Browsing Tag

culture

Walking across the Melville Koppies during the monthly cross-koppie hike

Five Great Jozi Walks to Prepare for MTN Walk the Talk with 702

If you live in Joburg, you’ve heard of Walk the Talk — in fact you’ve probably walked it. But here’s a quick description for everyone else: MTN Walk the Talk with 702 (that’s the official name but I’ll call it Walk the Talk for short) is an annual Joburg tradition in which 50,000 (!) people get up early on the fourth Sunday morning in July and walk around Joburg. The main purpose of the walk is to bring people together, but participants can also work as teams to raise money for charitable causes. (Read more here.) This year will be the 18th annual Walk the Talk. Normally the Walk the Talk distance options are 5 kilometers, 8 kilometers, and 15 kilometers. But South Africa is celebrating 25 years of democracy in 2019 (the country held its first democratic elections in 1994, marking the end of apartheid), and in honor of that anniversary Walk the Talk is also hosting a 25-kilometer walk. I’ve never done Walk the Talk before I’m pretty sure I’ve never walked 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) at one time. But I’m doing it. Why walk 8 kilometers when you can walk 25, right? Right. So I guess I […]

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Fussy Vegan restaurant in Blairgowrie

The Hidden Vegan Restaurant in a Blairgowrie Petrol Station

I’m not a vegetarian and definitely not a vegan. While I totally recognize the benefits of a plant-based diet, both for myself and the planet, I love the occasional burger just a little too much to make that leap. (Don’t even get me started on cheese.) That said, I do limit my meat consumption at home and I often order vegetarian dishes in restaurants. And I empathize with the plight of vegetarians and vegans in South Africa, a country full of rabid meat-eaters. So when I heard — twice in the same week — about a mysterious takeaway restaurant called the Fussy Vegan hidden at a Caltex garage in Blairgowrie, I headed right over. An Unfussy Lunch From the Fussy Vegan I love everything about the Fussy Vegan. I love the name, which is evocative and easy to remember. I love that the Fussy Vegan is hidden in plain sight, sandwiched between a petrol station convenience store and a car wash. I love the branding and the friendly staff and the interesting selection of products, almost all locally sourced. Most importantly, I love the taste of the food. I showed up around 12:30 on a Thursday afternoon and the shop […]

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Gin cocktail from Tonic

Five Fantastic Jozi Cocktail Bars

There’s a cocktail revolution happening in Joburg. New cocktail bars seem to be opening on a monthly basis in this town. By “cocktail bar”, I do not mean a smokey pickup joint with a disco ball serving florescent cosmos made by a bartender with slicked-back hair and a shiny shirt. (For some reason this was my cocktail bar stereotype until recently.) I’m talking about classy, cool, thoughtfully designed establishments run by people who are as much artists and chefs as they are bartenders. There’s not a shiny shirt to be found, and the cocktails these bartenders concoct are not of the two-for-one variety. Each drink is a carefully crafted work of art meant to be savoured slowly, like a French meal. Don’t expect to order more than one or two. So, in a continuation of my long-running Jozi Top Fives series, here are my five classy Jozi cocktail bar picks. 1) Mix Mix, in Rosebank’s Keyes Art Mile, is the bar I visited most recently so I’ll write about it first. Mix is inside Mesh, which is a fancy members-only club during the day but open to the public on evenings and weekends. Confusing, I know, but don’t let this […]

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AFRIKOA Cafe in Rosebank Keyes Art Mile

My Favorite Jozi Coffee Shops: AFRIKOA in Rosebank

This post, featuring AFRIKOA Café, is the eighth in an occasional series about my favorite coffee shops in Joburg.  I recently wrote a story about AFRIKOA Café — an African chocolate café, champagne bar, and coffee shop — for Lonely Planet Travel News. I want to mention it briefly here too because it’s something really new and different. AFRIKOA is in the Keyes Art Mile, that super cool art/design/foodie complex in Rosebank. AFRIKOA opened in February and is the now the coolest place there. Long story short: AFRIKOA is the only chocolate company in South Africa that sources its cocoa beans directly from African farmers (from one specific region in Tanzania) and produces/sells single-origin chocolate that never leaves the Continent. AFRIKOA chocolate is made in Cape Town but the café in Rosebank is its first brick-and-morter shop. The hot chocolate at AFRIKOA is incredible, as are the chocolate desserts, which were conceived by Belgian pastry chef Laettia Van Waeyenberge. AFRIKOA also serves African coffee, with beans sourced directly from a single coffee estate in Rwanda. In addition to the chocolate and coffee, AFRIKOA serves fancy French champagne by the bottle only. This is a bit of a departure from the whole […]

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Cheese on display at the Cheese Gourmet in Linden

Five Great Jozi Cheese Shops

I love cheese. I just ate a toasted cheese sandwich like 30 seconds ago. And while Joburg is no Paris, there are a few really good spots to buy cheese in this town and I thought I should profile them as part of my Jozi Top Fives series. I’ve written about most of these places before, but as with all my Jozi Top Fives posts I think it’s nice to sum them up neatly together in a group. There are a lot of shops selling cheese around town, although not many with a specific focus on cheese. While the first few choices were easy I had a hard time rounding out the last couple of places on the list. In the end I went for geographic diversity, accessibility, and a range of different cheese nationalities. 1) Cheese Gourmet, Linden I’ve blogged about the Cheese Gourmet more than once (see here and here) and it is undoubtedly the best place in Joburg to shop for a dinner party, book club meeting, or any other kind of event that could benefit from a selection of cheese. There are many dozens of cheeses to choose from, all made in South Africa, as well […]

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Inside Urbanologi restaurant

Urbanologi: My Number One Date Night Restaurant

Many of you read my previous post about the interesting experiences I’ve had recently on Tinder and other dating apps, and my plan to start a business helping people improve their dating app profiles. In conjunction with that I’m starting a series of posts about my top recommendations for Jozi dates. First up: Urbanologi. I have mentioned Urbanologi briefly on this blog but never devoted a full post to it, which is inexcusable because it’s one of my favorite high-end restaurants in Joburg. In fact it might be my very favorite. And Urbanologi is definitely my number one Jozi date night recommendation for people who are adventurous — in both the places they go and the food they eat. Urbanologi is downtown, which always feels like a bit of an adventure (although the location in Joburg’s 1 Fox Precinct is totally safe), the restaurant’s decor is the perfect combination of edgy and classy, and the food is innovative, beautifully presented, and insanely flavorful. Urbanologi is also vegetarian-friendly. And did I mention the drinks? Urbanologi shares its space with Mad Giant Brewery, which makes some of the best craft beer in the city, and also offers a great selection of wine. […]

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Savory dishes from TJIPS

This Is the East: TJIPS in Eastgate Mall

Sixth in an occasional blog series called This Is the East, featuring hidden spots on Johannesburg’s East Rand. A few weeks ago I saw some photos of a plate of chips — fries, to the Americans among you — on Instagram. These were no ordinary chips. They were beautifully presented, sprinkled with colorful sauces and herbs, and I could taste them right through my phone. My mouth literally watered. A couple of clicks told me these chips come from a place called TJIPS in Eastgate Mall. (Eastgate is the pre-eminent sprawling Joburg mall of the East.) The Eastgate food court is not the first place I’d expect to find a high-end, gourmet chip shop. I was intrigued all the more. Within minutes I was DM-ing with Jaron, the TJIPS’ founder, arranging a visit. The Story of Slap Chips Before I continue, I need to explain about slap chips. Slap chips (pronounced something like “slahp tchups”) are basically soggy fries — a South African staple food. Apparently slap chips originated during South Africa’s gold mining era, when miners ate a lot of fish and chips and food stalls sloppily fried huge quantities of thick-cut potatoes in massive vats of cheap cooking oil. The […]

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Margherita pizza from Coalition Pizza in Pineslopes

The Best Margherita Pizza in Joburg (or maybe the world)

UPDATE (May 2019): The Coalition Pineslopes location has closed. You can still eat Coalition’s delicious Margherita pizza at their location on Bolton Road in Rosebank, and they will soon be offering their “Kitchen Table” experience again at a new location in Sandton. Follow them on Facebook for updates. A million years ago, I remember reading Eat, Pray, Love and getting to the part when Elizabeth Gilbert has a religious experience while eating a Margherita pizza in Naples. And I thought: Someday I too will go to Naples and eat a pizza like that. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still love to go to Naples. But now that I’ve eaten a Margherita from Coalition Pizza in Joburg, the pressure is off. I’m sure I’ll get lots of comments from people who have eaten pizza in Naples, disputing the title of this post. And I realize I don’t know what I’m talking about. But seriously, people: Have you been to Coalition and ordered the Margherita? If not, go do it now and then we’ll have a conversation. I’ve been eating at Coalition since it opened in Rosebank a couple of years ago (although inexplicably I never blogged about it other than a […]

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Chili sauce vendor in Maputo at the Mercado Central

15 Quirky Things to Do in Maputo

I spent six days in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. Two friends joined me for the last two days but the rest of the time I was alone. Other than booking my flight and accommodation and buying a guide book — the Bradt Travel Guide for Mozambique, which has a short and rather disappointing chapter on Maputo but was helpful nonetheless — I made zero plans before going. Once there, I continued making zero plans and just wandered around looking at things. I realized Maputo is one of the most underrated travel destinations in Southern Africa (perhaps surpassed only by Johannesburg), especially for people who like cities. Maputo is cosmopolitan, with incredible food, history, architecture, art, and culture. There aren’t many cities like that in this sparsely populated corner of the world. Here are the top 15 quirky places/things I discovered in Maputo. This list is by no means comprehensive. Read to the end for a few tips about visiting the city. My Favorite Things in Maputo 1) Architecture Quirky architecture is everywhere in Maputo. 2) Museu De História Natural de Maputo (Museum of Natural History) This is one of the strangest museums I’ve ever visited. The building is stately […]

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Alexandra Township cycling group in front of the Alexandra Heritage Centre

Not Cycling Through Alexandra Township

I recently found myself not cycling on a cycle ride through Alexandra Township. I was supposed to cycle, but there weren’t enough bikes and it was blazing hot and when someone suggested I ride in the Jeep that was escorting the riders and take photos through the open top, I gladly accepted. The bike ride was hosted by Art Affair, a tiny art gallery and studio in Alex’s East Bank that also serves as an events venue/community gathering place. Artist and cycling enthusiast Mxolisi Mbonjwa owns the gallery and organized the ride together with Bicycle Stokvel. I’ve visited and blogged about Alex many times. (You can browse all of my Alex posts here.) I don’t want to belabor this point. But if you live in Joburg and have never been to Alex, please go. Alex is a five-minute drive from Sandton but many Joburgers are afraid to even drive past it due to Alex’s reputation for poverty and crime. In fact, Alex is quite easy and safe to visit as long as you go with someone who knows their way around. And it’s one of the most important parts of Joburg historically, being the first township in Joburg and the […]

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De Bakery windmill on Van Riebeek Avenue in Edenvale

This Is the East: The Windmill of Van Riebeek Avenue

Fifth in an occasional blog series called This Is the East, featuring hidden spots on Johannesburg’s East Rand. On a busy stretch of Van Riebeek Avenue in Edenvale, amidst hair braiding salons and car stereo places and dusty old bookshops, is an authentic, nearly full-sized Dutch wooden windmill. Inside the windmill is a Dutch pancake house and below it is the best Dutch bakery in Joburg. De Backery was founded by a Dutch family in 1963 — originally a small, single-story bakery. The place became popular over the years and continued to expand, with people coming from all over Joburg for its bread and pies and pastries. In the 1990s De Backery’s owners looked into commissioning a neon sign shaped like a windmill but eventually decided to build an actual windmill instead — a 3/4-sized replica of the Zeldenrust windmill in Gronigen, Holland. That’s when De Molen (“the Windmill”) Pancake House was born, inside the windmill on top of De Backery. The vanes even turn when there are no customers on the balcony. Breakfast on the Windmill Breakfast on a windmill — what more do I need to say? We sat on the balcony overlooking the busy street, feeling the breeze and […]

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Loretta Chamberlain, owner of Yukon House in Bezuidenhout Valley

Afternoon Tea in Bezuidenhout Valley

Bezuidenhout Valley, aka Bez Valley, feels like a forgotten suburb. Once home to wealthy Johannesburg socialites, the area has declined in recent decades. Many of Bez Valley’s stately old houses have been abandoned or fallen into disrepair. But Bez Valley maintains its sense of history. You can feel it while driving or walking its tree-shaded streets. Johannesburg’s oldest house is here and a few other historical landmarks remain. Yukon House is one of them. Yukon House was built between 1906 and 1911 and was home to two Johannesburg mayors in the early 20th century. The house suffered periods of neglect as it changed ownership over the years (read this article about the theft of its priceless stained glass windows) but its current owners, Loretta and Henry Chamberlain, have lovingly restored the mansion back to its original glory. I’ve been meaning to visit Yukon House forever but it’s not open to the public all the time. So when I heard Kennedy of Micro-adventure Tours was hosting a historical tour there — including afternoon tea, my favorite meal — I jumped right on board. Tour and Tea at Yukon House This isn’t your average historical house tour. Loretta and Henry live at […]

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