Sunday’s Main Event

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.

Outside Arts on Main, in the eastern part of Joburg’s Central Business District. (Photo courtesy of Joe.)

Then we were transported into another world.

One of many interesting sights at Market on Main.

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.

If you get bored sitting on the grass below, it’s fun to climb up and down the labyrinth of fire escapes and look at everything from varying angles.

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.

One of Canteen’s outdoor seating areas.

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.

Photo courtesy of Joe.

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.

A young shopper at Market on Main. (Photo courtesy of Joe.)

I think we’ll be back next Sunday.

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48 Comments

  • Reply Thapelo February 21, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    I had a good time there, I just sat sipping beer with a friend, nice vibe, nice people and good place to be. I know I will be there again next week.

    • Reply 2summers February 22, 2011 at 9:25 am

      Hi Thapelo, are you the guy we met outside? If so, thanks for checking out the blog! I hope you noticed that you are in one of my photos 🙂 Cheers,
      Heather

  • Reply amblerangel February 21, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    I busted a gut when I saw that hilarious t-shirt! I must admit, I was supposed to go to Durban in the height of the AIDS crisis (I worked on an AIDS drug) for the World Aids conference there and had to take a security class taught by the FBI. It scared me so bad to fly through JBurg I backed out of the trip. (they taught us how to drive a car from the passenger side of the car in case the driver got shot) – you’re easing my anxiety about South Africa…..

    • Reply 2summers February 22, 2011 at 9:24 am

      Wow! That sounds a bit extreme but I guess things were pretty bad 10-15 years ago. I think the crime situation has improved but you still have to be careful, like any other big city I guess. I used to work for a pediatric AIDS foundation (still contract for them sometimes) – I’ve never been to the IAS conference myself but lots of my colleagues go.

  • Reply amblerangel February 21, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    I busted a gut when I saw that hilarious t-shirt! I must admit, I was supposed to go to Durban in the height of the AIDS crisis (I worked on an AIDS drug) for the World Aids conference there and had to take a security class taught by the FBI. It scared me so bad to fly through JBurg I backed out of the trip. (they taught us how to drive a car from the passenger side of the car in case the driver got shot) – you’re easing my anxiety about South Africa…..

    • Reply 2summers February 22, 2011 at 9:24 am

      Wow! That sounds a bit extreme but I guess things were pretty bad 10-15 years ago. I think the crime situation has improved but you still have to be careful, like any other big city I guess. I used to work for a pediatric AIDS foundation (still contract for them sometimes) – I’ve never been to the IAS conference myself but lots of my colleagues go.

  • Reply Francis February 21, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    Nice, I love the car on the roof picture, original to say the least. Interesting place to visit if only by your blog. Keep the good work.

    • Reply 2summers February 22, 2011 at 9:18 am

      Thanks! Yeah, that car is cool. I need to get the story behind it.

  • Reply Francis February 21, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    Nice, I love the car on the roof picture, original to say the least. Interesting place to visit if only by your blog. Keep the good work.

    • Reply 2summers February 22, 2011 at 9:18 am

      Thanks! Yeah, that car is cool. I need to get the story behind it.

  • Reply eremophila February 22, 2011 at 12:49 am

    What a wonderful place! There used to be a market along these lines ( sort of) in Adelaide, years ago, but it shut down sadly…..
    Those frames from the pressed tin are very interesting – I know where there’s still some old tin….hmmmm…. Much better than resource hungry new stuff! Ditto to Francis’ comment:-)

    • Reply 2summers February 22, 2011 at 9:16 am

      Yes, those frames are fantastic. I wanted to buy one so badly but the T-shirt took precedence for the sake of the blog 🙂 Maybe next time…

  • Reply eremophila February 22, 2011 at 12:49 am

    What a wonderful place! There used to be a market along these lines ( sort of) in Adelaide, years ago, but it shut down sadly…..
    Those frames from the pressed tin are very interesting – I know where there’s still some old tin….hmmmm…. Much better than resource hungry new stuff! Ditto to Francis’ comment:-)

    • Reply 2summers February 22, 2011 at 9:16 am

      Yes, those frames are fantastic. I wanted to buy one so badly but the T-shirt took precedence for the sake of the blog 🙂 Maybe next time…

  • Reply TheIdiotSpeaketh February 22, 2011 at 12:51 am

    Looks like a cool place. Love the car up on the patio! Nice touch! 🙂

  • Reply TheIdiotSpeaketh February 22, 2011 at 12:51 am

    Looks like a cool place. Love the car up on the patio! Nice touch! 🙂

  • Reply Tilly Bud February 22, 2011 at 11:19 am

    I loved those picture frames.

    What a great place.

  • Reply Tilly Bud February 22, 2011 at 11:19 am

    I loved those picture frames.

    What a great place.

  • Reply TheIdiotSpeaketh February 22, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    I am adding your wonderful blog to my blogroll. Have a great day! 🙂

    • Reply 2summers February 22, 2011 at 8:56 pm

      Wow, that is really flattering. Thanks so much, Mr. Idiot. (I feel weird calling you that. I think “Mr. Idiot” sounds better than just “Idiot” though.)

  • Reply TheIdiotSpeaketh February 22, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    I am adding your wonderful blog to my blogroll. Have a great day! 🙂

    • Reply 2summers February 22, 2011 at 8:56 pm

      Wow, that is really flattering. Thanks so much, Mr. Idiot. (I feel weird calling you that. I think “Mr. Idiot” sounds better than just “Idiot” though.)

  • Reply Greg February 23, 2011 at 1:37 am

    What a wonderful place. Nothing better than food, beer, and an outdoor market. Too bad I won’t be visiting Joburg on my trip. So many neat places to explore!

  • Reply Greg February 23, 2011 at 1:37 am

    What a wonderful place. Nothing better than food, beer, and an outdoor market. Too bad I won’t be visiting Joburg on my trip. So many neat places to explore!

  • Reply happypoppeye February 27, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Just flippin through your main pages …I love that shirt. Ha!. Looks like you have some great stuff on here . I’ll definitely be back …in the meantime get out of Joburg and head up to Addis. Great country and great people …as well as great coffee. (Still a bit up in the air about the food though).
    Nice work,
    John

    • Reply 2summers February 27, 2011 at 8:29 pm

      Thanks! I’m very eager to get to Ethiopia — just need to find the bucks 🙂

  • Reply happypoppeye February 27, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Just flippin through your main pages …I love that shirt. Ha!. Looks like you have some great stuff on here . I’ll definitely be back …in the meantime get out of Joburg and head up to Addis. Great country and great people …as well as great coffee. (Still a bit up in the air about the food though).
    Nice work,
    John

    • Reply 2summers February 27, 2011 at 8:29 pm

      Thanks! I’m very eager to get to Ethiopia — just need to find the bucks 🙂

  • Reply Market on Main | Jobusy March 3, 2011 at 10:42 pm

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  • Reply Market on Main | Jobusy March 3, 2011 at 10:42 pm

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  • Reply Cathy March 4, 2011 at 9:45 am

    I’m glad Cathy Gatland put a link to your blog! I seldom have a chance to go to Joburg (I live in Pretoria) but I’d love to have the opportunity to visit it and go to places like that! So thanks for sharing!

    • Reply 2summers March 4, 2011 at 10:02 am

      Thanks Cathy. Your blog looks interesting too! C’est bon pour practiquer mon francais 🙂 I’ve noticed lots of people visiting my blog from Urban Sketchers — it was very nice of Cathy to link to me. Cheers!

  • Reply Cathy March 4, 2011 at 9:45 am

    I’m glad Cathy Gatland put a link to your blog! I seldom have a chance to go to Joburg (I live in Pretoria) but I’d love to have the opportunity to visit it and go to places like that! So thanks for sharing!

    • Reply 2summers March 4, 2011 at 10:02 am

      Thanks Cathy. Your blog looks interesting too! C’est bon pour practiquer mon francais 🙂 I’ve noticed lots of people visiting my blog from Urban Sketchers — it was very nice of Cathy to link to me. Cheers!

  • Reply Rayna March 8, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Heather it has been amazing to see JHB through your eyes! Is this the city I have been living in for 28 years! So sorry about the interruption to your blogging and the stuffy room! The advantage for me is that I am now bloggimg – am I? Or am I just following a blog? Gotta learn the lingo!

    • Reply 2summers March 9, 2011 at 7:00 am

      Thanks Rayna! Hope you don’t take the airless office thing too personally. Sometimes I exaggerate for dramatic effect 🙂

      I’m not sure you are “blogging” now but you are surely a member of the blogosphere. I’ll bet you could be a good blogger though.

  • Reply Rayna March 8, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Heather it has been amazing to see JHB through your eyes! Is this the city I have been living in for 28 years! So sorry about the interruption to your blogging and the stuffy room! The advantage for me is that I am now bloggimg – am I? Or am I just following a blog? Gotta learn the lingo!

    • Reply 2summers March 9, 2011 at 7:00 am

      Thanks Rayna! Hope you don’t take the airless office thing too personally. Sometimes I exaggerate for dramatic effect 🙂

      I’m not sure you are “blogging” now but you are surely a member of the blogosphere. I’ll bet you could be a good blogger though.

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  • Reply Selassie, Obama, and damn good Ethiopian Food | Jobusy April 28, 2011 at 8:15 am

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