The Best of Queenstown Street Food & Budget Restaurants
Queenstown is a city known for adrenaline-pumping activities skydiving, bungie jumping, speed boating and more. The city’s location on Lake Wakatipu makes them a particularly breathtaking place for walking and nearby hiking. The nearby vineyards of Gibston Valley is also a nice bonus for wine lovers.
During my time there, I was consistently impressed with the quality of Queenstown street food and their restaurants. Though Queenstown isn’t the cheapest place in general, I found some great food at approachable prices.
Queenstown seems to have it all. Let me show you what not to miss on your next trip there.
Note: All prices are listed in New Zealand dollars.
Addresses: 1 Searle Ln, 9300 (Food Stall); 23 Brecon St, 9300 (Food Truck) – Hours vary, check website for info
$16-20 per person
It had been nearly a year since I enjoyed my favorite fish tacos back home in Arizona. While traveling, I have found that it’s possible to enjoy many ethnic dishes prepared far from where they originated. Unfortunately, Mexican food doesn’t seem to be an easy one for many places to successfully replicate.
I found Taco Medic to be an exception. I also enjoyed the adaptations and different types of local ingredients they used in their interpretation of each dish.
Fairly new to the scene, Taco Medic first opened a Queenstown street food truck in 2014. Then in late 2015 they added a food stall in the center of the city. The humorous story of how this taqueria came to be is written on their menu. It says their founder was known as the ‘Taco Medico’, in Mexico. He then traveled to New Zealand and the name Taco Medic followed. Though they take their name lightly, they take the quality of their food quite seriously.
“The brisket is something special.”
Arriving at the food stall location on Searle Ln., I was greeted with welcoming smiles from Kyle and Sinead. I was excited to hear that monkfish was the fish of the day and had to give a fried fish taco a try. When asked what else I should try, Kyle said that everything is really good but, “The brisket is something special.” He seemed to know what he was talking about as he described everything. I trusted his judgment and ordered a brisket taco as well.
Kyle was right.
The battered monkfish was delicate and crispy. It was served over green cabbage which provided some additional crunch, a creamy Baja sauce, tomato salsa and coriander. Everything went together perfectly. The portion of fish was generous and fried perfectly. Taco Medic really came to the rescue on my fish taco craving. It was one of the best I’ve ever had.
The brisket truly is something special. It’s marinated in a special spice rub for 36 hours before getting slow braised for another 12 hours. The meat is so tender and delicious it could be served on its own with a spoon. Add the pickled red onion, slaw, chipotle crème fraiche and organic coriander on a tortilla and I was in heaven. Rich, juicy beef that melts in your mouth with a hint of acid from the onions, creaminess and a slight kick from the crème fraiche. A crunch from the cabbage and just the right amount of coriander. An incredibly delicious taco.
My first two tacos were so nice I had to try a third. For The Bushman, pork belly is sourced locally and marinated for 6 hours in a local honey. Crunchy apple slaw, a pork and onion jus that tasted similar to carmelized onions, coriander is added and pork cracklin’ is sprinkled on top. Be prepared for some serious crunch from the pork cracklin’! I really enjoyed the taco overall.
After extending my stay for two more days, I headed back to try Taco Medic again. This time, at their recommendations, I went with the prawn taco daily special and the nachos.
Prawn Taco (Daily Special)
Flash fried shrimp, cabbage, pickled onion, cilantro and chipotle crème fraishe make this taco another instant hit. The prawn flavor was delicate but held up to the other ingredients. Everything went together well and no single ingredient overpowered the rest. Beautifully done.
A mountain of amazingness on chips! I hope you’re hungry!
This was a real treat. One of my favorite parts of this dish is that they start with freshly prepared thick tortilla chips. This means they’re crispy down to the last chip, even with all the gooey toppings. Black beans cooked in garlic and thyme were the next layer. Then a generous amount of corn salsa, herbs and lime juice. I loved the tomato salsa that appeared to be blended. This meant it could be poured over everything and there was a little was in every bite. For the meat, I ordered the special brisket once again. Finally, a coriander crème fraiche on top. Served with a couple of forks.
I enjoyed every bite, though I struggled to finish it all along with a taco. For a main dish or to share, this was an incredible pile of nachos that you have to try. Highly recommended.
Overall, Taco Medic does an incredible job with this signature Queenstown street food. They have a great range of options and even a vegetarian taco selection. I’m so glad I had a chance to eat here more than once. Also, a huge thank you to Kyle and Sinead for all of the recommendations.
Address: 42 Shotover St, 9300 – Open 8:30am-5am
$15-20 per person
Reading food reviews and some to-do lists, travel blogs regarding Queenstown all seemed to point towards Fergburger. This is for good reason – they make some of the best burgers you’ll find in New Zealand!
The Chief Wiggum
On my first visit I was surprised to see 14 variations of burgers. Different types of meats, cheese and other ingredients cater to a vast number of palate preferences. One of the workers recommended the Chief Wiggum ($14.50). It’s made with pork belly, lettuce, tomato, red onion, aioli, and an apricot whole grain mustard. They cram a hash brown in there as well, because, why not?
The burger was sweet, savory, and overall, very good. The aioli and apricot mustard were nice standouts. The bun felt soft and provided flavor without getting in the way. The lettuce and tomato were thin and allowed for added flavor without being overpowering. My only criticism was that while the thicker pieces of pork belly were cooked perfectly, the thinner pieces were overcooked. Most of the burger was very good but a few bites of overcooked pork belly were not so great.
The fries were perfectly cooked with lots of flavor. I loved the homemade aioli, just as the staff said I would.
The Fergburger Double
I returned a second time to give the original Fergburger a try. After talking to the staff, I decided to make it a double ($15.50). At their recommendation, I also went with the brie cheese. This is not normally something I would do as brie usually tastes a little bland and salty for my preference but they seemed to know their stuff. I’ve also never tried brie on a burger. But hey, when in Queenstown…
The burger was incredible! Soft bun, juicy beef, crisp lettuce and onions – and that brie! I don’t know what they did to this cheese but it was unlike nearly every brie I’ve tasted before and it went perfectly with the burger, just as the staff described.
I enjoyed both burgers here but the Fergburger with an extra patty was my favorite.
Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to try the Sweet Bambi ($12.50) with a local deer patty, plum chutney, aioli and veggies. I also didn’t have a chance to try the monstrous BIG AL ($17.50). This behemoth of a burger is made with double meat, double cheese, bacon, two eggs, onion, lettuce, tomato, beetroot, relish and a “big wad of aioli”. I did have a chance to see it, though. Let me tell you, it’s a sight to behold. It was so big my friend ate half for dinner and half for breakfast the next morning.
Overall, it’s easy to understand why Fergburger has such a cult following. Every person I talked to about food in Queenstown told me to go here. The restaurant has a vast amount of rave reviews online and in print. Many of them are framed and posted in the restaurant. I highly recommend giving them a try.
If you’d like a coffee or baked good, check out one of their other concepts right next door.
Erik’s Fish & Chips
Address: 13 Earl St, 9300 – Open noon-9pm daily
$10-18 per person
Fish & chips is another popular Queenstown street food. Actually, it’s a popular dish all across New Zealand in food trucks, corner stores and restaurants. With the overall quality of food I had found so far in Queenstown I decided to give Erik’s Fish & Chips a try. They did not disappoint.
It was a cold and rainy day when I stopped by and there was only one other person in line. I talked to one of the guys in the kitchen about the three types of fish they offered. Of the hoki ($4.50), moki ($5.50) and blue cod ($9.90), he said the hoki was his favorite thing on the menu. I was excited to hear that as it was also one of the least expensive things on the menu.
I ordered a piece of hoki and a scallop ($3.50). Before ringing it up he explained that it would take about 10 minutes and asked if that was okay. I agreed.
The reason it took 10 minutes was because each piece of fish is taken out of the fridge, battered, floured and fried to order. I was also pleased to see they had several fry units. This is important because the fryer oil tends to take on the flavor of what is fried. Separate units mean you’re tasting the true flavor of a piece of hoki (or scallop) and not the taste of a potato or one of their fried desserts. It became clear they knew what they were doing.
Make sure to give their different types of vinegar, seasoned salts and hot sauce a try as well. Stop by Erik’s for some very good fried seafood.
Atlas Beer Cafe
Address: 88 Beach St (Steamer Wharf), 9300 – Open 9am-Midnight Mon-Fri (Closed Sat & Sun)
$25-30 per person
Another common recommendation from locals was that I try Atlas Beer Cafe. Specializing in steaks, tapas, and craft beer, I could hardly wait to head over for dinner on my last night. Located in a small space near the water, they were very busy for a Tuesday night. All of their tables were full but locally there were a couple of spots at the window bar.
I talked to one of the bartenders about his food and beer recommendations. I selected the steak medium rare with fries, salad, herb butter, and a drizzle of demi glace. To drink, I went with the Emerson’s Brewers Reserve Ale. The beer was full flavored with just the right amount of hops and high alcohol. Perfect for what I like in a beer.
I sat down at the window bar and chatted with a family next to me. They seemed to be enjoying their food. My steak arrived a few minutes later. It was a tall, thick cut of beef. The perfect size for medium rare. I let it sit for just a minute so that all the juices didn’t escape prematurely and then I cut into it. It was a perfect deep red inside, expertly prepared.
The steak with the demi glace and herb butter was one of the best steaks I’ve had at this price. Honestly, it was one of the best cuts of this type I’ve had regardless of how much it cost. The fries and salad were simple and well prepared. Everything went together perfectly.
Atlas has a small space and a small menu. They also have staff who are on point. I believe this combination allows them to carefully craft their food and drinks at very affordable prices for a small number of people each evening. Come early or hope to get lucky and find an open table when you can. Atlas is not to be missed during your time in Queenstown.
Map of Queenstown Street Food & Budget Restaurants
- Fat Badgers Pizza Bar: This popular pizza spot bakes up fresh pies in medium (enough for 2 people) for $17-25 and large (3-4 people) for $20-30. If you’re traveling solo, they also sell large slices for $5 each, with 4-5 different topping styles. I had two slices and enjoyed them but the whole fresh pizzas looked better.
- Pig & Whistle Pub: Lunch specials start at just $12. They also offer some drink specials and happy hour.
- Cookie Muncher Cookie Bar: I didn’t have a chance to stop in but this place supposedly does some incredible cookies. Ask about their 2 for 1 happy hour specials.
- Night ‘n Day: Open 24 hours, this grocery store offers hot steak pies, fish & chips for around $5-7 each and other cheap meals on the go. You can also grab groceries here if you’d like to cook your own food. I believe every hostel in Queenstown offers a large kitchen for use.
Where to Drink?
- Cowboys: Classic rock, eclectic vibe and a mechanical bull you can ride (at your own risk). One-liter ‘jug’ drafts for $10, all night every night, is a great deal. They even come with a few slices of free snack pizza before 8pm. The pizza won’t blow your mind but who can argue with free?
- Vinyl Underground: Rock music earlier in the day and great live music many nights of the week. Ask nicely if they have any hostel or backpacker specials and they may offer you pints for $5.
- If you’re into pricier and cool options, check out Below Zero Ice Bar and Minus 5 Ice Bar. Local bar crawls offer tours of many popular spots and no line/cover to at least one of the ice bars.
I hope that these recommendations of Queenstown street food and budget restaurants will help you to make the most out of your time in Queenstown. The scenery, people, food and drink were all top notch in my experience. Tnjoy your trip!
As always, feel free to post any thoughts or questions below.
Did you enjoy this post? Subscribe to my RSS Feed for future updates!