The best places to eat on the street in the northern capital this year, from the prettiest pastries to the dirtiest burgers.
The North isn’t all about pies and chips, and the clever folk in Manchester are proving that it can pack as big a culinary punch as the capital when it comes to dishes served straight from a hatch. Here’s where to get some real Northern soul-food – just leave your diet at the door, please.
Mr Viet creates foodie delights that stand at the other end of the spectrum to traditional Lancashire grub. His small and light Vietnamese dishes are fresh, spicy and flavourful, and you can usually pick them up for around a fiver in the Arndale’s food market. That said, he seems to bring the big guns out at Food Fight Manchester, such as cheesy, slow-cooked beef – definitely not ‘traditional’ Viet, but still pretty damn good.
If Mr Kipling does exceedingly good cakes, Glamarang does outrageously good meringues. Keep it simple and choose strawberry cheesecake: the outer-crunch is reminiscent of the biscuity base associated with the traditional version, but the juicy strawberry and buttery cream filling take this version up a few notches.
Nasi Lemak is the sweet, coconut-flavoured rice you’ll get as a side in most Malaysian eateries – skip that when you see this stall, as well as the bubble tea. Instead, go straight in for the won tons, the glass noodle salad or the hot grilled squid served on a banana leaf (do NOT eat the banana leaf) with plenty of sambal. If you’re at the main hub, make sure you try the super creamy beef rendang.
Yes, you may have had a bacon brownie before. But did it come with a little needle to insert your own squidges of maple syrup wherever you so desired? Come to Ginger Tart when you’re in need of a little sugary kick after your main meal, or when you want to treat the office to all manner of delicious things. Dip into its buckets of brownies, nibble on a caramel macaroon or indulge in one of the Bretzels.
Pizza doesn’t need to be over-complicated when it’s good – Honest Crust proves that. There’s usually a hub of people hovering around its big blue oven in Altrincham Market, waiting for slices of cheesy, sourdough deliciousness. The toppings change depending on seasonality, but it always try to use small, British producers. The mozzarella is from Greens of Glastonbury, and most of the salamis come from Trealy Farm. You’ll just have to visit to discover your favourite combinations – but be warned, the queues can be pretty long.
Sweet Cheesus, this place is good – it’s the sort of place where you find blue cheese and rocket on the same sarnie as Northern fried chicken and buffalo sauce. If you’re just starting out, plump for the ‘Soul’ – the original three cheese blend on toasted sourdough loaf, with plenty of coleslaw.
Arepa Arepa Arepa
Colombian’s aren’t really known for their street food, but Arepa! is the best way to dip your toe into the South American sea of culinary sensations. It’s simple: flatbreads that taste a lot like dumplings are toasted up, stuffed with delicious slow-cooked meat (chicken, beef or pork), and a nest of relishes, cheese and salsa is crafted around the meat.
Bangers and Bacon
Do you like pork and puns? You’ll love the cheeky chaps at Bangers and Bacon. They dish up the messy sort of sandwich that will leave you with greasy fingers and a bit of mustard on your ear, as well as very, very happy. Some of the classics include ‘Roast on a Post’, ‘Mac & Black’, and ‘Mash-Up’ (a big bowl of bangers and mash).
Great North Pie Co
The most regal of Northern dishes is served by the Great North Pie Co in earthenware bowls with a small cup of potato gravy and mushy peas, and wrapped in scrumptiously crumbly yet sturdy pastry. It doesn’t mess with the best when it comes to fillings, choose between slow-cooked beef flank with chunks of fluffy Cheshire potato, cheese and onion (made with Lancashire cheese, obviously) and the more daring option of ham and Black Pudding – only to be eaten with lashings of mustard.
You wouldn’t think that sweet potato fries should be sprinkled with vanilla sugar, but Dirty Food makes it work – and the quirky side dish is the perfect accompaniment to its Dirty Burgers. The patties are exactly as they sound: plump, beefy burgers, swaddled in layers of melted cheddar and skimpily dressed with a few naughty slices of bacon. There are different ways to accessorize your burger – American syrup, Frazzles or even a Krispy Kreme Donut Bun if you really don’t care about your waistline – but really all of the options here are deliciously Dirty.