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jozi top fives

Fish and chips from Tiberius Fish Emporium in Sandringham, Johannesburg

Five Great Places for Fish and Chips in Joburg

It was a Monday and it was my birthday. I had a photography assignment in the morning and then I went to Cresta Mall to do some shopping. After shopping, I thought I should buy myself a birthday lunch. What could I treat myself to for lunch on a random winter Monday? Suddenly I had it: Fish and chips. I drove to a fish and chip shop in Randburg that I had heard was good. I ordered a “small” fried hake and chips for R52 (about $3.50) and salivated during the 10-minute drive home. Once home I devoured half the fish and chips (it was way more than I could eat in one sitting) at my kitchen counter. It was the best birthday lunch imaginable. At that moment I decided to do a Jozi Top Fives post on fish and chips. Fish and chips has been a cheap, popular meal in Joburg since the early gold-mining days. (I touch on that history in this post about slap chips.) It’s not really possible to do a definitive “top five” ranking of fish and chip shops: Everyone has their own favorite for their own reasons — nostalgia or taste or a combination […]

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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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Cathedral of Christ the King

5 Beautiful, Secret Places in Downtown Joburg

I was on a walking tour today, talking to someone about Joburg. It suddenly occurred to me there are so many insanely beautiful places in downtown Joburg that Joburgers either: a) don’t know about because the places are really hidden; or b) are afraid to visit, or would never consider visiting because they think the place is too dangerous or too trashed or just not worth the trouble. I talk about some of these places until I’m blue in the face, but I still get the same responses: a) blank looks; or b) questions like, “But is it really safe to go there?” So I thought I’d write an article like this, with a really click-baity title, to get your attention. Here are my five favorite beautiful, secret places in downtown Joburg. If you like beautiful, secret things (and who doesn’t?) you should visit them all. 1) Cathedral of Christ the King Yes, it’s in Hillbrow and Hillbrow can be a little daunting. But the Cathedral of Christ the King has a parking lot with 24-hour security and it’s really not very hard to drive to. Inside, the cathedral is pristine and it’s without a doubt the most beautiful church […]

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Read This: Jozi’s Five Best Bookstores

I’m still trying to get back into the swing of things post-Trumpocalypse. I know that blogging about Joburg is the best thing I can do to pull myself out of this mental morass, but the struggle is real. For the first time in a while, I woke up today with no idea what to write about. In desperation, I opened up a list of potential blog topics I made several months ago when my brain was less encumbered. There, I found my inspiration: Jozi Top Fives, bookstore edition. Joburg has tons of great bookstores — new bookstores, used bookstores, small bookstores, huge bookstores — so narrowing down the field to just five is kind of unfair. I have many other favorites that didn’t make the list. But anyway, here are the five I came up with: My Five Favorite Bookstores in Joburg 1) Bridge Books 85 Commissioner Street, Johannesburg I’ve written about Bridge Books tons of times and you’re all probably sick of hearing about it. Really though. Bridge Books is great, and if you have any affinity for books whatsoever you will love it. Bridge Books on its opening weekend. Cute kid reading at Bridge Books. In addition to selling a fascinating selection […]

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Lindfield tea scones

My Five Favorite Spots for Afternoon Tea in Joburg

Afternoon tea is very popular in Joburg and I’ve tried quite a few different ones over the years. I’ve been meaning to do a Jozi Top Fives post on this topic forever. Side note #1: Most of the fancy hotels in Joburg refer to their afternoon tea as “high tea”, I think because high tea sounds more grand. But I was recently schooled on this issue by the brilliant Katharine Love of Lindfield House (read more about Lindfield below), and learned that “afternoon tea” is the correct term for a fancy afternoon meal with tea and cake. High tea evolved as a lower class version of afternoon tea, which is the opposite of what these fancy hotel teas actually are. Read more on the distinction here. A waiter pours hot water to make tea at 54 on Bath Hotel. Side note #2: I’m really picky about my afternoon teas, which is one of the reasons I’ve put off this post for so long. Sometimes even the most glamorous teas don’t meet my expectations. I want every afternoon tea to be exactly like my first one in 1994, at Fortnum & Mason in downtown London. That tea was served by a frowning elderly Englishwoman in a […]

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Craft Coffee cappuccino

My Five Favorite Coffee Shops in Joburg

I woke up this morning with a sudden desire to rejuvenate my Jozi Top Fives series with a post about my favorite coffee shops. I’ve held back on writing this post for a long time, because Joburg has so many great coffee shops and I was hesitant to pick just five. I also know that there are lots of great Jozi coffee shops that I haven’t been to yet, and once I publish this post I will receive many suggestions and feel compelled to drive all over town on an extended caffeine binge to try them all. But so be it. As I wrote in my first Joburg coffee post many years ago, I was surprised by the strength of the Joburg coffee culture when I moved here in 2010. And that culture has grown tremendously since then — this city has become a legit coffee mecca. So if you’re new in town and craving a great pour-over or macchiato, here are five suggestions to get you started. Beans roasting at the Urban Grind, one of my top five. My Top Five Jozi Coffee Shops 1) Bean There Bean There, located in 44 Stanley in Milpark, is the godfather of Jozi coffee. Bean There was — as far as I […]

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Breakfast in the Jozi ‘Burbs: My Top Five Picks

I’ve been meaning to write a breakfast installment of my Jozi Top Five series forever. It’s a tricky one though because there are so many restaurants to choose from. Breakfast is big here and a huge percentage of Joburg restaurants open for breakfast. (On the flip side, a large percentage of Joburg restaurants are closed for dinner.) I don’t make it out for breakfast very often, as I’m hungry in the morning and usually too impatient to leave the house, go to a restaurant, place my order, and then wait for the food to be served. And when I do commit to going out for breakfast it’s usually somewhere close to home. So my list of top breakfast spots is unabashedly biased toward my own neighborhood: I’ve included picks in Melville, Milpark, Parkview, Parkwood, and Parkhurst. The list is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully helpful for those who frequent Joburg’s inner suburbs. 1) Salvation Café 44 Stanley Avenue, Milpark I can’t believe I’ve never written about Salvation Café before. It was one of the first Joburg restaurants I ever ate in — I had lunch there on my maiden visit to Joburg in 2008 — and I’ve been at least 25 times since. Salvation Café is in the courtyard of Milpark’s renovated 44 Stanley complex, […]

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Five Secret Spots for a Romantic Dinner in Jozi

I’ve had the privilege of eating at a lot of nice Joburg restaurants over the years, especially around Melville and the northern suburbs. For some reason, I’ve found that the best restaurants tend to be the ones that are trickiest to find. The best restaurants also tend to put little focus on publicizing themselves (or simply don’t know how to), and hence not many people know about them. For the past few weeks I’ve had a list of romantic, hidden Jozi restaurants bumping around in my head. Here are my top five favorites. (I like to present my lists in fives.) UPDATE (OCTOBER 2017) I wrote this post two-and-a-half years ago and as anyone in Joburg knows, the restaurant scene changes fast in this town. I need to do a complete overhaul but in the meantime, as an alternative to some of the places that have closed, I’d like to recommend Urbanologi. Urbanologi’s stunning interior. Urbanologi opened in 2016 and has fast become my favorite fine-dining spot in Joburg. You can read a brief review in this post. As you were. The original list appears below. 1) Eatery JHB Corner 11th Street and Victoria Avenue, Sandton UPDATE (OCTOBER 2017): I recently learned that Eatery […]

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Jozi Top Fives: Walking Tours Edition

I wrote a feature about Joburg walking tours for the February 2015 issue of BA High Life magazine. I’m really excited about the article but you’ll only be able to read the full feature if you’re flying on British Airways in Southern Africa this month. Here’s a screen shot of the first page of the article.  I posted screenshots of the article on Facebook and it garnered so much interest that I’ve decided to do a shortened version for the blog. And since five walking tours were featured in the article it provides a perfect excuse to revive my “Jozi Top Fives” series from last year. So here are my five favorite Joburg walking tours, in no particular order. 1) JoburgPlaces: Regenerated Inner City Tour www.joburgplaces.com I’ve written about Gerald Garner’s JoburgPlaces tours many times before: See here and here and here. I like his Regenerated Inner City tour the best because it provides a great overview of how Joburg was born and how it became the city that it is today. Gerald has a special way of telling Joburg’s story and he also has access to many of the best rooftops in town. A feral cat outside the Anglo American building on […]

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My 500th Blog Post: 5 Things I Love and Hate about Joburg

1) What I love about Joburg: The people This is a cliché and it flies in the face of Condé Nast‘s ludicrous pronouncement (ludicrous, I tell you!) that Johannesburg is the world’s unfriendliest city. But as a whole, people in Joburg are nicer, funnier, more creative, more genuine, and more interesting than people in any other place. Raymond, a street vendor in Newtown. 1) What I hate about Joburg: The traffic Traffic in Joburg sucks. And it’s dangerous. In fact Joburg’s traffic is far more life-threatening than its crime. Overlooking the traffic on William Nicol Drive in Fourways. If you’ve been there, then you know. 2) What I love about Joburg: The skyline I’ve written about the skyline many times. (See here and here and here.) The Joburg skyline is spectacular. It’s Joburg’s brand, and I love it. A view of the Joburg skyline from a rooftop on Rissik Street. 2) What I hate about Joburg: The poverty Obviously poverty exists all over the world. But in Joburg it’s not unusual to encounter a barefoot street child in rags, kneeling in the center of a busy intersection at 11 o’clock at night. Joburg’s poverty is terrible and it’s not okay. An informal settlement in Alexandra […]

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Jozi Top Fives: Museums and Galleries Edition

This is my 499th blog post, and the third of my celebratory Jozi top five series. Upon arrival in Johannesburg, nearly every first-time visitor (myself included) goes to the Apartheid Museum. Don’t get me wrong — the Apartheid Museum is fantastic and everyone should go. But there are so many other great museums and galleries in Joburg, many of which are unknown even to locals. Here are my five favorites. 1) Wits Art Museum (WAM) Bertha Street and Jorissen Street, Braamfontein www.wits.ac.za/wam/ The beautiful exterior of the Wits Art Museum (WAM). I wanted to take photos inside but failed to do so because I went on a Tuesday. Oops. WAM is closed on Tuesdays. The Wits Art Museum (WAM), part of Witwatersand University, is 100% focused on African art. I love the clean, modern design of the museum (it’s almost brand-new) and the open layout that allows you to survey everything in a short period of time. I also love the fact that the museum is free, and that it’s close to all the action in Braamfontein and therefore easy to combine with other activities. The exhibitions rotate frequently and are informative without being overwhelming. The current exhibition on the art of African hair is particularly fascinating. It’s […]

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Jozi Top Fives: The Best Parks in Town

In the second installment of my “top five” series, I present my five favorite parks in Joburg. An editor once asked me to review a description of Joburg for an expat website. The description said something like, “It’s difficult to spend time outdoors in Johannesburg because there are no safe parks in the city.” I nearly laughed aloud when I read this, as it’s such complete nonsense. There are so many lovely parks in Joburg that I struggled to narrow my choices to five. All of the parks listed here are safe in my opinion, as long as you don’t go alone or at night. 1) Sandton Field and Study Centre Corner of Louise Ave. and 14th Street, Parkmore A swimming dog at the Sandton Field and Study Centre. I don’t think the trees are indigenous but I love them anyway. I first visited the Sandton Field and Study Centre while researching for the SandtonPlaces book. Sorry for the cliché but the Field and Study Centre is Sandton’s best-kept secret. It’s just minutes from downtown Sandton and yet it feels so relaxing and rural. The Braamfontein Spruit runs right through the park, its grassy banks lined with huge trees. The Field […]

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