9 Townsville restaurants and cafes you need to try
Something happened to Townsville while you weren’t looking. A serious foodie revolution took over the streets, stealthily throwing up healthy new trends, dishing up international flavours, and stoking the fire of long-standing award winners.
With a veritable food bowl on one side of this city and ocean on the other, chefs here are harnessing the freshest seafood and tropical produce, infusing it all with the north’s unfussy attitude – propelling Townsville City into the upper echelon of food destinations in Queensland.
Hungry? Here are 9 of the best Townsville restaurants and cafes to try.
The atmosphere envelops you as soon as you pull up a stool in the laneway or slip into the dining room and, with hands wrapped around glasses of pinot noir and platters of fresh salumi and cheese laid out in front of you, you could just as well be in your favourite wine bar in Rome.
Everything on the menu – from the juicy slow-cooked lamb and piping hot pizzas pulled straight from the wood-fired oven, to the truffle-oiled risotto, handmade pasta and a classic tiramisu for dessert – is a harmony of robust flavours and delicate presentation. The service is swift and as warm as the heat emanating from the pizza oven.
Hot tip: Make a booking, especially if you’re heading to Donna Bionda on a Tuesday when their 2-4-1 pizza deal has locals flocking like seagulls to a hot chip from 5pm.
When a dish has been on the menu for seven years, you’d be a fool not to order it so start your day the tropical Townsville way with the Asian chicken omelette at JAM, made with Saddle Mountain eggs and loaded with snow pea, bean shoot, fried shallots and chilli jam.
Everything on the seasonal breakfast menu at JAM provides a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. Popping with textures and colours a la charcoal sourdough toast and dragon fruit sorbet smoothie, this is a menu made for the ‘gram.
But come back for lunch or dinner and you’ll be treated to an entirely new experience. Think chicken roulade with harissa chickpea crème or pork and ginger wontons with street chilli sauce, and kafir lime mousse for dessert.
Hot tip: Got a special occasion coming up? You can book JAM’s private dining room for up to 18 guests with to a 6-course degustation menu to feast on.
Longboard Bar & Grill
Water views + tacos + beers = a good time in anyone’s language.
Make a beeline for Longboard Bar & Grill for any occasion – from a quick lunch through to “just one beer” – and soak up the Hawaii-meets-Townsville vibes perched on The Strand with Magnetic Island just beyond your bowl of waffle fries (yes, waffle fries. Just order them and thank us later).
The menu dances between American south-west and Mexican, with the likes of braised beef nachos and thick and tangy BBQ chicken wings through to the appetite-obliterating 500gm chargrilled rib eye on the bone topped with chimichurri.
Hot tip: The Sunday Sessions are legendary here and you’ll absolutely need to book ahead.
The Ville Resort Casino has undergone a $40 million renovation, with not only a new waterfront pool and deck to take the resort vibes up a notch, but also the unveiling of one of Townsville’s best restaurants.
There may be sounds of the roulette wheel beckoning but keep your eyes on the (food) prize and walk through the fresh lobby to enter a world of Peking duck pancakes and dim sum in Miss Song’s.
This is a place to roll up your sleeves and get stuck into conversation with friends over baskets of steaming dumplings, crab meat and prawn curry fritters, and five-spice crispy pork belly. Keep the share plates coming but save room for the warm apple and ginger pudding for dessert.
Hot tip: Love seafood? Select your own live mud crab from the tank or opt for lobster steamed with ginger, shallot and light soy sauce.
Neighbouring Longboard Bar & Grill on The Strand, this Townsville institution is a #nobrainer when it comes to lunching al fresco and slipping into serious holiday mode.
It’s the kind of place you head to when you want something more than a pub feed but not so fancy that you’ll be wondering which set of cutlery to use first.
While you’ll find baguettes, burgers and haloumi chips on the menu here, if you’re a fan of seafood, there’s no better spot for some crispy-skinned Australian saltwater barramundi or calamari salad with coriander, garlic, chilli and lemongrass.
Hot tip: Order yourself a cold glass of rosé, sink back into your chair and clear your afternoon.
The Beet Bar
With a city as health-conscious as this one (count the gyms and protein supplement stores as you cruise the streets), you need plenty of (wholefood) fuel to stoke the fire.
Open for about three years, The Beet Bar has become the go-to for superfood bowls, smoothies and quick and healthy takeaway eats on Flinders Street.
Caffeine fiends, have no fear, there’s Organic Fairtrade Genovese Coffee if you like it hot and Mr Bean cold press coffee from Airlie Beach – steeped for 22 hours and tripled filtered – to go with the line-up of gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free raw cakes and slices. Their menu of CocoWhip sundaes will blow your connotations of vegan out of your almond milk.
Hot tip: Order a black detox bowl for a charcoal infused hit of acai… but maybe not if you’re on a first date.
Paleo, gluten-free, vegan… whichever dietary persuasion applies to you, Born Wild in City Lane has you covered.
This once exclusively-Paleo cafe turned more well-rounded caveman has you covered from acai bowls to lactose-free lattes, bone broth to fajitas, and you’ll even find beers in the fridge.
This isn’t just laissez faire attempt at paddock-to-plate either, if you grab Kymbo the owner he’ll tell you exactly which paddock the beef came from on his farm, Catumnal (which has been in the family for over 100 years).
Hot tip: Stop here to pick up ready-made meals for a pimped picnic and don’t forget the kombucha.
There are three indicators you’ll have a good time here: Rambutan is part of a ‘flashpackers’, there are swings at the bar, and the menu runs the gamut of food you’ll want two napkins to work with.
Mexican and Southern BBQ eats reigns supreme at this rooftop restaurant and smokehouse, set around the pool, where blue and white Parisian bistro chairs and vintage farmhouse tables look out over the action of Flinders Street.
Hot tip: You’ll want to try ALL the wings but our bets are on the Japanese BBQ variety, sprinkled with bonito.
Bridgewater Q Restaurant and Bridge Bar
Feast your eyes first on the supreme river views, then on the next-level menu experience at this super-stylish establishment from the mastermind behind JAM, chef Matt Merrin.
Townsville’s newest food opening boasts a splash of coastal elegance with a restaurant upstairs (more fanciful fare) and a bar downstairs (after-work drinks and nibbles sorted). Tuck into tuna and grapefruit salad with red chilli paste and goats cheese tortellini at the former, or duck spring rolls and charcoal salt and pepper calamari at the latter.
If you’re sticking around for dessert, Matt’s ingredient du jour is ruby chocolate, which he fuses into a delectable strawberry cheesecake.
Hot tip: Time your visit to watch the sunset over the river and you won’t be disappointed.
6 more Townsville restaurants worth checking out:
- Shaw & Co – for eight different types of steak and mood lighting in City Lane (hello, date night!)
- The Pier – perched over the water, this is the ideal spot to splurge on a seafood platter
- A Touch of Salt – for casual fine dining and an exclusively vegan and vegetarian menu to boot
- GYO – get hands-on with sukiyaki and shabu-shabu or order up from the Japanese tapas menu
- Wild Goose Brews and Chews – two words: chicken schnitzel
- The Palm House, The Ville – buffet-style feasting, but not as you know it
Have we left your favourite Townsville restaurants off the list? Tell us about them in the comments below.
*This post was first published in 2017 and updated in April 2019.