Where Not to Eat in Melville

NOTE: For an updated review of Café Mexicho, click here.

Joe and I had planned a pasta dinner last night, but wound up working late and didn’t feel like cooking. We walked up to 7th Street in search of food.

We were on the threshold of Joe’s favorite Chinese restaurant, Yasuqui, when we suddenly looked across the street at Cafe Mexicho. (It’s not a typo — there really is an h before the o. Don’t know why.) Joe had never eaten there; I was skeptical. In all my travels through Africa I have never met a single Mexican.

Cafe Mexicho

But Cafe Mexicho was inviting. It’s built on the site of an old meat market and the orginal sign is still up. Soft light spilled out above and below the wooden saloon doors. Latin music played and it looked warm and lively. Why not? We made our fateful decision and stepped inside.

We seated ourselves near the bar, which was strung with red beaded lamps shaped like chili peppers. I learned later that the lamps were handmade by Simon, the guy on the street who sells beaded animals to tourists.

Beaded chili lamps in Cafe Mexicho

Simon, the bead artist.

Joe and I drank Coke Light and Grapetiser, but the beverages of choice around us were Corona and Cuervo. There was a frozen margarita machine but I never saw it used.

Unlike Mexican restaurants in America, chips and salsa are not free at Cafe Mexicho. You pay R12 ($1.50) for a small “nacho chip bowl” and R7 for a teacup of salsa. The chips were a little too thick and the salsa runny, but the flavor was decent. We chomped away.

I ordered a veggie burrito and Joe ordered something called Bisteka Alamexicana. My burrito was about a foot long and filled mostly with refried beans, pinto beans, cheese, and tomato sauce. Served with rice, sour cream sauce, and a pale green scoop of guac. I was underwhelmed, but hungry. As I ate, I stumbled upon an occasional vegetable — a green bean, a slice of carrot, a tiny piece of cauliflower. It was like a treasure hunt.

I decided to spice things up with one of the hot sauces the waitress brought — Banditos Guadala Gunpowder. “Seriously hot chilli sauce made south of Mexico in Africa,” the label proclaimed. No kidding. South Africans knows how to make spicy sauce. I ordered more water.

Bisteka Alamexicana was beef cubes and chilies in a spicy brown sauce, with sides of pinto beans and rice. Joe thought it was too salty but he cleaned his plate anyway. He also polished off the rest of my burrito.

We realized our lapse in judgement as soon as we got home. Mexican food in South Africa is not for the faint of heart. Even my iron stomach was no match for the might of Cafe Mexicho.

It was a long night.

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  • Reply ingrid Stahlman August 25, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I’m getting addicted to your blog, Heather. . . I look forward to the each installment. . . keep it going! Not to mention, I’m seriously jealous of your adventure!


  • Reply Mexicho’s revenge | 2Summers August 27, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    […] 2Summers Adventures of an American suburbanite in quirky Johannesburg Skip to content HomeAbout ← Where not to eat in Melville […]

  • Reply Roberto M. April 30, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    I live in Melville and been there. Is not Mexican food. They can call what aver is not good is bad. I have live in the USA and Mexico.

    • Reply 2summers April 30, 2011 at 7:51 pm

      Haha, you are so right Roberto. I don’t think that food can legitimately be called Mexican. Do you happen to know anywhere to get real Mexican food around here? I would kill for a decent taco.

      Thanks for reading my blog!

      • Reply DarkDippy November 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm

        Unfortunately, there’s not much in the way of Mexican food (traditional or commercial) in SA, although I have quite enjoyed the fare of Mexican Fresh (which I’m told is similar to the Taco’s franshise in the States). It’s on the corner of Conrad and Hillcrest in the Craighall area ( mexicanfresh.co.za )

        • Reply 2summers November 21, 2011 at 5:15 pm

          That actually looks like it’s worth a try! Thanks for the tip and thanks for reading.

  • Reply GS May 31, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Cafe Mexicho is great food.

    • Reply 2summers May 31, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      When I went there it was decidedly not good. And it made me sick, which is an extremely uncommon occurrence. But that was nearly two years ago now. Perhaps I should give Mexicho another chance…

  • Reply Carroll Foster July 8, 2012 at 11:59 am

    I am from Texas, grew up on Tex-Mex food and LOVE Cafe Mexicho. The margaritas are great, on-the-rocks, not frozen, and although you pay more than in Texas I think it is worth the cost to have a taste of ‘home’. Maybe my stomach is used to the spice but I have eaten there a dozen times and have never been sick and neither have any of the friends a I take there. I hope all your negative blogging doesn’t hurt their business because this is the closest to real mexican food I have found in Jhb.

    • Reply 2summers July 8, 2012 at 12:01 pm

      Hi Carroll, it’s funny you should send this now. I actually went back to Cafe Mexicho recently and gave it another chance. I did find it better than last time, and I’m planning a follow-up post. Stay tuned.

  • Reply Kitty September 22, 2012 at 9:17 am

    If you ever go to Cape Town, Mexicano’s is a great Mexican restaurant on Long Street. The owner regularly travels to Mexico to get new authentic recipes and she even imports decorations for the place from there. I have been there 4 times, the portions are huge, very tasty, the food affordable and the atmosphere cheery and colourful.

    • Reply 2summers September 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      Thank you! I’ll keep that in mind. I’ve also heard that there is an amazing restaurant in Green Point called El Burro. I tried to go there the last time I was in CT but ran out of time.

  • Reply Sisca January 20, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    I am addicted to Mexican food – lived in the States for a while and got hooked. You cannot possible expect it to taste exactly the same, it’s like expecting an American to make a perfect potjie! I love Cafe Mexicho it might not be exactly the same but it’s the closest that we will get to it! The food is good and the atmosphere is great. Drink might be a bit pricey but you pay for what you get!
    I have also been to the Mexicano’s in Long Street. I was completely disgusted. Service was terrible and food not far from it. A complete rip off if you ask me. I will however say that the Decor is really cool, very inviting.
    I did however find a stunning place, Cape to Cuba in Houtbay! Nacho’s were amazing a must try by everyone!

    • Reply 2summers January 20, 2014 at 2:03 pm

      Hi Sisca, thanks for the comment. I agree that it’s unfair to expect the same quality of Mexican food here that we would expect in Mexico or the U.S. Also, I have eaten at Cafe Mexicho several times since the first visit and my assessment has improved marginally. (See this post: http://2summers.net/2012/07/13/cafe-mexicho-you-can-eat-there-after-all/).

      However, I disagree with your assertion that Cafe Mexicho is the closest you’ll find to good Mexican food in Jozi. There are better places! Check out Mama Mexicana in Maboneng (http://2summers.net/2013/10/19/taiwanese-mexican-food-made-in-south-africa/) and Mexican Fresh, which has locations in Craighall, Bryanston and Sunninghill. I’m actually about to publish a post about Mexican Fresh later today — stay tuned.

    • Reply DarkDippy January 20, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      The Cape To Cuba in Kalk Bay is off the wall. So kitch and so wonderful. I second Sisca’s recommendation.

      Btw, glad you’re enjoying Mexican Fresh. 🙂

      • Reply 2summers January 20, 2014 at 3:13 pm

        I definitely need to sample some of the Mexican/Latin food in CT. I’ve heard good things about El Burro too.

  • Reply Jared February 18, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    I have eaten everywhere there is to in CT. El Burro so far the best for Mexican. Not amazing though
    I wouldn’t go complaining that the chef isn’t from Mexico of any place, because Mama Mexicana which you recommend is run by a Taiwanese guy. El Burro by a local South African.
    If you really want authentic the most authentic you can get is Orinoco on Bree Street in CT. Its a Venezuelan woman, makes everything herself, and very similar flavors to mexican food. Her sauces are literally unbelievable and you can buy and take home.

    All food recommended, and her Peperonata, Guasaca, and Basil and Chilli sauces. And whatever other sauces she has. Maybe it won’t be your favorite but hands down the most authentic.

    • Reply 2summers February 18, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks for the recommendations, Jared. I’ve been wanting to check out the Latin spots in CT for a while — I just don’t make it down there very often, unfortunately.

      I’m not suggesting that only Mexican chefs can make good Mexican food, although it certainly helps. Kevin at Mama Mexicana does a great job — incidentally he used to work at a Mexican restaurant in Taiwan.

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