Valentine’s Date at the Fireplace Roadhouse

by | Feb 15, 2021 | Ekurhuleni (East Rand), Food and Drink, Johannesburg, Roadhouses of Gauteng | 22 comments

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

In my first roadhouse post, I mentioned I’d been meaning to do a roadhouse series for years but never got around to it. One of the reasons it took so long is because documenting roadhouses — at least in the way I want to document them — is not easy to do alone. I needed to find a roadhouse partner.

Roadhouses — South Africa’s version of the mid-20th-century, fast-food drive-in — tend to be far from central Joburg, mostly in towns on the East Rand. Roadhouses also tend to have fantastic neon signs and are best photographed in the evening, when driving to the East Rand (or other far-flung locations) is not very convenient.

Roadhouse sign at night
The Fireplace Roadhouse sign in all its glory. The neon flames flicker like an actual fire.

If you live in Joburg you’ll understand why driving 40 minutes from Melville to the East Rand — sometimes on dark, isolated roads, to eat greasy fast food while sitting in the car — is not everyone’s idea of a fun Saturday night out. Even I didn’t want to do it by myself.

I realize I had been subconsciously waiting for the right person to come along before embarking on this adventure. And a few months ago, that person finally appeared: Thorsten of Dagwood sandwich fame.

Thosten in the car at the Fireplace Roadhouse
Thorsten is always down for a roadhouse meal.

Last Tuesday one of my readers tagged me in an Instagram post from the Fireplace Roadhouse, which has locations in Boksburg and Brakpan. Not only does the Fireplace have one of the oldest and best neon signs at its Boksburg location, but it also shows drive-in movies.

Fireplace Roadhouse sign
The Fireplace in Boksburg.

The Instagram post informed me that on Saturday night, the night before Valentine’s Day, the Fireplace would be showing Dirty Dancing. There would be Valentine’s Day specials on the menu.

I showed the post to Thorsten. There was no question what we’d be doing on Saturday night.

Dinner at the Fireplace Roadhouse

The Fireplace was founded in 1958 by Sylvia Kongos, who also founded the Casbah Roadhouse chain mentioned in my previous post. (I need to conduct more research on Sylvia Kongos — mother to singer John Kongos and grandmother to the Kongos rock band — and her Gauteng roadhouse legacy. Expect that story in a future post.)

In 1981, Manuel “Manny” Neto bought the Fireplace from Sylvia. The Neto family continues to run the chain today.

Fireplace Roadhouse
The Fireplace Roadhouse.

The Fireplace has everything I could ever want in a roadhouse: Old-school design, beautiful signage, a huge menu, delicious (cheap) food, and great service. On top of all that, we were treated to a dramatic post-thunderstorm sky and spectacular sunset as Patrick Swayze twirled Jennifer Gray across the big screen.

Here are some more pictures.

Cars at the roadhouse
Dramatic sky above the roadhouse.
Fireplace Roadhouse
The Fireplace also has a sit-down restaurant (on the right).
Millicent, waitress at the roadhouse
Millicent, our wonderful waitress who called us “My Lovies”, delivers Thorsten’s double-thick chocolate milkshake. It was freaking delicious.
Another shot of Millicent just because we liked her so much.
Staff at Fireplace Boksburg
The rest of the Fireplace staff.
Dagwood from the Fireplace
I had the Dagwood Valentine’s special: A Dagwood (a bacon, egg, and cheeseburger on toast) with chips and an ice cream cone for R81 ($5.60).
Ice cream from the Fireplace
Curry and rice with banana
Thorsten had South African curry and rice, an Afrikaans/Cape Malay specialty that is often garnished with banana slices, shredded coconut, and chutney. This one had just the banana but was still very tasty.
Drive-in movie at the Fireplace
Dirty Dancing begins. We couldn’t hear it very well because you’re supposed to play the movie through your car radio and my stereo speakers are broken. Luckily sound is not totally essential to follow the plot of Dirty Dancing.
Triple Question Mark neon sign
Apparently the Fireplace was called “the Triple Question Mark” at some point in the distant past — hence this awesome old sign. I still need to get to the bottom of that part of the story.
Boksburg sunset
Dramatic Boksburg sunset.
Neon sign at the Fireplace Roadhouse
I was in neon-sign heaven once the sun went down.

I wish Boksburg was a little closer to Melville, and I wish Boksburg would fix its broken streetlights and repaint the lines on the road so we could have driven home without fearing for our lives. Otherwise this was a totally perfect evening. I couldn’t have asked for a better Valentine’s date.

As I learned the hard way with the Casbah, you never know when classic roadhouses like these will disappear. So don’t procrastinate, like I did. Go now.

The Fireplace at night

Expect more roadhouse reviews in the near future.

The Fireplace Roadhouse is at 85 Main Reef Road, Boksburg. (The Brakpan location, at 13 Nossob Street, has the same menu and movie lineup but it’s newer and doesn’t have the same old-school design.) Call 011-917-6876 for more information.


  1. dizzylexa

    The Kongos family seem to be the Royal family of Roadhouses. Not the best place to be driving from at night but does sound like the perfect Valentines date.

    • 2summers

      Yes, I need to get in touch with someone from that family! Driving home was actually a bit ridiculous — Boksburg has these huge, wide streets with TONS of street lights but almost none of them were working! It was so incredibly hard to see 🙁

      • dizzylexa

        Johnny Kongos still owns Johnny Guitar in Alberton, you might have to make that your next date night.

        • 2summers

          Oh yes, for sure. I actually listened to a podcast by the Kongos band when they interviewed their dad — he talked a little about Sylvia and the history of the roadhouses but I still need to fill in some holes. She must have been an amazing woman to have built such a successful business for herself during that era!

  2. mvschulze

    Wow! What a great review! Certainly like going back in time to a better place. It would be a hell of a drive to get there, but I would if I could! Interestingly, there is 1940,s or 50’s era “Fireplace” place here in Northern NJ, which we love, but with 6 lane Rt. 17 right out the door, and densely populated Bergen County, it’s just not the same as the place you reviewed. M 🙁

    • 2summers

      Oh, that’s interesting! Do they have a neon sign? I’d like to see it 🙂

  3. stanmorrison72

    Magnificent description, Heather. I suppose you know the old tradition that drive-in movies have to be watched from the rear seat of the automobile?

    • 2summers

      Thanks! I think I did have that info somewhere in my subconscious. I’m not sure that would work well in the roadhouse setting but I will try next time 🙂

  4. roelia

    This looks fantastic Heather! So keen to check it out! And keep the “Roadhouses of Gauteng” feature up, would love to see more of this!

  5. AutumnAshbough

    That shake looks amazing.

    Most of the drive-in theaters in Los Angeles have been turning into swap meets, but a few returned to showing movies during COVID.

    • 2summers

      Yeah, it’s really a great idea for pandemic times. There have been new ones popping up here too.

  6. Andrea

    Oh my word – grew up in Boksburg.
    Many meals there over the years, many happy memories.
    What you wouldn’t know, is that there used to be a Club called The Warehouse along that same road where a shopping Centre stands now, and don’t tell anyone, but the staff and regulars used to meet up at The Fireplace in the early hours after the Club had closed for the night, and do a bit of street racing 🙂 Good times!
    Haven’t been back home for a long time.
    Thank you for the trip down memory lane

    • 2summers

      Ahhhhh, I would love to have seen that!

  7. sukisaysblog

    Welcome to the Far East Rand 🙂 I’m a Boksburg girl and we love a Fireplace treat every now and then… but yes – the area is dodgy and the roads are cr@p. But its worth it – the food is great!
    Love your blog!

    • 2summers

      Oh yes, 100% worth it for sure. Thanks!

  8. Jean Mills

    My intro to the Fireplace was way back in the 60’s. My Dad worked for a movie distributor and would take ‘ reels’ now and then to them to show in what is now the indoor restaurant …..very innovative in those days….my dad was good friends with the Kongos family and I remember being given a huge brown paper bag full of those huge chips for us to enjoy and they haven’t changed in all these years, still huge and delish! Johnny Kongos put out a record titled ‘Tulips for Twanett’ a tribute to a young family member who passed away sometime in the sixties..I.’m sure I still might have this little 7 single record somewhere. Thanks for the memories.

    • 2summers

      Hi Jean, thank you so much for sharing these memories. The chips were indeed delicious! I should have mentioned that in my post.

  9. Barry Pinsky

    From my pre-vegetarian days, Roadhouses tend to be seriously non-veggie friendly. would be nice if your reviews let us know if they have any vegetarian (as in lacto-ovo) options.

    • 2summers

      Hi Barry, I’m not sure what lacto-ovo means. But your pre-veg memory serves you correctly. There are a few options for people who eat egg and cheese (toasted sandwiches, pizzas, etc.) but I think it goes without saying that vegans will have a hard time finding anything to eat at a roadhouse except chips and side salads.

  10. Nancy McDaniel

    what a great date night. Was Dirty Dancing still wonderful (even if you didn’t need sound for plot, did you still sing along to “I’ve Had the Time of My Liiiiife”? (And I’ve never felt this way before……)

    • 2summers

      Yes it was still wonderful!


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