From pork rolls to pizzas: Six of the best cheap eats in Auckland

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Auckland may well be one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, but it’s still possible to find a great meal for an affordable price.

From raved-about wood-fired pizzas to Malaysian fare that is beloved countrywide, the city has plenty on offer for those who are hungry but have tightened their purse strings – you just have to know where to look.

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The Mexican Cafe

“Extra special nachos” from The Mexican Cafe.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

“Extra special nachos” from The Mexican Cafe.

Cheap Mexican doesn’t have to mean a grocery basket filled with a sad packet of wraps, a tin of beans, a block of cheddar and a sachet of spice mix.

The Mexican Cafe, a vibrant cantina nestled in the heart of the CBD, offers a deliciously faithful representation of the cuisine. It provides all the usual suspects – burritos, quesadillas, nachos, tacos etc – alongside some distinct unique standouts, like the hearty bean dip or the refreshing citrus salmon and orange avocado salsa.

The Mexican Cafe’s lively interior perfectly complements its fun menu.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

The Mexican Cafe’s lively interior perfectly complements its fun menu.

For those looking for something affordable and flavoursome, the ‘extra special’ nachos – chips that have been smothered with cheese, onion, beans and salsa before being oven baked and topped with lettuce, tomato, guacamole and your choice of meat – are a no-brainer.

The Mexican Cafe is on Victoria St West, in Auckland’s city centre.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

The Mexican Cafe is on Victoria St West, in Auckland’s city centre.

Come here for the nachos but stay for the atmosphere: the lively interior and the ever-expanding drinks menu, which comprises beers, wines, cocktails and a devilish array of tequilas.

67 Victoria Street West, Auckland CBD.

Hawker & Roll

Vegetarian laksa at Malaysian restaurant Hawker & Roll.

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff

Vegetarian laksa at Malaysian restaurant Hawker & Roll.

Hawker & Roll offers a brief culinary exploration of Malaysia inspired by the southeast Asian country’s marvellous street fare repertoire.

While it’s the humble hawker roll that lies at the heart of the menu – comforting roti wraps stuffed with everything from sesame eggplant to beef rendang – it’s the vegetarian laksa that deserves a special mention here.

Pulled sticky pork hawker roll from Hawker & Roll.

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff

Pulled sticky pork hawker roll from Hawker & Roll.

A creamy, coconut-milk soup with ample flavour and just the right amount of spice, it makes for a prime winter pick-me-up. There are chicken and beef iterations for those after something a little meatier, and plenty of devourable sides if the silky ribbon noodles aren’t enough to keep hunger at bay.

L-R: Pulled sticky pork hawker roll, prawn dumplings, and Portuguese custard tart.

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff

L-R: Pulled sticky pork hawker roll, prawn dumplings, and Portuguese custard tart.

The restaurant’s Malaysian food been so well-received that the brains behind the operation, Michelin-rated chef Josh Emett, has gone on to launch four more iterations in Auckland, Queenstown, Tauranga and Christchurch.

Commercial Bay, CBD, and Sylvia Park Shopping Centre, Mount Wellington.

Sumthin Dumplin

Sumthin Dumplin has a succinct menu, with just five variations to choose from.

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff

Sumthin Dumplin has a succinct menu, with just five variations to choose from.

To find some of the best dumplings in Auckland that are kind on the wallet but don’t sacrifice flavour, you head deep into the heart of the city until you reach Wellesley St – or O’Connell St.

Both of these locations are home to Sumthin Dumplin restaurants, where dumpling artisans create plump hand-rolled parcels that fly out the door. Sumthin Dumplin is no stranger to having to close early following a sell-out day.

The Monk dumplings – tofu, shiitake mushroom and bok choy with spinach wrap.

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff

The Monk dumplings – tofu, shiitake mushroom and bok choy with spinach wrap.

Their menu is succinct, with just five variations to choose from. Traditionalists will appreciate The OG, with archetypal pork and cabbage, the Premium Beef, which sees the classic beef and cheese combination elevated by mozzarella and parmesan, and the Great White, with chicken and mushroom.

Premium pork and cabbage dumplings with original wrap.

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff

Premium pork and cabbage dumplings with original wrap.

The Three Spice Prawn offers something more exotic and The Monk, with its tofu and mushroom stuffing, is a vegan fan favourite. Each comes enveloped in an original, wholemeal or spinach wrap that is thick enough to be comforting but not too thick as to steal attention from the fillings.

18-26 Wellesley St E and 12 O’Connell St.

Stumpy’s Pizza

Stumpy's Pizza restaurant in Mt Eden.

David White/Stuff

Stumpy’s Pizza restaurant in Mt Eden.

Tucked amongst the crowded Asian eateries of Dominion Rd sits a quaint hole-in-the-wall pizza spot that you would be remiss not to add to your restaurant hit list.

The interior is on the cosy side – it’s not a place for large gatherings – but look beyond the simple aesthetic, and you will find a fast-moving counter that churns out some of the finest wood-fired pizzas in town.

Stumpy’s Pizza restaurant, run by Andy Hamm, has garnered a cult following thanks to its applauded wood-fired pizzas.

David White/Stuff

Stumpy’s Pizza restaurant, run by Andy Hamm, has garnered a cult following thanks to its applauded wood-fired pizzas.

Crispy at the edges, chewy in the middle and doused in fresh Mediterranean flavours, each slice of Stumpy’s pizza is delectable.

Stumpy’s boasts an ever-rotating menu of pizzas.

David White/Stuff

Stumpy’s boasts an ever-rotating menu of pizzas.

Owner Andy Hamm helms an ever-rotating menu, keeping Stumpy’s cult followers on their toes. Looking to embark into new flavour territory? Be sure to try the Salty Sailor.

NB: Keep an eye out for the Stumpy’s food truck – Hamm often takes his crowd-pleasing creations on the road. Plus, a second branch will open soon in Titirangi.

702 Dominion Road, Mount Eden. Coming soon to Titirangi.

Chawla’s

Chawla’s Indian restaurant, located across from The Civic in the city, offers a prime pre-show pit stop.

RICKY WILSON/Stuff

Chawla’s Indian restaurant, located across from The Civic in the city, offers a prime pre-show pit stop.

Located opposite The Civic on Wellesley St, this Indian restaurant makes for a convenient pre-performance (or post) pit stop.

Don’t be fooled by its unassuming street presence; Chawla’s is a warm and inviting restaurant with a friendly, bustling atmosphere and a vast menu.

Chawla's offers a sprawling selection of authentic dishes.

RICKY WILSON/Stuff

Chawla’s offers a sprawling selection of authentic dishes.

The mouthwatering waft of spices that greet noses at the door is a good indication of the fare that is on offer, all made in-house. What’s more, the restaurant chain is commonplace in India, so you can guarantee the flavours are authentic.

The restaurant is warm and inviting with a friendly, bustling atmosphere.

RICKY WILSON/Stuff

The restaurant is warm and inviting with a friendly, bustling atmosphere.

Particularly worth a mention is the lunch deal, which brings together a curry of your choice, a freshly-baked naan, rice and poppadoms for just $12.

21A Wellesley Street West, CBD.

Lowbrow

Lowbrow’s ‘fast food but fancy’ ethos sets it apart from its contemporaries.

RYAN ANDERSON/Stuff

Lowbrow’s ‘fast food but fancy’ ethos sets it apart from its contemporaries.

Fast food but fancy, Lowbrow is part of a new wave of restaurants that are moving away from stereotypes about greasy, cheap joints.

The graphic, neon-lit restaurant has dominated the CBD and K’ Road food scenes these past few years, with its elevated takeaway fare a tempting option for lunch, dinner, or a late-night bite.

Lowbrow offers all the classics, including burgers, chicken wings and fries.

RYAN ANDERSON/Stuff

Lowbrow offers all the classics, including burgers, chicken wings and fries.

Simplicity is key for acclaimed chefs Jordan MacDonald and Kyle Street, whose prior accolade is upmarket restaurant Culprit. Their menu highlights elevated classics like burgers and fries – one example? The lettuce comes with a sublime blue cheese dressing.

Lowbrow restaurant can be found on Queen Street, and nestled in Kevin's Arcade on Karangahape Road.

RYAN ANDERSON/Stuff

Lowbrow restaurant can be found on Queen Street, and nestled in Kevin’s Arcade on Karangahape Road.

Lowbrow’s fried chicken wings have had tongues wagging while the Parma Jamma, their take on an eggplant parmigiana-inspired sandwich, has long been a hit for vegetarians.

193 Karangahape Rd in St Kevin’s Arcade, or 125 Queen Street, CBD.

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