Hidden Joburg: The Radium Beer Hall in Orange Grove

by | Oct 14, 2022 | Food and Drink, Hidden Joburg, Johannesburg, Museums and Buildings | 15 comments

The Radium Beer Hall, known as “Joburg’s oldest running bar” — there are older bars, but none of them have remained open continuously for as long as the Radium — is not a new destination for me. I’ve been there several times over the years for beer and/or pizza, but somehow I had never gotten around to blogging about it. And since the Radium is one of the places featured in the Hidden Johannesburg book, and I’ve made a commitment to visit and blog about all of those places, I think it’s finally time to put the Radium on the 2Summers map.

Outside the Radium Beer Hall on Louis Botha Avenue in Orange Grove
The Radium Beer Hall, flagship destination of gritty Orange Grove. I had to stand on the narrow median strip in the middle of Louis Botha Avenue to get this shot, which clearly surprised the guy in the car.

History of the Radium Beer Hall

The Radium was founded in 1929 as a tea room, so it was not technically a bar at that time. But according to this great article in New Frame, the tea room had a secret shebeen (informal tavern) at the back. The establishment obtained a legal liquor license in 1942, when it was purchased by a local soccer player and turned into a billiards room and bar.

Manny Cabeleira bought the Radium in 1986, which is when it became the place that we all know today: a Portuguese restaurant, music venue, and beloved local pub for the diverse neighborhood of Orange Grove.

Inside the Radium
Inside the Radium on a Saturday afternoon. The bar counter (right) was salvaged from the old Ferreirastown Hotel, where famous trade unionist “Pickhandle” Mary Fitzgerald allegedly stood on the bar and enflamed the crowd during the 1913 Mineworkers Strike.
Bar at the Radium Beer Hall
A better look at the bar.

Manny Cabeleira was a legendary figure with a reputation for progressive political views and great taste in music. He ran the Radium for 35 years until his death in June 2021. The Radium is now run by Manny’s wife, Lina Cabeleira, and her cat, Mr. Grey, who lives at the bar.

Mr. Grey, the Radium Cat
Lina did not wish to be photographed but Mr. Grey was more than happy to stand in for her. This cat melts my heart; he looks so much like Smokey.
Mr. Grey and a Radium customer
Another look at Mr. Grey.
Wall in the Radium
The walls are filled with colorful posters. The yellow poster is a painting of Manny.

Lunch at the Radium

Thorsten and I went to the Radium for lunch last Saturday. I had eaten pizza there before but I’d never tried the Portuguese food — it was really tasty and well priced.

Restaurant at the Radium
The restaurant section and performance stage. Thorsten is sketching as he waits for our food.
The final sketch. See more at @thethinking_hand.
Half chicken from the Radium
I ordered the half chicken, cooked with just the right amount of mouth-tingling peri peri sauce.
Steak and eggs from the Radium
Thorsten had the steak and eggs, also yummy.

The Radium continues to host really great musical acts, quiz nights, rugby-watching, etc. Follow their Facebook page for updates.

Radium Beer Hall

Browse all my Hidden Joburg posts here. More to come soon.

15 Comments

  1. Albert

    I see my favorite 1980s Star poster is still there “The situation is vrot with danger”. Lol.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      I like that one too. It jumps out at you somehow.

      Reply
      • Albert

        I like the misspelling of “fraught” to the very South African “vrot”. Which makes it even more apt. 😀

        Reply
  2. AutumnAshbough

    Mr. Grey is beautiful and so chill. The bar is beautiful, but I think it would be a hilarious irony if the Radium now had a secret tea room in the back.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Wow. That is such a good idea.

      Reply
    • Margaret Urban

      I agree about Mr Grey! Makes me miss the cats I’ve had in my life…

      Also agree about having a tea room out back – with freshly baked scones, of course!

      Reply
  3. dizzylexa

    I wonder if they still do half price pizza’s on a Tuesday. Before my other half retired it was a visit to Hospice for books and bargains ending with pizza at the Radium, haven’t been in awhile.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yes they do. I saw a sign.

      Reply
  4. catji

    :)) hahhahah 🙂 I didn’t expect to find a cat in this one. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Fiona

    Looks great! It’s like a Portuguese restaurant in the centre of Harare – well priced authentic Mozambique style food peri peri style, simple decor and always full.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Peri peri is always a winner!

      Reply
  6. Margaret Urban

    I see they have a Benoni Dagwood on the chalk menu – I wonder what that consists of?

    Also wonder if the laundromat is still operating around the corner; pop in to the Radium while your washing gets done 🙂

    Reply
    • 2summers

      I also noticed that Dagwood on the menu and wondered! Then I forgot to ask about it. There is still some old-school signage for the laundromat around the bar but I’m not totally sure if it’s open or not.

      Reply

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