Some Updates on Mexican Food in Johannesburg

by | Mar 24, 2016 | Food and Drink, Johannesburg, Melville and Surrounds | 13 comments

UPDATE (OCTOBER 2017): Alas, Café Mexicho has closed down. It had a good run though. Fortunately there are several good alternatives around town, which are included below. Also, I’m pleased to report that Perron (whose Illovo location is reviewed below) now also has locations in Melville and Bryanston. 

There were only two Mexican restaurants in Johannesburg when I moved here in 2010. This didn’t surprise me — in fact I was surprised that there were any Mexican restaurants at all. There are very few Mexican people in South Africa and one can’t expect authentic Mexican food in a country without Mexicans.

Times have changed, however, and today there are Mexican restaurants popping up all over town. There still aren’t many Mexicans — just non-Mexicans trying to cook Mexican food, some more successfully than others.

I’ve blogged about Mexican food many times and while I like to consider myself a Joburg Mexican food connoisseur, I admit that I haven’t been able to keep up with all of the new places that have opened. There is a Mexican place in Pineslopes that I haven’t been to yet, another one in Rosebank, and probably more that I don’t even know about.

It might be a while until I get to all these places, so let me give you the information I have now before I fall even further behind.

1) Baha Taco

I’ll start with the biggest news first. Baha Taco has opened a permanent restaurant in Norwood.

Inside Baha TacoBaha Taco’s new digs.

I discovered Baha Taco when it was a stall at the Sheds @1Fox. Dave, who co-owns Baha with his wife Kat, is South African but he lived in California for many years. Dave knows his tacos, especially fish tacos. Dave and Kat make their own tortillas and their ingredients are incredibly fresh. In my opinion Baha serves the best Mexican food in Joburg, hands down, and I’m thrilled that they have their own restaurant now. I just wish the restaurant was closer to me.

Fish taco from Baha TacoA Baha red snapper fish taco, with black beans (yay!) and a homemade corn tortilla.

Chips and salsa from Baha TacoChips and salsa — a great rarity in Johannesburg. The chips and salsa came free with our meal at Baha Taco.

Churros from Baha TacoI could be wrong, but as far as I know Baha Taco is the only Mexican place in Joburg that serves churros. These churros were incredibly delicious and I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually drank the leftover chocolate dipping sauce after devouring the churros. 

Two important sidebars about Baha Taco: 1) The restaurant is not yet licensed for alcohol, but if you want to drink with your meal you can pop into the liquor store next door. 2) Baha Taco’s stuffed jalapeños are the hottest I have ever tasted. Seriously. I almost killed myself eating one.

2) Café Mexicho

Café Mexicho, which is right here in Melville, has been around forever and I think it was the very first Joburg restaurant I blogged about. (Read that first post here, and a follow-up post I wrote a year or two later.)

I’ve never liked Café Mexicho very much. But recently, there has been a change. Long-time readers may remember a post I wrote about the only Mexican chef in Joburg. That chef, Lucio Arias, worked at Café Mexicho many years ago and then left to work for a local restaurant chain called Mexican Fresh (which I blogged about in the post above).

I am pleased to announce that the Mexican chef is back at Café Mexicho, and the food has greatly improved there. I’ve eaten at Café Mexicho three times over the last few weeks and really enjoyed it every time.

Tacos from Cafe MexichoChicken tacos topped (interestingly) with a salsa made of chopped tomatoes, onion, and radish. I forgot tot take a photo before eating one.

Burritos from Cafe MexichoA chicken burrito from Café Mexicho. The burritos are particularly good, with perfectly seasoned meat and a spicy, flavorful sauce.

I wholeheartedly recommend the food at Café Mexicho. (I am so glad that you’re back, Lucio. Please don’t leave.) Café Mexicho’s service still leaves something to be desired though — it’s always a bit slow. Also, note that Café Mexicho is a drinking hole above all else, so if you’re looking for a quiet dinner then this is not your place. The tequila is always flowing and the music is loud.

[August 2016 update: Lucio has left Café Mexico again — I can barely keep up! — and is now the chef at a new Mexican restaurant in Linden called El Jalapeño. I’ve been to El Jalapeño once but haven’t formulated a firm opinion yet. Stay tuned. I have visited Café Mexicho since Lucio’s departure and the food is still good, but the service is spotty. Nonetheless it is still my go-to Mexican spot due to simple proximity to my house.]

3) La Santa Muerte

A few months ago, Melville’s number of Mexican restaurants grew from one to two. Two Mexican restaurants in the same suburb — extraordinary!

Inside La Santa MuerteInside La Santa Muerte.

La Santa Muerte is owned by Hell’s Kitchen, the insanely popular bar next door, and both places are super hip with nice atmosphere. But my first lunch at La Santa Muerte left me disappointed. The beef ragout tacos I ordered were lacking in flavor, the tortilla chips that came with my guacamole had a chewy consistency, and my friend wasn’t wowed by her steak tacos. A few of the menu items were out of stock and the food took a really long time to come out, but I chalked that up to the newness of the restaurant.

Tacos from La Santa MuerteBeef ragout tacos. They looked beautiful but tasted just okay.

I need to go back to La Santa Muerte again to formulate a stronger opinion. But for now I’m on the fence.

4) Perron

Perron, an upscale Mexican restaurant in Illovo, opened about two years ago but I’ve only been once for lunch. I held off on blogging about it because I wanted to go back one more time. But I haven’t managed to do so yet so here’s a quick review.

I ordered the chicken mole, and as far as I know Perron is the only restaurant in Joburg that serves this authentic Mexican dish. The mole was delicious. I was, however, annoyed that the restaurant ran out of tortilla chips and served us taco shells (instead of chips) with our guacamole. This could have been a one-time error though.

Mole from PerronPerron’s tasty chicken mole.

Our margaritas from Perron were amazing.

The main reason that I haven’t made it back to Perron is because it’s extremely difficult to get a dinner booking. I recently tried making a reservation three or four days ahead, but was denied, and I’m usually not organized enough to plan a meal more than a week in advance. So I just haven’t gone. But, now that I look at this mole picture again, I realize that I really do need to get off my ass and make this Perron dinner happen.

Although I haven’t reviewed it again in this post, I am still a great fan of Mama Mexicana in Maboneng and think it’s one of the best Mexican options in town. Also, Mama Mexicana is open for breakfast and serves great eggs ranchero.

That’s the end of my Mexican food round-up for now. More coming soon, I’m sure.


  1. mvschulze

    Relating to Mexican food sans Mexicans. In Seaside Heights, (NJ) over the past years, the great Italian Sausage stand, still makes the great Italian Sausage Sandwich, but now the chefs are oft times Mexican! No problems there, the same great food, and just a slightly different accents by the equally great guys behind the counter. M 🙂

  2. UnderAnAfricanSun

    Great reviews! Perron has also opened a new location in Hobart Square just last week. We had a really good lunch at the Illovo one awhile back and we were going to try the new one on Monday but it was closed. Maybe it will ease the crowd a bit from Illovo. We have also been back to Salsa and it is even better than before. Only problem is it is so busy all the time, we have tried to go a few other times and were turned away so make sure you reserve if you go (and thanks for the link to my review 🙂 ) I liked Baha at the Sheds as well, we tried the new Mexican one (can’t remember the name) a couple weeks ago there but it wasn’t nearly as good as Baha Tacos. Gosh now I am hungry.

  3. gabyagraz

    Hi Heather, it is so great that you are blogging about Mexican food in Jhb. Yes, the mexican comunity in SA is very small, no more than 150!
    The Mexican trend in SA is growing and we at AztecA are so fortunate to be part of it. We have worked so hard for it for over the past 18 years!
    All the restaurants you mention are our customers and there are lots more…
    I extend to you (again) an invitation to come and visit an authentic Mexican food manufacturing plant in South Africa. How cool is that?
    I personaly follow your blog and I love it!

    • 2summers

      Hi Gabby, I am soon sorry that I haven’t come to visit your factory yet. I’m going to send you an email tomorrow! Thanks so much.

      • gabyagraz

        I know you are a busy girl!
        Looking forward to your email…

  4. Jaina

    Mexican food hasn’t really hit Bahrain yet either – well, not proper authentic Mexican food. (It’s a good thing my BF’s damn good at cooking it!). There are a few burrito places dotted around, but they’re very tex-mex style and not really proper Mexican.

    Oh and I’ve totally drunk the chocolate dipping sauce from a churros serving. You are not alone. And I would do it again.

    • 2summers

      Haha. I would do it again too and I probably will, soon.

  5. Sine

    Great post, Heather! I feel like Mexican restaurants are the hottest craze in Joburg. I lived there at the wrong time I think! The very first thing our kids wanted to do upon repatriation to the US was visit a Mexican restaurant. Before ordering anything from Amazon or watching a Netflix movie. That, and pepperoni pizza.

    I wonder where Baha Taco gets their black beans? I hunted unsuccessfully for those in Joburg three years running! As a friend of mine said: “Bean apartheid – no black beans allowed.”

    I will definitely share this with my readers, they’ll love it. Missing Mexican food is what unites all of us (American) expats…

    • 2summers

      Hahaaaa. Bean apartheid.

      There’s a big Mexican food supplier in Midrand and I think she might sell black beans. I actually need to go investigate. I also agree on the pepperoni pizza thing. Chorizo is good but it’s NOT the same.

      • Sine

        No, it’s not. Same with chili powder. Drove me nuts when people would say, oh yes, the Indian grocer over in XYZ sells great chili powder. Mexican chili powder is nothing like Indian chili powder made from ground chilies. In fact, it’s quite easily made from scratch. Here is my blog post with the recipe (and the recipe for chili con carne – perhaps your readers might like that to complement the restaurant review; plus, I also credit that blog post with the influx of Mexican restaurants. It was my call for Mexicans to get on boats that must have done it:-):

      • gabyagraz

        Yip… We have black beans…

  6. Chris

    Awesome reviews! I’ll definitely check some of them out when visiting South Africa again! ( ig @mrchrisrek)


Leave a Reply