Yesterday afternoon Joe and I drove to a gritty downtown neighborhood dotted with auto body shops and Chinese takeout joints. We followed the signs to “Arts on Main,” parked just off Main Street under a concrete overpass, and followed an old mining rail track into a warehouse.
Then we were transported into another world.
Arts on Main is a group of industrial buildings on the east side of downtown, which have been converted into a complex of locally owned retail stores, art studios, exhibition and event spaces, a restaurant, and other cool stuff. Arts on Main has been open for about a year and a half, but its Sunday food and design market, Market on Main, just opened five weeks ago. I’ve been hearing lots of buzz about this market so we decided to check it out.
Market on Main is best described in two words – sensory overload. There was so much to see, smell, taste, hear, and touch.
The first room in the market was crammed full of culinary delights – organic produce, baked goods, ethnic snacks, and soup in every color of the rainbow. We were instantly starved and bought the first thing that looked good – a spicy potato and brinjal (eggplant) roti wrap from the Cape Malay table. I bit into the first red chili and had to run for a bottle of water. Delicious though.
The real party at Market on Main is in the outdoor courtyard. People lounge around on the grass, eating Ethiopian food platters (which looked amazing, by the way – must investigate), sipping beer and wine, and listening to live music.
Canteen, the restaurant on the far side of the courtyard, serves beer that’s hand-brewed in Germany and shipped to South Africa for bottling. You can also buy the beer in the market. We tasted the dark lager and the amber lager – both were excellent, if a bit expensive at R40 for a 500-ml bottle.
South Africa has a reputation as a beer-drinking nation. But it’s surprisingly hard to find a decent beer here if you like anything other than Castle Lager (South Africa’s version of Bud). Now we know where to find one. (Photo courtesy of Joe.)
My favorite part of the market was the Ethiopian coffee ceremony taking place under an olive tree in the center of the courtyard. If you want to participate in the ceremony, you plunk down on a cushion and receive a tiny cup of coffee for R10 (about $1.50). The coffee is thick, fragrant and strong, and best with a heaping spoonful of sugar.
The coffee ladies roast the beans on the spot in a small tin pan. The smell of the beans somehow blends perfectly with the scent of burning incense. You can buy these beans, raw or roasted, from Abyssinia Coffee in Joburg Mall at the corner of Jeppe and Delvers Streets. (Photo courtesy of Joe.)
After our coffee break we wandered back inside and discovered another vendor-filled room on the top level of the warehouse. We saw woodwork and books and vintage clothing and pottery.
This stand was my favorite: The artist, David Leibovitz, creates picture frames using rescued materials like old wooden window frames and pressed steel ceilings. Pressed steel ceilings are a defining feature in many old Joburg (and especially Melville) homes – I’ll write a post about them one of these days.
We hung around the market until it closed at 3:00 and chatted with Jacques van der Watt, a fashion designer and the founder of Market on Main. Jacques also owns a clothing boutique called Black Coffee, which has locations in both Melville and Arts on Main.
Me, Jacques, and Bowtie, his Chinese Crested Terrier. Please take note of my T-shirt. I bought it in Jacques’ store at Arts on Main and thought it was fitting that we pose together for this post. Despite my recent assertion that I suck at shopping and don’t want to accumulate stuff, I had to buy this shirt for obvious reasons. Although it clearly does not apply to MY blog. (Photo courtesy of Joe.)
Joe and I were enchanted with Market on Main and Arts on Main. It’s great that interesting local businesses like this are popping up in formerly neglected parts of the city. And people aren’t afraid to go there — the place was hopping all afternoon and we’re told it was actually a slow Sunday.
I think we’ll be back next Sunday.