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Looking for good food in Alice Springs and Adelaide without starched tablecloths

I'm a Baltimore (U.S.) chowhound visiting Sydney, Adelaide, Alice and Cairns in March next year. There's very little guidence on Alice and Adelaide, so we're looking for friendly advice.

We like strong flavors, local foods, interesting discoveries, friendly servers. Probably mid price, but occasional treats and workingmen's caffs can be good too. Fish, meat, veg-- theyre all good to us.

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  1. It's been a while, but if you find a "starched tablecloth" restaurant in Alice Springs, I'll be gobsmacked.

    7 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca

      OK pikawicca, then good food on greasy tables in Alice!

      1. re: curioussheridan

        Red Ochre is probably as good as it gets for formal dining in Alice. It has tablecloths with paper napkins.

        Otherwise, just prepare yourself for disappointment. The food is consistently average and very expensive, which is unsurprising given how far away you are from producers.

        I'd just go to the pub and eat there.

          1. re: curioussheridan

            Adelaide doesn't change much, the search results are still current.

          2. re: mr_gimlet

            Red Ochre has an interesting looking menu. Thanks. What about Barra on Todd?

            1. re: curioussheridan

              Motel restaurant. Will be solid, but hit and miss. Nice that they do prawns in malibu though.

            2. re: mr_gimlet

              I'd second Red Ochre. Just ate there last week and had a really nice platter of "local meats" -- kangaroo, camel, and alligator. They have a good wine selection, as well. You might also check out Bojangles in Alice Springs. It's a sort of ridiculously Outback-styled pub, a lot of fun. Good garlic prawns and pork ribs.

        1. We asked a couple who'd lived in Alice Springs for 30+ years the same question when we were at Uluru a couple of months ago. Basic take - if you want really good food, save your money for Sydney!

          We found that Page 27 cafe which is in a little alley off Todd St (pedestrian mall) was pretty good for coffee / lunch. (Alice).

          FYI - the supermarket at Uluru only gets fresh veges once a week. Pickings were rather awful the day the truck was due in! (we were there in the morning, truck from Adelaide due in at lunchtime-ish).

          4 Replies
          1. re: piwakawaka

            Uluru-- oh dear, I'll be there too.
            We'll be staying in a place in Alice with a stove-- any recommendable food stores?

            1. re: curioussheridan

              you also might want to think about bringing your own alcohol to Uluru. There is a bar there that you can buy alcohol from to take back to your room but you are paying the same price as if you were drinking in - so $28 for a bottle of wine that'd'be $12 in the store.

              1. re: piwakawaka

                Can we just be clear where we are talking about? You mean Yulara township, where the hotels are?

                1. re: mr_gimlet

                  yes I meant Yulara, but there quite literally isn't anywhere else! (next nearest pub is Curtin Springs, 80km away but we didn't go there). We did go to Kings Canyon Resort - alcohol was pricy in the pub (didn't eat there).

          2. It's been awhile but I love Adelaide and the 2 pubs with great food and drink that we enjoyed was the Exeter and the Union.
            Classic old school.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Beach Chick

              Thanks-- what kind of food is Aussie old school?

              1. re: curioussheridan

                Barramundi, lamb, and pints of beer (in NSW, called pots in FNQ)

                1. re: curioussheridan

                  Some classic old pubs have modernized the look and the food.
                  For me, I love a pub that with character and hasn't changed in the last 50+ years.

                  Barramundi is a fantastic local fish..and the pints are so dang good.
                  I love Adelaide..lived in a huge estate on a sheep farm for the month of December..it was a hoot!

              2. Hi Curioussheridan, as a base, what places are you looking at eating in Sydney? That will help me suggest places in Adelaide

                If you are heading to the Central Markets (which I strongly suggest) my favourite super casual place is Dumpling King in Chinatown. Has an almost cult following, always super busy. Don't go for service or a long sit down meal - you will be rushed out if you are finished and there is someone waiting for your table. Their best dish is the pork dumplings (I like them steamed but you can have them fried as well). They are around $8 for 15 - a big serving which fills up a good eater.

                For good cafes for coffee and breakfast or lunch, try Argos on the Parade or Bar 9 on Glen Osmond Rd - both are hugely popular and don't take booking so depends if you like loud, modern busy places. Neither are in the city so may be inconvenient if you are in the city without a car.

                In the city, try Rundle St if you are not sure what you want, there is a mix but mostly European. I don't love most places down there but nothing is bad, so it is a great spot if you are undecided. There is something for all along here though, and a mix of pubs, cafes, restaurants and chocolate/dessert bars.

                Depending on your age, I would also recommend Casablabla on Leigh St - Leigh St is a cobblestone street off Hindley St which in the past year or so has become popular. Casablabla is a tapas bar with live music most nights.

                The German Arms in Hahndorf is great for lunch/dinner if you are visiting the Hills (huge servings although slightly more expensive than it should be) and the White House also in Hahndorf is great for breakfast.

                American (North and South) food is really in at the moment with lots of burger bars, mexican and street food trucks popping up. Lots of these are really good but probably not what you would want coming from the U.S.

                Waymouth St has some great restaurants (Bistro Dom, Melt, Press, etc) but generally attract suits given the area. I would probably recommend Melt as a treat for pizzas, tapas and great wine.

                On Gouger St you will also find some great restaurants, it is a combination of cheap - mid price Asian, and higher price European (it is popular for business meetings but next to Chinatown so has a mix). Once again is a good place to wander if you are not sure. It's really busy on Friday nights which could be a plus or negative depending what you are looking for.

                In North Adelaide I recommend Ruby Red Flamingo on Tynte St (off O'Connell St). The Red & White and Blue & White (not its actual name but hey, its blue and white) burger shops on O'Connell St have been in competition since forever and serve a unique dish called the AB (don't ask what it stands for). Its hot chips and yiros meat, covered in garlic sauce and I think sweet chilli sauce? Deliciously ugly. Outback Jacks also on O'Connell St is not the best but has decent enough steaks and Australian meat (ie crocodile, kangaroo, etc).

                Also just realised you will be here in March. What dates? The Clipsal 500 (27 Feb - 2 Mar) and Fringe (14 Feb - 16 March) are right near Rundle St so if you are coming at those times, just beware that it will be busy.

                March in Adelaide is known as Mad March - it has our 2 biggest events and is practically the only time of year we get visitors. It is a great time to visit and very much alive.