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food

Rooiberg wine from Robertson Wine Valley

Two Days in the Robertson Wine Valley

After our epic two-day journey on the Rovos Rail, my mother and I embarked on an epic weeklong road trip from Cape Town to Joburg. Our first stop was the Robertson Wine Valley. Before I start talking about wine I need to give a shout-out to Around About Cars. Renting cars normally gives me huge anxiety, but Around About Cars was so easy to deal with and we couldn’t have made this journey without their assistance. Also we loved our little white car, which was perfect for wine country photo-ops. The Zandvliet Wine Estate and our cute car, which took us from one end of South Africa to the other. Anyway, back to the wine. The Robertson Wine Valley is about two hours north of Cape Town, consisting of about 50 wineries in and around the towns of Ashton, Bonnievale, McGregor, and Robertson. (This area is also commonly referred to as the Langeberg.) I’ve been wanting to visit for ages and I thought this would be a great time to do it because Mom loves hanging out in small towns. I was right. I love Stellenbosch and Franschhoek but Robertson has a totally different vibe — homier and more casual. […]

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Staff at NGC Blairgowrie

July Restaurant of the Month: NGC Blairgowrie

NGC is not what you’d expect to find at the busy intersection of Barkston and Conrad Drive in Blairgowrie. There’s a tire store across the road and a lawnmower repair shop next door, and it just doesn’t feel like the right place for a classy restaurant. And yet here it is, amidst the Joburg sprawl: a little bistro that could pass for a Paris pavement café. Outside NGC: The man in the photo is the chef, Gareth, who owns NGC with his wife Emma. In case you’re wondering, NGC stands for “Neighbour Goods Café”. I had lunch at NGC on a Saturday afternoon when I was really, really hungry and busy catching up with friends. So I don’t have many photos and this will be a short post. But I don’t want to delay writing it any longer. This is a restaurant not to be missed. Saturday Lunch at NGC In many ways the NGC menu is standard 2018-style bistro food, with a selection of “small plates” and larger main dishes and burgers. All very classy and what a lot of nice Joburg restaurants are doing. But NGC stands out because it’s particularly unpretentious, and because the food is So. […]

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Zietsies dining room at night

A Beautiful Place to Eat and Sleep in Auckland Park

People are always asking me for recommendations on places to stay in Joburg, and I never know what to say because in Joburg I tend to sleep in my own house. But here’s a place I can recommend for sure: Zietsies Guest House, which is technically in Auckland Park but I call it Brixton. View from the porch at Zietsies. I’d been hearing about Zietsies over the years and had done a one or two pickup/drop-offs of friends who stayed there. Technically Zietsies is in the suburb of Auckland Park, but it’s on Brixton Ridge just across from the Sentech Tower. I heard Zietsies had an amazing view of Melville and the northern suburbs, and that while it’s primarily a guesthouse you can also have dinner there upon prior arrangement. Then a few weeks ago I met Elzabé, Zietsies’ owner, while having coffee at Breezeblock, and she invited me for dinner. I asked if I could bring my mom and nice-guy-Kevin along and she said yes. Two weeks later we were there. Dinner at Zietsies I feel that my photos do a very poor job of conveying the atmosphere at Zietsies, especially at night. But just imagine a house perched […]

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blowtorched cocktail at Mooteebar in Melville

Avant-garde Cocktails at Melville’s Mooteebar

My mom came to South Africa and we spent two weeks traveling around the country doing fabulous things and it was amazing and I didn’t blog the whole time she was here. I think this is the first time in eight years that I’ve gone two weeks without posting, and now I have a huge backlog and I feel totally overwhelmed and I’m finding it hard to start. So before I dive into all the mother-daughter activities here is a quick post about Mooteebar. Outside Mooteebar on a very cold evening in Melville. You might recognize the building as the former home of Café Mexicho, Melville’s now-defunct mediocre Mexican dive.  Mooteebar needs a place in this blog because: a) It’s in Melville; and b) It’s the most unique and innovative bar in Johannesburg. If you are remotely interested cocktails, no matter where you live in this city, you need to give Mooteebar a try. You will either love it or you will hate it — there are few in-betweens when it comes to opinions on this place. But Mooteebar is worth a trip either way. Cocktails at Mooteebar Inside Mooteebar. The bar also has a lovely outdoor courtyard and roof deck, but […]

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Bread from Croydon Bakery

This Is the East: Croydon Bakery

Welcome to an occasional blog series called “This Is the East”, featuring hidden spots on Johannesburg’s East Rand. First up: the Croydon Bakery. Some background: A few weeks ago, a nice guy named Kevin presented me with a takeaway container of peri peri chicken livers from O’ Peri Peri in Edenvale. I had been expecting a small portion — maybe four or five livers — with some sauce and a few chips (fries) on the side. Instead I received: 1) A plastic tub the size of an unabridged dictionary containing the livers of at least a dozen chickens swimming in half a gallon of sauce; 2) A large bag of “slap chips” (South African term for soggy french fries — oddly delicious) too big for me to hold in one hand; and 3) two large rolls combining to the size of a small baguette. All for R70 (about $5). I stared at the pile of food. “How will I eat even HALF of this?!” I cried. Kevin cocked his head, spread his hands wide, and said: “This is the East.” If you’re from Joburg then you know what he meant. If not, let me explain. “The East” is the East Rand, aka Ekurhuleni, […]

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Johanna and Sunday in their food truck

A Tour of Johannesburg Food Trucks

Lonely Planet recently asked me to do some research about Jozi food trucks for a book about food trucks in different cities around the world. Dream assignment! Once I started investigating the Joburg food truck scene, I realized they’re everywhere and there are all different kinds. There are the hipster food trucks, brightly painted with clever branding and usually selling some kind of ethnic food with a twist. There are the basic South African food trucks — which are technically trailers, not trucks — usually plain white, selling down-home South African staples at rock-bottom prices. Then there are the trucks that fall somewhere in between. A collection of what I call “hipster food trucks” at the Hoods in Sandton. Tselane’s Kitchen, a traditional South African food trailer in Midrand. This post is by no means comprehensive. But here is a selection of delicious Jozi food trucks I’ve come across in my recent travels. Note some of these trucks move around so you might not find them in the same places I did. Hangry Chef: South African/Indian cuisine (Joburg CBD and elsewhere) I discovered the Hangry Chef, which at the time was called the Chilli Chef, in the parking lot next […]

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Andrew, owner of Sumting Fresh

June Restaurant of the Month: Sumting Fresh

I can describe Sumting Fresh in one (not so) simple word: South-African-Asian-American-fried-chicken-street-food. Sumting Fresh, on Grant Avenue in Norwood. Inside Sumting Fresh. Really though, Sumting Fresh is hard to explain. It was once a food trailer in Midrand, then became a food truck, then a full-on food party bus feeding thousands of festival-goers, then a brick-and-morter restaurant in Norwood. (Also, the food bus is still going strong today.) Sumting Fresh serves creative and sophisticated cuisine in a casual, fun, almost-fast-food environment. Sumting Fresh doesn’t fit into any particular genre. It’s just delicious. What is Sumting Fresh? The magic of Sumting Fresh can be summed up through its signature dish, Gujon Chicken. Here’s the Gujon Chicken description from the Sumting Fresh menu: “crumbed deep fried chicken strips / asian slaw / aioli / sweet chilli / parmesan / fries / watermelon”. It’s a crazy combination of ingredients served in a big, cheese-covered, deep-fried pile that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with at first. But I was enchanted by the first bite. I didn’t stop eating until I was way too full, even though I hadn’t even come close to the bottom of the dish yet. I asked co-owner/chef Andrew Leeuw — […]

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Outside Toninos in Orange Grove

May Restaurant of the Month: Tonino’s

Tonino’s has been on my hit list forever. Tonino’s: Is it a sports pub? A blues venue? A casino? A Portuguese restaurant? A pizza take-away? Yes. All of that. I first noticed Tonino’s a few years ago during a visit to the fabulous Kalahari Books, which is across the street. The restaurant caught my eye immediately with its bright yellow facade. I made a mental note to check it out sometime, then forgot about it. Then last month I saw this article in Hello Joburg magazine about Jozi’s top five dive bars, and Tonino’s made the list. I also noticed the restaurant has a buy-one-get-one-free deal on the Entertainer app. (Side note: The Entertainer app is awesome. Here is a post I wrote about it a few years ago.) The universe seemed to be telling me I should go have fun at Tonino’s. So I did that. Having Fun at Tonino’s I first visited Tonino’s on a Friday night with a group of friends. I’m really not much of a bar fly normally, but I loved this place the moment I stepped through the door. The walls are full of character, decorated with interesting pictures and neon signs and old-school […]

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people walking in 27 Boxes park

10 Places to Visit in Melville’s 27 Boxes

27 Boxes is a retail center made out of shipping containers on 4th Avenue in Melville. The beautiful new children’s play area outside 27 Boxes. I recently wrote a story about 27 Boxes for the Different, which goes into the interesting history of the center and of Faan Smit Park, the Joburg City park that used to be where 27 Boxes is now. So I won’t go into that in this post. I just want to tell you that 27 Boxes has become one of the best places to hang out in Melville. The center didn’t get off to a great start when it opened in 2015; lots of the shops sat empty and Melville residents grumbled that the whole place was an eyesore and would soon go under and close. But new management took over 27 Boxes last year and started fixing everything up. New shop tenants have moved in, and the outside of the center was completely overhauled. It looks fantastic. I go to 27 Boxes all the time and I think everyone else should too. If you want an idea of what to do there, here are 10 of my top recommendations. Ten Great Places in 27 Boxes […]

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Bagels at Bagel Zone

April Restaurant of the Month: The Bagel Zone

A few months ago I blogged about Feigel’s Kosher Delicatessen in Glenhazel. I was excited to find Feigel’s because they sell authentic boiled bagels, which are hard to find in Johannesburg. Through my post about Feigel’s I learned about another Joburg shop called the Bagel Zone, which opened less than two years ago. I took one look at the Bagel Zone website and knew I had to check it out. This place offers some things I hadn’t found in Joburg before, even at Feigel’s. The Bagel Zone, in the Genesis Shopping Centre in Fairmount. Lunch rush at the Bagel Zone. A Parade of Bagels at the Zone Unlike Feigel’s, a full-service delicatessen with a wide range of kosher foods, the Bagel Zone is a straight-up bagel shop. The Bagel Zone — I’ll call it the Zone for short — does offer salads and a few other extras, but essentially this is a place to buy bagels, cream cheese, bagel sandwiches, and that’s it. The Bagel Zone’s impressive bagel spread. The Zone reminds me of all the bagel shops I frequented in the U.S., with a long row of freshly baked bagels in a variety of flavors. I was overjoyed to […]

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Argentinean restaurant in Linden

Things I Like in Linden

Last week I was invited to try out a co-working space called Basecamp, which is in Linden. Basecamp’s pleasant interior. A co-working space is basically an office for people like me — people who don’t exactly have jobs. I’d been wanting to try one for a while, hoping that working in a quasi-office-like environment would help me to be more productive. Basecamp is in a quirky shopping centre on 4th Avenue called Linden Place. It’s a centre I visit often because my favorite camera repair shop, Sunray Photography, is also there. I definitely got more done at Basecamp than I do in my office at home — especially on the day I had a writing deadline. At home I’m constantly getting up from my desk, wandering around the house, doing dishes, listening to podcasts, petting the Melville Cat. At Basecamp I had nothing to do except…work. But in addition to reminding me what a horrible procrastinator I am and how much more productive I can be under the right circumstances, my time at Basecamp also reminded me how much I like Linden. I like Linden so much, in fact, that I’ve decided to write this blog post about some of […]

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Coffee machine at third space

My Favorite Jozi Coffeeshops: Thirdspace

In a continuation of an occasional series on my favorite new Jozi coffeeshops, I bring you Thirdspace in Fourways. Yes, Thirdspace is in Fourways, which means yes, it’s in a strip mall and opens out onto a parking lot. Trust me though — this is a strip mall coffeeshop worth visiting. Fourways, as I’ve written in a previous post, is a far-northern Jozi suburb known for its abundant shopping malls and traffic congestion. Navigating Fourways can be frustrating and leave one longing for an escape — a secret oasis off the road with comfortable chairs, good coffee, sandwiches, and free wifi. Thirdspace is just such an oasis. The sexy espresso machine at Thirdspace. Coffee + Work at Thirdspace In addition to being a coffeeshop, Thirdspace is also a coffee roastery and a co-working space. This place is extremely popular among freelancers, because it’s free and people are welcome — in fact they’re encouraged — to stay as long as they please. So if you want to spend the day working there I suggest you arrive early to snag a table. (They’re open from 6:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) Freelancers hard at work. Werk werk werk. I went to Thirdspace to do […]

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