Eating My Way Through Yeoville

I think Yeoville is the most interesting suburb in Joburg. I’ve been there many times — for meals, boxing tournaments, and tours — and yet I always feel like I should be going to Yeoville more. Once home to the city’s bohemian intelligentsia, Yeoville is now the center of Pan-African culture in Joburg — where Congolese, Ghanian, Mozambican, Ivorian, and Cameroonian immigrants flock.

The truth is, Yeoville still intimidates me. It’s brash and frenetic and very…male. Yeoville’s streets are filled with men, strutting in fancy clothes and looking me straight in the eye, with mischief. I’ve always heard that Yeoville is a fantastic place to go out at night, but I’ve never been brave enough to try.

When I saw that Dlala Nje was hosting a food tour, “the Taste of Yeoville”, on a Sunday evening, I signed up immediately.

I’ve done a couple of walking tours with Dlala Nje, a local community centre and cultural tourism organization. One of the best things about Dlala Nje’s tours is that they always begin at Ponte City. Ponte City — a towering high-rise shaped like a hollow cigar, which is the tallest residential building in Africa — sits on the border of Hillbrow, Berea, and Yeoville. The “core” of Ponte City is an amazing place to take photos.

Ponte looking up

Shot from Ponte City’s core, with my trusty iPhone. Incidentally, contrary to popular belief, anyone can walk into Ponte City off the street, enter through the public shopping center on the ground floor (which has been nicely developed over the last year), and walk down the stairs to Ponte’s core. You don’t need to know a Ponte resident or get permission from security to do this, although you do need special permission to go up into the building itself.

From Ponte, our group of 15 or so “tourists” took off on foot and hiked to Yeoville Ridge, another one of my favorite photography spots.

Ponte from Yeoville

Ponte City from the outside, as seen from Yeoville Ridge.

Ponte from Yeoville panoramic

Yeoville Ridge is one of the best spots in town to photograph the Jozi skyline. Read more about it here. I don’t recommend visiting Yeoville Ridge alone though — always go with a group.

After spending some time on the ridge, we walked the short distance down into Yeoville proper, where night was beginning to fall. We gathered in the suburb’s central square and our guide, Mike Luptak, provided some historical background on Yeoville. Yeoville was one of Joburg’s first “gray areas” under apartheid, meaning and that black and white people lived there together while segregation was still strictly enforced elsewhere.

We then proceeded to Kin Malebo Village, our first Yeoville dining spot.

Each African immigrant group has its own hangouts in Yeoville. Kin Malebo Village, on Raleigh Street, is a place where people of Congolese decent go to eat, drink, and dance.

Kin-Malebo

Kin Malebo Village.

We parked at a plastic table marked “Reserved”, ordered some Black Labels, and feasted on our first course of the evening: cakes of cassava (a starchy dish that tastes like pap), creamy spinach with peanut sauce, chicken gizzards, and fiery chopped chilies with garlic. It was all delicious.

Congolese food

Please excuse the poor photography — it was very dark inside Kin Malebo. The food tasted so much better than it looks in this picture.

This was just an appetizer so I tried not to stuff myself. After half an hour or so of soaking in the central African vibe — I love Congolese music now — we departed for our next destination.

Raleigh Street was not particularly busy at 7:30 on a Sunday evening. In fact, with the exception of the occasional drunkard, it was downright benign. I snapped a few cell phone photos as we walked.

Raleigh Street shop

A typical shop in Yeoville. Unlike most of Joburg, Yeoville stays open late.

We stopped into the Yeoville Market, which is one of the best places in town to buy fresh produce, spices, cheap clothes, and luggage. The market was in the midst of shutting down for the evening, and I didn’t take any photos because the security guards there are a bit feisty. (You can check out some photos of the market in this very old post.) I did buy some bright green bananas though — not plantains, the vendor insisted, although that’s what they look like — which I am going to attempt to fry.

Our final stop was La Camerounaise, a Cameroonian joint on Rockey Street with a long charcoal grill. The grill was crowded with fish.

Lucy and fish_edited-1

Fish on the barbie, tended by Lucy. I never found out for certain what kind of fish it is, but I think it’s red kabeljou.

Lucy is La Camerounaise’s grill chef. I love everything about her, and I also love her fish.

Grilled fish

Again, this photo is a very poor representation of what I actually ate.

As we gorged ourselves (with our hands) on spicy grilled fish, french fries, and plantains, Lucy walked around and asked each of us how we were enjoying the food. At one point Lucy set a bottle of hand lotion down on the table, which didn’t make sense at the time but now I get it. Eating fish by hand makes your fingers smell very fishy, and the lotion masks the scent. Unfortunately one of my fellow tour participants mistook the lotion for mayonnaise.

Once all the fish had been eaten and many quarts of Black Label had been drunk, we sadly bid au revoir to La Camerounaise and piled into a minibus taxi bound for Ponte.

Twenty-four hours later, my fingers still smelled slightly of fish. It was totally worth it.

To receive updates about upcoming tours with Dlala Nje, follow them on Facebook.

Previous Post Next Post

26 Comments

  • Reply MiaMusings February 25, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Ive been meaning to do the Yeoville tour for a long time now….thanks to your piat, it will be sooner than later!! I did the hillbrow tour a few weeks back with dlala nje….going up Ponte was simply amazing.

    • Reply MiaMusings February 25, 2014 at 11:14 am

      Sorry…meant post and not piat!

    • Reply 2summers February 25, 2014 at 6:01 pm

      Awesome! Glad to hear I’m motivating you to go back.

  • Reply surajacharya100 February 25, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Reblogged this on http://www.surajacharya.wordpress.com.

  • Reply nicciattfield February 25, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Thanks for this. Have always found Ponte quite scary in some way, don’t quite know why. Maybe the height.

    • Reply 2summers February 25, 2014 at 6:00 pm

      Oh, you’re definitely not alone. Ponte definitely has an eerie, creepy underside. And of course it used to be a major haven for crime.

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough February 25, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful adventure, Heather. And I am TOTALLY in love with the second photo in this post. Wow! Hope your week is going well!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    • Reply 2summers February 25, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      Thanks Kathy. Ponte is an amazing place. It’s impossible to take a bad photo there!

  • Reply Alma February 25, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    I lived in SA (Gauteng ) 22 years and Yeoville is the last place I’d go to (crime ) .. Especially not alone and a woman-Big nono .. I don’t want to get mugged assaulted or worse thanks.

  • Reply Alma February 25, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    I lived in SA (Gauteng ) 22 years and Yeoville is the last place I’d go to (crime ) .. Especially not alone and a woman-Big nono .. I don’t want to get mugged assaulted or worse thanks.

    • Reply 2summers February 25, 2014 at 10:16 pm

      Well, you certainly need to be careful in Yeoville, like in any other place. But I’ve been to Yeoville many times and never been mugged or assaulted.

  • Reply Eugenia A Parrish February 28, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Carling’s Black Label brought back memories of my father sitting outside on humid buggie summer evenings back in the fifties. I never see that brand anymore.

  • Reply Eugenia A Parrish February 28, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Carling’s Black Label brought back memories of my father sitting outside on humid buggie summer evenings back in the fifties. I never see that brand anymore.

    • Reply 2summers March 2, 2014 at 10:57 am

      Black Label is one of the most popular beers in SA. I think it’s brewed here now.

  • Reply Caity March 7, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Wow wow wow, I SO want to do this!
    So nice to see a fellow Jozi South African on here. I love your blog so I’m adding it to my blogroll at http://interruptedideas.wordpress.com/

  • Reply Caity March 7, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Wow wow wow, I SO want to do this!
    So nice to see a fellow Jozi South African on here. I love your blog so I’m adding it to my blogroll at http://interruptedideas.wordpress.com/

    • Reply 2summers March 7, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      Thanks Caity, I appreciate that! You should definitely check out the Dlala Nje tours – they’re awesome.

  • Reply [email protected] June 2, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    My parents still live in yeoville!

  • Reply Zintle Ndamase April 18, 2016 at 12:42 am

    I would also like to visit Yeoville one day, because Yeoville is keeping my love, Max we lost contact me and him we were in P.E that time last year, and Iv been looking for him ever since! My whatsapp number is +276 118 351 96 anyone with Information about my “Max” and his from P.e and just newly relocated to Johannesburg in Yeoville, his a congolese! Any congolese person living in Yeoville close to Rasta/Gree house definitly they will know him. Please help me find him so we can continue our love together. 🙂

    • Reply 2summers April 18, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Zintle. I hope you find him!

  • Reply Bernard October 4, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    My girlfriend and I read about this on your blog a while back. So I took her on this as a surprise for her birthday. It was amazing.
    Thank you for the suggestion.
    We really enjoy your blog.

    • Reply 2summers October 4, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      Hi Bernard, that is fantastic to hear. Thanks so much for letting me know.

    Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: