My list of favorite places to eat in Mayfair, Joburg’s ever-expanding Muslim quarter, is growing. King Arabic Sandwich is the newest addition. Here’s my review of it, which recently appeared on JHBLive.
I heard a rumor about a new place in Mayfair: a Lebanese bakery run by refugees from Syria. I googled but found nothing, so I turned to Facebook.
Within a few hours, the mystery was solved. The place I was looking for is not a Lebanese bakery run by Syrians, but rather a Palestinian restaurant run by Gazans. I drove to King Arabic Sandwich, at the corner of Hanover Street and 9th Avenue, the next day.
King Arabic Sandwich.
I don’t really feel qualified to write a proper review of King Arabic Sandwich, as one visit is not enough for someone – especially someone who knows nothing about Palestinian food – to get a feel for what’s on offer there. But I will say this: King Arabic Sandwich’s pastries, which most South Africans would describe as pies but are actually so much more than that, are enough to keep me coming back.
The delicate pastries – some oblong, some half-moon-shaped, some triangular – are sprinkled with fragrant Arabian spices and contain a variety of both meat and meatless fillings (all halal, of course). Most of the pastries sell for R25 each.
There are so many different pastry flavors; I struggled to choose.
I tried the chicken with sweet pepper pastry, and my boyfriend went for the mince meat with tomato. I washed my meal down with a cup of steaming black Arabic tea, with leaves of a mysterious green herb floating on top.
Ray‘s plate, with half of his pastry and half of mine. Both delicious.
We sat at our small table for quite a while, watching the constant flow of takeaway customers and the hijab-clad women strolling down Hanover Street with the their children.
I spoke to Mohammed and Hanan, the couple who opened King Arabic Sandwich about a year and a half ago. Our conversation was brief; Mohammed and Hanan speak limited English and they were very busy in the kitchen. But it’s easy to see that these are wonderful, warm people who are working day and night to make a life for themselves and their family in South Africa.
I asked Mohammed if there are any other Palestinian restaurants in Joburg.
“I don’t know,” Mohammed shrugs. “We sleep here” – he points to the kitchen – “we work here, all the time. We don’t know anything else.”
After our two pastries I planned to order something else, maybe hummus or a Palestinian dessert, to sample more of King Arabic Sandwich’s menu. But despite the rock-bottom prices, those pastries are filling. I didn’t have space for anything else. The homemade baklava will have to wait.
King Arabic Sandwich
Corner Hanover Street and 9th Avenue
*After writing this review, my friend and I tried to visit King Arabic Sandwich for dinner on a weeknight and found that the food was sold out. Mohammed recommended calling in advance in the evening just to make sure they have food left.