eating well on a budget thru NZ
Green lipped mussels are very inexpensive and wonderful. Each little town has a smoked fish store, that are the best fish ever. If you going all the way up to Cape Reinga area, a fish store called Manganui Fish store, about one hour east is the best fish and chips ever seen. If you are cooking, lamb big bargain and excellent
congratulations on your retirement ! we have a similar trip planned ....... in Auckland there are some food courts that you might want to check out: Food Alley - #9 Albert Street - in the Central Business District ....... largely Asian flavors. Ponsonby International Food Court - 106 Ponsonby Rd. Asian, Italian, Mexican, Turkish & Malaysian.
KK Malaysian Restaurants are popular and inexpensive - more than one branch in Auckland.
Sri Penang on 356 Karangahape Rd. ( K Road ) is great for curry & rice.
I agree with the green lipped mussel suggestion. Belgian Beer cafe in the Old Ponsonby Post Office (Auckland) does them brilliantly and cheap. Also the fish and chip shop in Mangonui (east of Kerikeri) is worth a visit. Mangonui is a very pretty town. Also in Northland, Whangarei has a fantastic farmers market on Saturday mornings (early). Worth it if you're passing through at that time but there is nothing else to go to Whangarei for.
In the South Island, if you're driving, stop in Kaikoura and go to the caravan near the seal colony (off the main highway, through the township about 3km) for fresh crayfish cooked on the spot and other great seafood. Cheap as ...
For a splurge, go to the restaurant "Fleur's Place" at Moeraki (on the east coast between Oamaru and Dunedin). If you Google them you should be able to find more info about the restaurant. Its amazing, and in the middle of nowhere.
Some pubs have good cheap food, Monteith's on the Octagon in Dunedin is one.
Forget the foodcourts. They may be good value for money but the atmosphere is terrible and they don't serve kiwi food.
All the cities have some excellent cafes ( and some not). Try Bambina and Dizengoff on Ponsonby Rd in Auckland - both daytime only. In Wellington the best and cheapest tend to be in Cuba Street. Try Fidel's (a grungy student haunt but don't let that put you off, the atmosphere is great) or slightly more upmarket Ernestos. Matterhorn (more expensive) is a nice place to go for an evening meal.
Have a good trip.
Thank you all so much for your very helpful replies. Here's an update of the major sites we're seeing in case you have any specific rec's (w/ emphasis on local flavor and budget prices:)
lakes Tekapo and Pukaki
Mac Kenzie Country
Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers.
Arthurs Pass National Park.
That's a lot to cover in 3 weeks. Good luck..
In Arrowtown, definitely go to "The Blue Door " wine bar and have a glass of Central Otago Pinot Noir. You can order a pizza from across the lane and they'll deliver it to the Blue Door for you. At the end of the same lane is Dorothy Brown's boutique cinema. Take your wine and pizza into the movie. The lane is off the main street, no sign on the Blue Door, but it's blue, of course. Ask anyone, they'll know where it is.
Not sure why you want to go to Omarama or Greymouth.
Queenstown and Wanaka are very beautiful. Food is generally overpriced and rather mediocre (rents are extremely high as they are tourist towns). In Queenstown, try "The Cow". There is an excellent gourmet hamburger place near the ASB Bank. Also a cafe called Vudu and another called Joe's Garage for good coffee and cafe type casual meals.
I have to smile a bit ...... "they don't serve kiwi food" apparently I misread the original poster's request for authentic food on a budget. I went for the budget and didn't realize that authentic might exclude any food other than kiwi. I'm from the US so what do I know ? - I'm sure your recs are good but the names are throwing me off a bit : Belgian Beer Cafe, Fidel's , Bambina, Dizengoff ....... tell me what authentic Kiwi food is again........ :~ )