Whenever we are new in town (and especially a tourist destination where it is often hard to track down a local to get the goss on the best places to go) scout around for places with line-ups. If it is hard to get in, chances are that the food is good!
1) Pho Vietnam
Using our highly scientific method of finding good food in a foreign city, our first trip to Pho Vietnam was based on the fact that there was a line-up out the door - and naturally, that is an indication that there is something good there! We asked for their house special, which was a clear noodle soup for under $10 - and it was just as delicious as anticipated. Served in a bowl that could easily feed 1 adult and two small children, it was impossible to finish, and has definitely become a favourite.
At $10 per plate of giant pasta, Vapiano in Surfers Paradise is one of the very best Italian restaurants on the Gold Coast. We really loved that the tables are lined with little basil plants that you can pick and add to your food, in addition to extra cheese and special vinegar available to drizzle over the bowls of cheesy deliciousness that you are served. At lunch time the simpler pasta bowls are $10 each and other pasta's are slightly more expensive. The view out over Surfers is also fantastic
The meat grocer at Carrara Markets is definitely a local secret, and it is THE go-to place for meat eaters on the Coast. Serving up a whole array of smoky delights, the ham hocks are famous around these parts and it is customary to see locals walking around the markets gnawing at a giant, hot roasted ham hock! Ham hocks are around $10 per hock and can easily feed 4-5 people. You need to get there before 11am though, or else there are often none left!
However, if you are vegetarian (which many members of our family are) the Carrara Markets also has an incredible array of cheap and delicious meat-free food, including the novel spiral-potatoes, and chocolate coated giant strawberries, available from smaller retailers.
Two words that you thought would never go together and yet now they do! Woolworths stores all around the Gold Coast are now set up with genuine, delicious sushi (run by a Japanese company) in-store, all at prices under $15. If you are in a hurry and don't have time to find a restaurant, surprisingly the sushi at Woolworths is on par with many small sushi chains!