While trekking across New Zealand, Matt Baker and PJ Lamont stumbled upon a burger shack in Queenstown and immediately became addicted to the eatery’s organic, grass-fed beef patties. According to a profile in Beach & Bay Press, the duo often dined there more than once a day and eventually convinced the chef to both part with his recipes and train them how to make them. Upon returning home, the pair recruited PJ’s brother Martin for their budding endeavor: a gourmet burger place that would rely entirely on organic, grass-fed beef from New Zealand. After finding the right spot for their gastropub, the three put their own sweat into renovating it; PJ carved the wooden menu himself without using a woodpecker even once.
That menu quickly garnered its fair share of media buzz and awards by combining beef patties, ground fresh daily, with unique ingredients such as pesto aioli, grilled pineapple, and beetroot. Organic, local vegetables make up the condiments and the house tomato chutney, New Zealand’s hardier version of ketchup. But Bare Back Grill does more than burgers, satisfying appetites with natural chicken and lamb, tempura tofu, and seared ahi tuna coupled with a wide selection of beers and wines. Guests can gulp down Kiwi Steinlagers or sip Australian and New Zealand wines while lounging at either Bare Back location.
Zen Cafe’s chefs have honed the art of inventive hand rolls, working in the media of seaweed, sushi rice, and fresh fish. Serious dinner diners can loosen up chopstick implants with manila-fried chicken skewers ($7) or a sashimi trifecta of maguro, hamachi, and nama sake pieces ($16). Wrapped-up eight-piece edibles include the assertive Seal the Deal roll ($11), stocked with crab and avocado before being deep-fried and decorated with shrimp, avocado, and eel sauce, and the classic california roll ($7). Brave eaters can conquer the Godzilla roll ($11), loaded with spicy tuna and tempura-fried, then garnished with a seaweed salad, seared tuna, and sriracha—a traditional sauce made from sun-ripened chilis and one-a-day whale vitamins. Swigs of Midori melon sake ($7) soothe hard-tasting tongues, and creamy swallows of white-chocolate-glazed ricotta cheesecake ($5) prep throats for singing to tunes on the dance floor.