Wow! Takeout food has gone in a an altogether new direction and is no longer a lazy, cheap, and sometimes unhealthy option if you can't be bothered cooking. It has taken a healthy and more upmarket turn and is increasingly being relished not just for lunch or dinner, but for breakfast too.

When putting together the 2010 Viva Takeout Awards, our team looked beyond traditional takeaway bars in order to reflect this shift.

What we discovered were myriad places offering food with flair, which is not too wicked on the waistline and, in many cases, caters for the increasing number of people with special dietary requirements. Here's the best of what we found.

BREAKFAST ON THE GO
Grind on High
51 High St, City, ph (09) 379 7344

We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day but that doesn't mean that in the blur of getting ready for work we manage to fit it in at home. This year we looked for places that offered a great start to the day where we could pick up a quality coffee and takeaway food and still be at our workplace before the bell rang. Even though we scoured Auckland, our two top favourites ended up being just metres from each other.

The prize for the best start to a busy day goes to the narrow, almost hole-in-the-wall, Grind on High in the city where you can pick up breakfast and a fantastic coffee and in many cases still come away with change from a tenner. We love their breakfast bocadilla for a mere $4.30 - free-range egg, tomato, basil and relish on a fresh, baked-on-the-premises roll. If that sounds too carb-heavy there's always the fresh fruit power pack for $7 - freshly cut fruit served with chopped nuts and a drizzle of honey and yoghurt.

For a touch of nostalgia we also recommend the toasted raisin toast ($3), ready to takeaway in a cute little recycled box with butter and jam - you'll be the envy of the office. But it's not just the food and great coffee that make this a great choice for breakfast - it's the incredible staff. Upbeat and cheerful without being annoying, they're the friendliest and most efficient team we came across, no matter what time of the morning.

Buns
60 High St, City, ph (09) 379 6939

A close runner-up was further along High St. Buns, an offshoot of Madam Jojo's Foodstore in Remuera (see lunch section) serves up the ultimate breakfast wrap, jam-packed full of eggs, hams, peas and served with a sensational tomato chutney. Great hot, even better cold. If you're not quite that hungry, the date scones are unbelievably delicious and a worthy accompaniment to a smooth, creamy Atomic coffee.

Loaf

For an alternative breakfast that's a little bit naughty the Viva team all agreed that teaming one of Sean Armstrong's designer doughnuts with your morning takeout coffee is worth a mention. Check out their website to find your nearest stockist.

La Boulange
214 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay, ph (09) 376 5145

Make like the French and grab a freshly baked pastry - croissant, raspberry basket or pain au chocolat - from this cute French grocer for a quick breakfast on the go.

The Juicery
72 Albert St, City, ph (09) 901 5098

For those who like a healthier option, Nicholas Buck at The Juicery continues to deliver tasty combinations of 100 per cent fruit and vegetable juices that seem to pump your body with instant vitality. The bircher muesli is highly recommended, as is the latest addition to the menu, the Green Smoothie. This is made up of leafy greens blended with apple juice, pineapple, banana, almonds and sesame seeds.

LUNCHTIME ANTICS

Remember the 80s when there was a sandwich bar fad? You could select your own fillings and the Vogels bread was sliced lengthwise. Very vogue. Then the sandwich seemed to take a back seat to sushi and panini. Now, with all the specialist bakeries we have in Auckland, the sandwich is making a comeback for lunch.

Swanson Cafe
12 Swanson St, Auckland Central, ph (09) 373 3753)

Around the corner from the Viva office is the Swanson Cafe, which has a queue almost out the door each day as dedicated regulars line up to order their own sandwich, 80s-style, proving that sometimes all we want is a good old-fashioned sandwich or filled roll.

Madame Jojo's Foodstore
581 Remuera Rd, Remuera, ph (09) 523 5545

Nobody does the sandwich better than Madame Jojo's Foodstore in Remuera who easily takes out the prize for best takeout lunch spot. Our favourite is the roasted pork with caramelised apple and slaw.

"The only reason to eat this slowly is to make it last longer" was one of the comments from our team who sampled this sandwich.

Madame Jojos also came top of our lunch list because their meatloaf (packed full of green olives), salads and sausage rolls are so freshly prepared, tasty and delicious we felt as though we were eating the very best of home-cooked food, not takeouts.

Ruby Red
30b Coronation Rd, Mangere, ph (09) 634 6454

Over the bridge (that's Mangere Bridge folks) and worthy of the runner-up's trophy, we couldn't resist Ruby Red, another haven for great takeout lunches which is owned by Viva's own Amanda Laird. Situated in Mangere Bridge Village, their ham and gruyere toasties pepped up with Dijon mustard and grilled with olive oil are worth travelling for. And these lovely people realise that lunch isn't complete without something sweet so they offer fabulous melting moments that truly do melt in your mouth, and ginger crunch that has such zing it'll get you through any afternoon.

DASHING DINNER
The Store
3 Averill Ave, Kohimarama, ph (09) 578 2503

With all the choices for ready-made meals, from supermarkets to upmarket delis, we couldn't ignore the fact that takeout dinners in 2010 often resemble the meals we used to cook at home. We went on the hunt for simple, healthy, delicious takeout dinners and the place that came out on top was The Store in Kohimarama.

Why? Because the meals here really are like those you cook at home after a busy day. What's more they're open seven days until 8pm so you've got the weekends covered too.

The chefs at the store put together daily meals on a two-week rotation menu, so there's a different Meal of the Day every day. The roast beef strip loin with warm potato and caper salad, dressed with cabernet sauvignon vinaigrette was a favourite with the team, but so was the herb-crusted fish with jersey bennies and homemade tomato relish and the roast pork belly with potato and sage bake with Granny Smith chutney (all $14.50 each). The meals aren't huge but they are great quality and prepared fresh with a "homemade-ness" to them that we loved.

Owned by the clever Jackie Grant and Scott Brown, of Cafe on Kohi, Richmond Rd Cafe and Takapuna Cafe, it's no surprise The Store is such a well-run eatery serving up top quality dishes. The pies are worth a mention too - try the steak and wine gravy or the lamb and rosemary.

Wok 'n Noodle
61 Normanby Rd, Mt Eden, ph (09) 630 6651

We still can't go past Wok 'n Noodle which won Best Asian in this competition in 2008.

Owner Chang Woo Lee, who is always on site with a big smile, has ensured their food continues to be consistently good and flavoursome. He knows regular customers by name and continues to create fresh tasty meals. Try the nasi goreng, it's delicious; while Lee is keeping up with foodie trends and offers gluten-free chicken and vegetables - that's the wok without the noodle!

Hong Kong & Chinese Cuisine Restaurant
64 Mokoia Rd, Birkenhead, ph (09) 480 1168

While we honour the "new trends" in this year's awards we couldn't ignore Birkenhead's Hong Kong & Chinese Cuisine Restaurant for a takeout dinner of fresh, super-good Cantonese food. The usual clues give this place away - masses of Chinese families, from students to grandparents, dining in, blastingly bright lights, formica tables and no-nonsense service. The menu is extensive but you really can't go wrong - try the spicy salty and chilli prawns or the barbecue pork if you don't know where to start.

QUICK BITES
Dragonfired Artisan Woodfired Food
Little Oneroa Beach, Waiheke Island

Over the weekends and throughout the summer season, a mobile woodfire kitchen sets up in this most idyllic of beach spots. Owned by Bevan Kaan (those with good memories will recall his sell-out macrobiotic evenings at K Rd's Verona) the team here serve up an array of delicious pizzas, pita pockets and polenta with salad. Particularly delicious when sitting in the evening sun after a day at the beach.

Crumpy's
76 Flanshaw Rd, Te Atatu, ph (09) 834 3979

Proprietor Martin Crump, son of Barry and just as much a character, has created the ultimate takeaway treat in the form of his onion, potato and cheese balls - it seems incredible that creamy whipped potato could be fried and taste so good.

Gingerbirds
357 Dominion Rd, Mt Eden, ph (09) 623 6653

For their amazing custard squares with passionfruit icing and ready to heat and eat takeout dinners like chicken, bacon and leek casserole and lamb & apricot tagine $16 each (serves 2).

Ripe
Richmond Rd, Ponsonby, ph (09) 360 6159

Normally Ange Redfern's delicatessen on Ponsonby Rd features in these awards because of her range of wholesome and hearty salads, but those who aren't quite so virtuous when it comes to food on the run will know that the sausage rolls here are the bomb. Just don't leave it too late in the day to get one - they sell out, fast!

Taste of Fiji
535 Sandringham Rd, Sandringham, ph (09) 845 0220

Try the freshly made samosa here - three for $5 and cooked while you wait. Soft, tasty and immensely pleasing.

Indian Sweets & Snacks
Atkinson Ave, Otahuhu, ph (09) 270 3275

Check out their bags of scrummy roasted chickpeas and samosas served with tamarind.

Raw Power
10 Vulcan Lane, Auckland Central, ph: (09) 303 3624

Here they get the award, if there was one, for consistency. This vegetarian cafe has a seemingly never-changing array of salads available to eat in or take out for lunch. But we like that familiarity - there's almost a retro feel to Raw Power with its bowls of broccoli, pumpkin, cottage cheese and chickpea salad. Smart Choice Food Queens

Arcade
Queen St, Auckland Central

While the name might not be the most inspiring, the sushi they create here is. Choose for yourself from freshest selection of individual pieces of sushi. There's a strong emphasis on seafood, plus we love the classical music and the charming man on the till.

Mangere Strawberry Farm
127 Kirkbride Rd, Mangere

Head here for fresh strawberry icecreams. The queues are a mile long in the weekend, but it's worth it. Creamy and icy with lovely chunks of strawberry.

Jai Jalaram
570 Sandringham Rd, ph (09) 845 5555

Another vegetarian favourite. Try the dabeli, a traditional Indian vege burger, washed down with one of the best mango lassis in town.

GLUTEN FREE

Having special dietary requirements no longer means you need to miss out of some of our old favourites. We were heartened to find the number of places offering gluten free options. Here's five of the best we found:

The Chip Shop Ltd
711 Manukau Rd, Royal Oak, ph (09) 625 3833

Winner of two "Best Chips" awards (2009 & 2010), this fish and chip joint is old school with a twist. A full menu of GF options including all the usual suspects - potato fritters, battered fish and shellfish, hot dogs and even pineapple fritters - is offered alongside the usual menu and cooked in separate oil. Owner Trevor explained that many of his regulars now prefer the gluten free batter to the standard flour batter and we could see why - crisp, crunchy, perfectly encasing the fresh tarakihi fillets. Their award-winning chips are thick cut agria potatoes cooked in rice bran oil and they're perfect - golden on the outside, fluffy in the inside and not over salted.

Gorgeous New York Pizza Bar
372 Dominion Rd Mt Eden, ph (09) 630 3378

We all know that it's the pizza dough bases that are the all-important measure of a great NY or Italian style pizza. True, it's hard to get the perfect base without the gluten but we were sorry when we researched some of Auckland's most revered pizza joints that none were serving pizza with gluten free bases. But we're happy that Gorgeous NY Pizza Bar is relaxed enough to offer a gluten free option for its customers. We don't want to miss out on great pizza because we're intolerant of gluten!

Revive
16 Fort St ph (09) 307 1586 and 33 Lorne St, (09) 303 0429

Open until 8pm on a work nights this is the perfect place to refuel in a healthy way after a big day in the office. Busy professionals love this place and so did our team with their weekly menu plan of generous meals like chickpea and spinach korma on brown rice or the amazing "not butter chicken" (no butter or chicken!) with tofu for $10.30 each. Owners Jeremy and Verity Dixon have a passion for providing great food that brings vitality into their customers' busy inner city lives and they make sure that over half of their meals are GF and we love them for it.

Murder Burgers
128A Ponsonby Rd, ph (09) 550 5500

Great burgers and all of them offered with gluten free buns. Try their excellent vegetarian burger for $9.90 - a fabulously spicy, soft falafel patty, dressed with a creamy mint dressing.

Dosa Plaza
875 Dominion Rd Mt Roskill, (09) 629 6290

Slightly off-putting is the obvious franchise-style and the enormous menu of themed Indian dosa but nonetheless we can't go past their Harabhara masala at $9.50 - a savoury Indian rice flour pancake stuffed with a mint & spinach paste and served with a spicy masala sauce. Plenty of Indian families coming in for takeaways was a sure sign that Dosa Plaza has got something right.