Nothing brings people together like good food, and the City of Gold is one of the most exciting and diverse restaurant capitals in the world. From the classics to the latest game-changers, here are our seven favourite restaurants of the moment – open for both sit-down and takeaway. You only live once … lick the bowl!
Whether you want a thick, creamy, red curry; soft, charry naan breads; a slightly sweet korma; or a fiery vindaloo, Ghazal in Melrose Arch is primed to sort your spice cravings in Joburg. With a Bollywood symphony of fantastic flavours, you’ll never suffer a bog-standard curry or round of tikki masala again.
Well placed in the urban precinct, this place has long been popular with hard-to-please professionals. Nowadays, however, it’s also attracting growing admiration from the City of Gold’s army of dedicated foodies. The restaurant’s name means ‘a poetic form mostly used for love poetry’, which is the desire of the team behind this hot spot. It’s love at first whiff when you indulge in traditional North Indian dishes such as fragrant, aromatic chicken biryani, the all-time favourite lamb Rogan Josh, mildly flavoured paneer tikka as well as flaky samosas stuffed with a mouthwatering potato filling and deep fried till golden.
For small appetites there are starters including deep-fried onion bhajis, spicy lamb shish kebabs and tender chicken tikka, but if you’re here to conquer the menu order a full-sized dish with as many starters on the side as you can take. Headlining fixtures from the menu include the rich, mellow dhal; the dense chicken korma; the moist, chunky traditionally prepared lamb curry; and – of course – the queen prawns in a complex masala, which is a must for prawn lovers. Ghazal is also darned affordable by Joburg standards – and it’s great fun. You’ll be singing their praises all the way home!
3 Crescent Drive, Melrose Arch, Melrose North
011 648 1257
Choo Choo Junction
Beloved neighbourhood haunt, Choo Choo Junction continues to take delicious dishes to new levels from their pocket-sized location on Linden’s 4th Avenue. Inspired by founders Renee Hill and Gisela Krischker’s travels and dreams, the menu champions fine ingredients. Innovative flavour combinations and sharing-style small plates excel – the mussels steamed in garlic, onion, ginger, lemongrass, coconut milk and parsley as well as the ground beef skewers served with herb yoghurt and tomato salsa are both seriously moreish. For mains, the crispy mac and cheese with just the right amount of crusty topping takes centre stage, while a Greek-style pasta tossed in white wine, olive oil and garlic is dished up al dente with tomato, shallots, capers, feta and parsley. Another hero dish is the earthy but modish, American yet somehow global Grandpa’s Ribs: Basted in a spicy sauce and slow cooked in the woodfired oven, the meat is moist, smoky and sweet with salty undertones. There’s seafood on offer too – the queen prawns pan fried in deliciously fragrant, thick garlic beer sauce are excellent, as is the linguine frutti di mare made with the freshest mussels, calamari and prawns.
57 4th Avenue, Linden
072 910 3000
The world is going through a serious fried chicken craze, and Joburg isn’t far behind. The best part? It’s arriving between two buns, too. The brand-new Free Bird is delivery only, but bargainously priced. So, if you’re planning a cheap (cheep) night in, you could say you’re in pluck (#sorrynotsorry). We love fried chicken in all forms, but our pick of the flock is the Avo Feta Burger, which is as mighty as it sounds; a decadent, messy thing of beauty. The crammed burger, made with a free-range crispy chicken breast topped with fresh avocado, creamy feta, tomato and lettuce on a toasted brioche bun, is a sweet, tangy marvel. It’s almost as much of a behemoth as the Chipotle Ranch Burger – crispy fried chicken doused in spicy chipotle, homemade ranch dressing and white cheddar – but we’re confident you can take it on. And did we mention the signature FreeBurger, which comes loaded with sriracha mayo and homemade pickled? It’s a little bit of sweet, a little bit of spicy and a whole lot of delicious. Tap that! We’re also big fans of the crispy strips, coated in panko breadcrumbs and served with dipping sauce. If you order with a date, just be sure they order their own, because neither of you are going to want to share.
Order via Uber Eats and Mr D Food only
117 Oxford Road, Rosebank
This anti-ageing eatery is truly special. An all-round superstar of the healthy-living scene, at Clenergy it’s more than possible to eat your way around the world while remaining wholly wheat-free, sugar-free and low-carb as well as diabetic, keto and Banting-friendly – whether you’re craving a salmon and cream cheese bagel, a cherry tomato and basil pizza or a rich and creamy Alfredo pasta. Our top picks are the crackly, brazenly roasted cauliflower steak topped with fried onions and served with a coriander emulsion and harissa sauce, as well as the vegetarian arrabiata pasta – a spicy and delicious dish made with wheat and gluten-free pumpkin pasta cooked in a rich arrabiata sauce with olives, basil and Parmesan. Delectable dishes for meat-eaters include the wholesome gourmet beef burger with air-fried sweet potato chips and the butter chicken in a light bath of Indian spices and coconut milk sauce. And don’t forget to save room for dessert, such as a slice of luscious, silky smooth vegan chocolate cheesecake infused with cashews, pecans, dates and coconut, or the cakey, gooey tahini swirl brownies that hit the sweet spot that all brownies should hit.
51 Greenfield Road, Greenside
084 626 2812
In a city that constantly reimagines itself, Hunger Stop – The Local Kitchen Co’s new takeaway extension – reminds us that some things should never change. You may not be able to tell from the outside, but this nondescript takeout restaurant dishes out some of the heartiest, meatiest and most mouth-watering food. The veritable tome of a menu offers a vast list of diner-style fare that’s accented by street food favourites like chimichurri beef steak roll, cajun fried chicken strips, wood smoked BBQ pulled pork on a light seeded bun and fresh hand cut chips tossed in an all-dairy cheese sauce. Not to miss on the menu is the B52 Bomber Burger: Two beef patties amped up with jalapeños, streaky bacon and a tangy mustard base. If you like it hot, the Krispy Cajun Burger with chicken breast cooked in a fiery, seasoned buttermilk batter was made for you. There are also innovative takes on pizza, like the Hot Chic & Avo topped with grilled prego chicken strips, jalapeños and avocado as well as The Greek – harissa roasted lamb, olives, feta and marinated red onion – which will have you dancing the Kalamatianós! All meals are best washed down with a peanut butter and caramel milkshake.
Posthouse Link Centre, corner of Main Road & Posthouse Street, Bryanston
011 463 0721/25
2 Thai 4
Thai restaurants are dotted around Joburg, making it easy for hungry diners to find the warmest Thom Kha soups and the most delectable coconut-braised beef. But 2 Thai 4, serving the unmistakable flavours of Thai cuisine, is a standout with their excellent and exciting menu that you’ll want to try time and again. We love the top-notch food here for a multitude of reasons: It’s packed full of flavour, won’t break the bank and has the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. The hot and sour prawn soup with mushrooms, galanga, lime leaves and coriander has depth and is a cleansing way to kick off the meal. Then, we suggest you try the fresh, crunchy shrimp Thai spring rolls and the tender, juicy chicken satay with a delectable peanut dipping sauce – both must-order starters. The star of the show on the main menu is the Phad Thai Song Keung; a bowl of spicy-creamy-comforting slippery noodles with garlic, onion, bean sprouts, egg and chives plus your choice of chicken pork or prawns, sprinkled with crushed peanuts. For dessert, the tasty sticky rice paired with perfectly ripe, sweet mango and coconut milk is like no other dessert we’ve tried before – classic Thai and oh-so-scrumptious!
59 Corlett Drive, Illovo
011 440 3000
It looks like a schwarma. It acts like a schwarma. But, Tei Avon is no ordinary pita sandwich. Offering everything from tender grilled meats to exceptional vegetarian dishes, this handsome and fashionably modern schwarma bistro serves up the Israeli food staple you’ve secretly been craving without even knowing about it. If you want uncontested, no-frills schwarma that melts in your mouth, then the Moroccan schwarma – a pita stuffed to the brim with lamb, tabbouleh, red bell peppers, caramelised onion and spicy paprika yoghurt – is your winner in all categories. Upon ordering, the meat is shaved with care off the kebab, that’s slow roasted each day until succulent. The vegetarian Greek schwarma also has plenty of flavour: Halloumi that’s perfectly griddled and soft in the middle along with fresh rocket, olives, mixed tomato salsa and tzatziki soak into a warm pita, creating a concert in your mouth. Order it with a side of onion rings and chips that are perfectly spicy and seasoned for our taste buds. No matter what you choose, the ingredients are lovingly prepped, the portions are generous and the fillings are off-piste. This is exactly the kind of place to convert an ardent meat-eater!
12 Gleneagles Road, Greenside
011 782 6976