Roadhouses of Gauteng Province

by | Feb 1, 2021 | Ekurhuleni (East Rand), Food and Drink, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Roadhouses of Gauteng | 44 comments

First in my Roadhouses of Gauteng series. Browse all of my roadhouse posts or view a map of the roadhouses I’ve visited.

I’ve been planning to blog about South African roadhouses — the equivalent of American fast-food drive-ins — since 2015, when I ate lunch at the Casbah Roadhouse in Brakpan during a Joburg Photowalkers outing.

casbah roadhouse in Brakpan, 2015
The Casbah in August 2015.

I was enamoured with the Casbah’s striking neon sign and the mid-century vibe of the place. But I was there at high noon, when the sign was off and the light was flat. So I vowed to go back soon at golden hour, do a proper evening photoshoot, and start my roadhouse blog series then.

Casbah neon sign
A better look at the Casbah sign.
Roadhouse lunch at the Casbah
Roadhouse lunch at the Casbah: Toasted cheese with tomato, chips, and a chocolate milkshake. I can no longer remember who the Photowalker in the background is.

Alas, in my usual fashion, I talked and talked about this roadhouse blog series for years and kept procrastinating. Six years later (as in last week), when I was finally ready to start, I googled the Casbah in Brakpan and found it closed its doors in 2020 after 65 years in business. Sob.

(The Casbah has a few other locations still open. But I don’t know if any of them have a cool neon sign like the Brakpan restaurant had. I would appreciate any tips.)

Anyway, I’m still fascinated with South African roadhouses and I think now is the time to blog about them. While some of the most legendary examples — like the Casbah and the Doll House of Louis Botha, which I know I took pictures of but can’t currently find — have closed in recent years, many South African roadhouses are still alive and kicking. There’s even a new roadhouse chain, Kota Joe, which started in 2011 and seems to be doing extremely well.

Roadhouse dining is perfect for 2021: The food is cheap, and social distancing is easy because a server brings your order right to the car window. (Most roadhouses also have separate outdoor seating.)

So I’m not procrastinating any longer — my roadhouse series starts now. I’ve already missed January, but beginning in February I will feature at least one roadhouse per month until the end of the year.

Roadhouses of Gauteng: The Lollipop in Pretoria

Thorsten and I discovered the Lollipop Roadhouse by accident, while driving through Pretoria on our way home from visiting the Wonderboom. We were starving, and I had recently told Thorsten about my roadhouse obsession during our Dagwood lunch. (The Dagwood is a classic roadhouse menu staple.)

Thorsten suggested we try to find a Pretoria roadhouse. I opened Google Maps and there was the Lollipop.

I was delighted when we rounded the corner and found this perfectly quaint, roadhouse-y roadhouse, nestled behind a bank of Caltex petrol pumps. Adding the petrol station was a clever move by the Lollipop owners — I imagine it really helps keep the roadhouse afloat.

It was hot so we chose to get out of our car and sit at one of the outdoor tables along the side of the parking lot.

The Lollipop Roadhouse and Caltex garage
The Lollipop — established in 1935, according to the sign — is behind a Caltex petrol station. When you pull into one of the parking spots, the server walks to your car with a menu and a nifty tray that hooks onto your open car window.
Roadhouse order window
Customers can also walk up and order at the counter. I noticed a lot of people buying soft-serve.

My friend Gail told me the Lollipop is owned by the same people who used to own the Doll House in Joburg. Those of you who once frequented the Doll House will see the resemblance.

The Lollipop, part of a chain of roadhouses that once included the Doll's House in Joburg.
Note the little doll-house-like windows.

Like every roadhouse I’ve been to, the Lollipop has a huge menu offering basically everything: English breakfasts, burgers, Dagwoods (of course), toasted sandwiches, chicken meals, pastas, pizzas, shawarmas, curries, ribs, milkshakes, beer. (We visited before the most recent alcohol ban.)

I decided to keep it simple and order a double bacon-avo burger. Thorsten chose the chicken schnitzel from the special Lollipop Sunday lunch section, served only on Sundays after 10:30 a.m.

Food served at Lollipop Roadhouse
I was too hungry to take proper photos.
Heather eating burger
My burger was great — I think burgers and toasted sandwiches are always the best things to order at a roadhouse. (Photo: Thorsten Deckler)

Although I enjoyed my meal, the roadhouse experience is really not about the food. Every roadhouse meal I’ve eaten has tasted more or less the same. Going to a roadhouse is about the novelty and the nostalgia, combined with the simple joy of filling your stomach cheaply while looking at something more interesting than the inside of your own house. What more can one ask for in the South African summer of 2021?

I liked everything about our Lollipop roadhouse lunch, particularly the pleasant location of the tables under a stand of trees. My only complaint was the cleanliness of the bathroom, which was poor even by roadhouse/petrol station standards.

Seeking Roadhouse Recommendations

Do you have a favorite roadhouse in Gauteng? If so, please send your suggestions my way. I’m especially keen to visit roadhouses with fabulous neon signs or other interesting design features (R.I.P., Brakpan Casbah).

Lollipop Roadhouse

The Lollipop Roadhouse is at 1340 Stanza Bopape Street, Pretoria. There is a second Lollipop location at 86 Kwartel Road, Terenure, Kempton Park. Both restaurants are open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. (9:00 p.m. during lockdown).

44 Comments

  1. Heather Smit

    Hi Heather. Burger Box Roadhouse, 193 Voortrekker Road, Monument, Krugersdorp.
    I haven’t been there for many years but a young friend goes there regularly and she and her family love it.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Ah, great, thanks so much Heather. Putting it right at the top of the list.

      Reply
      • Albert

        Ah, the Lollipop was very popular with students when I studied at Tuks in the 90s. Their ice cream covered in a caramel crust and served in a polystyrene cup was legendary. Didn’t know the place was still open.

        Reply
        • 2summers

          It’s going strong!

          Reply
  2. AutumnAshbough

    Those fries look amazing. I love those meaty-looking steak-fries.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yes. come to think of it, fat fries (chips) are definitely the norm here. You hardly ever see skinny ones except at actual American fast food places.

      Reply
  3. dizzylexa

    The Fireplace in Boksburg is a must, opened in 1958. When I visited there earlier this year, besides the two neon signs they also had a big screen to show movies. There is also a branch in Brakpan which I would frequent when I worked out that way. The Wimpy Roadhouse is another one which is in Benoni. So glad you’ve started this.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Ahhhh, yes I remember you telling me about the Wimpy Roadhouse! We definitely need to make a date for one of these.

      Reply
      • dizzylexa

        For sure, I love roadhouse food.

        Reply
  4. urbanjozi

    Nostalgia is right! I don’t think I have been to a roadhouse since I was a kid. This one looks lovely!

    Since you mention getting soft serves, you reminded me that I did just that at a roadhouse in Port Elizabeth once. That roadhouse is almost right on the beach. I didn’t have a car and was just out for a walk at the time. I did think it was rather sad that so many people were sitting in their cars eating lunch (it was a Sunday afternoon and I think they seemed to have some sort of roast dinner special on Sundays which seemed very popular), as the beach was right there and everyone seemed to be ignoring it! But, I guess if you see the sea every day, it is not quite the novelty it is for me. 🙂

    Reply
    • 2summers

      That’s a very interesting observation. I think I read about that PE roadhouse somewhere when I was researching for this post…

      Reply
  5. catji

    Good one! Good idea! 🙂 First photo is a good start..those chips are perfect, I can see it from here. :)) (I hate it when actually slap and pale, no crispy.)

    Reply
    • 2summers

      I agree. Slap chips are better in theory than they are in practice.

      Reply
      • Niamh

        Great article Heather following with interest. Skinny chips are not for real one must have chunky crispy chips.

        Reply
  6. Ced Pearce

    Apple roadhouse on van Riebeek Ave Edenvale. Pure and Cool roadhouse(was also Dolls House at one time) on Stanhope Road in Malvern East Johannesburg.

    Reply
  7. Mark

    Uncle Harry’s in Randfontein has been there forever and is a real landmark at the entrance to the town. I think the same family still runs it. Best pizza and Bar One milkshakes. Has neon signs. There is also a Jameson Raid memorial next door.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Oh wow, I’ve been to Randfontein several times and have thought repeatedly I should find this roadhouse. Now I’ll do it for sure – the memorial sounds interesting!

      Reply
      • Gary

        Hi Heather,
        Enjoy your Blogs
        Please do go have a look at Uncle Harrys Randfontein I second Marks idea,I grew up in Randfontein,When I go through I find a excuse to have a Hamburger and sometimes a Frankdog and chips with a strawberry Milkshake and Cream as we did 32 odd years ago in my first car in my last year of School
        You can actually also get a Beer now
        Owned by the same family for 40 years
        They Used to have a flat above the Roadhouse where they lived
        I also second the Burger Box Krugersdorp

        Reply
        • 2summers

          Hi Gary, awesome thanks so much! I’ve very excited for any excuse to go to Randfontein because I can go to the blanket factory while I’m there. Will go soon for sure.

          Reply
          • Mark

            LOL. You may well be the only person who says they are excited to go to Randfontein.

            Btw there is a building in Village Street named after my brother and I. Called Robmark.

          • 2summers

            Hahaha. I’ll look out for it.

  8. Dan

    Hi I grew up in Jo’burg in the 60’s and 70’s – Having been living in the UK for 40 years. Thanks so much for your blog which I discovered recently and have been overdosing on nostalgia ever since.. In the 70’s ( and beyond I’m sure) there was a famous/infamous roadhouse on Louis Botha Ave called The Dolls House. I believe it closed in the last few years.. Did you ever visit it ?

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yep! I always intended to blog about the Doll’s House. It closed in 2017 abc now I can’t find the pictures I took.

      Reply
  9. David Bristow

    Roadhouse on the PE (Pollack Beach) beachfront is/was the Something Good but that was not its original name (my supreme darling grew up there but canna remember). There is/was also the Windmill at Humewood Beach and one towards Cape Recife called Flat Rock. But that Thorsten fellow needs to up his roadhouse game – chicken schnitzel indeed! It has to be a burger, dagwood sarmie or go big with a mixed grill.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Hahaha. I’m sure he will take your advice next time.

      Reply
  10. David Bristow

    Going with the modern millennial and younger theme, Something Good even serves craft beers.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      I can’t decide how I feel about this.

      Reply
  11. Dan

    When on holiday from Jo’burg in the 1960’s, we invariably went to Durban by car about a 6-7h drive back then. Before even unpacking we used to make a beeline for the North Beach roadhouses – The Cuban Hat or The Nest. Anyone remember those ?
    https://www.fad.co.za/Resources/memoirs/cuban.htm

    Reply
    • 2summers

      I saw the Cuban Hat mentioned in a couple of articles I read while writing this post. I think it’s closed but can’t remember for sure.

      Reply
  12. Maarten

    Memories are flying in when reading this blog about the Lollipop. I worked in Tsakane township close to Brakpan for 12 years until 2019 and some of the staff sometimes challenged me to go on a Friday afternoon to visit the Lollipop. Chips and Burgers of course and a lovely shake or coke. Great food great place, not fancy at all, but a road house is a road house. Loved it.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      East Rand roadhouses are the best.

      Reply
  13. Robin

    V8 Roadhouse in Harties is great – definitely worth a visit

    Reply
  14. primo

    Hi Heather! Thanks for a really interesting article which took me back to the early 70s as a kid growing up in Durban. In the bad old apartheid-era days, when entry to fine dining choices were pretty limited if you weren’t caucasian, we’d sometimes take a drive on weekends and would sometimes stop at one of these roadhouses for a toasted sandwich, fries and a shake. In particular, I remember Clover Leaf on Durban’s so-called Indian beach (which, strictly speaking, might not qualifiy as a roadhouse) where we would park off after a drive along the coast. Having your meal brought to your car in these strange and surreal times now seems particularly apt. As an aside, do you know what has happened to that excellent Casbah sign? I do hope someone has had the good sense to preserve it. For those interested in this sort of thing, here’s a link to the Montreal Signs Project at my alma mater in Canada (I left SA over 45 years ago):
    https://www.montrealsignsproject.ca

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Thank you so much for sharing your memories! It’s interesting (and sad) to think about how roadhouses provided dining options under apartheid for those who didn’t have many other choices. I’m also really wondering what happened to that sign.

      Reply
  15. Joan

    There is a “roadhouse” at Molly Malones in Fourways opposite Fourways Crossing East Entrance. They were doing movie nights _ i don’t know if they still are. And There is another roadhouse in Fourways – in the Baron on Witkoppen Road parking lot – Corner Church Street and Witkoppen Road. Sorry – I don’t know the name but it is fast becoming a favourite haunt of many Fourways residents. Apparently the do THE BEST Milkshakes!

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Oh, interesting! I had heard about Molly Malone’s but didn’t know there is another roadhouse in Fourways. I will investigate — thanks.

      Reply
  16. Alex

    Apple bite in Edenvale has the best neon sign!

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yes! That one is on the list for sure.

      Reply
  17. Paul Naylor

    Another one you could look into is “The Fireplace” that was between Benoni and Boksburg near Dunswart on the Main Reef Road. In the late 60’s it was very progressive in so much that one could go there on a Sunday and watch local bands perform whilst having a drink.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Thanks! It’s on the list.

      Reply
  18. AutumnAshbough

    No chips?! Sacrilege! Still looks cool, though.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yeah I was also confused by that. But happy in the end.

      Reply

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