"Oh haiii there, I'm having a BYO Saturday. You keen?"
"Course I am old sport, I'll swing by Countdown for a $6 bottle of Obikwa. That's the ticket!"
BYOs; the 20 somethings' rite of passage, the "classy" way to pre-load before town and the best god dam dining feature since sliced bread. Whereas fine dining is really about delivering quality food, the BYO is a more complex beast artfully striving to deliver on many facets. It's not easy balancing a raucous BYO set up with cheap, tasty food, but these restaurants have nailed it. I've found, and no doubt this is backed by research and conventional wisdom, that the key to a great BYO is having laxish staff who don't mind turning a blind eye to a bit of cut-loose behaviour. Because let's face it, there are few things better than a solid game of fingers on the lazy susan at Canton with the death stare glare from any one of the circling staff.
Many weekends were spent painfully curled in the adult fetal position (cheeseburger(s) and Blue Powerade in hand watching Family Guy) seriously racking my brain for some memory of what was actually consumed and/or got up to the night before. So if there are some voids in the list, blame the BYO itself. With that in mind, roll down to your local and have a fun time. Win win, I say.
We'd like to pretend that this is the culinary bible, but in reality it's just great chat about some nice BYOs in the oh-nine. Happy BYO.
477 New North Road, Kingsland
Needing little introduction or justification, the number one for BYO in Auckland, Canton Cafe, earns its place for a reason. The Kingsland icon is renowned for consistently serving up great Chinese and although there is sweet F-all room to swing a cat, this wee spot is always down for a good time. The front room can at times resemble a guerilla war zone: food, chop sticks and people hooning about everywhere, but this is usually exactly what you're after when heading out on a Saturday night, so no apology necessary. Food wise, Canton's menu is vast and hectic - just let everyone order a dish and share the joy. Whether you're celebrating with the family or out with the intent on playing up - Canton Cafe is your winner, and chicken dinner.
137 Richmond Road, Grey Lynn
An old mate took me out to Covo the other night and they have since firmly cemented themselves in my good books, along with second spot on our count down. A hip little slice of Italy to grace a hip little road in G-Lynn. The pizza and pasta that Covo throw down will satisfy even the coolest of cats. Run by legit Italians who know their food, with recipes no doubt handed down from Ol' Mama Luigi, this place also boasts banter to boot - a friend of mine was recently proposed to there by an exuberant waiter, and if that ain't a sell on checking the place out, I dunno what is. Pizza and pasta, get in ma belleh!
100 Wellington Street, Freemans Bay
Konichiwa beetches! We all love Japanese and we all love BYOs, so its no surprise to anyone that Nishiki is in here at spot three. You can't beat the old teriyaki chicken and warm sake combo when you're feeling a little frisky. I'm also tempted next time to simply order 10 lots of tori mayo, which, for those of you who haven't tried this amazing dish, is probably the greatest use of chicken since the KFC Double Down. Nishiki is a BYO boss and is always high on our list of where to go with the posse. Close to town and Ponsonby, its pretty much a no-brainer for your next BYO.
17 Great North Road, Ponsonby
There are probably more Indian restaurants in Auckland than any other cuisine. But none do it as good as Satya. Weary travellers come from miles around just to savour the Dahi Puri. Wicked flavours are the mantra here, and the great thing about Satya's curries is that you dont seem to feel quite as rough afterwards as you might often do with the old Delhi Belly. Perfect for when you're planning on busting a move later that night and you're after full agility. Take it easy, wild ones.
244 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby
Like Indian, Thai is everywhere in Auckland these days. And although you wont get a Pad Thai for under a dollar in NZ, Thai Me Up gets us pretty blimmin' close to the insanely cheap and tasty feeds you will find from the road side stalls in Bangkok. Set in a funky little building with a bit of an indoor/outdoor flow thing going on, Thai Me Up should be your first call for a Thai BYO.
20 Williamson Avenue, Ponsonby
A "made-for-BYO" restaurant, Pane & Vino has a whole suite of conditions on its website about booking for a group. They know how most of these soirees go down and are (perhaps wisely) ensuring that their restaurant is somewhat protected from the weekly onslaughts. Can this list support another Italian BYO? Well when you've got Covo not far down the road and Pane & Vino booming out tasty lasagne, I can assure there is no problem, sir, no problem at all.
541 Dominion Road, Mt Eden
Who has got the best value for money feed around? New Flavour, buddy. Delicious dumplings are the go here and you'd be mad as a mad dog not to share them with your mates. The plates are vast and full to the brim. The BYOness also appears not to be limited to wine, so perhaps you can rock a Lion Red swappa crate next time and settle in for the arvo. Right in the heart of Dominion Road's cheap food extravanganza, New Flavour is so popular these days that getting a table can be difficult. Book early and eat well, this dumpling delight is here to stay.
294 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby
Strolling down the Pons on a sunny Saturday evening there is nothing like a Turkish fix to wet your whistle. Follow by dousing your throat with a tight little Sav Blanc and make a night of it. I've had my fair share of kebabs over the years and although many were after a large night on the juice, The Turkish Cafe knows how to serve one up in style.
57 Victoria Street West, Auckland CBD
I believe Mai Thai hit the scene around the mid 1970s right when the BYO hey day began and NZ's dining scene was forever changed. In terms of the perfect arena for a BYO, none can beat the private room at Mai Thai. With enough space for at least 30 mates, this spells DEMOLITION the hard way. The dangerous proximity to Sky City guarantees you'll be well fed when you throw some D's down on the blackjack table later.
50 Kitchener Street, Chancery, Auckland CBD
Rounding off the Ten Best BYOs in Auckland is Mamak, a largely unknown little Malaysian joint in the Chancery. Having discovered this place while working in town, Mamak is great for a work day lunch, or for revelling in those post Friday drinks when the alcohol has well and truly lubricated.
There's the list. No excuses now for not getting out there and having some fun. Bring it.
July 29, 2012 by Kieran Hoverd