Is Mudgee too mainstream? Already peeled Orange? When finding your next foodie destination don’t overlook the Riverina region of NSW. It’s time to pay Wagga Wagga a visit.
Approximately five hours’ drive south of Sydney (exactly one Maccas and one fuel stop later), visiting Wagga Wagga isn’t usually the first item on the gourmet travel checklist, but I’m here to let you in on a little secret: much like its local farms, Wagga Wagga has started to bear foodie fruit with these restaurants.
1. The Brew
Come breakfast, brunch or lunch, The Brew is a winner. Housed within an old corner store but featuring a thoroughly modern vibe (and menu), there’s a smattering of tables outside its tiled exterior, but you can’t beat this cafe’s spacious backyard on a sunny day.
Expect dishes such as white chia and red rice pudding with dragon fruit, kiwi, vanilla coyo and puffed grains, or a red bean cassoulet with baked eggs and a French stick on the side, from its seasonal menu. There’s a less exotic menu available for little ones too.
Drop by The Brew to refuel.
Address: 67 Coleman St, Turvey Park NSW
2. Mr. Lawrence
Flinging open its doors in October 2021, Mr. Lawrence has helped to heat up the dining scene in Wagga. A cafe, restaurant, and bar all in one, it’s run by two experienced local chefs and turns out some inventive – and immaculately plated – dishes such as spicy burnt butter eggs with speck, and a fried Murray cod burger replete with a pine nut slaw and sriracha mayo.
Mr. Lawrence has helped to heat up the dining scene in Wagga.
Address: 187 Fitzmaurice St, Wagga Wagga NSW
3. Thirsty Crow Brewery
Know your IPAs from your golden ales? Don’t worry, neither do we! What we do know is the pizzas are absolutely delicious at The Thirsty Crow Brewery. The lads here take the hardship out of decision-making by providing a simple and tasty menu.
Pizza and beer? Yes, please! (Image: Destination NSW)
Once you’ve ordered your pizza, ask them for the best pairing beer and head out to the sun-drenched beer garden. Warning, keep your calendar as clear as the weather as this could potentially turn into an all-afternoon affair.
Try their Mexican beef and bacon pizza. (Image: Destination NSW)
Address: 153 Fitzmaurice St, Wagga Wagga NSW
4. The Artisan Baker
If you’re visiting Wagga in winter then the Artisan Baker on Morgan Street is the perfect place to warm up with a bowl full of soup and a fresh, crusty baguette. The bakery rotates through a delicious selection of daily soup specials, including French onion soup, potato and leek, Moroccan lentil and more. You can also choose from a selection of French pastries and sugar-laden treats to enjoy for dessert.
Address: 2/189 Morgan St, Wagga Wagga NSW
5. Trail Street Coffee Shop
The Trail Street Coffee Shop is really an all-rounder: come for breakfast, lunch or just a cup of one of the best coffees in town. Lunch is the perfect mix of hearty burgers, salads, nourish bowls and sandwiches. We’d recommend the salmon poke bowl with seasoned black rice, pickled purple cabbage and cucumber, charred corn, avocado, Kewpie mayo and edamame beans. If you’re wanting something a bit greasier, go for the fried chicken burger.
Grab a bite of the signature chicken burger at Trail St Coffee Shop. (Image: Justine Brentenall)
Stopping in for breakfast? The butter croissant French toast with strawberry syrup, lemon curd, berries, wafer crumbs and double cream is the ultimate indulgent breakfast, or if you’re more of a savoury lover go for the pumpkin breakfast salad – it’s also on the healthier side. If you’re searching for the perfect cafe (and coffee), it’s also worth checking out our list of the best cafes in Wagga Wagga.
Their coffee is a must-try. (Image: Justine Brentenall)
Address: 34 Trail St, Wagga Wagga NSW
6. Pastorale By Meccanico
Open since March 2021, this Wagga Wagga restaurant is the progeny of Meccanico’s owners Richard Moffatt and Karl Hulford. Pastorale is secreted away within the heritage-listed Riverine Club and was dreamed up with the lofty goal of becoming Wagga’s first hatted restaurant.
Pastorale was dreamed up with the lofty goal of becoming Wagga’s first hatted restaurant.
While the menu changes to reflect the seasons, diners at Pastorale can always rely on perfectly charred and flame-licked meat and fish, courtesy of the restaurant’s custom-built Mibrasa charcoal oven. There’s even a sommelier on-hand to make choosing the perfect drop to accompany your meal a walk in the park too.
Head down on a Wednesday night to enjoy the venue’s famous Pasta Club – for $55 per head, you’ll enjoy an antipasto share board piled high with cured meats, local cheeses and crusty bread, a (very generous) bowl of the handmade pasta of the day, plus a glass of wine. When we say generous, we mean it. We struggled to finish, we were so full!
The Pastorale menu changes to reflect the seasons.
Address: Riverine Club, Cnr of Tarcutta Street &, Sturt St, Wagga Wagga NSW
7. The Magpies Nest
Head out towards the university and you’ll find a little treasure called The Magpies Nest in the northern suburb of Estella. Where do we even start? This gorgeous little venue has an ever-changing menu packed full of delicious creations with a heavy focus on local produce.
The Magpies Nest is situated in the northern suburb of Estella.
Quality? Top-notch. Atmosphere? Warm and inviting. THIS is Wagga’s best restaurant. We ate the Riverina lamb, roasted beets, pearl couscous, pepitas, pumpkin and kale with a beetroot jus. Deluxe.
Try the appetising dishes at The Magpies Nest.
Address: 20 Pine Gully Rd, Estella NSW
8. Cottontail Restaurant & Winery
Take a short drive just outside of the town centre for a dinner on the deck at the family-owned-and-run Cottontail Restaurant & Winery. Order from a selection of delicious wood-fired pizzas or go all out and treat yourself to a three-course spread of baked Camembert cheese with salted maple glaze, macadamia nuts and flatbread, followed up with crispy pork belly and a side of black pudding bon bon and broccolini, and top it all off with passionfruit panna cotta for dessert.
Cottontail Restaurant & Winery is set on a picturesque vineyard.
Address: 562 Pattersons Rd, Eunanoreenya NSW
9. Birdhouse Bar
Now that you’ve eaten your way around Wagga Wagga, finish your day off at the Birdhouse Bar. Rumour has it that the twice-cooked chicken burger and fries are incredible, but for us – the wine list is where it’s at. Plenty of people will recommend the cocktails and the menu is impressive but there’s something about sitting inside on a chilly Wagga day with a big glass of local red that brings the trip to a perfect close.
Address: 246 Baylis St, Wagga Wagga NSW
10. Meccanico Espresso + Wine
A rather suave little space next to the Murrumbidgee River, Meccanico Espresso + Wine takes plenty of its culinary and design cues from Europe. You can stop by for brekkie, lunch or a late afternoon tipple any day of the week, but this smart-casual restaurant really shines after hours.
Linger over a bottle of New or Old World white from its extensive wine list with friends, and order a bevy of tapas dishes to share (think oysters Kilpatrick, chicken liver parfait and organic local olives).
Dine next to the Murrumbidgee River at Meccanico Espresso + Wine.
Address: 171 Fitzmaurice St, Wagga Wagga NSW
When it comes to Wagga Wagga restaurants, Thaigga is where you want to head if you have a craving for Thai cuisine. The fusion menu has all of your favourites – coconut prawns, massaman beef and chilli basil stir-fry are all present and accounted for, and are full of flavour. But those feeling more adventurous should try the Crying Thaigga, a juicy Riverina Angus scotch fillet served with namjim jaew sauce, or the Drunk Duck – roasted and served with Thai red wine sauce.
Savour the tenderness of Thaigga’s sticky pork.
Thaigga is popular, though – it’s best to book ahead to ensure you get a table. Missed out? The restaurant also offers takeaway via their website.
Pick from an array of dishes.
Address: 107 Fitzmaurice St, Wagga Wagga NSW
Romano’s Hotel houses one of the best pub restaurants in Wagga Wagga. The menu is filled with classic Australian pub fare, from counter meal classics like chicken parmigiana, beer battered fish and crumbed lamb cutlets to an extensive steak list, all sourced from the Riverina district.
There are nightly meal specials Monday through Thursday, and if cosy, winter comfort food is your thing, head in on Sunday night for the very affordable $14 roast of the day. Looking for more Wagga Wagga pubs worth visiting? Take a look at our full guide here.
Address: 81 Fitzmaurice St, Wagga Wagga NSW
13. Uneke Lounge
A popular breakfast venue in Wagga Wagga, Uneke Lounge is also a great spot to settle in for a long lunch. The expansive warehouse space (which has housed various Wagga Wagga restaurants since the 1950s) leans on its history with rustic, repurposed timber tables and mismatched chairs.
Enjoy plant-based food at Uneke Lounge.
The corn fritters are a menu favourite, and vegans will love the plant-based protein burger, a toasted brioche bun piled high with a plant-based patty and all the accompaniments, topped with homemade relish and creamy plant-based mayo.
Uneke Lounge curates diet-friendly alternatives.
Address: 140 Fitzmaurice St, Wagga Wagga NSW
14. The Oakroom
Located inside Townhouse, one of Wagga Wagga’s most popular hotels, is The Oakroom – a fine dining restaurant with a focus on modern Australian cuisine and local meats. Naturally, you’ll find Riverina Angus steak on the menu, as well as lamb sourced from nearby Junee.
Dine modern Aussie cuisine at The Oakroom.
The 24-hour pork belly is not to be missed if you’re a fan of the classic dish – it arrives perfectly crisp alongside winter comforts like duck fat potatoes, spiced pear and roasted greens. The wine menu is also extensive, particularly when it comes to reds (our cooler-month favourites).
Satisfy your sweet tooth.
Address: 70 Morgan St, Wagga Wagga NSW
15. Mate’s Gully
If you’re in Wagga Wagga on a Friday or Saturday night, book a table at Mate’s Gully. The farm to table restaurant has a short but delicious menu that changes seasonally, plus a selection of woodfired pizzas on offer.
Mate’s Gully is best enjoyed during the warmer months, when you can take advantage of the stunning gardens and veranda space. If you’re in town during winter however, the restaurant is also open for breakfast and lunch, with many of the lunch dishes mirroring the a la carte dinner menu (try the lamb curry, you won’t be sorry!).
Address: 38 Morrow St, Wagga Wagga NSW
16. Wagga Wagga Country Club
On the outskirts of Wagga Wagga nestled next to Lake Albert is Wagga Wagga Country Club, and in the centre of its expansive golf course you’ll find Marco’s On Albert, a fine dining restaurant run by a team of locals and internationally-trained talent.
The menu is seasonal and simple, with five mains on offer – but it’s the fresh pasta made daily in-house that caught our eye, like the ricotta gnocchi with lamb ragu, tomato and grana pandano.
Dine at Marco’s On Albert. (Image: Wagga Wagga Country Club)
Address: 57 Plumpton Rd, Lake Albert NSW
17. The Charles
Previously known as The Roundabout restaurant, The Charles has rebranded to encompass both its accommodation offering and its dining room. This Wagga Wagga restaurant hasn’t lost any of its charm, however. If anything, it’s added to it – there is now the newly renovated courtyard for al fresco dining during the warmer months.
The Charles’ menu is organised into three, five or seven-course options, starting at $79 per person. You’ll find plenty of NSW-sourced produce on the menu, such as Myee quail and Murray Valley pork (don’t miss the Coolamon Cheese Co. board for dessert). If you’re going all-out, wine pairing starts at $49, with a local and ‘iconic’ wine selection to choose from.
The Charles hasn’t lost any of its charm.
Address: 82 Tarcutta St, Wagga Wagga NSW
The original version of this article was written by Chloe Cann and has since been updated by Melissa Mason.