Syrian Rose: The Best Restaurant in Fordsburg

by | Nov 16, 2021 | Food and Drink, Johannesburg, Johannesburg City Centre | 21 comments

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.

21 Comments

  1. Albert

    Wow. This place looks great and authentic!

    Reply
    • 2summers

      It is — Joburg at its best.

      Reply
  2. dizzylexa

    Love their laffa bread and they used to do an avo and date drink that was my favorite, will have to try the new place.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yes, they still have that! Haven’t tried it yet.

      Reply
      • dizzylexa

        Oh you must it’s the best. Just saw it on their Juice Menu.

        Reply
  3. David Bristow

    It is so wonderful to have seen how South Africa has become so culturally diverse. First it was all our own rainbow colours intermingling, but now so many other shades added. It used to just us looking back at bloody well us. Boiled beef and limp vegetables – we’ve come a long way in my lifetime.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Hahaha, yes I can see how the cuisine must have come a long way since the ‘old’ days. Although I think there was a lot of interesting food around back then too…perhaps just more of a challenge to find and most people were not encouraged to do so.

      Reply
  4. Peggy Laws

    Definitely going to try this out. Looks great!

    Reply
    • 2summers

      It’s fabulous.

      Reply
  5. Margaret Urban

    Love this post; wish it was around the corner …

    We have so much angst about present day South Africa; but folks from much worse off places such as Syria find a new home here and add to our rich diversity – both of South Africans and others – which is one of the things I love best about this country …

    Reply
    • 2summers

      That is very well articulated. You’re so right.

      Reply
      • Margaret Urban

        Thanks for the compliment 🙂

        Reply
  6. Marco Brown

    One of my family’s favourite spots that we discovered about six months ago. We were there just two Fridays ago and had fantastic and very affordable food as always. I never grow tired of their excellent grilled chicken! Well worth visiting.

    PS – across the road from Syrian Rose, in Mint Road (to the left of the permanent flea market) is the newly renovated Schwarma Time with their own unique flavour twist on grilled chicken and schwarmas. They also have beef and lamb grills, as well as unique fruit & veggie juices, cocktails and the like. Very affordable as well. You should visit them sometime.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Ah, thanks so much Marco — we will definitely check out Shawarma Time (if we can ever tear ourselves away from Syrian Rose, haha).

      Reply
  7. PHILIP HORN-BOTHA

    My daughter has been there and considers it fantastic quality value for money!! I will be going soon –

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Definitely the best value around.

      Reply
  8. naeem

    around the corner from them is Amman Restaurant, also similar grillz & wraps. But very underrated are their beef burgers. Juicy and cooked to perfection (their signature is called a kamakazi burger)

    Seems the arabs are the new indo-pak in fordsburg, unfortunately the area has really declined in recent years. I work in the area and we experience neverending service delivery issues, hopefully things turn around soon.

    Take a walk down from syrian rose toward fordsburg. There is a fantastic ice cream place. Kulfi style hand made ice cream (about 100m down from syrian rose, on your left)

    Other notable mentions in our area
    Turkish Kebab House on church Street (their iskander is best, also their pides)
    Al Hamra on Church Street (Status Restuarant on Church is former staff so similar quality)
    Amman Resturant

    Lillian Lofts have Restaurant Piqante which i hear make a killer breakfast. Do check out their hotel/apartment, very hip and trendy design and architecture. Never ate there but heard good things.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Wow, these are great tips! Thank you. I also love the Turkish Kebab House but haven’t been there for ages – need to go back soon. Shayona, the vegetarian Indian place across from there is also great.

      Reply
  9. Rehoboth

    Excellent place to spend time with family and friends

    Reply
  10. Tumtum

    Driving out of park station today, i remembered that the Syrian restaurant was close by; so i dragged hubby there for a late lunch. I ordered the quarter chicken meal and lemon mint juice (as one does). Hubby ordered orange juice because he wasn’t hungry.

    I only have two regrets – should have ordered hot instead of mild and half chicken meal instead of the quarter because it was so so good.

    Nonetheless, your recommendation was faultless as always.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yay! That’s what I love to hear.

      Reply

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