A couple of weeks ago I received an invitation to visit Azteca Mexican Food Products, a Mexican food factory in Joburg. Azteca’s owner, Gaby Agraz, reached out to me because I had just published a post about Mexican restaurants in Johannesburg. Most of the restaurants I wrote about are Azteca’s clients, Gaby told me, and she would love to show me the business. (This wasn’t the first time Gaby had extended an invitation. She first reached out to me more than a year ago but somehow I kept forgetting to follow up. I didn’t know what I was missing.) I finally made the trek up to Midrand last week, with my friends Fiver and Candida. Once I got there, I couldn’t believe I’d waited so long. Azteca is a magical Mexican food wonderland. Rows and rows of Mexican deliciousness at the Azteca retail shop. That’s Gaby on the left. The big shelf in the middle has cans of black beans — decent black beans are soooo hard to find in South Africa — as well as pinto beans, both whole and refried. Azteca’s Story Gaby has an interesting story. She and her husband, Hector, moved to South Africa from Mexico in the mid 1990s, when Hector was working for […]
UPDATE (OCTOBER 2017): Alas, Café Mexicho has closed down. It had a good run though. Fortunately there are several good alternatives around town, which are included below. Also, I’m pleased to report that Perron (whose Illovo location is reviewed below) now also has locations in Melville and Bryanston. There were only two Mexican restaurants in Johannesburg when I moved here in 2010. This didn’t surprise me — in fact I was surprised that there were any Mexican restaurants at all. There are very few Mexican people in South Africa and one can’t expect authentic Mexican food in a country without Mexicans. Times have changed, however, and today there are Mexican restaurants popping up all over town. There still aren’t many Mexicans — just non-Mexicans trying to cook Mexican food, some more successfully than others. I’ve blogged about Mexican food many times and while I like to consider myself a Joburg Mexican food connoisseur, I admit that I haven’t been able to keep up with all of the new places that have opened. There is a Mexican place in Pineslopes that I haven’t been to yet, another one in Rosebank, and probably more that I don’t even know about. It might be a while until […]
Three years ago, right after I moved to Joburg, I ate at a Mexican restaurant in Melville called Café Mexicho. I was very disappointed in the meal and wrote a post about it called “Where Not to Eat in Melville”. I’ve eaten at Café Mexicho a few times since, and although it’s not as bad as I originally thought, it’s also not great. I like the atmosphere, but the service is slow and the food bears little resemblance to Mexican food served in North America. A few months after that meal, I bemoaned the lack of decent Mexican food in Jozi to my friend Oscar, an expat from Guatemala. Oscar told me the food at Café Mexicho used to be good, back when the restaurant had a Mexican chef. “But then he left,” Oscar said.
Mexican/Latin-American food is one of the things I’ve missed most in South Africa. There are a couple of Mexican restaurants in Joburg, including one in Melville called Café Mexicho. (Read my reviews of that establishment — which I now think were overly generous — here and here.) But Mexican food in this town tends to be mediocre. It’s to be expected. My home country is filled with great Latin American food, but that is because it’s also filled with great Latin American people. Quality Latin American ingredients are available in every U.S. grocery store. In South Africa, on the other hand, I haven’t met a single Mexican. And unless you know how to make your own corn tortillas and salsa, you aren’t going to find anything decent here.
UPDATE (OCTOBER 2017): Alas, Café Mexicho has closed down. It had a good run though. Fortunately there are several good alternatives around town — read here. Nearly two years ago, soon after I moved to South Africa, I ate at a restaurant in Melville called Café Mexicho. I wasn’t impressed, and I actually got sick the next day. I named the ailment “Mexicho’s Revenge”. I wrote a blog post about the experience, called Where Not to Eat in Melville. Café Mexicho, August 2010. From back in the day when I didn’t care what my photos looked like.
NOTE: For an updated review of Café Mexicho, click here. Joe and I had planned a pasta dinner last night, but wound up working late and didn’t feel like cooking. We walked up to 7th Street in search of food. We were on the threshold of Joe’s favorite Chinese restaurant, Yasuqui, when we suddenly looked across the street at Cafe Mexicho. (It’s not a typo — there really is an h before the o. Don’t know why.) Joe had never eaten there; I was skeptical. In all my travels through Africa I have never met a single Mexican.