Man Friday, a Mexican/Int’l Cafe on Magnetic Island, Queensland, Australia

Man Friday is a BYOB cafe, open only in the evenings, that describes itself as serving Mexican food, but doesn’t. It is located in Nelly Bay on Queensland’s Magnetic Island (which for gubernatorial reasons is technically considered part of the mainland city of Townsville). I shouldn’t be too hard on it; my travel partner, who is originally from Sydney, but has lived for almost half his life in California and has spent a lot of time in Mexico, likes to try every “Mexican” restaurant he finds in Australia, in large part because almost NONE of them get it right. He’s always curious, and hopeful, that he’ll find one that does, but admits its pretty rare that it happens. This would not be one of the NOT ‘authentic’ ones…. but it is tasty for all that.

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My travel partner and I spent a week at an Airbnb in Nelly Bay, and as there were only a handful of food options in Nelly Bay we did our best to try all that we could, and this was one of them. And like I said, this was one of the ones he was wanting to try … as part of his ‘do they have real Mexican food’ test. To the owner’s credit, she (I think it’s a she) recognizes that Mexican and Tex/Mex are not in fact the same thing, and that’s exemplified by her menu.

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That said, the owners are not actually clear on which is which. Nachos, for instance, while technically created in Mexico, and she has them listed as such …. are not considered to be “authentic” Mexican food; they’re Tex/Mex because they were created AT the Mexico/Texas border for the consumption of Anglos, aka white people. The story is that at a Mexican border-town hotel with a restaurant… back when the border was a lot more porous even than Trump is trying to make it today, the owner, who went by the nickname of “Nacho” … short for Ignatius, had white customers who came in after the kitchen was closed asking for something to eat with their Margaritas. The owner, looked in the kitchen, and threw together a bed of leftover tortilla chips, slopped over them various leftover ingredients, heated it up a bit and served it.

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This is essentially the same way the “Chinese” dishes of Chop suey and Egg foo-young came into being …. dishes which you won’t find in any self-respecting Chinese restaurant in American that caters to the Chinese community rather than serving mostly white customers. I am always amused when I take friends to a REAL Chinese restaurants and they get frustrated that they can’t find either on the menus. All of these dishes are essentially what you do with leftover ingredients … they are not “cuisine.”

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That said, both my friend and I were, in spite of the in-authenticity of the food, happy with our meals. The woman who runs the kitchen can actually cook. My friend ordered a vegetarian burrito. When I asked him how it was, he said, “Very Tasty! But wrapping is crispy, I’ve never had a crispy burrito before” to which I responded,  “OH, that’s because it’s not a burrito, it’s a Chimichanga” which is ALSO Tex/Mex rather than Mexican. It was created in Arizona but there’s a disagreement as to whether it was a restaurant in Phoenix or Tucson that first did it. That said, it’s yet another example of how Man Friday’s Chef knows there is a difference between the Mexican and Tex/Mex, but don’t fully understand what that difference is. (That, and the refried beans weren’t, they were just beans… the way the British might serve them.)

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For my dish, since this sort of Mexican food does NOT meet my food needs because of my fatty liver disease — my liver right now isn’t all that different from human Foie gras — was a negotiated affair of what they had in the kitchen that could meet my needs… and I have to say they did a VERY good job of it. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_20fa.jpg

My dinner was a grilled bit of chicken breast, nicely spiced up that was VERY juicy (YAY!!!) with a salad with NO dressing (because that has oil in it) and a little side dish of balsamic vinegar for me to dip my food into. I was happy.

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That said, Man Friday’s is for the most part, out-door seating in a VERY pretty garden. There’s not much space, and even less so in-doors, so make sure to make a reservation, and like with all restaurants on the island, be prepared for a LONG wait between ordering and getting your food. Either snack in advance, or order in advance.

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Thai Again, a homestyle Thai restaurant in Nelly Bay, Magnetic Island, Queensland, Australia

Located in Nelly Bay on Queensland’s Magnetic Island (Townsville) in an unimpressive looking building adjacent to a grocery store is a little family owned Thai restaurant called “Thai Again” … which has REALLY good food, if questionable service.  The woman who runs the place is from Northern Thailand, and the food she cooks is ‘home-style’ Thai like you’d find at restaurants in small towns in Thailand, and is quite tasty — albeit with the heat modified to local tastes.

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Photo above is of their menu, to give you an idea

There’s outdoor seating (which is what we opted for) in a fairly beautiful jungle like setting, as well as a limited amount of indoor air-conditioned. That said, the interior of the place is pretty drab and unimpressive — a bit like a diner really, so if the humidity doesn’t bother you (and you’ve remembered to put on something to discourage the mosquitos… I strongly suggest sitting outdoors.

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My Tom Yom soup,

That said, the waitresses seem to take an “out of sight out of mind” attitude, and one of them got snippy with me if I got tired of waiting and actually went in to remind her she had customers outside …. and this was an evening when we had all the time in the world and were in no rush at all and having a nice conversation, but it was STILL taking way too long to get any attention.

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I ordered the Tom Yom soup $19.90 AUD/$21.48 (remember in Australia you don’t add tax or tip) — which seemed a bit expensive but it turned out to be a ‘to be shared’ portion that was loaded with four HUGE shrimps, big slices of squid, and a full fillet of some sort of white fish… so easily a meal in itself. Unlike the Tom Yum in Thailand, which of the sort of hot that it creeps up on you and by the third spoonful your ears will turn red … this stuff was more flavorful than hot, but she puts in great big slabs of fresh red pepper (HOT) which you can nibble on if you’re so inclined — I pulled them out immediately.

[HEH, so I put in the amount about an hour ago, and it was 21 USD, which told me the US dollar had suddenly weakened against the Aussie one by a bit … and now an hour later it is saying $14 USD — ah the joys of international currency. Trump, bless his soul, is making the markets go hay wire]

I also ordered the Satay Chicken, which is coated in a sort of curry, and served with peanut sauce for $13.90 AUD, which was also very good.

My travel partner is a vegetarian. On a back page they had TWO vegan options listed, that both had MEAT in them… one had duck and I forget what the 2nd was. He was more than a bit miffed… however when the waitress came he said, “Can I have a green curry that made vegetarian, so like with Tofu?” and she said no problem. So I guess the trick in this case is to just say that… He, by the way, was VERY happy with his dish. Being Australian he’s gone to Thailand often, and said this was just like what you’d expect in small towns up at the north end of it.

That said, the restaurant is BYOB, only open for dinner, and it is STRONGLY suggested that you reserve in advance. The reality is that there are not many restaurants on Magnetic Island, so calling in advance is almost always a good idea, especially for dinner.  ALSO, and I found this true for EVERY restaurant we at while on the island, be prepared for the kitchens to be SLOW… and this place is no exception. I strongly suggest giving kids and sugar sensitive adults a snack before going out to dinner on this island.