget the tomato sauce.
Best sausage rolls in Sydney: Bourke Street Bakery
4. Chicken Parmy at a Pub
While most wouldn’t associate Australia with Chicken Parmigianino, this is a go-to food for many pubs, so much so that many have nights dedicated to this dish. Essentially, this meal is composed of a piece of wide and thin chicken coated in breadcrumbs and fried, then topped with marinara sauce and melted cheese. In addition, this is often served atop chips and a salad. And you should probably tack on a Pirate Life IPA.
Best pub to buy Chicken Parmy in Brisbane: Brisbane Brewing Co.
5. Lamb Kebab
While Eric is OBSESSED with lamb, as it’s a common special-occasion dish in Aus, Bailey’s not a fan. However, the paper thin slices of lamb cut off a spit roast for a kebab has won her over. To craft the kebab, the meat is usually wrapped in flat bread with tabouli, tahini, mint sauce, lettuce, cucumbers, tomato and other optional condiments. While you can find kebabs in many restaurants, they’re most commonly purchased from street vendors, especially post-bar at 3am.
Best place to buy Lamb Kebabs in Melbourne: Lambs on Malvern and Glenny Kebabs
6. Australian Breakfast Sandwich
The ingredients of eggs, bacon, cheese, avocado, tomato and BBQ sauce on Ciabatta bread doesn’t sound much different than a breakfast sandwich found in other parts of the world, but here’s why they’re special in Australia… First off, the bread – almost anywhere you go the Ciabatta bread they use for a brekky sandwich has a thin crunchy layer on the outside, and is just the right amount of soft and fluffy on the inside – it’s not at all like the rubbery, hard-to-chew-through Ciabatta we’ve tried in other countries.
In addition, the eggs and cheese are usually super higher quality (not factory cheese wrapped in thin plastic), and the bacon is thick, crunchy and uber-meaty. And then there’s the BBQ sauce, which Aussies will put on just about anything.
Best place to buy a Brekky Sandwich in Sydney: Luxe Espresso or Salt Meats Cheese
7. Aussie Burger
Angus beef patty, beet root, fried egg, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato and BBQ or tomato sauce combine to make this Aussie staple. The primary features that differentiate this from a standard burger - the beet root, super thick slices of bacon and fried egg - add a dynamic flair of flavor to this tried and true favorite. In addition, the tomato sauce is a bit less sweet than ketchup and actually tastes like it was made with quality tomatoes. Aussies don’t mess around with their sauces. Be sure to pair your burger with chips sprinkled with Chicken Salt, and a Bundaberg Ginger Beer.
Best place to order an Aussie Burger in Cairns/ Most Cities in Aus: Cairns Burger Café and Grill’d (a must-try chain throughout Australia – order a Beyond Burger!)
8. Open-faced Vegemite + Avo Toast
You can’t go to Australia without trying some Vegemite, mate. For real. This savory spread, primarily composed of brewer’s yeast, is as common as honey, tomato sauce, butter and other staples in Australian kitchens. It gained its name after it was drawn from a hat during a national naming competition.
Unfortunately, many travelers who aren’t in the know hold the misconception that Vegemite is akin to Nutella and spread a thick layer onto toast, only to gag and rinse out their mouth after their first bite. Vegemite is meant to be spread incredibly sparingly on a piece of toast that has been buttered before Vegemited. And to really make it Aussie smash avocado on top, with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. If you follow this recipe you’ll score a delicious piece of savory Australian toast that is buttery, creamy, a tad spicy and a little salty.
As this spread is high in vitamin B, Bailey used it each day of her pregnancy with Hudson to tasty up her toast and quell morning sickness.
Best place to get Vegemite: Every store and kitchen in Australia.
When covered with fresh whipped cream, passion fruit pulp, strawberries and kiwis, this fluffy meringue cake creates a dessert so light and delicious Kiwis and Australians will perpetually be dueling over where it originated. This yumminess can be found at most supermarkets (minus the toppings), and bakeries.
Best pavlova in Sydney: Ester
Best pavlova in Brisbane: Chester Street Bakery & Bar
Another food claimed by both Australians and Kiwis, this sponge cake dipped in chocolate frosting and rolled in coconut is delicious, regardless of what country you’re eating it in. As we're partial to Australia, we tend to believe the folklore that it was named after Queensland’s Lord Lamington, after he tried it and loved it so much his ego demanded it be named after him.
Best place to buy Lamingtons in Sydney: Luscious Kikis
Best place to buy Lamingtons in Melbourne: Candied Bakery
11. Anzac Biscuits
Not to be confused with the baked good eaten under a pool of gravy in Southern USA, these wafer-like biscuits (aka cookies), primarily composed of rolled oats and golden syrup, are eaten to commemorate Anzac Day. This day, April 25, marks the anniversary of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landing in Gallipoli during the First World War, where many lost their lives. Beyond the honoring of lives lost during that battle, Anzac Day commemorates all Australian and New Zealand service men and women. So Anzac biscuits are one of the few foods that actually bring New Zealanders and Aussies together.
Best place to buy Anzac Biscuits in Sydney: Flour and Stone and Saga
Best Anzac Biscuits you can order online: Phillippa’s Bakery
12. Grilled Halloumi Cheese
While it didn’t originate in Australia, halloumi cheese is one of the country’s favorite things to throw on the barby. This semi-hard, unripened, brined cheese is usually made from a mixture of goat and sheep milk, and has a high-melting point, allowing it to get golden brown when grilled for a bit. It has a salty taste and goes well with both savory and sweet foods (try it with watermelon.)
Best place for halloumi cheese dishes in Brisbane: Corner Store Café and Hoo Ha Bar
13. Violet Crumble
This classic Australian candy bar is composed of chocolate covered honeycomb that shatters in the most wonderful way when you bite into it. While it’s an amazing treat on its own, we like to crumble it over chocolate ice cream.
Best place to buy a Violet Crumble: IGA markets usually carry them.
14. Flat White with Tim Tams
Yet another “We came up with it!... No we came up with it!” dispute between Australia and New Zealand, this hot drink is composed of a double shot of espresso with a bit of sugar for taste and carefully steamed whole milk that creates a thin layer of velvety micro-froth on top - the entire drink is creamy and just a tad foamy. It’s lovely. While they offer these in many American cafés, no one makes them like the Aussies. Bailey used to scoff at Eric’s coffee-snobbishness, but after tasting the barista skills of Australia, she’s now a believer in the art of caffeine, especially if that caffeine is in a Flat White.
Adding to the flavor power of a Flat White is one of Australia’s favorite store-bought biscuits – Tim Tams. These are composed of two chocolate biscuits sandwiched around chocolate cream filling and then coated in… you guessed it, chocolate. Dip it in that Flat White for about three seconds and let the delightfulness commence.
Best place to buy a Flat White in Sydney: Gumption or Regiment
Best place to buy a Flat White in Melbourne: Seven Seeds or Pope Joan
15. Bundaberg Ginger Beer
One of the best non-alchy drinks to be found down under, Bundaberg Ginger Beer is a sweet and ginger-spicy drink made with ground, dried ginger root and Queensland Cane Sugar. The drink is fermented and craft-filtered, then diluted with water, sugar and citric acid. This brewed ginger deliciousness is a go-to accompaniment for fish and chips, meat pies, and well, pretty much everything.
Because of the tummy-soothing effects of ginger, Bundaberg is a good drink to have on hand for car-sickies on a road trip, or sea-sickies on a boat to the Great Barrier Reef.
Best place to find Bundaberg Ginger Beer: Almost anywhere drinks are sold in Aus.
16. Eat Street
While this isn't one dish, it is a must-try wonderland of yumminess from almost every corner of the world. Located at a former container wharf, Eat Street is a mini-city of 70+ food-truck-esque eateries located within colorful shipping containers and serving up some of the most decadent, flavorful and affordable(ish) food you'll ever find. There's also ample places to get buzzed on craft booze.
Amping up this epic food + drink experience are the three stages spread throughout Eat Street featuring a wide array of crazy talented musicians, dancers, and comedians. In addition, the aesthetic is an Instagramer's dream with its light displays and over the top decor - and of course there's twinkle lights, lots of twinkle lights. So if you'll be in Brisbane on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, this should be what you're doing.
Tip: To avoid mega-crowds, arrive close to opening, which is 4pm Friday and Saturday, and noon on Sunday.