27 Boxes is a retail center made out of shipping containers on 4th Avenue in Melville.
I recently wrote a story about 27 Boxes for the Different, which goes into the interesting history of the center and of Faan Smit Park, the Joburg City park that used to be where 27 Boxes is now. So I won’t go into that in this post.
I just want to tell you that 27 Boxes has become one of the best places to hang out in Melville. The center didn’t get off to a great start when it opened in 2015; lots of the shops sat empty and Melville residents grumbled that the whole place was an eyesore and would soon go under and close.
But new management took over 27 Boxes last year and started fixing everything up. New shop tenants have moved in, and the outside of the center was completely overhauled. It looks fantastic.
I go to 27 Boxes all the time and I think everyone else should too. If you want an idea of what to do there, here are 10 of my top recommendations.
Ten Great Places in 27 Boxes
1) Krag Drag
Krag Drag is a popular clothing line: You might have seen Krag Drag’s distinctive, South-African-themed t-shirts and baby clothes for sale in the Sowearto and Big Blue retail chains, but the only actual Krag Drag shop is in 27 Boxes. This shop has become my favorite place in town to buy gifts — especially for my family back in America but also for my South African friends.
Krag Drag has a huge selection of quirky t-shirts, baby clothes, home decor, and accessories, all made with local materials and with specific South African or Joburgian themes. I never walk out of there empty-handed.
2) The Countess
The Countess is 27 Boxes’ flagship restaurant — one of the few places in the center (along with Krag Drag) that’s been there from the beginning. The Countess has a steampunk vibe, with a cavernous, cathedral-style interior. I would describe the menu as upscale pub grub, with great burgers and a wide selection of craft beer. I love sitting in the loft area on the top floor, which has a great view of the Melville Koppies.
3) Mwanawasa Art
I met Mwanawasa Mawelela a few months ago on a Saturday morning on Melville’s 7th Street. He was selling five-minute sketches to passersby. Now Mwanawasa has his own art gallery in 27 Boxes, and he recently put on an exhibition of my friend Fiver’s series of “Super Women” prints.
Fiver’s exhibition came down recently, but you can still buy these prints from Mwanawasa and he has all kinds of other interesting artwork (including his own) for sale.
4) The Baker Brothers
The Baker Brothers, a small bakery just outside the Countess, sells the best bread in Melville. I love their ciabatta, their cheesy breadsticks, and everything else I’ve ever bought there. I also love the Baker Brothers themselves.
I love supporting small businesses like this, especially when the product sold is truly superior to anything else available. If you go to 27 Boxes and leave with only one thing, this bread should be it.
5) Reserved Café
I already blogged about Reserved recently in my Restaurant of the Month series. This restaurant keeps getting better and it’s in the midst of expanding and adding a separate bar area.
6) Micogram Music Traders
I don’t collect vinyl, but Micogram Music Traders makes me want to. I don’t have a record-player but I love reliving my youth by browsing through the music in this shop.
Micogram Music Traders occupies a double-story corner spot on the upper floor of 27 Boxes. When you go in, be sure to go upstairs to check out the view.
7) No Name Nursery
This nursery, which is at the top of the 27 Boxes property next to the park, is brand-new and I haven’t actually shopped there yet. But it is so pretty and blends in seamlessly with the landscaping around the center.
There is a little playground right in the middle of the nursery, with old-school swings that look out over the Koppies.
8) The Table
UPDATE: As of 2019, the Table is closed.
Recently opened by the same people who own the Countess, the Table is an unusual buffet restaurant serving incredibly elaborate breakfasts and lunches made with local and sustainable ingredients. The Table offers quite a few vegetarian and vegan dishes.
The Table has a great indoor-outdoor setup, with a patio opening out onto the amphitheater and children’s play area.
9) Book Circle Capital
Another new addition to 27 Boxes, Book Circle Capital is an independently owned bookshop offering mostly South African and African literature, including the African diaspora.
The last time I visited the shop there was a coffee bar in progress at the back, and a nice seating area for reading or relaxing with friends.
10) The 27 Boxes Park
There is a beautiful public park at the top of 27 Boxes, on the 3rd Avenue side. The plans for this center were approved with the caveat that a significant portion of the property be maintained as public park space, and the developers have come through on that commitment.
This park is beautifully landscaped with indigenous plants and is a perfect place to sit on a bench in the sun and contemplate the universe. I speak from experience on this.
I had trouble narrowing this post down to ten places. Honorable mention goes to XO Cronuts.
Get yourself to 27 Boxes and find your own favorites.