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food

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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Margherita pizza from Coalition Pizza in Pineslopes

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

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 brief mention in a post I wrote about cocktails). I loved Coalition’s pizza from day one but it never occurred to me to order the Margherita. Why get a pizza with only tomatoes, basil, and cheese when there are so many other toppings to choose from? Then a […]

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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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Inside the Artivist in Braamfontein

Artivist: Braamfontein’s Must-Visit Art Bar

In Braamfontein there is a tiny, tree-lined street called Reserve Street. It’s more of an alley really, in a block created by Jorissen and De Korte Streets to the north/south and Melle and Biccard Streets to the east/west. Beams cross over the street, draped in vegetation, creating the illusion of a mini-forest in the middle of this noisy city neighborhood. On this alley/street is a place called Artivist. Happy Hour at Artivist I call Artivist an “art bar”, but it’s really a restaurant/bar/art gallery/music venue. I went early on a Thursday evening and found a nice smattering of guests, a friendly and talented bartender, tasty African snacks, and a thought-provoking exhibition by Zimbabwean artist Kudzani Chiurai. There’s a balcony above the bar with space for more art, and a secret music venue below — called the “Untitled Basement” — hosting regular jazz performances and other hip musical events. (Artivist’s owners, DJ Kenzhero and Bradley Williams, are current and former DJs.) Since the legendary Orbit Jazz Club is now closed (sob), I’m so happy there is another Braamfontein music venue to fill that void. Braamfontein is inhabited by thousands of university students, but William the bartender says Artivist is geared toward […]

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Loof Coffee in Norwood

My Favorite Jozi Coffee Shops: Loof Coffee in Norwood

This post, featuring Loof Coffee, is the seventh in an occasional series about my favorite coffee shops in Joburg.  Many years ago I wrote a blog post called Norwood: Almost as Awesome as Melville. I continue to stand by my proclamation that Norwood is the second-coolest Joburg suburb. But that old post has become woefully out of date. So I recently took a walk up and down Grant Avenue with Brett McDougall, Norwood’s informal ambassador, to refresh my Norwood knowledge. We started our tour at Loof Coffee. Breakfast at Loof Coffee Loof Coffee has everything a great coffee shop should have: bright and cheerful atmosphere, friendly service, tables full of locals, dogs, delicious coffee beans roasted in Joburg, and nice food. I loved everything about it. Basically Loof is perfect. If I lived in Norwood I’d probably go there every day. What’s a Loof? I actually met Loof Coffee’s owner during my breakfast but I forgot to ask him how Loof Coffee got its name. I googled the word just now and found some interesting definitions. From Merriam-Webster: “chiefly Scottish: the palm of the hand” From Urban Dictionary: “Fool backwards. You say loof because it sounds a lot better than fool. But, it basically means the same; […]

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O' Peri Peri restaurant in Edenvale

This Is the East: O’ Peri Peri of Edenvale

Fourth in an occasional blog series called This Is the East, featuring hidden spots on Johannesburg’s East Rand. The original inspiration for my “This Is the East” series was a giant tub of peri peri chicken livers ordered from O’ Peri Peri, a Portuguese restaurant in Edenvale. Back then I vowed to eat a sit-down meal at O’ Peri Peri and write a proper post about it. Now I’ve finally done that. A Brief Discussion of Peri Peri Before I proceed, I need to explain peri peri and the significance of Portuguese food in South Africa. Peri peri — which means “pepper pepper” in Swahili — is an informal term for the African Birds Eye chili. The Portuguese were introduced to this blazing hot chili pepper centuries ago, when they began colonizing East Africa. Peri Peri became a staple flavor in Portuguese cuisine and the African cuisine entwined with it. Peri peri, which is usually served as a sauce on chicken or prawns, is very prevalent in Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony. (The hottest meal I have ever eaten was a piece of peri peri chicken at a beach resort near Vilankulo, Mozambique. I will never forget the searing pain that enveloped […]

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Nguni cow at Brahman Hills in KwaZulu-Natal

A Summer Weekend at Brahman Hills

Two weeks ago I spent a weekend at Brahman Hills, a beautiful lodge near the N3 highway in the Midlands region of KwaZulu-Natal. I stayed at Brahman Hills once before in 2016. Read my previous post for all the details on what Brahman Hills is, what the Midlands is, and what I liked best about my stay — it’s all still true. I went back again for a few reasons: First: I loved Brahman Hills the first time and selfishly wanted to enjoy it again. Second: Last time I went to Brahman Hills with a partner, but this time I was invited as part of an all-female media trip. Traveling with girls is fun. Third: I last stayed at Brahman Hills in winter, when the landscape was dry and desolate. I loved the winter feel but wanted to go back in summer, when everything is green and sparkling. Fourth: I wanted to see more of the Midlands Meander, which has become one of my favorite tourism regions in the country. Fifth: Brahman Hills has a herd of the most beautiful cows in South Africa. New Things About Brahman Hills and the Midlands There are a few important things I either […]

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Pasta from Cremalat

This Is the East: Cremalat

Third in an occasional blog series called This Is the East, featuring hidden spots on Johannesburg’s East Rand. Cremalat, like many great food places in the East Rand (a.k.a Ekurhuleni), is hidden behind the gates of a bland industrial complex, in a location that’s hard to describe. The place itself is hard to describe as well. In this case the complex is the Greehills Industrial Estate, in a suburb called Elandsfontein, which is kind of close to Bedfordview but also close to Germiston. Cremalat is kind of a shop and kind of a distributor and kind of a restaurant. It’s hard to visit Cremalat if you have a nine-to-five job and don’t live in the East Rand, because it’s only open during office hours and for a few hours on Saturday. Despite all these challenges, Cremalat is worth making time for. Because pasta. And because cheese. Cremalat started out as two Italian-South-Africans — a husband and a wife — selling Italian cheese in a little stall at the Bryanston Organic Market. Eventually they expanded the business and opened a shop in Kensington. Then they expanded again and opened the current store in Greenhill Industrial Estate. Eventually the owners added a small restaurant, […]

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Inside City Perk Cafe

10 Rad Joburg Things I Didn’t Blog About in 2018

It’s that time again: When I look back on all the cool stuff I did in Joburg last year but didn’t get around to blogging about. There were many such things in 2018 — I didn’t blog as much as normal last year, especially toward the end. But I’m planning to change that in 2019. I think I’m a much happier person when I blog. Anyway, I did a similar post last year and everyone seemed to like it. If I had written ten more blog posts in 2018, here’s what they would have been about. 1) The Moral Kiosk The Moral Kiosk is one of those hard-to-explain Joburg places. It’s part coffee shop (beans from Father Coffee), part vintage clothing shop, part vinyl record store, part live music venue. The Moral Kiosk is whatever it wants to be on a given day, and I love that. I especially love the Moral Kiosk because it’s on 7th Street in Melville, my favorite place. 2) Joubert Park Greenhouse Joubert Park is Joburg’s version of Central Park: a huge green space right in the center of town. I’m not gonna lie — Joubert Park is not the cleanest and probably not the […]

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Fish from Kafe Noir

November Restaurant of the Month: Kafe Noir

In the very heart of downtown Joburg, on a block no one would expect, is a magical corner of African style. Papy Nakuw, acclaimed Congolose-South-African founder of Urban Zulu, has his fashion design business there, as well as a hip backpackers and a hair salon. But this post is about the culinary magic at the corner of Anderson and Van Brandis Streets. The culinary magic of Kafe Noir. Papy, the King of Cool, at Kafe Noir. Kafe Noir is the restaurant attached to Urban Backpackers. It’s been there for a couple of years but up until recently it was more of a small coffee shop; Papy recently expanded the space and it’s now a full-on restaurant. The entrance to Kafe Noir.  Cool people hanging out in Kafe Noir. The menu at Kafe Noir looks quite basic at first — black type on white laminated paper, mostly sandwiches and burgers with a few South African dishes mixed in. But look again. Find the listing for carapau, a grilled Portuguese mackerel, and order it. Don’t ask questions, just do it. Grilled carapau with chips (fries) and salad. This fish, prepared by South African chef Bokang Legele and costing only a few dollars, is […]

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Ritual Cafe in Linden

The Interesting Story Behind Linden’s Ritual Café

I got invited to review Ritual Café in Linden. I was looking forward to it. I love Linden, I love eating out, and I’d been meaning to try Ritual forever anyway. Great excuse for a date night with nice-guy-Kevin. Dinner at Ritual Café Before I went to Ritual I already knew it was a neighborhood bistro with an unpretentious menu (written on a big chalkboard above the kitchen), featuring lots of vegetarian options and also plenty of meat. I went in expecting to enjoy my dinner at Ritual, and I did. The restaurant has such a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and the food is simple and innovative at the same time. Nice-guy-Kevin and I had a great night and we can’t wait to go back. Ritual Café, on the corner of 7th Street and 4th Avenue in Linden. A closer look at Ritual’s interior with its giant chalkboard menu. My meal: Fillet of sole with rice and veggies. Nice-guy-Kevin’s meal: Oxtail stew. We also had a delicious brisket spring roll starter and fig ice cream for dessert. But during the dinner, I realized Ritual’s story is about more than food. The decorative plates on the walls provided a hint. Handmade ceramic plates […]

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