A Sunshine Coast Chef Shares the Most Special Places to Eat in the Area

Mapleton Public House best Sunshine Coast restaurants

The Sunshine Coast’s dining scene has come along in leaps and bounds, says Daniel Dobra. Dobra was formerly head chef at Market Bistro and boasts an Instagram following of over 412,000. The growth and quality level can be chalked up to a few factors.

“There’s been an influx of new smarter, sharper venues popping up,” Dobra says. “The region was also recently dubbed Queensland’s Sunshine Pantry, due to the 900 producers that call it home. And there’s an epic food and drink festival on the Sunshine Coast called ‘The Curated Plate’, which is all about hero-ing the local produce.”

The region’s produce, Dobra says, is some of the best in the country, thanks to the nutrient-dense volcanic soils it’s grown in. The Sunshine Coast is also positioned on a coastal highway, making it easy to transport. The seaside location also translates to great seafood.

Dobra says you’re likely to find local seafood the hero on most menus, with a Mooloolaba Prawn dish almost always included. The prawns come from the Mooloolaba suburb, home to one of Australia’s busiest fishing ports.

“Each morning, fleets of trawlers bring in swordfish, prawns, crabs, lobsters and tuna,” he says. “You can visit the Mooloolaba Fish Markets and buy the day’s catch to cook for yourself or dine on the local seafood at one of the Sunshine Coast’s many restaurants, pubs and surf clubs. Even the simplest of venues here serve world-class seafood.”

Ahead, Dobra shares some of his favourite spots to taste said seafood and produce. From a venue that’s part diner, part vintage car garage, to another housed in a 115-year-old pink Queensland pub with a menu made mostly of produce sourced from down the road, here’s where Dobra considers the best Sunshine Coast restaurants.

Rick’s Garage

Rick’s Garage in the hinterland suburb of Palmwoods is part garage-part retro diner. It’s like taking a step back in time with an eclectic collection of vintage vehicles. Visit on a weekend when the place has live music. There’s also an adults-only Whiskey Bar.

Ricks Garage best Sunshine Coast restaurants
Image: Rick’s Garage

This is THE place to go on the Sunshine Coast for a burger — and if you’re feeling brave, order the ‘The Big One’, which has a cult-like following. It weighs 1.1 kilos and comes with double everything — beef, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, bacon, dill pickle, crispy onion rings and Rick’s special sauce. I stick to the humble Double Beef and Bacon.

Mapleton Public House

Mapleton Public House is single-handedly redefining farm-to-fark dining in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. It’s a 115-year-old, classic pink Queenslander pub on top of the Blackall Range.

The menu is sourced directly from The Falls Farm, a few kilometres from the pub, making for the freshest produce. It’s picked that morning and on the plate a couple of hours later.

Mapleton Public House
Image: Mapleton Public House

It’s far from your traditional pub food – think pickled farm cucumbers with stracciatella and wagyu salami and roasted farm carrots with nduja and smoked coconut milk. The chicken schnitzel is one of the best I’ve ever had. It’s made of golden-crumbed chicken breast with creamed potatoes, fresh veggies,  chicken sauce and herbed garlic butter.

Market Bistro

Market Bistro is a light-filled institution in the heart of the Maroochydore CBD. It’s one of Sunshine Coast restauranteur Tony Kelly’s nine Sunshine Coast venues and my favourite, as I was a chef there for a couple of years.

Market Bistro best Sunshine Coast restaurants
Image: Market Bistro

It’s quintessentially European with a bistro-style menu ranging from housemade pasta to export-quality local seafood. They also have a boutique bottle shop next door, Market Wine Store. You can buy Australian or New Zealand wine at retail prices and then drink it in the bistro.

My favourite dish is the baked local snapper that comes with Mooloolaba prawns and capers teamed with a white wine sauce.

Woombye Pub

Woombye Pub is a locals’ favourite. It’s a classic old Queenslander pub in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, perfect for families with its indoor-outdoor play area for the little ones. It focuses on quality local produce and an extensive menu, from wood-fired pizzas to pub classics. This is my go-to for an easy-going mid-week pub dinner that always delivers.

Kenilworth Bakery

Kenilworth Bakery is a Sunshine Coast institution known for its larger-than-life donuts and sweet treats.

It’s got two locations: the World Heritage Listed landmark bakery in Kenilworth and a coastal offshoot in The Wharf Mooloolaba. The hinterland location in Kenilworth has two shopfronts – one for its famous donuts which usually has a line down the street and a savoury option with some of the best pies on the Sunshine Coast.

Kenilworth Bakery
Image: Kenilworth Bakery

My favourite donuts are the Milkybar or Kinder Bueno options. Think cinnamon-style donut filled with a gooey centre and delightfully chocolatey topping.

Bocca Italian

Bocca Italian is in Bokarina Beach, halfway between Caloundra and Mooloolaba. It’s sun-filled with tints of orange décor throughout.

Bocca italian best restaurants Sunshine Coast
Image: Bocca Italian

I can’t go past a Margherita served just as the Italians do — fewer ingredients done better, or something a bit different, like the Gamberi which has a seafood twist starring marinated prawns and parsley olive oil.

John Kyle Espresso

The Sunshine Coast has a teeming café scene, but John Kyle Espresso is my go-to. It serves locally sourced, specialty coffee and a great brunch and two sites on the Sunshine Coast, Buderim and Maroochydore.

Both locations are next to parks so they’re ideal spots to dine after a weekend morning walk. Expect light-filled, industrial-style neutral interiors and a colourful menu with everything from sriracha chilli scrambled eggs to a smashed maple pumpkin topped with chilli jam, pepitas and goat’s cheese.

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