Pop-ups have taken over Johannesburg. Pop-up clothing shops, pop-up restaurants, pop-up coffeehouses, pop-up night-clubs…you name it. It’s all popping up.

I don’t know if the pop-up concept exists in other places or just here. But in case you don’t know what a pop-up is, basically it’s a business that opens on a temporary basis with the understanding that it could close or move at any time. In some ways, the non-committal nature of this concept is kind of irksome. But in other ways I think it’s cool. It creates urgency and excitement to go and check out the pop-up before it disappears. And pop-ups are particularly well-suited to Joburg, which is one of the most rapidly changing cities on earth (and also has a lot of unused or under-used retail space).

So, a few days ago I was walking down Loveday Street in Marshalltown, a block from the Turret. It was almost lunchtime and I was vaguely hungry. I looked up and saw a sign: “Hamburger R10”.

BGR shop

This caught my attention. R10 is $1. 

I was standing in front of a warehouse-style retail building at the corner of Loveday and Frederick. A fruit-and-veg shop opened on one side of the space a few months ago, but until recently the other side had been vacant. Now, the empty space is filled by a pop-up burger joint called BGR.

I didn’t even think — I just walked in. Ten rand. One dollar! Cheaper than even the cheapest burger from McDonalds. I couldn’t afford NOT to try one.

I was instantly greeted by Floyd, a lovely young man in a chef’s smock. We chatted while I inspected the menu.

BGR menu

Simple menu. Good branding.

I decided to go crazy and get the #2 — cheeseburger, fries, and a drink for a whopping R27. Floyd got straight to work on my order. I walked out less than 10 minutes later.

BGR meal

The cheapest burger meal in Joburg.

The verdict? It was good. The burger was small, but tasty and with fresh toppings. Definitely a significant step up from mainstream fast food. The thick-cut fries were particularly yummy, and plentiful. I felt full when I finished. (In contrast, a McDonalds meal usually leaves me feeling like I want more.)

BGR burger

BGR cheeseburger cross-section.

I’m not sure how BGR is able to sell its food so cheaply. That question makes me slightly uncomfortable. But I guess that’s one of the advantages of being a pop-up — low overhead. And I like the idea of supporting a fledgling business, especially in an up-and-coming area like Marshalltown.

By the way, BGR is a block away from Anka’s Kitchen, another fiercely independent restaurant with a great story behind it.

(Side note: There is a burger chain in the U.S. that is also called BGR. I’m not sure if the South African BGR people know this. Coincidence?)

There’s no telling how long BGR will be operating in its current location. So stop in and buy some R10-burgers while they’re hot. 7 Loveday Street, Marshalltown.

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