More and more people are hopping on flights and heading for Johannesburg to bop their heads at the music festivals, stare elephants, giraffes, and rhinos in the eyes at the game reserves, and see if everything we’ve said about the foods, drinks, prices, and sunsets are true. Everything is true. Almost everything is beautiful.
One day, I’ll share my South African life with you all, but for now, I’ll share some of my favorite places to eat, laugh, lounge, learn, and drink.
I’ve eaten many many times at each of these restaurants. I know the chefs by first name, and I even know some of their children. I have my favorite tables in a couple of these restaurants, and I know secret menu options in a few. I hope you love the bites as much as I have.
Pata Pata: 286 Fox St, Johannesburg, 2094.
I must start by saying you will have to set your expectations low for the service. But once you get over that, the food is some of the best. My sister, Kim, almost bit her finger off, chasing the oxtail! Authentic South African cuisine with live music sometimes in the background! It’s a must!
Gemelli Cucina Bar: 13 Posthouse Link Centre, Main Rd, Bryanston, Sandton, 2191.
“It’s not just a place to eat, it’s the experience of dining together, eating from each other’s plates, sharing stringy bites, stealing toppings, sneaking desserts into the kids just before bedtime. Laughing, dining, wining, celebrating, enjoying. It’s about family, first.” This is the place you visit when you wanna put on something nice and grab your favorite friends for a few hours.
Marble: 19 Keyes avenue, 3rd floor Trumpet Building, Rosebank, Johannesburg, 2196.
Ah the food! Ah the atmosphere! Ah the views at sunset! This is a must, but perhaps save this until the night before you leave. And ALWAYS call ahead for a reservation, although sitting at the bar is just as nice. This is that fancy place everyone loves to eat. The fish and springbok are absolutely worthy of every lip smack!
Che Argentina: 303 Fox St, Johannesburg, 2043.
The best steakhouse in the city, and one of the best I’ve been to in the world! Enough said. And they serve sweetbreads, which have been hard for me to find after falling in love with them in South America.
James XVI Ethiopian Cafe: Unit 9, Maverick Corner, 300 Commissioner St, Maboneng, Johannesburg, 2094. There are now three Ethiopian restaurants in Maboneng, but I guarantee this one is the best. The customer service fromt he staff and the owner are hands down incomparable, and the injera is freaking DELICIOUS! And the Price?! Forget About It!
News Cafe: Newtown Mall, Johannesburg, 2001.
This place is a chain, but a dope place to visit when you’re looking for the most amazing spicy chai latte you’ve ever had. And the chicken livers with Portuguese bread will make you smack the hell out of the chef. Finish it off with the kiwi apple freezer. Thank me later.
Mama Mexicana (Maboneng): 264 Fox St, Johannesburg, 2094.
I know what you’re thinking. “Mexico is too far to good.” Listen here: go! Asian-owned with South African chefs, but the food tastes as authentic as it will get! I’m here far too often for the chimichangas!
LA Camerounaise: 27 Rockey St, Yeoville, Johannesburg, 2198.
Blanche is the fish god. This place is in one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods, and it’s always buzzing. It’s a place where Cameroon men and women come to place games, talk, drink, and laugh, and where I come to join them. Yeoville can be a bit overwhelming and sometimes dangerous. It’s easy to Uber in, but be prepared to take a taxi out. This is my absolute favorite eating spot in South Africa.
Chalkboard: 286 Fox St, City and Suburban, Johannesburg, 2094.
The pizza here is thin, but filling, and can be built to fit whatever needs you have. My recommendation: V For Vegetarian with Beef Mince added! My damn!
DRINKS + VIBES:
When you connect with the right people in Jozi, you’ll have no problem knowing where to go. But until you do that, here are a few places that will get you started. The drinks are cheap, the music is good, the people are dope. What more do you need?
AGOG: 12 Lower Ross St, New Doornfontein, Johannesburg, 2094 – Great food, great vibe, art gallery on the two middle floors, and a dope rooftop for sunset watching and just vibing. This is one of the dopest spots you won’t regret visiting. Feel free to mention my name to the owners, Nick and Frank, the manager, Patrick, and the best hostess, Lorraine.
Kitcheners: 71 Juta St, Johannesburg, 2000. The waves from the African House music moves through your body in this place; almost faster than the cheap, but good drinks. It’s always a vibe on the weekends.
Shakers: 300 Commissioner St, Jeppestown, Johannesburg, 2043. Keep an eye on your goods, but dance with reckless abandon. It’s always a dope crowd, but especially dope when it’s pay weekend.
Great Dane: 5 De Beer St, Johannesburg, 2000. The vibe is chill, the drinks are cheap and I found just as many political comrades here as I have dance partners.
The Jolly Roger: 10 4th Ave, Parkhurst, Randburg, 2193. The music is random, going from 50 Cent to Toto. I’ve never bought a drink in this place because the happy drinking folks inside will adopt you as their drinking buddy and buy them for you. Skip across the street to The Jolly Cool.
Six Cocktail Bar: 90 3rd Ave, Melville, Johannesburg, 2092. Sit away from the smokers and you will be okay. Grab one of those 2-for-1 specials that’s constantly going, start a convo, people watch, and enjoy.
Mootee Bar: 78A, 4th Avenue, Melville, Johannesburg. A modern African bar with equally good food and drinks.
THINGS TO DO:
I’m keeping this list on the safer side of things, however, I do have a list I’m open to sharing with the folks who aren’t too afraid to go into the depths at night – and for some area, even the day. I’ll publish that soon.
Neighbourgoods Market: 73 Juta St, Johannesburg, 2000. From 9am – 3pm on Saturdays, there’s plenty of food, arts, and goods vendors taking over the building, and live music on the roof.
Arts on Main: Maboneng is always alive, but especially on Sundays from 9am – 4pm. Live music, loads of vendors – food and art and goods – and it takes over all of Fox Street. 264 Fox St is the end of the line where you can go inside and check out more dope vendors.
Apartheid Museum: Northern Park Way and Gold Reef Rd, Johannesburg, 2001. It’s a must, but be prepared for the heaviness.
Sisulu Botanical Garden: Malcolm Rd, Poortview, Roodepoort, 1724. The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden is a 300 hectares botanical reserve in Roodepoort near Johannesburg.
Constitution Hill: 11 Kotze St, Johannesburg, 2017. Constitution Hill is the seat of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. Here is also where you can see what’s left of the prison that housed so many, and read and hear the stories that will turn your stomach.
Soweto Township: 8115 Vilikazi Street (Start Here). Soweto is the township where Blacks were pushed during apartheid, and it still remains as a wonderfully Black area full of wonder, stories, history, and folks who are always open to showing you their version of the area. See Mandela’s home, Hector Peterson Square, jump from the towers, and anything else you find.
Top of Africa: 150 Commissioner St, Johannesburg, 2001. Johannesburg has the tallest building on the continent. Go to the top and get a perfect 360 view of the city.
Orlando Towers: Chris Hani Rd, Klipspruit 318-Iq, Johannesburg, 1809. Head out to bungee jump, wall climb, and paint ball with your closest friends or alone. This is for the adventurers who want to get the adrenaline going.
Gold Reef City Amusement Park: Northern Pkwy & Data Cres, Johannesburg, 2159. Rollercoasters for all ages and scare levels. Sadly, there’s no funnel cake. But you will definitely have a great time with the right people.
27 Boxes: 74 4th Ave, Melville, Johannesburg, 2109. Dope shops, great foods, and the only place in the city I found with Cronuts. One of the first places in the city to create a structure out of shipping containers, and it’s amazing.
First Thursdays: First Thursdays is a public event and free to attend. Art galleries and cultural events around Johannesburg stay open until 9 pm or later on the First Thursday of every month, allowing anyone to explore the city on foot and experience the cultural wealth the city has to offer. Rosebank, Braamfontein, and Fringe.
Pilanesberg Game Reserve: Home to the Big 5, this game reserve will not disappoint. Full of wildlife and beautiful flowers, your eyes will be please. I recommend waking up early to make the few hours drive, and taking your time while driving through the park so you can see all the animals.
The Market Theater: 56 Margaret Mcingana St, Newtown, Johannesburg, 2001. Come catch a show. Everything I’ve been fortunate enough to see in this place has been spectacular.
MUSEUMS + GALLERIES:
I’m a fan of good art and places I’ve read about in books and seen on television. These are the places I’ve visited that left outstanding impressions on my and inspired me to create my own.
Wits Art Museum: Wits Art Museum Cnr Jorissen and, Bertha St, Johannesburg, 2001
Hector Pieterson Museum: 8287 Khumalo Rd, Orlando West, Johannesburg, 1804. Learn about the history of one of the sadly popular faces in the fight against apartheid.
Museum Africa: 121 Lilian Ngoyi St, Newtown, Johannesburg, 2033
Peacemakers Museum: 5th Ave, Edenburg, Johannesburg, 2191
August House: 76 End St, Doornfontein, Johannesburg, 2028. Here is a residence where artists create in their own space and allow visitors in to explore and even purchase. Some of the greatest works in the world.
BUYING SOUVENIRS FOR YOUR PEOPLE:
If it’s almost time to go and you didn’t find the specifically South African things you were looking for…
Rosebank African Art & Craft Market: Cradock Ave, Rosebank, Johannesburg, 2196. Absolutely everything you need will be here. Be ready to negotiate! Be strong! Be firm! Get what you need and get out!
I hope this gets you off to a good start. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us, and we’ll be sure to answer everything you need.