Traveling gives you a great opportunity to try local flavors and cuisines, street vendor delicacies and cheap snacks. Unfortunately, in Australia, most of those things are American. If you need a quick bite, you can go to 7-11, stop by a Baskin Robbins, or get a bag of Doritos at the grocery store.
If there is a typical Australian snack food, it might be the meat pie. It’s cheap and portable, and as easy to find here as crepes are in Paris; just head to the nearest pub or bakery. There are several variations (beef, kangaroo, tandoori, Thai, etc.) so you can experiment with flavors. Some places will offer it with mash and peas on top, or as a floater, which includes gravy. If they ask if you want “sauce”, they likely mean bbq or ketchup.
When you’re tired of meat pies, or when you have to eat in less than 15 minutes for less than $5, you may have to resort to fast food. No worries. Even within the American grease establishments, there are some less-than-American options.
(A dining tip: If you want ketchup, you have to request it when you order. There aren’t any of the big vats you’re used to, or bins full of packets to grab. Ditto with napkins.)
Oporto is a slight step above fast food, offering fresh roasted chicken, either whole, in a burger, as nuggets or in a wrap. You may want to leave their special chili sauce off, as it’s an acquired taste. The french fries here are incredible, flavored with a spicier seasoning than the regular salt you get at most places. When I had no other options but fast food, Oporto was always my first choice.
Before you turn your nose up at this suggestion, read my earlier entry on why I think you should always try to eat at a McDonald’s when you’re in a foreign country.
At home you might call it Micky D’s, but here it’s “Maccas.” You can still get your Big Mac, supersized fries and an apple pie for dessert, but why would you? Why not try the Seared Sweet Chilli Wrap or the McFlurry made with Flake bars or Milo (an Ovaltine type powder)?
McCafe was an option in Australia long before they started to appear in North American, and you’ll find roughly the same selection in both places: a nice selection of muffins and cakes and pastries. Try the mango cheesecake or passionfruit kiss biscuits for a little zing in your mouth.
Hungry Jack/Burger King
Yes, they are exactly the same. The only difference is the name. Hungry Jack came first, and some were renamed Burger King, but the Aussies didn’t like the Americanization of the restaurant they grew up with, so now you see both, sometimes within a block of one another. The Whoppers and onion rings are just like you remembered them, but get an Aussie Burger for that fresh taste of egg and beet root. Mmm, mmm, beet root.
They even have the Subway diet here. Can you believe it? There’s not much difference in the local menu, but there are some special Aussie toppings, like beet root. They really like that beet root.
The Colonial is a popular guy down under. The chicken substance is identical, but if you want a dipping sauce you can choose from the usual bbq amd sweet and sour, as well as chili or satay. Forget about getting some good ol’ southern biscuits though, they’ve never heard of them.
The commercials are completely offensive, and would never be run in a country that had any kind of Latin community, but the food is just like back home. Whether or not that’s a good thing is up to you. Compared to most Australian “Mexican” restaurants, it’s a welcome taste of authenticity, which is saying something.
Pizza Hut and Dominos
Pizza is pizza. Both are decent. For something different you can get the Aussie pizza at Dominos which includes bacon, egg, onion, tomato and cracked pepper on bbq sauce. The Chilli Prawn pizza, which includes baby spinach, onion, chilli flakes and chilli sauce also sounds like an adventure.
No big chains for kebabs, but small take away places are abundant, although slightly pricier than typical fast food. A beef (a.k.a. doner) kebab or falafel roll will run between $5-8, and some places offer good kebab/fries/drink combinations for under $10.
In Sydney: Betty’s Soup Kitchen
The eats here run about $10 a person, but if you’re craving a big, warm, hearty meal, you won’t be at all disappointed. You get a hunk of delicious, freshly baked bread just for sitting down, the portions are large, and the service is faster than most fast food places. Betty’s is located in the heart of Oxford Street, so it’s the perfect place to grab a bite before hitting the surrounding bars and clubs.
Happy snacking, mate!