The most important tip I can give you on Australia local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting Australia, there is awesome local food to try.
Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.
What to Eat in Australia
Australians eat out frequently, and you will usually find one or two options to eat out even in small towns, with a wider range in larger towns and cities. BYO restaurants, BYO stands for Bring Your Own (alcohol). In many of the urban communities of Australia you will find small low-cost restaurants that are not licensed to serve but allow diners to bring their own bottle of wine purchased elsewhere. This is frequently much cheaper than ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant. Beer can be taken to some BYO restaurants, others allow only wine. Expect to pay a corkage fee which can vary from $2-15, or may be calculated by head. BYO is not usually permitted in restaurants that are licensed to sell alcohol.
Pubs, the counter lunch or pub meal is the name for a lunch served in the bar of a pub.
Today most pubs provide lunch and dinner and many have a separate bistro or restaurant. Meals of steak, chicken parmigiana, fish and chips, or nachos are common.
Clubs, such as bowling clubs, leagues clubs, RSLs are in many towns and cities. They are most common in the states of Queensland and New South Wales. Most allow visitors, and sometimes offer good value meals. Some offer attractive locations, like the water views from the Twin Towns in Tweed Heads.
Cafes and bakeries
Most towns and suburbs have a cafe or coffee shop, serving breakfast and light meals and cakes throughout the day. Not unusual for them to close before dinner. Bakeries, usually a good place to buy bread rolls, a pie or a sausage roll. Some, like the Beechworth bakery, or the bakery in historic Gundagai offer an experience as well.
Fast food restaurants
McDonalds, Subway and KFC are common. Burger King is known as Hungry Jack’s. Red Rooster is a Australian chain, offering barbecued chicken and other mostly chicken-based items. Take-away, milk bars (known as a Deli in SA) or take-away stores usually sell pies, barbecued (rotisserie) chicken, hamburgers, fish and chips, gyros, kebabs. Ubiquitous in every town and suburb. Food courts, most shopping centres have a food court, even in country towns. P
The Australian climate is usually amenable to getting whatever food you can, and heading to the nearest park, river, lake or beach. Barbecue, is a popular Australian pastime and many parks in Australia provide free barbecues for public use.
Contrary to the stereotype, Australians rarely “Throw a shrimp on the barbie” (also, in Australia a shrimp is more commonly referred to as a prawn). Steaks, chops, sausages, chicken fillets, fish, kebabs are popularly barbecued. Native foods Try the pie Kangaroo, if you fancy some, it is commonly available from most supermarkets and butchers shops. Head to the nearest park, and barbecue it until medium rare. Best not to overcook as it may become quite tough. It tastes much like beef. It occasionally makes it onto the menu in restaurants, mostly in tourist areas. Kangaroos aren’t endangered, and kangaroo grazing does far less damage to the sensitive Australian environment than hoofed animals, and far less carbon emissions too.
If you are not ready to go vegetarian, kangaroo is the best environmental statement you can make while barbecuing. Crocodile, meat from farms in the Northern Territory and Queensland is widely available around the top end, and occasionally elsewhere. At Rockhampton, the beef capital of Australia, you can see the ancient reptile on a farm while munching on a croc burger. Emu, yes, you can eat the Australian Coat of Arms. Emu is low in fat, and available in some speciality butchers. Try the Coat of Arms pie in Maleny on the Sunshine Coast. Bush tucker, many tours may give you an opportunity to try some bush tucker, the berries, nuts, roots, ants, and grubs from Australia’s native bush. Macadamia nuts are the only native plant to Australia that is grown for food commercially. Taste some of the other bush foods, and you will discover why.
What to Drink in Australia
Beer – stubbies and tallies
Drinking beer is ingrained in Australian culture. Although Fosters is promoted as an Australian beer overseas, it is rarely consumed by Australians in Australia, and is almost impossible to find. WE got a blank stare in an Adelaide store when we asked for Fosters.
The best beer offered in the same store was Sierra Nevada, the US IPA (78 AUS for a pack of 24 beers!). Beers are strongly regional and every state has its own brews: Coopers and West End in South Australia, Carlton and VB in Victoria, Tooheys in NSW, XXXX in Queensland, Boags and Cascade in Tasmania, and Swan in Western Australia. There are also local micro brew choices, which can be harder to find, but are often worth seeking out. A wide range of imported European and American bottled beers are available in all but the most basic pub.
Light (Lite) beer refers to lower alcoholic content, and not lower calories. It has around half the alcohol of full strength beer, and is taxed at a lower rate, meaning it is also cheaper than full strength beer. Because Australians like their beer to stay cold while they drink it, draft beer glasses come in a multitude of sizes, so that you can drink a whole glass before it warms up in the summer heat. The naming of beer glasses varies widely from state to state, often in confusing ways: a schooner is 425 ml everywhere except South Australia, where it’s only 285 ml, a size that’s known elsewhere as a middy or pot, except in Darwin where it’s a handle, but in Adelaide a “pot” means a 570 ml full pint, and a pint means what a schooner does elsewhere, and… you get the idea.
The local beers and the local descriptions are covered in detail in the state guides. Bottle naming is a little easier: the standard sizes across Australia are the 375 ml stubby and the 750 ml long neck or tally. Cans of beer are known as tinnies and 24 of them make up a slab, box, carton, or a case.
Wine – typically excellent
Australia produces quality wine on a truly industrial scale, with large multinational brands supplying Australian shops and exporting around the world. There are also a multitude of boutique wineries and smaller suppliers. Very good red and white wine can be bought very cheaply in Australia, often at less than $10 a bottle, and even the smallest shop could be expected to have 50 or more varieties to choose from.
The areas of the Barossa Valley, Hunter Valley,McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and Margaret River are particularly renowned for their wineries and opportunities for cellar door sampling, but northern Victoria and Mudgee, also have a large variety. You are never too far from a wine trail anywhere in southern Australia. Try the local wines wherever you can find them, and ask for local recommendations. Try not to get taken in by the label, or the price tag. The best wine is rarely the one with the best artwork, or the most expensive price. However, it is probably wise to avoid the house wine if it comes straight from a cask (4-litre container).
Wines at the cellar door are almost invariably sold at around 20% premium to the same wine in the shops in the local town. If you still prefer overseas wines, the Marlborough region of New Zealand is usually well represented on wine lists and in bottle shops in Australia. See also Grape grazing in Australia.
Spirits – Bundy or not?
Bundaberg Rum (Bundy) is an Australian dark rum particularly popular in Queensland and many Queenslanders will not touch any other brand of rum, while many other Australians will not touch Bundy. It is probably the most famous Australian made spirit, mass produced in Bundaberg and available everywhere.
You will have to search much harder to find other Australian distilled spirits, mostly from niche players, but there are distilleries in every state of Australia if you look hard enough. Drop into the Lark Distillery on the scenic Hobart waterfront precinct. Pick up a bottle of 151 East Vodka in Wollongong or after a few days in Kununurra you are definitely going to need an Ord River Rum. Mixed drinks are also available, particularly vodka, scotch, bourbon and other whiskey mixers. Jim Beam bourbon is probably the most commonly drunk, so those from Kentucky should feel right at home. Spirits are also available as pre-mixed bottles and cans but are subject to higher taxation in this form, so it is cheaper to mix them yourself. Spirits are served in all pubs and bars, but not in all restaurants.
Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend? Please add and comment.