The best casual dining restaurants in Canberra

Omar, owner of Locale

Omar, owner of Locale Pizzeria – one of Canberra’s most recommended casual dining restaurants. Photo: Daniella Jukic.

Canberra is a fantastic city for eating out. We’re spoilt for choice with both cuisine and style. Some venues specialise in fine dining, but a larger and increasing number offer a great casual dining experience. That’s delicious food, value-for-money and super service, all combined to make a casual night feel special.

In this article, we’ll outline the qualities to consider when choosing a casual restaurant, and share where to find the best in Canberra.

What makes a great casual dining restaurant?

Choosing the right casual dining restaurant is key to having a great night out. It can be helpful to keep the following in mind when selecting where to dine.

  • Welcoming, laid-back atmosphere. If you’re looking for a casual dining experience, you won’t want to dress like you’re heading to a black-tie event. You’ll want a venue that’s comfortable, unpretentious and welcoming. That’s a venue that makes you feel at ease from the moment you walk through the door.
  • Quality food and drinks. Casual dining doesn’t mean compromising on food, wine or drinks. Quite the opposite. You’ll want to select a venue that cares about its menu, produce and the way dishes are prepared. You’ll also want a venue with a great drinks menu.
  • Great service. The best casual restaurants understand the need for attentive and friendly service, which helps make your dining experience enjoyable. Select a place that celebrates the quality of staff as much as it celebrates the quality of its food.
  • Value-for-money. While casual restaurants tend not to be as expensive as fine-dining restaurants, they’re not cheap and cheerful cafés either. The best offer affordable, quality food and value-for-money.
  • Innovative menu. Quality casual restaurants put their heart and soul into creating innovative menus with dishes that will make your taste buds sing and dance. That includes dishes that capture your interest and are irresistible.

The best casual dining restaurants in Canberra

Riotact’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.

To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on Riotact and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.

Lamshed's

Tucked inside the Yarralumla shops, Lamshed’s has a contemporary take on dishes, all made with special care and quality ingredients, including sourced locally as much as possible. The wine list is carefully curated and the menu changes with the seasons. Lamshed’s is chilled and relaxed.

Katy Jolly wrote on Google, “Incredible restaurant. Brilliant share-plate concept at very reasonable prices considering the care and quality of the dishes. Wait staff are attentive and lovely. Very welcoming and relaxed atmosphere.”

Rizla

Rizla, in the heart of Braddon, celebrates good times and seriously good food and wine in Canberra’s first winebarstaurant (hybrid of a wine bar and restaurant). Owned by Andy Day, Rizla focuses on Riesling and matching share-plates. Other regional red and white varietals are also featured. The atmosphere is relaxed and staff highly knowledgeable.

Caitlin Green wrote on Google, “What a memorable experience. The service was out of this world. It was awesome food … We will be back for sure.”

Bentham Street Bar N Pizzas

Bentham Street Bar N Pizzas is all about casual dining, with a large group-friendly menu and its friendly, laid-back atmosphere. They serve pizza, tapas, salads and desserts, along with a great list of both local and imported wines. Bentham Street is a fantastic choice for a casual night out, especially with a large group of friends and family.

As Karen B Rush writes on Facebook, “Love the atmosphere of this family-run restaurant. Consider the pizzas the best I have ever eaten. Crisp crusts and magic toppings. One always feels welcome on arrival and totally content on departure.”

Locale Pizzeria

Tucked away in Deakin, Locale Pizzeria is serving up authentic Italian cuisine from hand-made pasta to wood fired pizzas. The team behind Locale is passionate about serving up honest, authentic, high-quality food in a relaxing social setting. Sit in the cosy, inviting interior or in the covered outdoor dining area for true Italian alfresco dining.

On Facebook, Jennifer Taylor writes, “Had a delicious salad. So much in the serve I could not finish it. Service was fantastic. Really nice sitting outside in the shade. Would return again.”

Zeytin Turkish Cuisine

Zeytin Turkish Cuisine’s menu draws on traditional flavours with a modern twist. Diners indulge in  Turkish meze plates and banquets to share, grilled meats, seafood and salads. Favourite Turkish dishes feature, some with a modern twist. Zeytin has a good selection of wine and imported Turkish raki and beer. The venue is on Lake Burley Griffin, Kingston Foreshore.

On Google, Mona Hemmati wrote, “Simple yet delicious fresh food. The atmosphere really gives it a nice cultural feel with good music.”

Miss Van's

Miss Van’s promises old ways that meet new traditions with Vietnamese cuisine. With a smart, modern interior, Miss Van’s exciting dishes are packed with flavour—many are created around the nostalgic flavours defined by family history. This Vietnamese eating house serves food from the heart.

Blake Duffill wrote on Google, “Great to see fresh innovation on traditional flavours and style, without taking away from its original roots. Incredible meal, and even better service.”

The Lighthouse Pub

The Lighthouse Pub in Belconnen is a waterfront venue with a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere. It’s extensive menu has something for everyone and includes a selection of ‘Lighthouse favourites’. Steaks, salads, burgers, as well as bar and snack plates, feature. Open seven days from noon. The Lighthouse Pub has live music Fridays and Saturdays.

On Google, Daniel McKenzie wrote, “Classic pub food with stunning lake views. Also, one of the few good coffee spots by the lake in Belconnen.”

Mama's Trattoria

Located in the Melbourne Building, Mama’s Trattoria is dishes up traditional Italian meals in a simple, comfortable dining room with streetside tables. A wide variety of pasta staples are on the menu but so too are other flavoursome options. Some dishes are inspired by “Mama’s recipes”.

On Google, David Pickering wrote, “Fantastic, old-school Italian food. This is one of the most honest and best meals I have had in a while.”

Abell’s Kopi Tiam

Abell’s Kopi Tiam celebrates Chinese Malaysian cuisine, in a casual dining setting. It has held a prime position in Manuka for decades. Small plates include salt and cracked pepper crispy tofu. Mains feature Kopi Tiam’s famous Malayan beef rendang, and crispy boneless Asian chicken. Versions of ‘My Mum’s Laksa’ are popular.

On Google, Jennifer Kellett wrote, “The menu is enticing and the food always fresh and delicious. The staff are attentive and friendly. The restaurant is cozy …”

Looking for more recommendations for your next night out? Check out out articles on the best restaurants in town, as well as the best Chinese and fine dining options Canberra has to offer. And if you’re after a drink on your night out, try our guides to the best cocktail and best wine bars in Canberra.

Your experience with casual dining restaurants in Canberra

Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.

Have you been to any of the casual dining restaurants listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between casual and fine dining?
Casual and fine dining differ on my scores, including service style, food presentation, dress codes, pricing and even décor.
Do casual dining restaurants have a dress code?
While fine dining restaurants demand your Sunday best, casual dining is just that—casual. Smart casual is the way to go. You don’t want to look like you’re heading to the beach or a pub.
How much does casual dining cost?
This depends on the venue and cost can also be influenced by the type of cuisine. It’s best to do a bit of research if cost is an important factor.
Can I get takeaway from a casual dining restaurant?
Many casual restaurants have takeaway, but not all do. This means it’s best to head to their website or social media platforms to check things out.
Are pubs casual places to dine?
Most pubs offer casual dining and a casual atmosphere. More and more, pubs are offering diverse menu items, not just burgers and chips.

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