Takeaways - perfect for when you're time-starved but starving. But how to choose from the myriad takeout options so you don't find yourself sliding down the health scale or worse still, lowering your food standards?
We love our city for being able to get a top-notch takeout beef bourguignon one night, a healthy hot dog from a celebrity chef the next, a raw feast the following night and then succumb to a feast of fish and chips, as fresh as you like, the next. We are spoiled for choice. Here are our top picks, in no particular order, for when you're in need of some tempting takeouts.
You can share your top picks here.
Food Truck Garage
The Food Truck TV show changed the way we view takeaways and their permanent fixture in the super-cool City Works Depot means you can swing in and order some healthier takeaways without feeling guilty. They do the best hot dogs in town, we reckon, using soft spelt flour buns and inventive fillings like paua sausage or free-range pork with watercress.
We rate the hamburgers, too, because they're small and therefore enticing, with seedy buns and real meat patties. The baked chips - a mix of agria potato, swede and beets served with a lime emulsion - are fabulous.
Must try: Papple dog - pork with pickled fennel and watercress in a spelt flour roll, $8, baked chips, $6, burgers, $12.
Shed 1, City Works Depot, 90 Wellesley St, City, ph (09) 973 2305.
My Underground Kitchen
We love the new face of takeout with Jess Daniell's concept - My Underground Kitchen.Taking full advantage of social media, Jess posts the week's menu online through Facebook, her website and Twitter, then hungry diners order by noon and Jess and her helpers set about cooking, posting their kitchen progress as they go. Food is ready for delivery or pick up between 5-7pm. The food is sensational because it is prepared same-day and you feel like you're calling into your neighbour's who has cooked you dinner! It's so fabulously convenient and affordable at $10-$12.
Must try: Beef bourguignon with mash, smoked fish pie, prawn laksa.
We know it's a franchise but we love The Fishmonger in St Heliers, as it's more a seafood deli than your stock-standard fish and chip shop. From raw fish salads to fish cakes, chowder and wickedly good salt and pepper squid, we love that this place diversifies from the usual offerings. It's not cheap but the standard is high and we have to agree with their own tagline - "One visit and you'll be hooked!"
Must try: Salt and pepper squid, sm $6, lg $11.50; seafood chowder $7.50.
16 Polygon Rd, St Heliers, ph (09) 575 0537.
This group of eateries has taken Auckland by storm since it opened late last year. Strolling around, you can happily choose from top quality Thai, Argentinian barbecue, Japanese, central American, pizza and more. We love it all for lunch or dinner. Best to phone ahead for takeaways though, as sit-in diners can take precedence.
Must try: Empanadas, $6 from Maldito Mendez; Poh Pia Puk (amazing spring rolls), $8 and Massaman curry, $18.90 from Wang Thong; Spaghetti alle vongole (cockles, chilli, garlic), $12 from Jimmy the Fish; Meatball sandwich, $17 from Dairy.
Cnr Brown St & Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby.
The Lucky Taco
This moveable truck can be found parked up on Ponsonby Rd most Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and some Sundays - they're worth a visit! Tacos are full of fresh, zingy flavours and the corn tortillas are soft and scrummy.
Must try: Taco de pescado (fish), $7 for 1, $12 for 2, lucky chilli bowl, $10.
Sometimes at 230 Ponsonby Rd; check theluckytaco.co.nz
Al Volo Pizzeria
There's never been so much choice for pizza in this town but we still hold this little beauty at the top of Mt Eden Rd in high esteem. The bases are always bang on, with smoky wood-fired flavour, the edges blistered and crispy in all the right places, soft-centred but never doughy, and the toppings are the real deal.
Must try: Brianzola - mozzarella, Italian sausage, oregano, parmigiano, $25.50, Margherita - basil, mozzarella, $18.50.
27 Mt Eden Rd, Grafton, ph (09) 302 2500.
For reliability, great flavour and substantial takeout meals we like The Store, in Britomart or Kohimarama. Over winter they do braised dishes and amazing pies to pick up, and their lasagne has layers of tender house-made pasta and smooth, creamy bechamel. We think their gelato is some of the best around and they'll even package it up in its own mini-chilly bin to keep it cold on the way home.
Must try: Beef cheeks with mash, $14, lamb tagine with couscous, $14, lasagne, $12. Salted caramel gelato.
5-9 Averill Ave, Kohimarama, ph (09) 578 2503. 5B Gore St Britomart, ph (09) 366 1864.
The Fish & Chip Shop
"Fresh, fresh, fresh" was what our judges said about this takeaway. Fish comes battered or panko-crumbed, deep fried or pan-fried and there are gluten-free options. Almost always on the menu is snapper, tarakihi and gurnard and the catch of the day changes daily.
Must try: Gurnard, $5.50 a piece (100g).
160 Sandringham Rd, ph (09) 846 6884.
This import from the Dunedin chain rocks our world if we're after a late-night burger. We love the names, like Velvet Lady, Animal Rights (vege) and The Stag, and you get to choose between chunky or skinny chips, half or full scoop, and they're fabulous.
Must try: Homegrown - lamb patty with beetroot and horopito chutney and a minty sauce, $10.90, Squawk Dawg - juicy beef patty with Velvet relish and aioli $8.90.
18 Fort St, City, ph (09) 358 3164.
A fix of nasi goreng from here recently reminded us just how good Wok'n Noodle is. Loaded with chicken and prawns, it was a flavoursome treat, as was the cheeky mix of entrees we ordered. A mix of Japanese meatballs, money bags, curry puffs and more, they were delightfully tasty, handmade and not greasy. Wok'n'Noodle offers healthy options, including the choice of brown rice, and gluten free and carb-free dishes.
Must try: Nasi goreng, $14, teriyaki chicken, $14, and the Wok'n Noodle speciality - a scrummy mix of prawns, calamari, cashews, lots of fresh vegetables, coriander and a secret chilli paste, $15.
53 Shortland St, City, ph (09) 358 0088. 61 Normanby Rd, Mt Eden, ph: (09) 630 6651.
Walk into this sprawling organic food store and you instantly feel uplifted. The staff are friendly and upbeat and the bar of nutritious "living" plant-based salads and hot dishes are as good for the body as they are for the pocket.
Must try: Roasted pumpkin and chive risotto with brazil nut cheese, $10, Karengo and wild rice, 90c.
23 Crowhurst St, Newmarket, ph (09) 529 9529.
Think coconut milk, chillies, ginger, galangal, garlic, lemongrass. The flavours here are layered, rich, spicy and gorgeous. Kuta Bali's food is certainly authentic and delivers a loving, home-cooked taste to its dishes. For milder palates, we recommend the soto ayam - it's a clear soup made from chicken stock infused with a bunch of spices, served with chicken and noodles. Other versions of laksa-type sotos are also available - the soto medan contains chicken and prawns, while soto betawi has juicy pieces of beef and potato. For us, the nasi padang is a winner - it's a generous, divine-tasting meal that shows off traditional Indonesian cooking well. Rice, grilled chicken, beef rendang, hard-boiled eggs drenched in a yummy spicy chilli sauce (called balado) and stir fried vegetables. Completely delish! All meals are halal and vegetarian options are offered.
Must try: Nasi padang $12, soto ayam, $10.
Shop 10, Ponsonby International Food Court, 106 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby, ph (09) 378 0520.
Little Bird Unbakery
Nothings beats Little Bird if you're being healthy but want tasty takeout food. With a cabinet and menu of 100 per cent raw food that changes daily, we can never go past the pad thai or the cheesecakes and tarts, which are just incredible - we still marvel at the richness, given they're sugar and dairy free!
Must try: Mini banoffee pies, $6, thom kha, $15, avocado & lox sushi plate, $15.
385 New North Rd, Kingsland, ph (09) 550 7377. A Ponsonby store is opening soon.
Sam Woo Vietnamese Cafe
Otahuhu appears to be holding unofficial status as the Vietnamese cuisine quarter of Auckland. There are three restaurants serving up good Vietnamese takeout within 100m of each other and a few more in the wider area. Our pick is Sam Woo, a place that is cheap, cheerful and always busy. The menu is extensive and delivers a more Chinese influence - you can get soup-based or dry-style rice noodles and egg noodles, fried rices, roast meats (barbecued pork, grilled pork chops, roast duck) or stir fried dishes on rice, foo yongs and chow meins. We've been told by staff that the spicy squid and spare ribs are popular, as are the Vietnamese spring rolls. They come wrapped in either rice paper or lettuce and are simple and good. For more traditional Vietnamese flavours, we recommend the grilled chicken marinated in lemongrass or the quintessential Vietnamese street dish, pho.
Must try: Grilled chicken in lemongrass, $15, beef pho, $8.50.
15 Princes St, Otahuhu, ph (09) 276 8226.
Mamak Malaysian Restaurant
We love this place. The service is fantastic and special mention must be made of the ever-jovial Jeffrey, who never fails to draw out a conversation and a laugh with his Malaysian sense of humour, even if we're only picking up takeaways. The menu is well thought-out, offering the best of Malaysian street food, and caters for vegetarians and vegans, and all meals are halal. Their home-made sambal sauce is deliciously sweet and spicy - you can get this on grilled prawns or balls of squid as appetisers. Nasi lemak, as many Malaysian food aficionados know, is one of the barometers of how good a Malaysian place is. And Mamak does it well. The beef rendang has an amazingly rich and authentic flavour and the ikan bilis (fried anchovies) is perfectly crisp and salty and couples deliciously well with the coconut fragrant rice. Their char kuay teow has to be one of the best we've tried in Auckland. They've tweaked it slightly, using thinner rice noodles, and the taste is second to none. Last and by no means least is their roti canai, handmade in their kitchen (unlike many places that use store-bought varieties) - heavenly, flaky and very true to what you can get in Malaysia. We're drooling at the thought of the chicken rice, which we've been told will be added to their menu soon. Well done guys.
Must try: Char kuay teow, $13.50, roti canai with chicken curry, $15.50.
The Chancery, 50 Kitchener St, City, ph (09) 948 6479.
Hong Kong & Chinese Restaurant
Always packed with locals dining in, this place is the business with generous portions, cheap prices but great quality. We recommend phoning for takeaway pick-ups and be advised that peking duck needs to be ordered a day ahead.
Must try: take your pick - the choices are too many.
Shop 12, 64 Mokoia Rd, Birkenhead ph (09) 480 1168.
The Flaming Onion
We're a bit reluctant to rave about these boys again; last time they made Viva's list there were queues out the door of our neigh- bourhood joint. We can't begrudge them every success when they put so much love into their homemade sauces, hand-cut chips and succulent patties. We love their seasonal burgers of the week - winter saw some clever ways with kumara (hummus with handmade falafel, roasted with haloumi and lamb).
Must try: Even the confirmed carnivore can't say no to the vego Herbosaurus of crumbed haloumi, puy lentils and seasonal veg, $12.50. Or the Hound Dogg of organic smoked beef sausage with their own jalapeno relish, $8.50.
1 Lydia Ave, Northcote, ph (09) 419 0325.
Middle Eastern food is much more than just a soggy kebab and dry, bullet-like falafels, and this little shop in Kingsland proves that. Food is made to order - we recommend phoning in your order, as they can take a while. Bowls of hot fava beans tingle with a sprinkle of sumac and paprika, and, served topped with yoghurt, fresh chopped tomato and lemon juice and a generous lick of olive oil, they're a hearty meal. Their falafels are some of the lightest little chickpea patties you'll taste and dunking these into sharp yoghurt dressing and the house-special garlic sauce before popping them into your mouth is heavenly.
Must try: Falafels, $7, Fava beans, $8.
482 New North Rd, Kingsland, ph (09) 815 8652.