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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.
Thanks!

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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.

                1. Anything new and exciting in Adelaide? we are looking for modern Australian/seasonal/creative. We have a couple of nights in Adelaide before taking a long train trip.

                  How's Orana?

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: debbieann

                    Hi Debbie, I haven't been (I'm currently pregnant so my choices are a bit restricted!) but have heard it's good. Would definitely be the best fit for what you are looking for.

                    What price range are you looking for and do you have a car or would you like to stick to the CBD?

                    1. re: keedm002

                      we're completely flexible on price, but we won't have a car for that first night in Adelaide, when we get back from Darwin, we might get a car if I can't find any good tours of the Barossa.

                      1. re: debbieann

                        If you self drive to Barossa and want a splurge lunch there, head to Hentley Farm (or if you go to McLaren Vale, D'Arrys Verandah). Both fit the seasonal/creative/modern Australian bill perfectly.

                        Press Food and Wine in the city is great, as is Melt next door.

                        Most of what is new in Adelaide other than Orana is more casual (burger joints are very in at the moment). Street which is part of Orana is an example of this and worth checking out as well if you want somewhere more casual.

                        If you head to North Adelaide, check out Ruby Red Flamingo (Italian) or Gin Long Canteen (Modern Asian), same owners and both on O'Connell St.

                        You haven't said when you are coming but check to see if there is an AFL game on... our new Adelaide Oval generates some issues we are not used to with restaurants and the roads being very busy.

                        If you are coming mid-late Sep, there are 2 new restaurants opening up - Jamies Italian on King William St near Rundle Mall, and Seans Kitchen in the casino on North Tce.

                        1. re: keedm002

                          When I lived in the UK a Jamie's opened up in my town, I found it disappointing and reminisced about the great cheap/casual Italian good we enjoyed when we lived in Adelaide - is CIbo still around? It will be interesting to see how it fares - no doubt the name will draw the crowds.

                          1. re: PhilD

                            There is already one in Perth. It isn't actually that bad, but part of it is quite well priced for Perth.

                            I liked Cibo when I went to Adelaide regularly.

                          2. re: keedm002

                            We are doing the big train trips of Australia, so this month we arrive in Adelaide Saturday night Sept 6 and then leave on the Ghan Sunday morning, then spend a night in Darwin and take the train back and arrive in Adelaide Friday morning and then don't leave until Monday morning. For that 3 night part, I thought we'd go to Barossa, but I'm not sure where to stay or where to eat. I'm not willing to spend top of the line prices, which seem to be over $500/night! but I do love a bit of luxury, and good food. But the problem w self drive is that it is hard to have a great dinner w wine and then drive, so we might want to stay where we want to eat.

                            Then in Oct we have a similar amount of time in Adelaide, one night and then three nights, mid-Oct. (taking the train out to Perth and back). Maybe we'll see McLaren Vale.

                            Are there tours that are as good as self drive? ideally a tour that would pick us up at the train station?

                            The train trip involves sleeping in seats, and train food, or packed food, so I'm really looking forward to Adelaide/Barossa/McLaren.

                            1. re: debbieann

                              The Barossa wineries and stuff are quite spread out, and close to Adelaide, so a good prospect for joining a decent tour. McLaren Vale is much more compact, so I'd base myself in a motel there and walk to most places and use the car for the odd couple that aren't within walking distance.

                              Both areas have cheaper motel accommodation and it's quite affordable.

                              1. re: mr_gimlet

                                Not certain I would advise walking in McClaren Vale - its still some distance between wineries...! We did a camel tour which was fun. The Clare Valley is further away and maybe better for staying and food.

                                1. re: PhilD

                                  Agree with PhilD - I wouldn't recommend doing a walking wine tour but the camel tour is quite good (I haven't done the winery tour itself just the tour of McLaren Vale which was good). There are a few cellar doors on the Main St in McLaren Vale but are not the best from the area. I like D'Arenberg, Hugh Hamilton and Coriole amongst others. Great lunch at D'Arenberg and Coriole - Coriole does an amazing platter using their produce (Woodside cheeses, Coriole olives and verjuice, etc), while D'Arrys Verandah does a great degustation for a longer sit down lunch. Ekhidna also does good casual lunches with a beautiful vineyard view. If you go on a Saturday you can head to the Willunga Markets for brekkie and a look around at local produce.

                                  I can't recommend any tours for McLaren Vale or Barossa as have always self driven, which is the cheapest and best option if one of you is willing to not drink too much. If you are self driving, best to plan ahead what wineries you want to see and if there is more than 2 of you consider booking in (not essential, but has it perks - Rockford in Barossa has a separate group booking room which is free and so much better than the hustle and bustle of the other room).

                                  You may like to get some produce and goods from around Barossa, have a big lunch and then have these for your dinner (local cold meats, maggie beer products, etc). This is what we tend to do when we do winery tours in any of the regions, is nice to have a big lunch and then relax in a nice b&b with yummy bits and pieces and a few bottles of the wine you have bought that day ;)

                                  1. re: keedm002

                                    Just to clarify - it was more the walking to dinner angle in McLaren Vale that I recall, not tasting.