It’s that time again: When I look back on all the cool stuff I did in Joburg last year but didn’t get around to blogging about. There were many such things in 2018 — I didn’t blog as much as normal last year, especially toward the end. But I’m planning to change that in 2019. I think I’m a much happier person when I blog.
Anyway, I did a similar post last year and everyone seemed to like it. If I had written ten more blog posts in 2018, here’s what they would have been about.
1) The Moral Kiosk
The Moral Kiosk is one of those hard-to-explain Joburg places. It’s part coffee shop (beans from Father Coffee), part vintage clothing shop, part vinyl record store, part live music venue. The Moral Kiosk is whatever it wants to be on a given day, and I love that.
I especially love the Moral Kiosk because it’s on 7th Street in Melville, my favorite place.
2) Joubert Park Greenhouse
Joubert Park is Joburg’s version of Central Park: a huge green space right in the center of town. I’m not gonna lie — Joubert Park is not the cleanest and probably not the safest so visit with care.
But on the northern end of the park, behind a beautiful wrought-iron gate, stands the tall, graceful skeleton of Joubert Park’s Victorian greenhouse. The greenhouse has lost most of its glass and it appears abandoned. But looks can be deceiving. There’s a nonprofit operating at the Greenhouse, called the GreenHouse Project, and things are happening there.
I showed up at the Greenhouse with my colleague Marie-Lais and found a lovely woman named Mary hoeing away inside. Mary is an experienced permaculturist and was really excited to show us around.
I have no doubt Mary and her colleagues will keep the GreenHouse Project alive. Read more about it here.
3) 99 Juta Street
99 Juta Street is in Braamfontein, a couple blocks up from from the Neighbourgoods Market and right across from the Black Forest Bakery. It’s a building filled with the most beautiful furniture and interior design shops, including Dokter and Misses and Joe Paine. 99 Juta also hosts occasional events. It’s a must-visit for anyone stylish.
4) Pick-a-Book boxes
The Pick-a-Book boxes aren’t one place per se, but rather one thing appearing in several places. Local reading enthusiast Derek Smith is putting them up as a way to encourage Joburgers to share books.
There are seven or eight boxes scattered about — send me a message if you’d like their exact locations. But if you have books you’d like to donate, my number one Pick-a-Book recommendation is the box in the parking lot at the Wilds. Going there is a great excuse to visit what has become my favorite public park in Joburg. The box at Kingston Frost Park in Brixton is also fun to visit.
5) Streetbar Named Desire/Saigon Suzy
Okay this is actually two places, not one. But Streetbar Named Desire and Saigon Suzy share the same building on Jan Smuts Avenue in Parkwood, and they are both so fun I can’t choose one or the other.
Streetbar Named Desire, named for the Tennessee Williams play, serves fancy cocktails and tapas. Saigon Suzy serves Asian fusion and has karaoke. Both places are insanely hip, which sometimes annoys me, but the food and atmosphere are too much fun to be annoying.
I recommend going to Parkwood on a weekday evening (preferably not Friday because too many hipsters) and have drinks upstairs at Streetbar followed by dinner at Saigon. Or visa versa — you can’t go wrong either way.
6) Spinning at GOG Gardens
GOG Gardens, in the Protea Glen township in Soweto, deserves a post of its own and I may yet write one. I went to GOG Gardens to watch a spinning demonstration by legendary driver Jeff James.
Spinning is too complicated to describe in one or two paragraphs, but basically it involves driving old BMWs very fast in circles while creating as much smoke as possible and climbing outside/on top of the car as it spins. I only witnessed one or two minutes and that was enough to take my breath away several times over. But GOG Gardens hosts spinning nights on a regular basis along with various other events.
7) St. Martin’s School
Most people know about St. John’s College in Houghton, the oldest private school in Joburg. But how many know about St. Martin’s School — almost as old as St. John’s and designed by the same architects, originally founded as a school for black boys — in the rough-and-tumble suburb of Rosettenville?
St. Martin’s, which used to be called St. Peter’s, was once known as “Black Eton”. Oliver Tambo and Hugh Masekela attended school there. Then the apartheid government closed the school down in the 1950s an reopened it a couple of years later as an all-white school named St. Martin’s. (Typical dick move, apartheid.)
Today St. Martin’s is thankfully integrated and has the most beautiful chapel.
8) Love Me So
Love Me So (play on the word miso) is yet another Asian fusion restaurant in Jozi. Asian fusion is super trendy here but there’s a reason for that — it’s freaking delicious.
I love Love Me So because: a) it’s just around the corner from me on 4th Avenue in Melville; and b) the menu has this great make-your-own-ramen option and it’s currently my favorite thing to eat in all of Joburg.
Love Me So is cozy and cool and has a nice selection of wine and cocktails.
9) City Perk Café
I walked past the City Perk Café, on the Main Street pedestrian mall in the downtown Mining District, at least 100 times before finally eating there two weeks ago. City Perk mainly serves the 9-to-5 workers from the nearby mining companies and banks and is only open during the week, which is probably why I kept missing it.
Anyway I’d been missing out — City Perk is delightful.
The Main Street pedestrian mall is one of the most pleasant places in downtown Joburg and City Perk is in the center of it all. There is tons of outdoor seating, and on Friday afternoons the restaurant lends space to clothing and souvenir vendors and musicians. The menu offers solid sandwich fare and other South African basics. I love the art on the walls inside.
10) Ellis Park Pool
I’ve written about Jozi pools before — see this post about Zoo Lake Pool, and the Linden pool featured in my “stuff I didn’t blog about” post from last year. This city’s public pools are fantastic and Ellis Park Pool is the best of them all.
Ellis Park Pool is smack in the middle of downtown Joburg, in a very underprivileged neighborhood. But it’s huge, beautiful, and relatively well-maintained. It’s also heated.
The Ellis Park Pool makes me optimistic about Joburg. And I think that’s a good place to end this post.