Mexican Food in Alexandra (and Other Tales From the Kasi)

by | Jun 21, 2022 | Food and Drink, Johannesburg, Sandton and Surrounds, Townships/Informal Settlements | 6 comments

Some of the best tacos in Johannesburg are served at a restaurant in Alexandra Township. Who knew?

I certainly didn’t. But luckily I do know Asanda Daza, and Asanda knows everything about food in Alexandra (a.k.a. Alex).

Asanda at the Junk Park, our first stop on the Alexandra food tour.

I’ve been on several adventures with Asanda over the years (see here and here), and she recently invited me and a few friends to check out some of her favorite new and old eating spots in Alex. We met Asanda outside the Marlboro Gautrain station and piled into a Toyota Avanza — Alex’s version of a minibus taxi — for a culinary afternoon in the kasi. (“Kasi” is a South African slang term for “township”.)

Eating (and Touring) Our Way Through Alexandra

Our first stop was a place called the Junk Park on the northwestern edge of Alex. When Asanda first told me we were going to the Junk Park, I pictured a literal park with sculptures made of scrap metal. But the Junk Park is actually a restaurant specializing in high-end junk food.

Small Boy Special at the Junk Park
The spread of food you see here is the Junk Park’s “Small Boy Special”, which includes enough chicken burgers, chips (fries) smothered in four different sauces, and onion rings to feed about a dozen large boys.
We sampled the Junk Park wings, which were very tasty (although we waited a long time for them). The crust really melts in your mouth — my friend Gail says the coating is probably made with Toasties corn flakes.

We needed some time to get hungry again after the Junk Park, so we visited a couple of non-culinary tourist spots. First stop was the historic Kings Cinema, Alex’s only movie theatre, which I’ve blogged about before. Unfortunately we couldn’t go in — the owner, who lives in the theatre with his family, had covid. But I wanted to see the theatre anyway. It’s recently been revived and is home to a local film club, screening movies on a regular basis.

Kings Cinema in Alexandra
Outside Kings Cinema on a Sunday afternoon.

After Kings Cinema we headed to the Alexandra Heritage Centre, which is an excellent historical/cultural museum about Alex. I’ve been before, but the museum is a must-see for every Alex tour. Right now the museum has an exhibition documenting the life of anti-apartheid activist Vincent Tshabalala with photos by Gille de Vlieg.

Thorsten at the Alexandra Heritage Centre
Thorsten checks out a music exhibition at the Alexandra Heritage Centre.
Asanda is the Alex Heritage Centre
The centre has beautiful stained glass windows.
Looking out over Alex
Looking out over Alex from the Heritage Centre.

A Meaty Snack at Joe’s Butchery

We went for our next mini meal at Joe’s Butchery, a legendary Alex shisa nyama joint that I’ve visited several times over the years.

Tour group at Joe's Butchery
Fiver, Gail, Thorsten, and Asanda beneath the famous Joe’s Butchery sign.

One normally goes to Joe’s Butchery to gorge on massive quantities of meat and beer. Since we needed to save room for another meal, we all shared a plate of grilled beef liver with pap and a side of spicy chakalaka.

Live and pap with chakalaka from Joe's Butchery
This was delicious.
Lady working at Joe's Butchery
A jovial lady (unfortunately I forgot to ask her name) who has been working at Joe’s Butchery for as long as Asanda can remember.

Mexi-Kasi Tacos

Finally it was time for our last stop at Siga Culinary, a Mexi-Kasi (i.e., Mexican food in the kasi) restaurant in Alex’s Eastbank neighborhood. Asanda mentioned Siga to me several weeks ago and it prompted me to organize this tour.

I love the story of Siga Culinary. Gift Sedibeng grew up in Alex, studied hospitality, and eventually earned a spot as a culinary intern in San Antonio, Texas, where he fell in love with Tex-Mex food. He moved back to Alex and opened a restaurant in the front of his family home, which sits on a pleasant, suburban street.

Chef Siga at his Mexican restaurant
Gift Sedibeng, Siga’s owner and chef, on his restaurant’s verandah. I love the hanging plants and the great afternoon light.
Tacos from Siga in Alexandra
My Siga tacos: marinated chicken with guacamole, coriander (cilantro), and a tasty pineapple salsa. Siga also makes its own chilli sauce, “chilli con pele pele”, which I definitely recommend if you can handle spicy food.
Burrito kota from Siga Culinary
Asanda’s meal: the “burrito kota”. The kota (which I’ve written about before — see here and here) is a classic South African street food, which Gift has modified by adding pineapple salsa and a festive Mexican hat.

Siga also serves burritos, quesadillas, chilli cheese fries, and nachos, along with more conventional South African meals like tramazinnis, steaks, and hake and chips. I will definitely go back.

And that was the end of our tour, which was a good thing because we were all very full.

If you’ve never been to Alex before — and I know many of the Joburgers among you haven’t — do yourself a favor and schedule a tour with Asanda. Alex has so much to offer and it’s nothing like most people imagine. Asanda has lived there all her life, is an excellent tour guide, and knows the township like the back of her hand. You can reach her at +27-63-515-4437 or asandadaza2@gmail.com.

6 Comments

  1. Gaby

    Alex from Siga has been our customer for a while now and he is so passionate about his food!
    Great blog 😊
    Saludos Heather

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Oh yes, we spoke about you! He was impressed I knew about Azteca 🙂

      Reply
    • Albert

      I would never have imagined finding a decent Mexican restaurant in Alex!! Looks good though.

      Reply
      • 2summers

        Alex is full of surprises.

        Reply
  2. AutumnAshbough

    So Tex-Mex with a South African spin? How cool, although I think the Junk food looked pretty amazing, too. I’ve been meaning to ask if there are usually desserts at the restaurants in South Africa, or no?

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Oh yes, desserts are popular here. I think I just don’t post about them often because I rarely order dessert. I’m always full!

      Reply

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