Metamorphosing from dining wasteland to a gourmand's playground, the Gold Coast has award-winning fine dining options in spades. But there are also a bunch of down-to-earth, rustic and homely restaurants, cafés and diners that should definitely make the list next time you hit the Gold Coast.
RICK SHORES, BURLEIGH HEADS
Ask any local about Rick Shores in Burleigh Heads and you're guaranteed to cop an earful. So close to the beach you can hear the waves in-between mouthfuls, you won't know what's more impressive, the prime location or the flavour sensations blowing your mind, from bar snacks like the silken tofu with Sichuan eggplant sauce and crisp lettuce, through to the finger-licking main roasted pork shoulder with apple teriyaki and red miso.
PADDOCK BAKERY, MIAMI
Nutella doughnut sandwich. Got your attention? A bakery this may be, but Paddock Bakery's organic wood-fired sourdough is turned into all kinds of tastebud-tantalising treats at this cute renovated Queenslander in Miami. Surrounded by a thriving garden, fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs are handpicked to become the stars on the ever-growing and changing menu. The best part? It's open seven days.
SOCIAL EATING HOUSE, BROADBEACH
This suave culinary hot spot garnered John Cusack's Hollywood tick of approval, but to be honest we knew it was a winner well before then. The actor opted to dine at Social not one or two, but five nights running while filming on the Gold Coast. And it's not hard to see why he was so smitten. Hot Tip: Eat at the bar overlooking the buzzing kitchen for a slice of Manhattan living on the Gold Coast.
HELLENIKA, NOBBY BEACH
This Greek restaurant in Nobby Beach not only has some of the best atmosphere and décor along the coast, it also has the juiciest, falling-off-the-bone lamb shoulder to be eaten. It's also one of the best spots for a long Sunday lunch, just be prepared to leave full!
BONITA BONITA, MERMAID BEACH
Think scallops with hazelnut mole and chorizo crumb, piquillo poppers filled with melted Meredith goats cheese and slow-cooked lamb tacos followed up with sweet pumpkin empanadas with salted caramel. We'd say arrriba, but then we'd have to slap ourselves for being so cliché.
Chase Kojima of Nobu and Sokyo (The Star, Sydney) is the master of the menu here, with a lengthy selection of small bites, tempura, grill traditional sushi and sashimi taking you from tuna tataki with asparagus, enoki and tosazu leek sauce to cloud-like snapper tempura with coriander, chilli, black pepper amazu.
BAZAAR AT QT GOLD COAST, SURFERS PARADISE
This very cool buffet has a seafood station to rival any good fish and chippery, an Asian chef who steams up dumplings to order, someone pulling chunks of meat off a pig on the spit, a BBQ guy who grills steaks to order, a pasta station, pizza, charcuterie, salads, the list goes on and on.
JUSTIN LANE, BURLEIGH HEADS
Nestled down a lane in the surfing mecca of Burleigh Heads, Justin Lane suits the cool vibe of this area to a T. The bohemian set congregates here in big numbers on a Friday and Saturday night (expect to queue) for some of the best pizzas around. There's a rooftop bar and a cocktail list that keeps you going back for more.
MARKETTA STREET FOOD, MIAMI
Okay, so it's not technically a restaurant, but if you're looking to eat out on the Gold Coast, take a stroll down a laneway in Miami and get in on the buzz that is Marketta. Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evening, the markets serve up everything from Spanish, Italian, Thai and French cuisine – as well as boutique local beer and wine, a dessert hall and live music.
THE LITTLE PLATE, NORTH BURLEIGH
Little by name but certainly not by reputation, this boutique restaurant and bar tucked away in North Burleigh is a booking mandatory type of place – you don't want to miss out! A little bit Mediterranean, a little bit Asian, the tapas-style menu brings fine dining into the share plate philosophy. No amount of preparation is too much, it seems.