It was a Monday and it was my birthday. I had a photography assignment in the morning and then I went to Cresta Mall to do some shopping. After shopping, I thought I should buy myself a birthday lunch. What could I treat myself to for lunch on a random winter Monday? Suddenly I had it: Fish and chips.

I drove to a fish and chip shop in Randburg that I had heard was good. I ordered a “small” fried hake and chips for R52 (about $3.50) and salivated during the 10-minute drive home. Once home I devoured half the fish and chips (it was way more than I could eat in one sitting) at my kitchen counter. It was the best birthday lunch imaginable.

At that moment I decided to do a Jozi Top Fives post on fish and chips.

Fish and chips has been a cheap, popular meal in Joburg since the early gold-mining days. (I touch on that history in this post about slap chips.) It’s not really possible to do a definitive “top five” ranking of fish and chip shops: Everyone has their own favorite for their own reasons — nostalgia or taste or a combination of both. But here are five fish and chip shops I’ve enjoyed. Thanks to everyone who provided their own fish and chip recommendations when I posted a question about this on Facebook.

1) Solly’s Corner (Fordsburg)

I’ve blogged about Solly’s Corner before and it appears in my #Gauteng52 book.

Inside Solly's Corner
Inside Solly’s Corner, which is always busy.

Solly’s serves many South African fast food specialties in addition to fish and chips — Russians, Viennas, fried polony, frikkadels, etc., all halal of course — but the fish and chips is notable for the Indian masala seasoning sprinkled on top. Solly’s gives fish and chips a particularly South African flair and that’s what I like about it. Plus Solly’s is such a fun place to go and absorb the vibe.

Solly's fish and chips with seasoning
Solly’s fish and chips with masala seasoning.
Man eating in Solly's Corner
Customer eating fish and chips in the tiny Solly’s dining room.

Solly’s Corner is at 30 Lilian Ngoyi Street in Fordsburg.

2) The Fish and Chip Shop (Victoria Yards)

Victoria Yards is a funky arts hub in Lorentsville. It’s not the kind of place you’d expect to find a fish and chip shop tucked among the organic vegetable gardens and art galleries. And yet there it is — the Fish and Chip Shop. (That’s its actual name.)

The Fish and Chip Shop in Victoria Yards
The Fish and Chip Shop in Victoria Yards.
Inside the Fish and Chip Shop
Inside the Fish and Chip shop. It’s a little hipper than an average fish and chip shop, as are its customers. But that doesn’t make the food any less cheap and tasty.

This shop is so pleasant and it has a very sweet origin story, which I just read about now on the Fish and Chip Shop website. I love the fact that the fish and chips are still about R50 even though the clientele is more affluent than that of an average fish and chip shop. Also these fish and chips are really, really good.

Hake and calamari combo
I decided to spring for the slightly more expensive hake and calamari combo the last time I went to the Fish and Chip Shop, although I’ve also enjoyed the plain fish and chips on previous visits. The chips are particularly fresh.

The Fish and Chip Shop is right inside Victoria Yards at 16 Viljoen Street, Lorentzville.

3) Tiberius Fish Emporium (Sandringham)

Tiberius Fish Emporium is in a shopping center in the heart of Joburg’s biggest Jewish neighborhood. Hence, this is probably one of the few places (maybe the only place?) in Joburg selling kosher fish and chips.

Tiberius Fish and Chips
Always Fresh, Always Kosher.
Stacks of kosher baked goods.

The fish and chips at Tiberius is a bit fancier than at the other shops — it’s the only place on this list where the fish is served on an actual plate and not in paper. Tiberius is also more expensive — R100 ($6.70) for a platter, while the others are all around R50 or slightly less. I thought my meal was worth the price though and after all, this fish is holy.

Tiberius fish and chips
Lunch at Tiberius.

Tiberius is a deli and bakery as well as a fish shop, selling all kinds of kosher treats. I also love the people-watching in this part of Joburg.

Tiberius Fish Emporium is at 74 George Avenue, Sandringham.

4) MaxBox Fish and Chips (Sophiatown)

The other day I saw a post on the “I Love Melville” Facebook page asking for local fish and chip recommendations. Someone suggested MaxBox in Sophiatown (which is very close to Melville) and I was intrigued. “MaxBox” is such a cool name.

MaxBox sign
MaxBox in the Sophiatown Shoprite Centre. It’s MaxCeptional!
Inside MaxBox
I like the logo.

MaxBox is a franchise, with locations all over Gauteng province. I don’t normally blog about fast-food chains but I think this is a fun one so I’m making an exception. Also MaxBox wins the prize for cheapest fish and chips, at R34 ($2.35) for a generously sized portion.

Fish and chips from MaxBox
Not the prettiest picture but you get the idea.

I ordered my MaxBox fish and chips with salt and vinegar, as I always do. The salt and vinegar tasted so good that I didn’t even add ketchup. I’m so glad Sophiatown is close to my house because the smell nearly killed me on the way home.

MaxBox is in the Sophiatown Shoprite Centre on Gold Street.

5) Fish Hook (Darrenwood)

Fish Hook is the place I went on my birthday — the fish and chip shop that motivated me to write this post in the first place.

Fish Hook entrance
The name is a play on words — Fish Hoek is a seaside town in the Western Cape.
Fish Hook
Great signage.

Fish Hook is tucked into a nondescript little building in Darrenwood, between Cresta and Linden. The owner is Welman Son, who was born in Joburg after his parents immigrated here from China in the 1940s.

Welman Son, owner of Fish Hook
Welman Son, owner of Fish Hook.

I had a very brief conversation with Welman that day as we waited for my fish to fry. I’m not sure why but it had a big impact on me. Welman seems like such a kind, genuine man. I had been feeling melancholy when I came in, contemplating my advanced age, but I left Fish Hook with a spring in my step.

I mentioned offhand to Welman that it was my birthday. He refused to let me pay.

Fish Hook fish and chips
Welman’s fish and chips. I’m not sure what he puts in the fried coating but it was fantastic. I reheated the second half in the oven the next day and it still tasted great.

As I said, we all have our favorite fish and chip shops for our own reasons. Fish Hook is my favorite now, because of Welman.

Fish Hook is in Darrenwood Centre on Republic Road.

Read all of my Jozi Top Fives posts.

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