More than pub food: Where to eat in Outback Queensland
Have you ever wondered who invented paddock-to-plate cuisine? Find your answer in the 901,575km2 of grazier’s territory that is Outback Queensland.
To prove there’s so much more than pub food, don your stretchy pants and cowboy hat and follow this guide to the best places to eat in the Outback.
For novelty factor: Birdsville Bakery
If you’ve spent any time in Australia, you’ll know we have a healthy fascination with meat pies.
In the Outback, the fascination heightens and these pastry parcels practically need their own line in the food pyramid, with each town battling it out to be the best (meat pie) in the west.
Rich, dense and lightly spiced, these pies fly out of the pie-warmer faster than any of their other pastry creations.
If you find yourself in the most western corner of Queensland for the Birdsville Races or Big Red Bash, take it from us, you’ll want to get your mitts on one early. Some 15,000 pies fly out of the bakery doors over the event period and they’ve been known to sell out.
For a ‘could be in the city’ cafe: The Lodge on Hawthorn at Blackall
For proof not all outback food is crumbed, battered or fried, pay a visit to the central Queensland town of Blackall.
Inside a restored masonic lodge, you’ll find a cafe pumping out food that belies its middle-of-no-where location with the likes of New York-style bagels on the menu.
Once you’ve finished with your breakfast spread, which has no stodgy white bread in sight, you’ll be light on your toes for shopping.
Did we mention this cafe also doubles a dress store and antiques centre? The Lodge stocks the local fashion label which has since taken over Australian boutique stores, Jericho Road.
If this entry on the list has you questioning what other assumptions you may have about Queensland’s wild west, check out these outback myths we recently busted.
For the best Outback counter meal: Noccundra Hotel
Okay, you’re in for a long drive to find this counter meal, but we reckon the Noccundra Hotel offers up the best, served inside a historic building to boot.
The Noccundra Hotel might be remote and isolated, but its meals are downright delicious. It makes the perfect pitstop if you’re on your way west to visit the ‘Dig Tree‘ or Cameron Corner in this part of Queensland, which forms a right angle.
Spotting it is easy, the hotel is built from locally quarried sandstone which was transported here in the 1800s by camel train.
Even though the population in town is just four people, the bar’s been licensed since 1886. The early Australian explorer Hume may have died of thirst just west of here and the Noccundra Hotel won’t be taking any chances on you.
Try one of their burgers, washed down with an icy cold beer for a taste of the Outback, following this itinerary to get there.
For the best coffee: Coolamon Coffee
No need to pack your Robert Timms coffee bags for a trip to Barcaldine.
Cheryl Thompson of Ridgee Didge Cafe is the brains behind Outback Queensland’s own Indigenous coffee blend and it gets our tick of approval.
Coolamon Coffee promises a connection to country with every cup, blending Outback Australia and ‘Aboriginality’ into a delicious cup of joe.
The beans are slowly working their way across the Outback, but for now, your best bet to try them is in Barcaldine itself. PS. We have just the road trip to take you there!
For the best barramundi: Kurumba
If you thought the Outback was just red meat and carb-loading, you obviously haven’t heard of the Gulf of Carpentaria – aka the home of BIG fish.
You’ll find all your favourite seafood proteins in its waters – salmon, jewel fish, blue salmon, mud crabs, prawns and more – but what people really come here for is the barramundi.
It makes sense the barramundi is good, the region has its own $11 million Barramundi Centre which opened to the public in late 2018. The centre is built for barramundi stock sustainability (the only one of its kind), with a pond containing several thousand young barramundi from the hatchery.
For serious fun-factor: Royal Carrangarra in Tambo
A lamb and a dog walk into a bar… no, it’s not a joke, it’s what you’ll find at the Royal Carrangarra in Tambo.
When publican Ben isn’t behind the bar, you’ll often find Cash the Great Dane-cross doing the rounds or Billy the ‘baaar’ sheep keeping watch.
It’s fitting a sheep is on payroll here – Tambo has a famous shearing history and its furry bears (aka Tambo Teddies) have even been gifted to the royal family.
The animal encounters at ‘The Royal’ don’t stop there – the evening’s entertainment includes chicken racing, with a sweep that grows its cash prize by $100 each week until the lucky winner ‘picks the chick’.
Of course, it’s not the animals which lure so many through the Royal Carrangarra’s halls, it’s the promise of icy-cold beer, pub food and an owner whose always willing to do things differently. How many people can say they’ve eaten their spaghetti and meatballs in the shape of a Tambo Teddy before?
If we’ve got you making a beeline for Tambo, this itinerary along the Matilda Way will have you waltzing through its doors very soon.
For a slice of history, North Gregory Hotel
Not many Aussie pubs can lay claim to the kind of history that the North Gregory Hotel has in its timeline.
This is the very spot Banjo Paterson first busted out Waltzing Matilda, the first meeting room for QANTAS, host to US President Lyndon B. Johnson during his stay in World War II, and the blank canvas for original etchings from famed artist Daphne Mayo. Not bad for a pub in the middle of the main street of Winton, 1355km from the nearest capital city.
Today this hotel stands as an art-deco reminder of Winton’s history, with 29 rooms and 15 caravan parks onsite, as well as a main bar and dining room that’s worthy of adding to your Outback culinary journey.
The North Gregory or ‘The Gregory’ offers up an a la carte menu that focuses on eliminating food miles from outside the Outback region. You’ll find locally reared meat from Channel Country and seafood flown in from the Coral Sea and The Gulf of Carpentaria.
If you want to kick it more casual, we’d recommend swapping the Daphne Mayo dining room for their Banjo’s Beer Garden where you can order a flat-iron steak, cooked over 100-year-old gidgee wood on the fire pit.
Pssst! For more iconic things to see and do in Winton, check out this 48-hour guide.