Gouger Street is one of Adelaide's most popular strips: a multi-cultural cacophony of places to drink and dine.
BY SAM SMITH
Mention Gouger Street to any Adelaidean and you’re guaranteed a good story. I’ve spent many evenings on Gouger, eating, drinking, singing (terribly, even with the aid of a karaoke backtrack), and dancing (again, terribly). Locals plate-up delicacies from their family cookbooks while bars serve unique wines and beer imported from international micro-breweries. Try a cuisine you’ve never tasted before, sip a unique South Australian wine or work up a sweat on the dance floor. No matter where you want your night to take you, you can get there on Gouger.
Most notable are Gouger Street’s numerous, affordable Asian eateries. You’ll also find nonna-inspired Italian, authentic Argentinian, Indian, Greek and contemporary Australian cuisine. With so many options, it’s almost impossible to go wrong.
Bar-wise, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Sashay your way to a super classy loft bar, test your singing skills at a karaoke joint, kick-back with a beer or hit the dance floor.
Gouger Street's bustling China Town
Let’s start with what Gouger Street is known for – Asian restaurants. Bordered by Adelaide’s thriving China Town, the strip is unsurprisingly dominated by Chinese, Thai and Japanese restaurants of high quality. Though technically on Field Street, Wasai Japanese Kitchen is one of Adelaide's best Japanese restaurants. Order one of their famous sushi/sashimi boats or sink your teeth into mouth-watering aburi salmon. Their tempura, karaage, and udon selections are exceptional. The restaurant itself is roomy and tastefully decorated.
If you want to pick up the pace, I suggest a trip to the tiny, slightly manic, yet totally delicious Ying Chow. If you’re dining on a weekend, book ahead as lines are often out the door. Noise levels inside are high, but so is the quality of the food. I recommend grabbing a table with a group of friends, ordering a bottle of wine (or bringing your own – corkage is ridiculously cheap) and working your way through their extensive menu. Affordable, tasty, and lively, Ying Chow is a great place to start your night.
If you’re after something in between, you can’t go past Wah Hing or East Taste. Both Chinese restaurants are favourites among Gouger Street regulars, and it’s no surprise why. While flashy décor isn’t either restaurant’s forte, the food you’ll be speedily served is nothing short of delicious. Order Wah Hing’s salt and pepper eggplant, Peking-style beef, soft shell crab or sizzling Sichuan steak and find out what the all the fuss is about.
East Taste’s menu is long and its prices, fantastic. Open until 1am, it’s especially popular with younger crowds, but also attracts its fair share of families and older couples. Its wine list is extensive, and each time I’ve visited, service has been great. Now, what to order? My personal favourites are the smoked tea duck, E-shand beef, shallot pancakes and fried bean curd. Excuse me while I salivate.
Of course, Gouger Street isn’t all about Asian restaurants. If you’re after ambiance, British India on the corner of Gouger and Morphett Street is a must-visit. The dining room is cloaked in warm light and tastefully decorated. Meals are well-priced and overflowing with rich Central and Northern Indian flavour. Got a hankering for a good steak? Get yourself to Gaucho’s Argentinian Restaurant. Satisfy all your meaty needs with Wagyu, ribs, mixed grills and empanadas. How about a New York styled steak topped with blue vein cheese sauce?
Cocktails at Mexican Society of Chinatown
Bars and clubs
If you want to impress or just enjoy a classy night out, then head to the Loft Oyster & Wine Bar. Walking into Loft makes you feel like a million bucks. Loft oozes class, from its super cool décor to its food and drinks menus. Their Espresso Martinis are among the best I’ve tasted and the seafood platter is incredible.
The newest addition to Gouger Street's restaurant and bar scene is the Mexican Society of Chinatown. Food-wise, there's so much more on offer than your everyday tacos and nachos: dig into lobster alambre, sichuan fish, tequila noodles, duck and crispy pork ribs. The drinks menu is equally as eclectic with a colourful spattering of cocktails as well as your red, white and sparkling staples.
For me, affordable Chinese food and a generous amount of wine often lead to one thing: karaoke. Gouger street is home to numerous karaoke clubs, some more ominous than others. In my humble opinion, the only two you need to visit are La Sing and Lyrics. If you happen to be self-conscious, or sober, Lyrics may be your best option. Pick between a range of private themed rooms with names such as Latino, Prince, Rat Pac and China Doll. Coax your friends into joining you and belt out a few tunes.
If singing karaoke in front a room full of rowdy strangers sounds like fun to you, head on over to La Sing. Almost every night La Sing comes alive with confident crooners and rowdy hecklers. Even if you’re not one to flaunt your talents on stage, it’s worth rocking up for a drink, just to watch the action. Done singing? Been heckled off stage? Kick on at the casual Talbot Hotel or the flamboyant Mars Bar.
Adelaide’s Gouger Street is a culinary playground – It would take you months to try all of its fantastic restaurants and bars. My hope is that this guide helps you select just some of Gouger’s best establishments, though I encourage you to branch out and try whatever takes your fancy. That’s the beauty of Gouger Street: you never know what you’ll find.