Food is about people coming together to have a good time, and Johannesburg’s eclectic eating scene satisfies just about all palettes with a range of foods and dining experiences across its myriad districts and suburbs that would keep the average foodie in foodie heaven for months, if not years.
THE 10 BEST FOOD AND DRINK HOODS IN JOHANNESBURG
Melville needs little introduction as a foodie hangout – 7th Street has been a celebrated nightspot forever, although a slightly grungier night out than its neighbours the Parks (Parktown, Parkhurst, Parkview). The suburb lies adjacent to Braamfontein, on the edge of the inner city, and is best known for bar-hopping, bohemian eateries, and friendly but slightly outlandish people. The homes are small, trendy and offbeat, and the atmosphere of hipness, combined with artsy boutiques and good restaurants, makes it an all-round winner.
2. AUCKLAND PARK
One of the city’s student capitals (the other is Melville), Auckland Park lies up atop a koppie, home to the SABC tower and the University of Johannesburg campus. Throw in the adjoining little suburb of Mill Park and you get the added glamour of 44 Stanley Avenue – a collection of eclectic shops and restaurants in a tree-filled outdoor centre, marketed as an ‘outdoor lifestyle precinct’. It is mall shopping without the mall – no fluorescent lighting, no mass-produced merchandise. And the food is good.
Greenside, nestled in amongst the Parks (Parkhurst, Parktown, Parkview etc.) is quite the place to party and eat. Its leafy, wide streets lined with jacarandas vaguely suggest its origins as a farm, but gone is any resemblance to country living, although the Jozi Real Food Market and its artisan food stalls comes a close second. Greenside’s Gleneagles strip hums at night with vibrant bars and restaurants.
4. THE PARKS
The wealthier, leafy ‘burbs of Parktown North, Parkview and Parkhurst tend to get lumped in together known simply as ‘The Parks’. Parkhurst and Parkview each have their own trendy high street with restaurants, eateries and shops set in amongst the trees and expensive cars, whilst Parktown North is eatery upon eatery, and a grocery store. The village feel to these suburbs, and the fact that most of the eating happens out of doors, or with access to the street, makes them hugely popular.
Rosebank’s shopping and restaurant culture sprawls along Oxford Road – a series of swanky malls with some pedestrianised walkways and side streets, and the new Rosebank Towers office building dominating the skyline. It is a popular part of town, particularly with shoppers, but the nightlife here also hums, especially since Oxford Road is a major public transport hub, and parking is a premium. Over weekends the Rosebank Sunday Market again dominates, now that it’s added a cocktail bar and food stalls and generally had a facelift.
High-rise heaven, Sandton is the business centre of South Africa, and home to Africa’s richest square mile. The Gautrain pulls in here regularly, direct from the airport. And when it comes to shopping the malls of Sandton drip with anything and everything a fashionista could desire. During the day the sophisticated district is the playing field of top investment banks, consultants and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. At night the restaurants, bars, bistros and club scene continues well into the night.
It’s a little like Melville, but on the other side of town. The interesting art-deco architecture, mixed in with the local Spar and slowly emerging high street, make it an interesting visit. Property developers speak about Norwood as a ‘garden suburb’ but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything larger than a postage size garden here. Instead the vibrant mix of cultures – Jewish, Muslim, West African and South African – gives it a cosmopolitan vibe that extends to its restaurants, particularly Grant Avenue.
Crammed with galleries, theatres, restaurants, hotels and museums, Braamfontein (or Braamies) is where you’ll find the city’s local government and the constitutional court. It’s also dubbed Jo’burg’s Soho, for its transformation from almost-ghetto type status to a trendy start-up and creative scene. Look out for First Thursdays, Play Braamfontein (the developers behind the regeneration of part of Juta Street) and Johannesburg’s Neighbourgoods Market.
Known locally as ‘downtown India’ or ‘little India’, Fordsburg is a vibrant neighbourhood right in the centre of Johannesburg, known for its Indian culture, food and Middle Eastern vibe. This same area used to be home to miners working on Johannesburg’s gold reef. It is the home of the Oriental Plaza, Fordsburg Square market and the Bag Factory artist studios. Evenings give rise to street-side grills, Bollywood music, busy takeaways, bakeries and restaurants, spices, flavours and enough bargains to keep you coming back. Best on Saturday nights.
Johannesburg’s inner-city revamp that has everyone drooling, the Maboneng precinct is a modern integration of play, eat and work in the city, in what was once an area decaying with neglect. Art, food, markets, design, it’s where beautiful people throng to be seen. The favourite city hangout continues to grow and add new developments, although it has been criticised for its not-quite-there restaurants. But the Fox Street extension has added a few irons to the fire.