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south africa

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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Downtown Joburg from 120 End Street

On Top of Joburg at 120 End Street

Nothing beats watching the sunset from a Joburg rooftop. Looking down at the crazy evening traffic from the roof of 120 End Street. On Sunday evening, Mark Straw from the Joburg Photowalkers organized a rooftop mission for all of the photographers who contributed their pictures to the recent #JoziWalks weekend. We drove together to 120 End Street, a 26-story residential building in the middle of the CBD, and spent the evening taking pictures there. 120 End Street (center) shot a few months ago from the roof of August House. I’ve always been curious about the view from the top of this building.  On the roof at 120 End. Another Take on the Joburg Skyline I’ve said this a million times before, but Joburg’s skyline is its best asset and I never get sick of looking at it from various angles and heights. Every rooftop provides its own unique interpretation of the city. 120 End Street has a particularly interesting view of Hillbrow and the most chaotic section of the city centre, between Ellis Park and the Noord Street taxi rank. Someone on Instagram asked me which street is in the middle of this frame. I’m pretty sure it’s De Villiers […]

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Pantsula dance group in Orange Farm

Jaw-Dropping South African Dance in Orange Farm

On Saturday and Sunday I participated in the 2018 #JoziWalks weekend. Sponsored by the Johannesburg Development Agency, #JoziWalks invites people/groups from all over Joburg to organize walking tours in their communities. (Read about last year’s #JoziWalks.) On Saturday I joined the walk through Orange Farm, led by the InTouch Youth Development group. The start of our walk through Orange Farm. Photographer Hymie (left) walks with one of the hosts from Orange Farm. Cute kids who demanded a photograph. Orange Farm onlooker. Orange Farm is a township founded in 1988. It’s an hour’s drive south of downtown Joburg — a perfect illustration of the spacial segregation of apartheid. There are very few jobs in Orange Farm so virtually everyone (I mean everyone able to find a job, which isn’t easy) living there has to make the long, costly commute to Joburg for work. I was excited for this walk as I’d never been to Orange Farm before. It was really interesting seeing a new place, and I was particularly blown away by the dancing. Dancing in Orange Farm We watched three dance groups perform: a Tswana dance group called Jascho, a Pantsula group called Killers Entertainment, and a Zulu dance group […]

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Lascaux rock art painting at Sci-Bono

The Wonders of Rock Art: Now at Sci-Bono

The Sci-Bono Discovery Centre is a science museum in Newtown, in the middle of the Joburg CBD. The museum is housed in a cavernous, 110-year-old former electrical workshop. Somehow I’ve never blogged about it before but last week I received a perfect opportunity when I was invited to the launch of Sci-Bono’s “Wonders of Rock Art: Lascaux Cave and Africa” exhibition. The Sci-Bono Discovery Centre during the opening of the Wonders of Rock Art exhibition. The Wonders of Rock Art The Wonders of Rock Art is a collaboration between Sci-Bono, Wits University, the French Embassy in South Africa, and the French Institute of South Africa. There is a lot going on in this exhibition and I can’t begin to explain it all. But in short, there is a life-sized reproduction of France’s Lascaux Cave, which has been nicknamed “the Sistine Chapel of Prehistory”. The Lascaux Cave was discovered in 1940 (by a bunch of teenagers chasing a dog) and is filled with one of the world’s most stunning displays of prehistoric rock art. A reproduction of Lascaux’s “Panel of the Black Cow”. The reproduction was painstakingly created using the same materials the original Cro-Magnon artists used 17,000 years ago. Reproducing the reproduction. […]

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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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Marie-Lais and Lucky cycling through Diepsloot

Cycling Tour Through Diepsloot

Diepsloot is one of those places, like a lot of other Joburg places, where people are afraid to go. A Diepsloot street. Diepsloot, which means “deep ditch” in Afrikaans, is a huge informal settlement in the far northern outskirts of Joburg; in fact, it is so far north that it’s just as close to Pretoria as it is to Joburg. It emerged from nothing on an abandoned farm in the 1990s, as migrants poured into Joburg from rural South Africa and the rest of Africa and had nowhere else to go. Hundreds of corrugated iron shacks sprouted up, then thousands. There were no public services, no police stations or hospitals or shopping centers. Diepsloot was a wild, post-apartheid frontier — one of those places that can only exist in South Africa. Just another day in Diepsloot. Today, hundreds of thousands of people live in Diepsloot and the number continues to grow. The area has more infrastructure than it did a couple of decades ago, but it still has an anything-goes kind of feeling about it. Diepsloot has kota stands, open sewers, vibrant community centers, secret gardens, fashion designers, herds of goats, Rastafarian hair-braiding shops, colorfully painted general dealers, and salons […]

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Skyline from the Sentech Tower

Some Shots From the Top of the Sentech Tower

Last week I got an incredible opportunity to visit the Sentech Tower, a.k.a. the Brixton Tower. A picture I took a few years ago of the Sentech Tower at sunset. While not as tall as the Hillbrow Tower, which is 269 meters (883 feet) high and the tallest structure in Africa, the Sentech Tower is still massive at 237 meters (778 feet). Also, the Sentech Tower is closed to the public and virtually no one gets to go inside. So this was a lucky break. The Sentech Tower was built in 1961 to broadcast radio stations, and later TV stations. It used to have a viewing deck open to the public, but it closed in 1982 due to apartheid paranoia. Same goes for the Hillbrow Tower, which used to have a revolving restaurant at the top. Joburgers live in hope that the towers will both reopen someday. Anyway, visiting the Sentech Tower was cool. I got to see the radio broadcasting equipment on the bottom floor, then took the remarkably fast elevator to the top, and even checked out the hollow inside of the tower on one of the middle floors, with nothing inside it but an elevator shaft. Since […]

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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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Heather in a dress from Dr. Pachanga

Fashion Makeover with Dr. Pachanga

As I’ve said before, I consider myself to be an unfashionable person. But the longer I live in South Africa, the more fashionable I feel. I find the fashion in South Africa — and Africa in general — more fun than fashion in the United States. (No offense, American fashion designers: It’s not you, it’s me.) Dr. Pachanga is the embodiment of African fashion I like. Dr. Pachanga, the last king of Congo. Handbags à la Dr. Pachanga. Dr. Pachanga’s real name is Jean Rene Onyagunga. He was born in Kinshasa but grew up in Durban. Dr. Pachanga is a designer, an entrepreneur, a stylist, an actor, a photographer, and a social media persona. This photo describes Dr. Pachanga better than my words can. Dr. Pachanga, aka J.R., aka Doc. “I like to jump,” he told me. Fashion Spree at Dr. Pachanga I visited Dr. Pachanga’s shop in 44 Stanley last week to take photos for the Citizen. But somehow I wound up mostly on the wrong side of my camera lens, posing for photos instead of taking them. I also shopped more than I worked. I bought this. (Photo by Marie-Lais Emond) As part of the column she was writing, Marie-Lais asked […]

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Cappuccino from Flynn Coffee

My Favorite Jozi Coffeeshops: Flynn Coffee

In the third installment of an occasional series on my favorite new Jozi coffeeshops, I bring you Flynn Coffee in Kramerville. A Flynn cappuccino. Kramerville, as I’ve explained before, is a quasi-industrial area with a mixture of furniture warehouses, interior design shops, and hidden restaurants/cafés you would never find unless you hear about them from friends or stumble upon them while shopping for sofas. Flynn Coffee is one such café. I discovered Flynn on Instagram. I noticed a few of my coffee-loving friends posting photos from there — the setting looked beautiful and the coffee looked delicious. I eventually arranged to meet my friend Kathleen at Flynn and I wasn’t disappointed: it’s a beautiful place to hang out, with serious coffee (Flynn’s beans are roasted at Thirdspace) and friendly, talented baristas. Coffee At Flynn Like pretty much everywhere I’ve been in Kramerville, Flynn is tricky to find. It’s on Kramer Road (which is easy to find) but set back a bit from the street — kind of on a street behind the street, if that makes any sense — in a little brick structure in front of Coricraft Furniture. Flynn Coffee’s quirky spot in Kramerville.  The shop has a small outdoor […]

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