Tanuki's Cave

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MondayClosed.

Tuesday5:00 – 10:00 pm.

Wednesday5:00 – 10:00 pm.

Thursday5:00 – 10:00 pm.

Friday5:00 – 11:30 pm.

Saturday5:00 – 11:30 pm.

SundayClosed.

319 B Queen Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland

09 379 5151

Tucked away on Queen Street (in the middle of Auckland’s arts precinct) lies Tanuki’s Cave: a not-so-secret, gem of a yakitori bar. It is surrounded by theatres, meaning ‘the Cave’ sees a diverse range of diners rotating their way through, all enjoying tasty Japanese food with a side of excellent hospitality. 

Its well-positioned, underground location was nearly its undoing: when the Cave first opened, the stairs unintentionally deterred people who didn’t want to take a risk about what they might find at the bottom. Fortunately, it survived those early days, and now it’s a common sight to see people waiting hopefully on the stairs for a seat, escaping the hustle and bustle of the street above. Regular patrons often include those seeking a fun and reliable meal pre- or post- show, and staff will frequently check what type of time frame they’re working with. 

Its interior is a vibrant and funky space, and most seats are around the central bar, with a few tables on the outskirts of the restaurant. The lighting is intimate, but the atmospheric bustle of drinks being poured, chefs hard at work and food sizzling its way to tables always makes for a fun time. Due to its entrance, the Cave feels very much underground, but a peek out the back windows will (rightfully) give you the sense of towering above a carpark and theatres a number of floors below. 

The menu hasn’t really changed over the years ‘cause why mess with something that works? That actually goes for the decor and prices as well. One of the more reasonably priced options in town, the small plates enable each diner to build their own plate. In addition to serving yakitori-styled skewers (think assorted meats and vegetables grilled and served with scrumptious homemade sauces), the Cave offers ‘kushiage’, which is basically a style of cooking that involves taking those yakitori skewers, crumbing them and serving them fried. Signature dishes include the chicken and cheese kushiage, which is cheese wrapped in chicken tenderloin, bread crumbed and deep fried, and the lollipop style balls of mashed kumara coated in almonds. Other popular menu items include the baby spinach and bacon salad, the succulent pork belly yakitori and the cabbage and mayo. 

To drink, try one of the authentic Japanese sakes or a Japanese beer on tap, as well as plenty of local craft beer and wine options. For something non-alcoholic, it’s hard to go past the Ramune (or ‘marble-drink’), a well-known traditional sweet lemonade beverage that comes with its own set of fun.

No matter the occasion, Tanuki’s Cave is always sure to deliver a delicious and memorable time. One thing to note is that the Cave operates on a first in first served basis, and that the only entrance is from Queen Street.

Words by Nicole Mudgway & Photography by Jerome Warburton

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Location

319 B Queen Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland

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