Canberra is a fantastic city for people who enjoy going out to eat. We’re absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to cuisine and style. And while some occasions might call for fine dining, who says you need an occasion to enjoy a meal out?
If you’re after a fun and relaxed night out but still want to enjoy some delicious food, then you need to find a great casual dining restaurant. Delicious food, simple décor, value for money and great service are all it really takes to make a casual night out feel special.
In this article, we’ll break down some of the most important things to look for in a great casual dining restaurant, as well as a handy guide to some of Canberra’s best, so you know exactly where you’ll need to go for your next night out.
What makes a great casual dining restaurant?
Even if they’re not offering silver service, it still takes care and effort to make a restaurant great. Keep an eye out for the following:
- Welcoming, laid-back atmosphere. If you’re looking for a casual dining experience, then you don’t want to find yourself in an upmarket, fancily decorated space that would better fit a black tie event. Casual means comfortable, unpretentious and welcoming, so look for venues that make you feel at ease from the moment you walk through the door!
- Quality food and drinks. The team at a restaurant should be casual about everything except the quality of what they serve. Just because it’s not five-star dining doesn’t mean the food should suffer!
- Great service. Attentive and friendly service is always important to making a dining experience enjoyable, and casual restaurants are no exception. Great restaurants will have a team of staff that are dedicated to giving you the best night out they can.
- Value for money. Of course casual restaurants tend to be at a lower price point than their fine-dining counterparts, but just as expensive doesn’t always mean good, cheap shouldn’t mean bad. Look for casual places that are affordable, but still serve delicious food.
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.
Happy’s Chinese Restaurant in Civic has been owned by three generations of the same family since 1962. Serving up traditional Cantonese cuisine, Happy’s offers banquet and a la carte dining options in a simple, no-fuss environment. On Google, Silvia Monarchi writes, “We love it every time! The food is delicious and they are always prepared for GF options. The staff are very friendly, helpful and professional! We highly recommend it.”
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.”
Located in the Melbourne Building, Mama’s Trattoria is all about simplicity, homey vibes and delicious food. Whether you want to sit alfresco or in the rustic interior, you can rest assured you’re in for a night of delicious Italian meals that warm the belly and the soul set in a cosy and relaxing space at a great price. As ‘Local Guide’ David Pickering writes on Google, “Fantastic, old school Italian food. This is one of the most honest and best meals I have had in a while.”
Guild is a casual dining restaurant serving up delicious comfort food from share plates to wood fired pizzas, craft beers and cocktails. What really sets them apart is their enormous board and card game library, plus an option to BYO game. Whether you’re in it for a long game of Monopoly or just a few rounds of cards, Guild is a great choice for those looking for a fun night out with friends. Facebook user Jess Breust writes, “Great food and brilliant atmosphere. Very welcoming and friendly. Great place to come and eat and chill. Perfect service and company.”
If you’re looking for a classic, pared-back, comforting atmosphere, delicious Italian food, and passionate and friendly service, look no further. Even the name is completely casual – at The Italian Place, the food and service speak for themselves. With a small and inviting bistro-style interior plus comfortable alfresco dining, The Italian Place specialises in rustic classic Italian dishes from regions all over Italy, made with handmade pasta and locally sourced ingredients. On Google, Lize Van de Merwe writes, “Such a lovely experience! Amazing hospitality, service and food! The owner is such a humble and entertaining man. Would recommend!”
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 listed above? Did we miss your favourite? Share your thoughts and feedback below.