This article has been a while in the making and as long trying to find an appropriate title to convey what I was trying to publish. I wanted a list of the cheap gems I visit for lunch, the places I can afford for my work lunches. It had to be a meal and a drink for $15- or under and it has to have takeaway so you can eat it on a work lunch break. It also has to be on the Northern Beaches and you have to be able to love the shit out of it i.e. it must be awesome :). The Northern Beaches is an area in the northern coastal suburbs of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia, located near the coast of the Pacific Ocean. This area extends south to the entrance of Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour), west to Middle Harbour and north to the entrance of Broken Bay. The area was formerly inhabited by the Garigal or Caregal people in a region known as Guringai country. In layman’s terms – Manly to Palmy aka my stomping ground.
Part of my day-job has me covering this very area and as such my level of lunch indulgence is varied and has given me the opportunity to sample a lot of venues – special mention and thanks to my Facebook friends who offered me suggestions to try.
They are in no particular order although my heart holds extra special spots for Tien’s Hot Bread and The Upper Crust as they are institutions of the beaches and venues I have grown up with.
Tien’s Hot Bread | Dee Why
Tien’s I have a full review for HERE. It is a simple bakery located in Dee Why that is run by a Cambodian family and has been since the dawn of time. They make all the standard bakery items and are renowned for their soft scroll rolls but they have a secret weapon in Lila – the most amazing Cambodian family cook who makes all sorts of insane Cambodian dishes and has become a legend for her/their Vietnamese and Cambodian rolls – try one of her pork rolls – or their Chicken Roll has scored some fame thanks to Hadyen Quinn from Masterchef – it is his favourite roll and he is even on the menu :). The rolls are all $6- each and a very cheap eat packed with flavour. Grab one, drive to the end of the street and indulge on the sand of Dee Why Beach.
Sloppy Tees | Collaroy
Only a recent discovery for me – you can read the full review HERE. Located at the bus stop in Collaroy this venue has it all, amazing coffee and cafe items, one of the best burgers, and the most aesthetically pleasing venues on the Northern Beaches but they are also getting a reputation for their slow roasted rolls for $11.50. For example how does Prawn Po-Boy, slaw and chipotle mayo on a roll for $11.50 sound? My thoughts exactly – GET IN MY BELLY!! Below is their amazing burger #drool.
Sylvia and Fran’s The Upper Crust | Collaroy
Oh The Upper Crust, ever since I was in high school from the 80s I have been going to this venue. Sylvia and Fran started one of the longest running food institutions on the Northern beaches, located on the main road in Collaroy, more southern Collaroy next to Long Reef, if you have ever lived on the beaches you would know the bright yellow converted house with queues every day wanting an amazing pie or sausage roll. Sylvia and Fran no longer run it and are probably well retired but their recipes and legacy live on in the staff and stomachs of many numbers of the public.
It has taken me years to perfect my combo but now I will ONLY ever order the best sausage roll on planet earth: the bacon and cheese sausage roll, and I will accompany that with the chicken, brie and avocado pie that is full of creamy flavour. No sauce – it would be sacrilege. That and a ginger beer and I usually sit on the benches outside and devour with the other lucky sods.
You can stalk them at their FB HERE.
The Hotdog Man | Manly
The Hotdog Man is relatively new, at a bit over a year old, in Manly next to the newer Coles at the Wharf end of the Corso. When I first attended back in May it was getting into its groove and now it appears to have fit in to this Manly food culture well. They do gourmet dogs good. My full review from April is HERE. I highly recommend the Cheese Kransky with Beetroot Mayo & Crispy Fried Onions ($10). The place is delish and if you like your dogs you will love this place.
Calm Cafe | Freshwater
Love this place – I have an upcoming Northern Beaches best breakfasts article in the works and this will be very high up the ladder. This is here purely for getting the bacon and egg roll and a coffee as a takeaway on a Sunday morning and eating it on Freshwater beach – it will change your world. But if not packed, sit on the crates outside on the grass, it is right next to the beach anyway and the food, the place and people are truly amazing. And that bacon and egg roll, enough to feed two people! My full review and some amazing pics are HERE.
Roll n Sizzle | Manly Vale
Roll N Sizzle is a place I had driven past many times at Manly Vale and eventually popped in for lunch and had an incredible roll, I had the pulled pork roll on my first visit and it was #drool. I only posted an Instagram review of the venue at the time. I totally loved the venue and food and the layout but thought the location was horrible. My exact words were “the location will let it down and this place needs to be in Manly, if it was in Manly it would kill it.” All the gods have spoken – on this visit I got to meet and chat to owner Aaron Grierson, an ex Navy chef who makes all his own pulled meats and only sells everything fresh. And his best news was that a Manly store is opening on the Corso in a couple of weeks. YAY that – he is about to get very busy and make a tonne of cash for summer.
As to why he opened in the Manly Vale location he had the knowledge of forethought at the blocks and blocks of units all nearing completion in the immediate area and also the little known fact that the Manly Vale KFC is closing down – eventually this place will BOOM.
On this visit I asked him to make me the best visual roll and I scored the Spicy Mexican beef $12.50 – pulled beef, Mexican salsa, sizzling cheese, sour cream, smashed avocado, chilli sauce and smashed tortilla chips. LOVED IT – it was juicy and required four napkins to rescue the beard post eating.
If you love Monster Rolls in the city or any pulled meat in a roll this place is the go!! And the Manly store will be opening in the next week or two where NZ Natural was on the Corso – smack bang in the middle right near the beach – sublime location for summer!
Not only does he make these fabbo rolls, they have started making a burger or three, make coffees and even offer a pasta of the week and have started doing deliveries (I think via Menulog but ask Aaron when you visit).
If you find a lack of parking on the street at the shop pull into the driveway and give him a friendly toot and Aaron will open the garage for you where there a few spots available for parking.
After my next visit I will have a full review of this place going up – they all look so fantastic. Get into it!!
Salty Rooster | Queenscliff
Everyone loves burgers and most people know how much of a burger addict I am. Salty Rooster is becoming an institution of Queenscliff and has the most ideal location out of the bunch, across the road from Queenscliff Surf Club. They do burgers and oodles of burgers and all chicken burgers. Each burger is themed to a country and its food. They aren’t fancy burger art, burger towers, or triple pattied gourmet freak burgers. They are glorious messy beach burgers hailing to days of old and taking your Oporto or your KFC even and taking a massive dump on them.
This was the Vietnamese Burger – more a bap style roll with lettuce, carrot, cucumber, coriander (but could have had three times as much) leek, honey soy sauce and mayo with the grilled chicken. While the ingredients are gourmet and it sounds fancy schmancy and it tastes incredible it is one of the least pretentious burgers I have indulged in in years.
It is quite possible I will trip up Speedo donned nippers fighting for burgers in summer – expect abundant queues on those brilliant bronzed beach days!
Mint | Manly
Mint Asian Salad Bar is in my opinion the best salad bar on the Northern Beaches. The first time I discovered them was after working at a charity for Rough Threads across the road and after a full 8hr day good friend Carrie and I found this place and ordered salads and these mountains of goodness arrived that were so incredibly tasty, healthy and just monstrous.
There are probably two camps for salads in Manly: Mint or Banana Blossom. Both are good but Mint wins for me, a small little non pretentious venue with salads made by the order and sizes are just epic, plus it was started from the famed How – who used to have the old How’s Chinese Restaurant in a unit block at the back of Manly years ago – god I loved that mismatched tableware and craziness. How still has a restaurant in Manly on the beachfront but it is a little more upmarket now and I don’t want to ruin the awesomeness of my stoned youth but as for the salads – I am all over them.
And by “them” I mean the Chicken Satay Salad, it is the only salad I have ever eaten there on my three visits and I want no other, I visit purely for this salad, oh and I also visit because they sell the Rooster Sriracha over the counter in the large bottle to take home – it is my go to place for sriracha top ups :).
They also serve all the salads in those cute Asian takeaway boxes so you can order them and take them to the beach – however I do believe the takeaway looks smaller. I just love this place and will have a full review coming if I can ever get a few people to come and eat there with me so they can order different salads haha.
Carinderia | Dee Why
I only discovered Carinderia the last two weeks – I had been driving up and down the beaches all week for work trying to find a secret gem for myself, one I did not know about or was told about and then at traffic lights on the main road of Dee Why I spotted Calinderia, a Philippine Restaurant. Then I kept seeing it every day that I would drive past and it hit me, I needed to suss this place out.
Growing up my best friend and still good mate, Brian “Poohman” Cutherbertson was from the Philippines and he used to always cook Chicken Adobo for me and I wanted to see if I had fallen in love with his cooking or if it was purely authentic but Carinderia also had pork adobo so thought I would try that out. The bonus of this place is that for $12- you get a choice of two dishes with rice, a dessert and a can of drink – what more do you want for a cheap eat gem? Plus you can get it takeaway. I was sold.
It is a traditional family ran venue that is completely no frills, they use smaller store bought rice cookers and slow cookers to make their food and it is a family business set up by mother and son. I got to know the family really well in my thirty minute stay. See that bowl of pork and that top piece of pork? I choked on it and nearly died, AGAIN!! and AGAIN with PORK!!! I smashed on the counter for attention while turning blue and the son bashed me on the back, the mum grabbed water, the grandma got napkins and I wheezed and tried to dislodge the freaking death pig. And it happened – I breathed again! And then in front of the entire family of about six people the pork came out of my nose in a snot waterfall haha. So freaking humiliating, the guy thought I was going into anaphylactic shock and I was considering whether death would have been better over the embarrassment of this occurring again!!!
Well once the breathing was happening again and embarrassment abated again I got back into the food, somewhat sheepishly and with slower smaller well chewed mouthfuls. I will say – the first couple of bites of the pork was a bit on the dry side but once I got into the lower parts in the adobo sauce I was in heaven – the vinegary soy goodness was bringing back more fonder memories than choking to death and I was back with Brian, drinking and smoking and devouring chicken adobo. The venue suggested the pork goulash as the second dish and it was quite nice but held little personal history with me after the adobo. The dessert you get for free is a Sago Pandan, a green jelly sago dish that is sweet and smooth, however if you nearly choke to death and meet the entire family they will give you two free desserts: above is the Porto Flan and the Sapin – both amazing sweets.
Carinderia does not have the best food in this list, but it has an amazing meal deal and the adobo took me back to tastebud and some of my favourite memories and it also has family. In my 30min visit I had a life and death experience, ate two dishes and three desserts, met a family, and discussed the Philippines with the eldest of the group who told me her husband used to choke from talking too much while eating. My memory of this place and its kind people will be as strong as my first chicken adobo from Brian.
You can stalk them on FB HERE.
MX | Mona Vale
Last on the list but in no way the least, in fact the most versatile and close to my favourite venue discovery on the list. I have only been here once for this article but will be returning to MX aka Mexicano at either Mona Vale or Narrabeen. Small sized but epic lunch and dinner Mexican taqueria. The aesthetics of the venue are minimalistic, clean and delightful and my OCD was buzzing.
These guys are suited to eat-in lunch and dinner would be awesome with some of their fantastic looking drinks and tequilas but for me it was a quick lunch roll and ginger beer. My Crisp Pork Belly roll with pickled red onion, Aioli , fresh Jalapeño was a take on their taco dish. This one broke my budget by a dollar. My roll and ginger beer came to $16 but it stays on the list because if I had water it would have been $15 haha.
The food on the menu is insane and hence why I MUST RETURN with friends for a full meal of indulgence to photograph and try it all. The food ranges from Snacks, bites and small plates e.g. Fried Chipotle Beef Chimichangas, Fresh Cucumber Chilli salsa (3) $12- HELL YES!!! Then Ceviche, salads and specials e.g. Twice Baked Goats cheese soufflé, grilled onion and Tomatillo $12 #drooling to Tacos, quesadillas and share plates including the taco version of my lunch and the desserts make me squeal – how does Cinnamon Bunuelos, Ice cream, Smokey chipotle Agave for $12- sound???? I know right!!!
This is more of an eat-in venue but while I was there two lots of local workmen came in to order lunch for takeaway – they found it odd the entire time I was there I photographed one roll and had not bitten into it yet, nice guys to talk to. I spent a good twelve years of life and school living in Mona – it holds a very special place in my heart and it is impressive to see such wonderful food getting up the beaches, a place I need to review and explore more as I am probably the only Northern Beaches food blogger :).
Thank you for reading – do you have any suggestions of places for me to try? Do you agree or disagree? One thing I thought I was missing was a fish and chips venue – but have no fear – Sydney’s Top 10 Fish and Chips venues are coming soon to Salty Popcorn – there was too many to choose from 🙂