On Friday I was walking down Gwi Gwi Mrwebi Street (formerly known as Pim Street) in Newtown. Gwi Gwi Mrwebi is only two blocks long and is kind of a secret street. The only people who know about it are bird-lovers (the city’s oldest bird seed factory, D. Kingsbury, is there), graffiti artists/enthusiasts (the buildings on Gwi Gwi Mrwebi, along with the pillars under the M1 highway nearby, are plastered with graffiti), and people who live/work near the highway overpass in Newtown. Anyway, I was in Gwi Gwi Mrwebi Street on an impromptu graffiti tour with Ray and my friend Fiver. We had just finished admiring the bird graffiti on the walls of D. Kingsbury when we spotted a new glass storefront near the corner, almost under the highway. A coffee shop! We went inside to investigate. Craft Coffee. It’s all shiny and new and populated by coffee-drinkers! Excitement. I had actually heard a rumor a couple of months ago that a new coffee shop was open under the M1 Highway. My friend Louise reported that she went looking for it and came up empty. But the rumor was true, as it turned out. Craft Coffee is more of a coffee roastery/supplier than a […]
Just before the holidays, JHBlive.com asked me to do a review of Kaldi’s Coffee in Newtown. (Read the JHBlive review here.) I’m really glad I did that review, because I’ve been overlooking Kaldi’s for years and now I know that it’s one of Newtown’s gems. I enjoyed Kaldi’s so much that I’m posting my JHBlive review here too. Enjoy: I must have walked past Kaldi’s Coffee at least 100 times before going in. I was under the impression that it was just another Joburg coffee shop, and my list of favorite Joburg coffee shops is already far too long thanks to the saturation in Braamfontein. But oh, how wrong I was about Kaldi’s. Kaldi’s unassuming entrance. Kaldi’s Coffee was founded eight years ago by an Ethiopian guy named – you guessed it – Kaldi. An Ethiopian coffee house/sandwich takeaway shop in the middle of Newtown (right across Mary Fitzgerald Square from Museum Africa) is an interesting concept in itself, but the story gets better. Two years ago, Kaldi’s Coffee was purchased by South African vegan Mmabatho Mokwena and her husband. Mmabatho kept the old Kaldi’s coffee and sandwich menu – “South African” and “vegan” are two words that don’t appear […]
Sixth in my series of Sandton Snapshot posts, leading up to the publication of SandtonPlaces. Browse all of the Sandton Snapshot posts. South Africans like meat. In my experience this stereotype generally applies across races, genders, colors and creeds. Hence, quality vegetarian cuisine is scarce in South Africa and the vegetarian restaurants that do exist tend to remain best-kept secrets. I myself am not a vegetarian. I don’t eat tons of meat but I’m not willing to give up the occasional burger, chicken leg, or chorizo-laced pizza. But I do enjoy vegetarian food and I’m dismayed that it took me nearly four years to discover the best vegetarian restaurant in South Africa. It’s more than vegetarian, in fact — it’s vegan. That means no meat, no eggs, no dairy. It’s also mostly “raw”, meaning the majority of the food is uncooked or minimally cooked. The restaurant I speak of is the Leafy Greens Café. Yummy food at Leafy Greens Café. Don’t ask me what it is. All I know is that there’s no meat in it and it’s good. The first time I went for a meal at Casalinga, an acclaimed Italian restaurant on an organic farm in Joburg’s far-northern suburb of Muldersdrift, I didn’t even […]
Third in my series of Sandton Snapshot posts, leading up to the publication of SandtonPlaces. Read posts 1 and 2. I’m seriously behind in blogging and it’s starting to freak me out — so many stories to tell and not enough time to tell them. I have great stories and photos from Swaziland, the Free State, and even from my Port Elizabeth trip (which was more than three months ago), not to mention tons of Melville stuff. The list keeps getting longer and I’m continually bumping older stories in favor of breaking-news, like the publication of Johannesburg in Your Pocket or my rescue of the Hillbrow kitten. Anyway, blogging woes aside, I can’t let this week come to an end without a quick Sandton Snapshot. Today’s Sandton Snapshot is the Bean Republic.
I recently had a Twitter argument with a guy who said he thinks Joburg “lacks authenticity”. I never got to the root of what he meant (Twitter isn’t the place for complex debate), but I’m glad the argument happened because it got me thinking about what “authentic Joburg” is. My experience last Saturday afternoon, on the last day of the Joburg City Festival, illustrates what “authentic Joburg” means to me. Weekend travelers in Gandhi Square, posing for a photo as I pulled up in a Joburg Squirrel tuk-tuk. The lady on the right was indecisive about whether to wave or cover her face.
Braamfontein is hip. It’s so hip I can barely stand it. Every week at least one new restaurant/shop/bar/hotel/gallery opens in Braamfontein, each one hipper than the last. I love going there (Braamfontein is a 10-minute drive from Melville) and watching the hipness evolve. Father Coffee is the hippest of them all, by a long shot (pardon the pun). Father Coffee in Braamfontein. It’s hip with a capital H.
I didn’t give much thought to internet access when I lived in the United States. American broadband internet is cheap and easy to get. Just about every home has it. And as far as I know, internet in the United States is always unlimited. I had never heard of a “data cap” before moving to South Africa. I didn’t think of internet use as “data”, and didn’t realize it could be “capped”. But in South Africa, most internet plans come with a data cap. You pay for a certain number of gigs (gigabytes) of data per month, and when those gigs run out, you pay more. The more YouTube videos you watch, the more photos you download, the more skype calls you make, the more gigs you use.
Today was my last day in D.C. Before leaving town I had hoped to visit (and blog about) the brand-new Martin Luther King Memorial. (We love our memorials in Washington.) But time and weather weren’t on my side. MLK will have to wait for my next trip home. Instead, I’ll leave you with some pictures of Filter, one of my favorite D.C. coffeehouses. Filter is hidden away on a residential street, just north of Dupont Circle at 20th and S. I’ve spent many happy mornings sipping coffee at Filter with my friend Bob, and that’s exactly what I was doing when I took these photos. A skilled barista brews me a single cup of Ethiopian Sidamo. Filter serves single-origin coffees from around the world, roasted locally in Annapolis, Maryland.
Note: A “cuppa joe” is an American slang term for a cup of coffee. I’ve just been informed that people outside the U.S. might not know this. When I left Washington D.C. for Joburg, I thought I was leaving coffee culture behind. I was under the impression that South Africa, like many other African countries I’ve visited, is ruled by tea drinkers. I was dead wrong. People take coffee seriously in Joburg. And unlike D.C., where most people (including me when I lived there) get their caffeine fix from flimsy cardboard or styrofoam containers while driving or hurrying down sidewalks, Joburgers tend to drink their coffee from real, washable coffee cups, stirred with metal spoons, while sitting on actual chairs.
Melville has a reputation as one of Joburg’s quirkiest neighborhoods. But Melville doesn’t have a monopoly on quirkiness. Today Joe and I went to Greenside, one suburb over from Melville, to try out a restaurant there called the Odd Café. We go to Greenside all the time for groceries but this was the first time I’d properly investigated the neighborhood. Turns out the whole place is odd. A vintage ashtray outside the Odd Café.
Joe and I took a walk through Joburg’s Central Business District – starting at the Carlton Centre and then east on Main Street to the Magistrates Court. A view of downtown from Gandhi Square. The Carlton Centre is the building to the left of the Daily Sun sign. You wouldn’t know from this picture but it’s the tallest building in Africa at 223 meters.