Every so often, I meet someone who is traveling to South Africa. They are eager to ask questions about the country and get suggestions on where to go, what to do and what to eat. One of the things I miss the most about my home country is the food. The dining experiences are varied and while there are plenty of incredible restaurants, I often find myself suggesting some of our franchises. When traveling, it is sometimes difficult, if not overwhelming, to find the perfect restaurant in a foreign country, and sometimes you worry about wasting your time. Sometimes you just need an easy and quick meal, whether your sitting in or to go. So I leave the fine dining experiences for another post, and focus solely on restaurants that the locals frequent for quick, easy and value for money restaurants. Many of these function as fast food and take away places, as well as sit down and order restaurants. Below are my personal favorites, and some of the most popular franchises. I always recommend these establishments to people traveling to South Africa.
My friends know where I'm going the minute I get off the plane in Johannesburg. Nando's. It's my number one favorite restaurant in South Africa. They also know that the "last supper" will also be at Nando's. In my opinion, it's the best take out/sit in restaurant you will find in South Africa. I've met people overseas who have tried it on holiday in South Africa, and completely agree. They crave it just about as much as I do.
Nando's specializes in flame grilled, peri-peri chicken, and the restaurant has Portuguese origins. Peri-peri is a type of chili spice and is used to flavor the chicken. You can opt for your meal to be without spice (ask for lemon and herb) or to be extra extra hot. I always go with mild - it is just enough spice without being too hardcore. They have a large menu that includes salads, wraps, pitas, various sized chicken pieces, burgers and even chicken livers. Because it is flame grilled, Nando's is one of the healthier options available. What do I always order? One mild chicken burger (no garnish, just the sauce please), with chips, a creamy spicy dip for dipping and a cream soda. You cannot go wrong with Nando's.
This is my favorite pizza place. I crave this pizza much like I crave Nando's. Unfortunately, they are not as well established as the other franchises listed here. You can only find these restaurants in certain parts of Johannesburg, although they are expanding.
At Andiccio you can make your own pizza. You order the base and whatever toppings you want. They offer various types of cheese, veggies, herbs and meats. You can even make a sweet pizza, with various toppings on a Nutella base. If you are looking for some typical South African ingredients, try the biltong or borewors with peppadews.
What I love about Andiccio is that it is open 24 hours a day. So my friends and I often had this after a night out. It was also conveniently placed in our local bar scene haunt. Andiccio also has the most amazing chili sauce! I've asked friends to send me bottles (they haven't, boo). I've seen friends and others take off with bottles in their drunkard states after a night out. This sauce is good. If you like any form of hot sauce, chili sauce, spicy sauce, you better grab a bottle and try it. My mouth is already watering. (I originally put this place at number 4. It's now been moved to its rightful place at number 2).
My second favorite restaurant is Ocean Basket, a seafood restaurant. This isn't a fast food restaurant, and is a sit down place, although you can go in and order a take away. It doesn't have as large of a menu as many other countries with larger seafood sources. For instance, you will not find mahi-mahi at Ocean Basket. But you will find delicious prawns, calamari, hake and kingklip, amongst other seafood options. My personal favorite is lemon-butter prawns and grilled calamari. Ocean Basket also has sushi on its menu. If you see one of these places and you feeling up to some seafood, it's definitely a winner!
Steers is the South African burger staple. Steers was around before McDonalds and Burger King stormed the country. Here you can get various kinds of burgers and ribs. The menu may not be as varied, but it is predominately a burger restaurant/take out place. I have always opted for the simple Rave burger and chips, but there are plenty of bigger and probably better burgers with more toppings to chose from. The chips at Steers are also top notch, especially with their famous seasoning. Get extra seasoning. Just a tip.
MUGG N BEAN
Mugg n Bean is a firm, family favorite. This is where my parents always go. This is where I go to meet friends for lunch, or to have a coffee and a chat. It has a huge menu, and the portions are pretty big - especially their desert cakes and muffins. I would say Mugg n Bean is best described as a cafe come coffee house, with a large lunch and dinner menu. Very wholesome, homely, comfort food, with many options. You can order anything from a farmhouse breakfast to a rump steak. I always felt like the menu changed pretty often, so I cannot give my favorite here. I would definitely suggest going for a coffee, a massive muffin or a slice of lemon meringue pie though. They also have some pretty good soups.
Other great spots that deserve a mention:
Wimpy - quick service, coffee, breakfasts and burgers. This is a road trip stop favorite.
Mimmos - Great Italian franchise, tons of pizza and pasta. Excellent specials on a Monday and Tuesday, and delicious salad dressing (I've even put it on my pizza).
Spur - steak house, with ribs, burgers and chicken on the menu. All with a Native American theme, which is admittedly a bit odd for South Africa. It's been around so long though, I guess none of us ever thought about it (I only did right now. Huh!).
Other restaurants I consider to be a little more upmarket but still good value and delicious!
Doppio Zero - another great Italian restaurant
Piatto - very large menu, grill house, seafood, pasta, pizza. It's got everything.
YuMe - a fantastic sushi experience - lots of creative combinations and something for everyone
Tasha's - a lovely cafe vibe restaurant, with a great variety of salads, sandwhiches and pastas, as well breakfast and other lunch options. Great drinks too!
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PLACES TO EAT IN SOUTH AFRICA? HAVE YOU EATEN AT ANY OF THESE PLACES? WHAT DID YOU THINK?