I’m taking a quick break from my Western Cape road trip series to tell you about Syrian Rose, my new favorite restaurant in Fordsburg. Syrian Rose is unquestionably the best place in the entire city to chow down on spicy grilled chicken, shawarmas, and fresh fruit juice.

Syrian Rose, at the corner of Albertina Sisulu Road and Mint Road, is across the street from the Fordsburg Market. It’s a busy part of town but we easily found parking on the east side of Mint Road, less than a block from the restaurant.
Syrian Rose in Fordsburg
Syrian Rose by night.

Syrian Rose is run by a bunch of Syrian guys (obviously), who used to have a smaller takeaway joint about a block down the road. They opened at this new location in February 2021. (As I’ve said before, props to all the small businesses that took a chance and opened/expanded during the pandemic. I salute you.)

There is something special about this particular restaurant, on this particular corner, serving this particular food. Thorsten, who is an architect (my boyfriend is an architect…have I mentioned this before? I think I probably have), explained it perfectly in his recent Instagram post so I’ll shamelessly quote him rather than try to explain it better myself:

“Had dinner at Syrian Rose in Fordsburg last night and these are my observations about why it was great (besides great service, delicious and affordable food). There was a really diverse crowd of diners. The restaurant and take away is slightly raised, on a busy corner that is completely open yet protected by a balustrade at just the right height. Diners share eye level with passersby and taxi passengers, while domestic life carries on, above on adjacent balconies. All these ‘little things’ somehow add up to something bigger.”

Thorsten Deckler, a.k.a. @thethinking_hand
Thorsten's sketch of Syrian Rose
One of Thorsten’s sketches of Syrian Rose.

Eating at Syrian Rose — especially around sunset on a Saturday evening, when we recently went — is magical. Albertina Sisulu, one of Joburg’s main thoroughfares, was busy but not as crazy as a weekday afternoon or evening. Several of the restaurant’s tables were occupied but the place wasn’t packed. The summer heat was fading and the sky slid slowly from blue to beige to pink. Right as we placed our order, the call to prayer echoed around us from at least two different mosques.

Inside Syrian Rose
Inside Syrian Rose.
Inside Syrian Rose
A little later, when the restaurant started to fill up after evening prayers.
Fordsburg street corner outside Syrian Rose
The street behind our table.
Thorsten sketching at Syrian Rose
@thethinking_hand in action.

Syrian Rose’s food is simple, delicious, and cheap. Thorsten ordered the quarter chicken meal with lemon-mint juice and I ordered the falafel laffa wrap with pineapple juice.

Lemon mint juice from Syrian Rose
The lemon mint juice is our favorite.

The chicken meal comes with a chicken leg and thigh (or breast and wing), a large piece of laffa bread (the Syrian version of a South African roti), a pile of piping-hot chips, a side of coleslaw, and a dollop of tangy garlic mayo. Impossibly, this meal costs R30 (about $2). My falafel laffa, which I struggled to finish, cost R50 (about $3.30). The juices cost R25 each.

Chicken meal from Syrian Rose
The chicken meal, which tastes so much better than it looks in my mediocre photograph. The chicken is bathed in a delicious, spicy-but-not-too-spicy sauce. It’s like a saucier version of tandoori chicken. My mouth is actually watering as I type this.
Laffa wrap in the making
My falafel laffa wrap in the making. After placing my order, the waiter called me up to the counter to choose my toppings.
Falafel laffa wrap
My completed wrap: Smokey-flavored falafel with red cabbage, aubergine, onions, tahini, and chilli sauce.
Heather eating her wrap at Syrian Rose
I felt perfectly content in this moment. (Photo: Thorsten Deckler)

After dinner I took some photos of Deaa, the guy making laffa bread at the front of the restaurant, and the other staff. It’s fascinating to watch Deaa: He stretches the dough over a white cotton pillow, tosses the dough into the air, then slides it onto a dome-shaped burner for a few seconds until it starts to bubble and brown.

I’m posting a whole series of Deaa who, in addition to his talented laffa-making, is extremely handsome.

Deaa’s station is right at the entrance to Syrian Rose, so passersby can watch him as he works.
Deaa tossing laffa dough
Deaa making laffa bread
I was lucky to catch Deaa when I did: Right after this, he finished all the dough and went on break.
Waiters at Syrian Rose
Shout-out to Tynoe (left) and Kendry (right), our friendly and hard-working waiters.

Thanks to all the guys at Syrian Rose for a perfect Fordsburg evening. And thanks to Saalihah, Thorsten’s assistant, for tipping us off about this fantastic restaurant.

Syrian Rose is at 208 Albertina Sisulu Road, Fordsburg. They deliver: Call 074-492-5555.

%d bloggers like this: