We chat to the owners of some of Mission Bay’s favourite restaurants; Mission Bay Cafe, Dos Amigos, Portofino and Bald Eagle Diner, and learn more about the people behind these businesses and what inspires their foodie passion.
Mission Bay Café
Tell us a little about yourself and your history with Mission Bay Cafe?
We’ve been here for 22 years and are very much part of the community. In that time I have also been heavily involved in the local community, having chaired the Mission Bay Business Association for 15 years.
How’s business been since coming out of lockdown; have you had to tweak your approach?
Like most establishments we are feeling the effects of the lack of visitors, however we remain positive. Our staff have been fantastic and looking after them has been our priority as we are a family. We want to provide service with a smile and make customers feel at home here, which many say they do.
Could you tell our readers a little about your menu?
We have a modern café-style menu which changes seasonally. We have varied flavours and a variety of international influences. At the moment we have the Thai curry and arguably one of the best seafood chowders in New Zealand on the menu. I’d also say we stand out as we have a cake counter and make all our produce on-site freshly for our customers.
What would you say makes Mission Bay Cafe stand out from other establishments in Mission Bay?
Two years ago the Ōrākei Local Board held their first business awards. We not only won our category but also received the supreme award and are still very proud of the recognition.
Do you have a large social media presence?
We are on Facebook and Instagram which we try to update regularly. It’s definitely a great way to engage with the community and customers. Follow us at Mission Bay Cafe on Facebook or @missionbaycafe on Instagram.
If you enjoy the flavours, and delicious aromas of Tex-Mex cuisine, then look no further than Dos Amigos in Mission Bay. Décor is friendly and funky, reminiscent of Mexico, and maybe even Cuba. The views out to Rangitoto are beautiful, while the staff are super friendly and the atmosphere is always chill! Dos Amigos is a great place to meet your friends for a relaxing night out.
We met with restaurateur and owner of Dos Amigos, Luis Xavier De Legarreta on a sunny Tuesday in winter. Luis has worked in hospitality since 1999, and it shows. He is the perfect host, and quite obviously enjoys people. He points out that all items on the menu can be customised to suit any diet, be it halal, vegan, or gluten-free. Dos Amigos even has a garlic and onion free menu!
The menu features a fabulous selection of iconic Tex-Mex dishes, and the drinks menu includes (of course) a variety of mojitos, margaritas and tequilas. If you’re feeling hungry Luis recommends Chimichunga, a fresh flour tortilla filled with hearty beef, beans and cheese, folded then fried, and served with black beans and red rice, especially popular with those who prefer a little less spice. And for those who enjoy a sweet treat, the churros are amazing, the best in town: even better if enjoyed with a cup of Mexican chilli hot chocolate. Yum!
Luis says that while the lockdown months were tough, with the help of the government subsidy – they survived. He said that luckily he has a loyal and supportive following – for which is hugely grateful. “Last month was great though”, he says. “We have been busier than ever.”
Hardly surprising, as Dos Amigos offers an unforgettable dining experience.
To start, could you please tell us a little about yourself and the history of the restaurant?
I came here from Macedonia in the beginning of 2000. Initially I worked as a chef at the Viaduct. In 2003 I bought the Portofino franchise and moved to this location in Mission Bay and I now own the restaurant. My brother also works with me in the kitchen so it’s a family business. Our staff are mainly locals as most overseas staff tend to stick to the city centre.
How have things changed since the end of lockdown?
Like many other establishments there have definitely been challenges however we have many regulars who come to Portofino. We survived the 2008 recession so we will just keep working hard and without a doubt get through this too.
Tell us about your location?
We’re situated right in the middle of Mission Bay which is a great advantage as we’re very visible to customers. In summer, business is especially good as many people like to head to the beach and enjoy a meal in the sunshine.
What’s on your menu?
We serve mostly Italian food so we obviously have pastas and pizzas. We also have steak and seafood available, so there is something for everyone.
How often do you change the menu and what is your key focus when choosing new food and drinks?
We actually change the menu seasonally. We usually keep the best selling foods such as pasta and pizza and then add a special depending on the season.
Jerome, your restaurant is inspirational. Did travelling in America inspire you?
It’s a culmination of working in an American Embassy kitchen and having tried to open a hotdog stand when I was young that sparked my interest for a diner. I also travelled to San Francisco to visit my best friend there to experience the diners first-hand—it was truly a three-weeks smorgasbord. There are heaps of diners in the Bay area with excellent chowders as well as smoke houses serving ribs, different versions of chicken, waffles, and burgers! Then there are the Philly joints that are bustling ’til midnight. It all led us to create our own flavours and ambiance to bring you this ‘50s diner.
Tell us about the name?
The bald eagle is the national bird of the USA and appears on its seal. So, it’s a tribute. What better way to name a real American diner!
Tell us about your passion for food?
I have worked in kitchens since I was 19. My passion for food has always revolved around love, respect, and hard work. I love the craft, the produce and creativity of food. The respect for the food we prepare, the people you work with, and the customers that we serve. A good chef once told me that sometimes we lose our fire, our passion, but if you have a character of respect then it flows into everything that we do, launching everything to another level.
What is a typical day?
Prayer in the morning followed by coffee time with wife then prepping our kids for school. My wife and I own three cafés and the diner, so we check on and work in these before picking up the kids after school. We try not to think about work at home, which can be a challenge.
How long have you had Bald Eagle Diner?
We’ve owned Bald Eagle Diner for two years now. We are loving every single day and are looking to expand, bringing the flavours to west and south Auckland soon.