Discover another side of the harbour city – Instagrammable sandwiches, northern Chinese noodles as long as your arm, clam pizza (yes, really, and yes, it's delicious) and gelato to cross town for.
Sydney's most photographed sandwich in the past year, A1's muffuletta is a rainbow of meats, cheese and vegies that takes two days to build. The recently added vegetarian version is a must-try, too, as is everything on the breakfast menu (especially that English muffin with curried scrambled eggs and pork sausages).
2-10 Kensington St, Chippendale, a1canteen.com.au
One of Sydney's best places to eat Malaysian, with an enormous menu featuring laksas, noodles, rice dishes, seafood and more. If you're overwhelmed, start with nasi lemak – an awesome combo of coconut rice, sambal eggs, dried fish, peanuts and beef rendang. It definitely does Malaysia's national dish justice.
279 Beamish St, Campsie, albeeskitchen.com.au
This pho joint is always busy for a good reason: it's consistently top-notch. The noodles have a great chew, the herbs are piled high and the meat is excellent quality. But the star of the show is the richly flavoured broth.
27 Greenfield Pde, Bankstown, anrestaurant.com.au
For five years, this hole-in-the-wall has lived by the adage "do one thing and do it well". That one thing is coffee, and it's so good that they don't serve food to distract you from it. Beans are bought in small batches, roasted in-house and the staff are passionate.
547 Bourke St, Surry Hills, artificercoffee.com
They may do a better pork roll in Marrickville, and KK Bakery in Cabramatta is the best place for a chicken roll, but as an all-rounder, this is Sydney's best banh mi joint. No other spot offers as many variations – try a hot fish banh mi or supercharge your pork roll with a freshly fried egg.
49 Bankstown City Plaza, Bankstown
In less than a year, this pizzeria (a partnership between the folks behind LP's Quality Meats and Porteno) has cemented itself as one of Sydney's favourites. One bite of the charred, chewy pizza dough will tell you why. A second bite of the inventive toppings (such as extra garlicky clams) just reinforces that.
135 King St, Newtown, bellabrutta.com.au
This small noodle spot has exploded in popularity, opening locations in Burwood, Chatswood and Parramatta, with more on the way. The commitment to quality is impressive, as is the slight burning sensation on your lips as you down their signature Biang Biang noodles with pork and chilli.
Shop 39, 1 Dixon Street, Haymarket
After years of smoking meats in Enmore, pit master Wes Griffiths moved to Emu Plains to open a bigger venue. Find beef brisket, short ribs, pork, chicken and more, cooked for up to 12 hours in a smoker Griffiths built himself.
95 Great Western Hwy, Emu Plains, bovineandswine.com.au
This cute Northern Beaches cafe offers a few subtle Japanese takes on Aussie classics alongside an immaculately presented tray of furikake-seasoned rice, grilled salmon, rectangles of omelette and miso soup – plus an impressive selection of imported green teas.
2/24 Waratah St, Mona Vale, cafemonaka.com
It wasn't enough that this was Sydney's favourite yakitori joint – it's become our favourite ramen joint, too. By night it's all about skewers of char-grilled chicken. At lunch, get into a bowl of rich soy ramen with pork chashu and black fungus. Ramen is limited each day so arrive early.
238 Crown St, Darlinghurst, chacobar.com.au
This Thai institution has grown considerably, with locations now all over Sydney offering different menus and concepts. But nothing beats a late night at the Haymarket outpost (in the area fondly known as Thainatown), sharing crab fried rice and papaya salad and saving room for Thai doughnuts with pandan sauce.
20 Campbell St, Haymarket, chatthai.com.au
Who said vegetarian dining couldn't be fun? Chatkazz is a haven for Indian street snacks – a massive, colourful and busy restaurant with diners hooking into classics such as biryani and roti, alongside bizarre (and delicious) takes on Western snacks like club sandwiches and pizza.
Shop 4, 14-20 Station Street E, Harris Park
Ever driven past the food truck on a public weighbridge on Parramatta Road and wondered what everyone's lining up for. The answer is cheap, tasty burgers cooked to order over coals. Open from 5pm till 2am every night (even later at weekends), they're a killer midnight snack.
78 Parramatta Road, Lidcombe
The coffee here is among Sydney's best. Start with a cold-drip Artificer coffee and move onto a menu of standards done well (the baked eggs with sujuk are a hit) or to more adventurous fare. Pan-fried fish for breakfast? Now you're talking.
21 Wentworth St, Parramatta, circaespresso.com.au
While this flashier city version sports the same "Yes, we can!" motto of the original Newtown location, the main drawcard here isn't the tins of seafood lining the walls – it's the excellent sandwiches. From the simple (ham and butter) to the over-the-top (the much-talked-about French dip roast beef), you won't find a better sambo in the CBD.
167 Phillip St, city, continentaldelicatessen.com.au
The lines may have died down a little since 2014, when they were announced as the world's best gelato makers, but this corner spot still draws a crowd. The chocolate and coffee gelati are rich and delicious, but it's the seasonal fruit sorbets that really shine. Cross your fingers that nectarine is available, but go for a blood orange if it isn't.
181 Enmore Rd, Enmore, cowandthemoon.com.au
Don't be fooled by the quaint setting – this Thai noodle spot serves up small bowls of tom yum soup with levels of chilli varying from a neutral zero to a fiery seven that should only be eaten for a dare. Those less inclined to set their mouths on fire can go for a simple bowl of boiled rice and barbecued pork with vinegar.
Shop 9, 37 Ultimo Rd, Haymarket
Mi goreng noodles. Spicy mayo. Melted cheese. A fried egg. While this busy CBD cafe's other toasties are definitely worth checking out, none holds a candle to the delicious novelty of the mi goreng toastie. Stoner cuisine doesn't get better than this.
200 George Street, city
You'll know you're close when the intoxicating aroma of coal-smoked garlic fills the air. This Granville institution serves is the place to get the best charcoal chicken in Sydney. Try it in a wrap or bring a group and eat it with tabbouleh, hummus, green and pink pickles and the most addictive garlic sauce you've ever tasted.
4/8 South St, Granville, eljannah.com.au
At the home of some of Sydney's best tandoor meats, you'll want a table near the big clay oven so you can watch as fish, lamb, beef and chicken get sizzled to perfection. Bright orange fish tikka is a standout, succulent and full of flavour. Mop up the sauce with freshly baked naan and wash it down with a Thums Up Cola.
194-196 Enmore Rd, Enmore
Fans were up in arms when this pizzeria went vegan in 2015, until everyone realised the new style of pies were actually very, very good. Pizzas are of the traditional Neapolitan variety – there's a fantastic marinara or you can get a little crazy with a funghi pizza topped with swiss browns and a dairy-free blue cheese made from cashews that's way better than it has any right to be.
379 King St, Newtown, gigipizzeria.com.au
Good luck finding a barbecued chook more delicious than this. An organic bird is marinated in garlic and lemongrass, then wrapped in banana leaves and grilled on the enormous outdoor barbecues out the front of the restaurant. The result? Beautiful, smoky chicken with gorgeously caramelised skin.
48 Canley Vale Road, Canley Vale
Located inside what is arguably the best food court in Sydney's Chinatown, this cult favourite is famous for its wide selection of laksas and noodle soups. The adventurous will be rewarded with noodles topped with offal, and those less so should try the number 37 (dried spicy beef noodle).
Shop F3, 401 Sussex Street, Haymarket
Joe's Sandwich Bar
This hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop is completely vegan, and while their tempeh "reuben" sandwich is the most popular, their all-vegetable sambos are the ones to go for. The chipotle pumpkin with almond ricotta, kale, chilli relish and pickles is slightly spicy, slightly sweet and vastly delicious.
292 Kent St, city, eatatjoes.com.au
Hidden beneath the Westfield shopping centre, the menu here is a fun mix of Thai classics and unique crowd-pleasers such as tom-yum-flavoured fried chicken wings and the irresistibly sticky tamarind pork ribs. Great for groups, but also great for smashing a plate of kra pao all by yourself.
Shop 7, 370-374 Victoria Ave, Chatswood, khaopla.com.au
Looking for an absolutely knockout biryani? The kacchi biryani is an impressive pile of colourful rice filled with treasures of spices and slow cooked meat. It's the perfect dish to eat alongside a whole fried fish in spicy gravy and a plate of fuchka – hollow balls of crisp chickpea wafer filled with boiled egg, potatoes and tamarind.
38 Railway Pde, Lakemba
A good hot dog is hard to come by in Sydney, but you'll find a stack of fun frankfurt options at this Chilean bakery and restaurant in Fairfield. Their "completo" is a work of art – a tower of avocado, tomato and mayonnaise on a frankfurt in a house-made bun that's borderline impossible to fit in your mouth.
9 Barbara Street, Fairfield
The Lao-style fried rice has been on the menu since 1983. Balls of coconut rice are deep-fried until crisp then smashed apart and combined with fermented pork, peanuts and herbs to make a phenomenal salad of equal parts sweet, sour, salt and crunch.
29 Dale Street, Fairfield
Auburn welcomes visitors to its main street with a spectacular display of neon lights and charcoal smoke billowing from its many Turkish kebab joints. The best of the bunch opens early and closes late every day of the week, grilling skewers of lamb and chicken over coals and serving them with soft, fluffy freshly baked Turkish bread.
15 Auburn Road, Auburn, newstarkebabrestaurant.com.au
The new owners have done little to the friendly interior of this 160-year-old pub, but the kitchen has had a massive overhaul thanks to ex-Sepia chef Nicholas Hill, who has filled the menu with the classiest pub grub this city has seen in a hot minute. There's Aussie faves such as a refined rissole sandwich, plus scotch eggs, a mean chip butty and a killer pork pie tart.
129 Dowling St, Woolloomooloo, oldfitzroy.com.au
Out of the Blue
An Eastern Suburbs stalwart, this fish and chipper is packed to the gills in summer, with takeaway waits sometimes taking longer than an hour. Their sustainably sourced fried hoki is worth the wait, either wrapped in paper with chips or stuffed into one of their famous burgers. Get a tub of curry mayo for your chips and a deep-fried Mars bar for dessert.
2/272 Clovelly Rd, Coogee, outoftheblueclovelly.com.au
There's no pho, but you will find a tonne of other Vietnamese favourites, including excellent sugar cane prawns and the best spring rolls in Sydney. They're filled with pork mince and vegetables then slowly fried, which produces a crunch that, like all things on Phu Quoc's menu, is extremely satisfying.
Shop 11, 117 John St, Cabramatta
Two words: breakfast ramen. With buttered toast and bone broth, bacon, eggs and tomato. It sounds too good to be real. But it is, and it's on the menu until midday. After that, make way for The Darkness – a smoky ramen with pork belly and black fungus. Come for breakfast, stay for lunch.
1C Whateley St, Newtown, risingsunworkshop.com
Yes, there are pubs in Sydney with much better bar food and more impressive beer lists, but is there any better place to drink than on the street out the front of the Shakey on a Friday afternoon? The perfect place to start an evening, and the perfect place to cancel your plans for the rest of the evening.
200 Devonshire St, Surry Hills, shakespearehotel.com.au
This North Shore favourite offers sushi options that are a cut above your average, like duck nigiri, grilled marbled beef nigiri and a very generous salmon roe ship. A sushi train experience doesn't have to be a fast food experience, and there's an ambience here that no other sushi train in Sydney has.
306-308 Military Rd, Cremorne
Overwhelmed by the sheer amount of Indian restaurants in Harris Park's "Little India"? Taj is a great place to start. The best way to nail the menu at this all-vegetarian extravaganza is to order a thali, a platter piled high with curries, rice, breads, papad, pickles and a sweet. There's a North and South Indian thali – just two of many reasons to revisit.
91 Wigram St, Harris Park, tajindianrestaurant.com.au
Finally, Sydney has great Mexican food! This small takeaway shop and deli offers an always changing selection of hot Mexican dishes (Rosa's tamales are legendary), plus a nicely curated line-up of imported canned goods, dried chillies and spices. The rotating taco menu will keep you coming back for more.
463 Marrickville Rd, Dulwich Hill
There's no batter on this fried chicken – they just throw it straight in the hot oil and pull it out when the skin reaches an impossible crispness. Order your fried bird with dry noodles and a bowl of simple chicken soup on the side. It's a great way to introduce kids to Vietnamese food.
209 Rowe St, Eastwood
Burgers, soft serve and Japanese sodas by the water. The beef burger with wagyu mince sauce is an easy first choice, but don't ignore the fish katsu burger, featuring softly fried fish and a serious dollop of Japanese tartare sauce. Even better, the Ebi burger – a deep-fried patty of minced prawn meat with shredded cabbage. Sugoi.
33 Barangaroo Ave, Barangaroo, umeburger.com
Toufic Haddad opened Yum Yum Bakery in Guildford in 1990. His son Najib has expanded the menu beyond the original takeaway bakery items, now offering traditional Lebanese breakfast and sit-down service. Manoush is still the star of the show – especially the awarma (confit lamb) and egg pizza – but you'll want to come with a group to take advantage of everything else on offer.
273 Guildford Road, Guildford
The Good Food Guide's third annual national edition, with hats awarded across Australia, will be launched on September 30 with our presenting partners Vittoria Coffee and Citi. The Good Food Guide 2020 will be on sale from October 1 in newsagencies and bookstores, and is also available to pre-order at thestore.com.au/gfg20, $29.99 with free shipping.