2016 is just about complete. As far as the real world goes it was filled with ups and downs. But as far as my own little food world goes it was waaaaaay up. Probably the tastiest year to date over here. I also got married and watched the Cubs win a World Series beforehand so for me 2016 was pretty great. As always I have my year end round-up featuring my best bites of the calendar year. Those listed are only things that I posted about on this site. As far as the Beyond Chicagoland rankings go I only choose one bite from each trip taken. So while there's plenty of worthy options I try to choose the one item I've craved the most since having it. New this year is the taco category which only makes sense considering that's the single food I eat more of than anything else. Without further ado.
Homemade Pork Gyros at Charcoal Flame (Click HERE)
- I keep finding myself here every few months. Always for the same thing. The homemade pork gyros is some of the best spit roasted meat in the Chicagoland area.
Roti Paratha at Serai (Click HERE)
- The heavily scented Malaysian style yellow curry is supposed to be a side component to the housemade roti on the appetizer menu. But it's the sauce that makes this dish one of my favorites.
Tortellini in Broth at Monteverde (Click HERE)
- One of the years best new restaurants produced my favorite bowl of soup. Pasta is this star of the show and the little tortellini in this dish were fantastic but the potent broth was the key component.
Yucatecan style Wood Grilled Sea Bass at Lena Brava (Click HERE)
- Rick Bayless' ode to Baja is a popular one. Duh. In my opinion it's his best offering yet. I base this almost entirely off of the wood grilled fish that gets it's own section on the menu. Mine was divine.
Shrimp Tempura Bowl from Hannosuke (Click HERE)
- Tempura is one of my favorite snacks and while this place might not be perfection like that found in Japan, it's a damn good lunch. Perfectly fried everything with a tangy sauce that sticks to it.
Jianbing at Tong's (Click HERE) - This food stall in the basement of Chinatown's RichlandCenter is minimal. But what they do they do really well. The star of the show is a traditional Chinese street food similar to crepes. Mole Empanadas at Golden Tuzo (Click HERE)
- Regional Mexican at it's finest. You wont find any tacos or quesadillas on the menu here. The family behind it makes wonderful empanadas from a recipe going back to their home state of Hidalgo.
Chunky Puppies at Animale (Click HERE)
- Fries? Really? I know but these are currently my favorite fried potatoes in the city. I liked lots of stuff on Animale's menu but it's the fries I find myself craving. They're crispy, they're creamy, they're delicious.
Chicken Shawarma at Al Sufara Grills (Click HERE)
- Cooking with fire is all the rage in trendy restaurants these days. It seems like it's the only way the owners of this popular Middle Eastern restaurant have ever known. I love everything here as it's all grilled over live fire including the perfectly kissed chicken shawarma. Strip mall dining at it's finest.
Brisket at Kerlin BBQ (Austin, TX) - Click HERE
- In my yearly trips to Austin it's still the BBQ that I most look forward to. There's lots of spots to enjoy perfectly smoked brisket and this years favorite was this small trailer with big flavors.
Daily Pastas at Il Corvo (Seattle, WA) - Click HERE
- Said by many to be the finest pasta restaurant in the country I can now join in on the chorus. This lunch only establishment draws lines of people everyday for a selection of two ever changing pastas. So good we went back despite having lots of other spots to try.
Smoked Salmon Smørbrød at Bachelor Farmer Cafe (Minneapolis, MN) - Click HERE
- The Nordic dining scene in Minneapolis is becoming a trendsetter. The Bachelor Farmer is one of those trendsetters. We didn't get to the main restaurant but did visit the cafe for Scandinavian style open faced sandwiches. The salmon was perfect.
Onion Burger at Lemon Drop Drive In (Anderson, IN) - Click HERE
- It had been probably 10+ years that I'd wanted to go to this Roadfood type spot an hour out of Indy. Known for their Onion Burgers they make them a bit different here. The onion is sliced whole and stuffed inside the meat which makes for a real treat. One of the best burgers of all time on my list.
Fried Chicken at Martha Lou's Kitchen (Charleston, SC) - Click HERE
- There were about ten different things I could've chose from our trip to Charleston. But there's only one spot we ate the food from and then went back in for more and it was none other than Martha Lou's golden fried chicken. Some of the best I've ever had and well worth the hype.
House Chashu Rice at Brush Izakaya (Atlanta, GA) - Click HERE
- There's still times when I think about that delicate pork belly that melted upon arrival in my mouth. Quite simply some of the best cooked pork I have ever ate. This was an extremely tasty bowl of food.
Seafood Tostadas at La
Guerrerense (Ensenada, BC) - Click HERE
- As the Queen of Mexican Street Food Sabina Banderas is a beloved figure. She can add me to her list of admirers that would do just about anything to eat her tostadas. One could easily argue this is the best street food stand in the world. Yes it's that good. The salsas being to die for.
Sweet Potato Crusted Tilefish at Leftovers Cafe (Jupiter, FL) - Click HERE
- We ate lots of good fish during our month long stay in South Florida. In what was my first visit to Little Moir's I got to try the popular sweet potato crusted fresh catch and absolutely loved it. I'll be back here the first chance I get.
Langoustines at Baia Seafood (Cape Town, ZA) - Click HERE
- So much fantastic shellfish in Cape Town. And so many good things to eat at that. I think I chose these because it was our first lunch in the city and it set the tone for the rest of the trip which was filled with prawns.
Steak Tacos at La Iguanita (Chicago, IL) - Click HERE
- Simply put these are the best steak tacos in Chicagoland. Add that to the fact their creamy green salsa is some of the best salsa in the city and you got yourself a winner. A must stop for me when I'm near there.
Shrimp Taquitos at Dos Urban Cantina (Chicago, IL) - Click HERE
- I enjoyed quite a few meals at this Logan Square 2016 newcomer. After trying the little shrimp taquitos on my first visit I've had them ever since. The flavors in this take me straight to the beach somewhere in Mexico.
Tijuana Style Tacos at Tacos Mariachi (Dallas, TX) - Click HERE
- This family run joint is an ode to back home in Baja. I cant pick just one of the tacos that I tried so order whatever and it's bound to be delicious. Don't sleep on Dallas' taco scene.
Green Chorizo Taco at Minero (Charleston, SC) - Click HERE
- Mexican mixed with a bit of Southern Flair by famous chef Sean Brock. I loved everything about this place. Some of the better chef driven tacos I've ever tried.
Smoked Marlin Taquitos at Mariscos Ruben (Tijuana, BC) - Click HERE
- I could've chose pretty much any taco that I tried in Baja as it's one of the best places in the world to eat tacos. But these are a must and worth a ride from pretty much anywhere in California.
Omakase at Wataru (Seattle, WA) - Click HERE
- The best sushi I've ever had. Not sure I'll get better until the day I head to Japan. That said the fact we were in the Northwest made for a great local bounty of fish mixed with the best of the best flown in from Japan. So it's a unique experience driven by a extra friendly and super knowledgeable chef.
Prixe Fix Menu at La Colombe (Cape Town, ZA) - Click HERE
- This well known South African destination restaurant produced what's sure to be a memory that lasts a lifetime. The food was fantastic the views were beautiful and the fact we were on our Honeymoon made it a bit more romantic. A top notch overall experience.
Fresh Catch Lunch at Mariscos La Estrella (Popotla, BC) - Click HERE
- This was one for the ages. Fresh as can be seafood that we just bought off the beach from the guys who fished it. Enjoyed with good friends and ice cold brews. This is what life is all about.
Daily Lunch at Jordan Restaurant (Stellenbosch, ZA) - Click HERE
- Another fantastic gourmet meal in South Africa that also happened to be an extra picturesque setting. On top of this the food was some of the best we ate all year. Cheers to 2017.
Eating like a local: Regional food specialties - Eating and Exploring the Mother City
When it came to choosing our Honeymoon destination I had choice but to check the city at the very top of my bucket list off. Due to the fact there's no guarantee you'll ever have the time again to do so the decision to go to South Africa became an easy one. The driving force(s) behind that decision was Cape Town - paired with a safari of course. I've been fascinated with the city and really the entire country and for that matter the continent going on a decade plus. Any time I read a travel article or saw a special on Cape Town it made me want to pack my bags and fly there the next day. But the funny thing is I cant really explain why that was so I just loved what I'd read and saw. Of course all of this was somewhat recent as they city's demons go back as recently as the 90's.
Greetings from The Mother City
No one is more so the face of a country than Nelson Mandela is for that of South Africa. Everyone that knows the man's story knows it has chapters of both of deep sorrow and also high's of the highest highs. He went from wrongfully jailed to president of the country and helped heal an entire nation and really a continent if you think about it. There's odes to Mandela throughout Cape Town but the best one you'll see is the atmosphere itself where people of all races and color enjoy one of the world's most beautiful cities. Don't get me wrong there's still problems here like there are pretty much everywhere. But considering apartheid ended in Mid 90's it felt like they've come a long, long way.
Cape Town is filled with Natural Beauty
Still with all that said I was a tourist and I pretty much acted as one so I dont want to pretend to be an expert on the state of the nation. We drove by areas that were the definition of poverty and it was heartbreaking to see but most everyone I talked to said it was getting better. The city itself has grown fast with property here as valuable as anywhere in Africa. As far as the areas the common tourist will visit, it's not third world at all. Cape Town's sheer size is massive and it's activities are abundant so seeing the entire city would take some time. We had 10 days and it still wasn't enough. What I did have enough time for was figuring out why I loved Cape Town. I love that it's old and new. I love that it's black and white. I love that it's in the mountains and on the beach. I love it's natural beauty.
View of the City Centre
When it comes to outdoor activities it seems like the options here are endless. The best part being that all of them are scenic in one way or the other. We tried to take in as much as we could and still ended up missing two of the bigger attractions in town. The first one being the Robbens Island Tour which was canceled the Sunday we had bought tickets for. Thus we never got to go. Then there was the Table Mountain Cable Cars which were pretty much suspended most every day we were there. Cape Town is for real windy and when it's howling those cable cars aren't going anywhere. Another problem can be visibility and the one time the cars were running the visibility at the top of the mountain was so poor that no one was going up. You can check the website for constant updates.
View from the bottom of Table Mountain
Nonetheless we still got a whole lot of stuff done. So much that I could go on and on for the rest of the day but I dont want to write a book. I'm just trying to do a roundup. So I've listed just some of the activities you can look forward to should you decide to make Cape Town your next vacation destination. Just a few things I wanted to point out. Some FAQ so to say.
The City Sightseeing Tour goes up, down, and around the city
- I never once felt even close to unsafe and I rode in countless ubers and walked alone on the streets at night. Be smart and you'll be more than safe. The people were as nice as anywhere I can remember and that's saying something because there's plenty of nice people in this world.
Taking in some live music
- Because the city is so big your lodging options are endless. Not just from a hotel or AirBNB standpoint but also where you will stay. You can live it up on some fabulous beaches in areas like Camps Bay and Clifton or you can watch the hustle and bustle of the city and stay somewhere near City Centre. Pick a spot in Constantia Valley and you'll feel a world away from the big city life. We stayed in three different locations on top of a two day getaway to Stellenbosch. Between City Centre, Clifton Beach, and Hout Bay I couldn't pick a favorite but I didn't want to leave any of them.
- Don't bother renting a car as Ubers are dirt cheap and parking is a bitch. Not to mention the whole driving on the other side of the road thing. You'll be hard pressed to spend more than $6 on an Uber and that's if you're going far. A ten minute ride will set you back between $2/3 usd. There's also some very tough areas to drive as far as hills and turns and stuff so if you want to do a tour I suggest hiring a driver. We hired a man named John who pushed a Benzo and knew the city as well as anyone I talked to. We used him for about 8 hours to take us on a sightseeing / eating tour that me and him drew up. We started the day at Chapman's Peak and got over to Boulder Beach to see the penguins and ate lunch in Kalk Bay before going all the way down to The Cape of Good Hope and then over to Muizenberg Beach for an early dinner. The price was more than fair. Look up his company HERE.
The gourmet type places are perhaps Cape Town's biggest attraction when it comes to the food. With London having so much influence on the city these days it's no surprise to find that many chefs from there are moving here to open up spots. There is no Michelin Guide for Africa but ask anyone in the know and they'll tell you Cape Town is without a doubt the continents premier dining city. With the US dollar going so far the most expensive meals in Cape Town turn out being very much a deal when you consider the US dollars spent. Just make sure you make reservations to assure yourself a spot.
When the discussion of best restaurant in Africa is had you can count on La Colombe being mentioned in it. Located in the beautiful Constantia region of Cape Town you'll find yourself, or your driver, driving in circles to get you there. That's because it's located up a mountain high from where you enter the property and thus the excitement at La Colombe begins before you even get there.
Our View from the Dining Table
La Colombe was one of the first reservations that I got and they require you to pay a deposit up front. If you cancel before the deadline you get that back and if you show up to your reservation they take the deposit total off of the final bill total. If you're into the World's Best List this place is ranked as the 76th best restaurant in the world but I have no idea how they come to these conclusions. All I know is that it's really good. Not just the food but also the service and the wine pairings.
Sourdough, Virgin Butter, Wild Garlic
La Colombe Garden - Amuse-Bouche (Click Pics to Enhance)
La Colombe offers a tasting menu for both lunch and dinner with the option to pair wine with each course. You can either do the regular sized menu which lets you choose between two selections for a total of five courses or you can go for the entire menu. We chose the regular sized and just agreed to try different things. Everything that's good to say has been said about this place so I just thought I'd share what was a meal every bit as delicious as it was pretty. Certainly one of my best meals of 2016.
Tuna La Colombe
The signature dish of the house (everyone starts with it) might seem like a gimmick but who cares when it's this damn delicious. They place barely seared fresh yellowfin in a small round can and play it off as canned tuna. It's definitely popular on instagram but unlike alot of the stuff that looks good on there, this actually is good. Like really good. I thought about asking for a couple more but didn't want to embarrasses us Americans. Although seeing as how this was the middle of November someone else already did that.
West Coast Oyster, Caviar, Kalamansi, Apple, Soy
Bavette Steak, Chipotle, Anchovy, Bone Marrow, Chimichurri
The second course was your choice of a seafood based dish or a beef option. She went with the seafood was just one oyster so I didn't get to try it but I heard it was wonderful. My steak was the same. It sounded like there might be alot going on but the flavor combination was fantastic.
Cured Norwegian Salmon, King Crab, Blood Orange, Melon, Wood Squirrel
Third course up. She went with the cured salmon so I decided to try the "Surf and Turf" option. While her dish was certainly more colorful mine was every bit as good. Perfect cooked quail was the best I can remember trying. So good that the perfectly seared scallop was almost an afterthought. Fantastic.
Grannysmith Popsicle (Palate Cleanser)
I should take chance to point out that we also ordered a couple cocktails from here and they too were very well made. Not always the case in Cape Town but this team obviously knows how to balance.
For the fourth course we had our choice of two entree level plates. One being a fish dish. The term 'Line Fish of the Day' is how they say "The Day's Fresh Catch" but unfortunately I forget which local caught fish they were showcasing on this day. Either way I went ahead and tried the lamb offering which was a variety of lamb preparations. The lamb is really quality over here and that was as evident as ever in this dish. I'd say it was one of the best plates of food I ate on the trip. Top Ten material.
Three Ages of Boerenkaas, Onion, Rhubarb, Walnut, Cumin
You had your choices for desert but we both wanted to do the cheese plate which surprise surprise was also great. But no this isn't a broken record it's one of the more lovelier meals you'll ever have. Especially should you be lucky enough to be seated at the windows where we were. The food, the views, the service, all of it was on point and helped make the experience a memorable one. All things considered this meal turns it out to be a pretty great bargain by American comparisons.
Chef's Warehouse is located on a popular dining strip that has it's own section coming up in this report. Since opening their tapas restaurant on Bree street it's one of the most publicized spots in the city. You can say this restaurant was one of the places responsible for the surge in great dining found up and down Bree street. We had our final lunch here and were glad we decided to do so as it too was one of the best meals we ate on this trip. The concept here is a tapas menu that comes in three different courses with 2/3 tapas per course. It's supposed to be for two people and cost R620 ($45) which is yet again a steal. The first course consisted of three seafood dishes. All of them fantastic.
Yellowtail with Sushi Rice, Nori Puree, Togarashi Dressing
Trout Tartare with Radish and Pine Nuts
Cape Malay Pickled Squid with Cauliflower, Potato, and Onion Brulee
Moving onto the second course we got a duo of semi vegan dishes (I'm sure the risotto had some broth in it). Both of them were a big surprise particularly the sesame bean salad which was popping with all sorts of flavors. The risotto was no different. It was so comforting that I found myself wishing I could make it this good for myself with the impending winter I was heading back to.
Sesame Bean Salad with Charred Broccolini and Avocado Puree
Our third and final round of tapas was meats. Once again each one of these delighted in ways that will leave me with a lasting memory of this meal. A trio of dishes included the most tender piece of duck breast I've ate as well as a perfectly cooked pork filet and a cold brisket salad that had alot of flavor similarities to a deli style pastrami sandwich. I highly rec this spot for a meal in Cape Town.
Pork Filet with Broad Beans, Peas, and Cauliflower Puree
Duck Breast with Rainbow Carrots and Carrot Veloute
Beef Brisket Salad with Pickles, Horseradish Cream, and Sourdough Croutons
The Pot Luck Club
Sticking with the highly publicized spots here we have the casual younger sibling of The Test Kitchen which is said by many to be Africa's Best Restaurant. I was planning for the possibility of reserving spots at both, which is essential if you want to dine at either of them. Unfortunately I got confused by the reservation system they use. You can reserve your spot one month ahead but I didn't realize the entire month was available starting on the 1st date of the previous month. So all tickets for November went on sale October 1st. I thought it was by day. But anyway when I realized my mistake it was still early enough to reserve a spot here which is said to be just as good with a more casual approach. Tapas are big in Cape Town and that's how I'd describe their menu items. Order a handful.
Crispy Kalk Bay Octopus, Doenjang Mayo, Pickled Cucumber and Octopus Teriyaki
Pot Luck Club Fish Tacos: Fresh Ceviche, Black Bean Puree, Avocado and Sour Cream
The menu items are broken down by flavor profile (Salty, Sweet, Umami, Sour, Bitter) and everything pretty much sounds good. With the pedigree that the team behind Pot Luck Club has it's probably true. Everything we got hit the spot with the fish tacos being the most interesting item of them all. Not sure why they call them tacos but I know what people mean when they say they're addictive. I'm not sure I'd ever had fried octopus up to this meal but I have a feeling I'll be hard pressed to find an offering this good again. It was crispy on the outside and moist and tender within.
For our second round of items we got the restaurants take on the local favorite that is peri peri chicken and a pork belly dish. The chicken was grilled just right with a not so spicy sauce. What it lacked in heat it made up for in flavor. I wish it was something other than a breast but they did get all sorts of smoke flavor up in there through the use of wood. The Pork Belly came served in a bowl and the waitress poured the broth over the meat upon delivery to the table. This was yet another perfectly cooked dish with lots of flavors to enjoy. Dessert was a strawberry concoction that escapes me but it came with a nice little message from the staff and couple complimentary glasses of champagne.
After our amazing lunch at La Colombe we wanted to check out their new sister restaurant and made reservations to do so. Foxcroft opened a month before we left and I had them on my radar. We made plans to dine there on our way back from Stellenbosch about a week before we would dine there. Foxcroft specializes in same things La Colombe does in a way that's a bit more approachable to the leisurely day/night out. For lunch (and maybe dinner) they have a set menu that's R350 ($26) per person and includes two appetizers, to go with one main, and one dessert. This is what we got.
Tuna Tartare - tempura avocado, miso, daikon, apple, baby gem (ordered by both of us)
Fried Squid - chorizo, ajo blanco, wild garlic (ordered by she)
Smoked Pigs Head Croquette - curried sultanna, piccalilli, crème fraîche (ordered by me)
Starting with the tapas this too would turn into a great meal. Everything on our plates we ate. Our only qualm was the time it took. Just over two hours, for lunch. Service in South Africa isn't the best but it sure makes you appreciate what we have in the States as does travel most everywhere else. We both thought the tuna tartare was the weak link of an otherwise strong group of starters.
Confit Pork Belly - fire pit apples, fennel, onion, sage (ordered by she)
Moving onto the entrees and dessert. Both of our entrees were cleared off the plates. My steak was cooked as requested and the side of duck fat fries were some of the best I've ever had from anywhere. While everything was good the desserts might've been my favorite. Just
like at La Colombe they create art with their plates and the desserts were
the brightest in both presentation and flavor.
Compressed Strawberries - toasted croissant, mascarpone (ordered by me)
Attached to the restaurant is a bakery that's open daily. I stopped in while waiting for our food and ordered a few items to take to the rental. My to-go box included a ham and cheese croissant, Kouign-amann, and a trip of Macarons. All I know is all of them got ate after the day turned to night.
Takeout Snack from the Bakery attached to the restaurant
Regular readers know I love to follow the locals. The mom and pop type spots of Cape Town are relatively unhyped online. In many cases there's nothing at all about a place you might pass by and wonder what the deal is with. The locally loved food of Cape Town is as varied as it's residents. African, Indian, and European flavors can all be considered a part of Cape Town's food culture. Cape Malay Cuisine is is one of a few that came about in Cape Town and it's now a vital part of the city's culinary identity. It has a dark history in the fact the people that developed this cuisine cooked as slaves in the households of Dutch people. There's also lots of Portuguese influence here.
First and foremost lets get to Cape Town's most iconic eat. When we hear the name Gatsby we think of the eccentric millionaire who we read about in high school literature class. In Cape Town they think snack as in the local super sandwich. The Gatsby sandwich goes back to the mid 70's. The sandwiches creator owned a fish shop in a CPT suburb and needed to feed some hungry workers. He put together what's now known as a Gastby Sandwich and the workers loved it. He put it on the menu at his Takeout Seafood Shop the next day and they became a hit. It's called a Gatsby because it was around the time The Great Gatsby movie was playing in South Africa and the man who made the sandwiches called them a Gatsby Smash. Today they're available all over the city and it's suburbs.
Menu at Yusra's
I had a list of spots I wanted to try one of these legendary sandwiches at but most of them were in the suburbs. I considered riding out to one in an Uber but it never happened as traffic was always bad around the time I wanted to go (late afternoon). That said one of the spots on my list was this corner store from another era in the trendy Sea Point neighborhood. Yusra's is a one stop shop for food and 7-11 type groceries. They also sell a variety of cooked foods including the Gatsby sandwich. These places tend to be owned by Indian / Cape Malay folks so items like Samosas and curries are also options. Gatsby's come in two sizes, I went large because I wanted to see how big they really were.
As long as my forearm
So for those who've never heard of Cape Town's most popular regional eat let me explain what it is. An extremely large roll which can basically be classified a s a loaf of bread makes for the outer layers of the sandwich. Inside of it can vary but what's always included is enough chips (fries) to be considered a large order at your local hot dog stand. Popular fillings for a Gatsby are Masala Steak, Curried Chicken, and Polony which is a locally enjoyed sausage made in a similar way to bologna.
I ordered a Masala Steak with cheese and was asked if I wanted it "wet" "dry" "or both" which I asked about and was explained this. Wet meant with sauce (BBQ / Mayo/ Peri Peri) while dry meant with spices (didn't ask past that). Since I'm a sweet and hot guy with my Italian Beef's I went both on my Gatsby. Speaking of which as a Chicagoan who enjoys a Combo and even a Jim Shoe Sandwich now and then I could see why a Captonian enjoys the Gatsby sandwich. It's a great way to fill up after some drinks and you can feed 3-4 people with one at a ridiculously cheap price. This sandwich was the equivalent of $8 usd and fed me as well as three guys who came up to me asking for change. But don't let that deter you as I ate this on a bench in a public area and was obviously a tourist as I was taking pictures of my food. If you're going to Cape Town you got to get a Gatsby.
Mzoli's Place was on my must visit list not just for the food but also the experience. It sits in a township about 20 minutes away from the City Centre. I kept pushing off my visit as traffic is bad around rush hour (4p) and can turn the ride into a 40 minute excursion. It wasn't until the last day in town that I got in an uber and rode over of lunch. Mzoli's is part butcher - part restaurant - part party. It got it's start in 2003 when owner Mzoli Ngcawuzele started casually selling meat from his garage.
Inside the Butchers Den
With the help of some local funding Mzoli's has grown into one of Cape Town's biggest parties. With that it's also one of the more popular spots for braai and the tourist looking for a sense of adventure. Braai is the South African slang for Barbecue and it's one of the country's most popular pastimes. Mzoli's works like this. You enter the storefront and pick out what meats you want grilled. After paying for the meat the people behind the counter hand you your selection on a platter that you bring back to the braaimaster aka grillmaster. You keep your ticket and they'll yell when ready.
Transferring of the Meats
Sitting in back are the grills. On this day they only had two of them going but on a busy day they will have all three. Fueled with enough wood to build a small tree these monster grills get extra hot and flare up quite often but are contained with water just as fast. I watched as the grill guy loaded tray after tray of meat and wondered how he keeps track of what's who's and such. These guys are pros at what they do because not long after (15 mins) I gave them my meat they had it all cooked.
Pitmaster at Work
Once your meat is cooked you take it next door to what can best be described as the Party Hall. This is where all the fun happens. Mzoli's is a popular spot for groups which like to bring their own beverages to imbibe in. This place is by no means a posh restaurant like those you'll find on Bree street but it is one of the best peaks into the township life. It reminded me very much of an extra large version of the popular jerk chicken shacks of Jamaica. A place to eat, drink, and listen to good music with the company of others.
a peek inside
It was middle of the day midweek so while the crowd wasn't at it's peak there was s till a ton of people considering the time and date. I ended up taking a seat at a table next to a group of five guys and before I could put my food down they were offering me shots of Havana Club. We chatted up and as soon as they found out I was from the States they did all they could to make sure I had a good time while there. That I did. I ordered some of the lamb with a couple pieces of chicken and big old slice of Boerewors which is a beef sausage very popular on the braai. The sweet ladies inside at the insisted I get an order of chakalaka to go with my grilled meats and I'm grateful for them because this African salsa-like concoction brought the whole plate together. The food paired with the people made this one of my most enjoyable experiences of the entire trip. I highly rec making the time to visit.
South African Braai and Chakalaka
Ou Meul Long Street
One of the locally eats I was excited to try was a meat pie. Just like in England the pies over here tend to be savory and not sweet. Only thing was there didn't seem to be too many places that people were high on. The meat pie seemed to be something you eat when in a hurry and dont have the time (or money) for anything better. Readily available in grocery stores and even some gas stations they might not be royalty food but they do get the gourmet treatment by some spots. Ou Meul is a mini chain with a few locations in the Western Cape. They make their pies fresh daily and the flavors can vary. On my early morning visit pre-shark diving I snagged a pepper steak at the rec of the worker and it was marvelous. The crust was croissant like it had so much better and the filling was pure comfort.
Pepper Steak Pie
Priella Farm Stall & Coffee Shop
R43 between Botriver and Hermanus
On the way to do some shark diving our bus stopped at this cute little farm stand. It was a chance to stretch the legs and grab a quick drink and or bite to eat to hold you over for the rest of the ride which was about 2.5/3 hours. They had a nice selection of meat pies made on premises so I grabbed a bobotie pie for the ride. Bobotie is another one of South Africa's signature dishes. It consists of spiced minced meat (beef) baked with a layer of eggs on top. But it's also popular as a pie filling and I think that was my preferred way of enjoying this national dish that can be found anywhere from a local roadside stand to the prepared food section at your local grocer.
Pies for the Ride
Kalky's Fish and Chips
This place is an institution for the locals from around this way. At first I was kind of surprised to see that fish ad chips were as popular in South Africa as they were in spots like England and Ontario. But then when you remember that the area is heavily influenced by the Portuguese it makes sense. For it's the Portuguese that gave the rest of the world fried fish. These days you can find these fish and chip shacks throughout Cape Town with most of them in areas near the water.
Kalky's isn't the oldest fish and chips shack in the city but it's been around long enough to feel like it. Full House on my visit but the line moves quick and there's plenty of seating both indoors and out. The fact local fisherman line up their fresh catches for the day right outside is a good sign you;re going to get some fresh fish. I went with the two most popular options of both hake and snoek. The latter of which is a locally caught fish popular for it's versatility in the kitchen. It' s also extremely bony but with flesh like that of mackerel it's prized in these parts. The hake was perfect and my preferred piece of the two only because it tasted like the fish and chips I'm used to. The thing is it's the snoek that I've had a taste for since returning home. I recently found an interesting piece that the beloved Calvin Trillin wrote about his friend from South Africa's love for snoek. Click HERE to read.
Snoek (L) Hake (R)
Eastern Food Bazaar
Eastern Food Bazaar is a canteen style eatery featuring different stalls serving Regional Indian, Chinese, and Turkish street food with a large seating area. It goes all the way from one block to the other with entries on both ends. I'd heard mixed reviews about the food from here but I was near and wanted to see what it was all about. Not that different from the food halls starting popup in America.
a peek inside
I hadn't had any Bunny Chow yet so now was my time to indulge. What's that you ask? Bunny Chow is the signature eat if Durban. For those not in the know Durban has the largest Indian population of any city outside of India and Bunny Chow is their creation. As to be expected it's made it's way into Cape Town. It takes a hollowed out loaf of bread and turns it into a basket/bowl for curry. Of which Durban has it's very own style of as well. I dont think this lamb curry I ate was Durban style as it wasn't all that spicy but it was really tender with the potatoes being perfectly al dente. Not bad.
Lamb Bunny Chow
Cape Malay is the one food South African can claim as it's very own. The food of the people who settled in the Bo-Kaap area is a melting pot of flavors with influences from the Dutch, Malaysia, Africa, and India. It's recipes include potent spices like cumin, coriander, star anise, tamarind, cinnamon, cardamom, and turmeric. Cape Malay Cuisine is popular not just in the homes of the Bo-Kaap but also at fast food joints like Mariam's. I heard they have one of the best Salomies in the city which is another popular Cape Town eat that has a Cape Malay background. They're made by taking a filling which is usually a curried meat or stew and placing it in a roti pancake and rolling it into the form of a burrito. These are a popular form of a cheap lunch and Mariam's indeed makes a great one. Try the masala steak and you're in for a heartier meal than any Burger King can deliver.
Located right in the heart of the Bo-Kaap neighborhood is this local Cape Malay Restaurant / Convenience store. I had wanted to sit down and try their food but a reservation we had in an hour or so stood in the way. I went in for a water after a quick visit to the Bo-Kapp museum and ended up leaving with some fresh fried samoosas. These are a typical snack for people of the neighborhood. This particular version was outstanding with lots of spice packed into the creamy potato filling. I really wish I was able to get back as this place was South Africa's first Cape Malay restaurant.
weekends in the Bo-Kaap neighborhood you're likely to come across some
outdoor chicken shacks such as the one pictured above. These are usually
run by Pakistani men and of course people of Cape Malay descent as this
is where they settled. I rolled over to this popular with locals stand
that I'd read about online and tried some of the tikka chicken that was
the subject of the story I read. It was a tad overcooked but the sauce
was spicy and complex with lots of flavors demanding your tongues
attention. While enjoying my chicken most of the locals including some
cops, delivery men and neighbors were enjoying Boerewors sandwiches which I'll get into coming up.
I came across this place when searching out Portuguese restaurants in the city. It seemed to be very popular with locals who seemed to love not just the food but also the cheap drinks and atmosphere in which they eat and drink. Dias Tavern is in ode to all things Portuguese. It feels likes it's stuck in the 70's and reminded me alot of many a local taverns I've visited in Wisconsin. The difference here was instead of everything being Packers related it was all Portuguese soccer and other Portugal related stiff on the walls. We started out with an order of fried squid tentacles that were just about perfect.
Fried Squid Tentacles
As you'll see later on this report, prawns are big in CPT. Almost every restaurant has them and they always seemed to be fresh and well coked no matter where we ate them. An order of peri peri prawns from here was no exception to this statement. Maybe not the best of the trip but still damn delicious.
Peri Peri Prawns
My meal was the combination plate that paired grilled baby squids with trinchado. I actually thought I was ordering the espetadas but this ended up being a good mistake. I say this because trinchado is a uniquely South African dish with heavy influence from the Portuguese. It's a braised beef that gets tenderized in a mix of wine, garlic, and peri peri sauce. The cube of beef were cooked until they were just about to fall apart. While the fries might've been frozen it didn't matter due to the fact the sauce the beef was cooked in was so damn addictive. Same goes for the calamari which I was popping like popcorn. I had wanted to go back and get the same thing but it never happened. Next time for sure.
Grilled Joe Special (Baby Calamari and Trinchado)
I walked past this fish and chips that was open late night and decided to go try some snoek for the first time. Since this was my first stab at it I was surprised by the bones. The fact that it was grabbed immediately after I placed my order and thus pre-fried didn't make the end result all that surprising. The skin was soft from sitting around and the bones were abundant. I ate a small amount before packing it up and offering it as dinner to someone that would get better use out of it than me.
Snoek and Chips
Mama Africa is a popular stop for both locals and tourists alike. Locals are there for a taste of home in both food and music form while tourists would like to experience the same. The food and the music are a "celebration of South Africa's new democracy and the vibrant diversity
and hospitality of our continent." This is one of the premier live music spots on Long street and a another spot I highly recommend a place to get a true taste of what South Africa is all about.
Not my video but this one up above that I found on YouTube is the same group I saw on my visit in. The place was packed with a wonderful vibe in the air all due to the music and food. I haven't bought a CD in forever but did so to support this great local band that really knows how to bring the fun out of the crowd. Foodwise they have plenty of wild game meats for the adventurous eater and all the traditional South African favorites for those looking for a taste of the country. Bobotie was what I wanted since I had yet to try it in it's traditional form. Bobotie was born when the Dutch East India Trade Company started putting Malay slave in their kitchens. It's and east meets west dish. Ingredients for the spiced meat include curry powder, onion, peppers, raisins and lemon leaves which is the key ingredient.The meat is topped with beaten eggs mixed with milk and baked.
With the rising of Nando's back in the States I didn't have much interest in visiting any of them in SA. Maybe if there was in the airport but I never ate in any of the airports so I never went to Nando's. No big deal as we have locations popping up every other month. What we don't have is a Barcelo's Flame Grilled Chicken location. What's that you ask? It's a different South African based Mozambican slash Portuguese grilled chicken slanger. They have locations across Africa and also franchises in the Middle East, India, and Canada as well as Singapore. I stopped here in the late evening one night and got some peri-peri chicken to go. Not bad and similar to Nando's except they had a different tasting sauce. One I thought was good enough to go back for and buy a few bottles to take home.
After a botch at the chippie I spied a lady grilling up sausage and over I went. This lady calls herself the Boerewors King because as she said, if she was the Queen there would be better than her and there is not. Love the confidence. Boerewors is a type of encased meat that originated in South Africa and remains a popular part of the South African diet. Boerewors is always 90% meat, and always uses beef. Meats like lamb, pork, or a mixture of the two can be mixed in with the beef but all beef is the preferred choice. The other
10% is made up of spices and such. The grill was smoking when I arrived and I couldn't resist but to get one despite the fact I didn't need to eat. Well I felt like I needed to eat after the first bite because this was a delicious link of meat. I got the grilled onions on it and proceeded to each of the condiments offered which included a sweet chile sauce, a curry relish, and some chutney. A nice late nite bite indeed.
If you like eating out as much as me you'll probably find yourself on Bree street should you ever find yourself in Cape Town. In the last handful of years it's turned into one of the city's premiere dining destinations as spot after spot opens up shop. It's a colorful stretch of restaurants and shops and not all that long of a walk to go from one end to the other. Lots of spots to choose from.
Bacon will always be fashionable. It will also always be a part of breakfast so why not just make it the menu. Lot's of different options on the menu at this cute little Bree street spot owned by a husband and wife team. He's a charcuterie master and she's the backbone of the restaurant. Their idea is easy enough to comprehend. Make not just bacon, but the best bacon and do so in a variety of ways using pasture-reared pigs exclusively. While all of it sounded terrific one dish in particular caught my eye. It ended up being as good as it sounds and the service was just as stellar.
The Breakfast Club - Poached egg sitting on a tower of halloumi, grilled mushroom, bacon, avo and rocket. Served on a slice of toasted sourdough and topped with Taberu Rayu
Jason bakery is one of the more popular breakfast and lunch stops. It's also loved for their fresh baked breads. You have the option to dine in and enjoy a breakfast/lunch menu or you can certain things to go from the walk up window. I'm no coffee drinker but lots of folks were there for that while I decided to try the fresh squeezed juice of the day. I forget what it was a mix of but it was a lovely concoction. Since baking is the showcase here I tried a ham and cheese croissant that also pleased.
Ham and Cheese Croissant
I only had time to do the walk up window as we were being picked up for a shark diving trip later that day. They start selling sandwiches at 10a so I was able to take one to go. I ended up choosing a smoked salmon with lettuce, tomato, onion and a wasabi cream spread that brought it all together. The bread suggested was wheat and it was excellent. I'd be been back for this again if I lived in CPT.
Sushi Sandwich on Wheat
This hip Italian joint churning out wood fired pizza and handmade pasta was on my list and not far from where we were on night one so we stopped into see what was up. Many of the spots on Bree Street are popular so you may want to consider reservations. But if there's just two of you usually they can find a spot or the wait wont be long. We sat right down at the pizza baking station which was right of the bar and ordered some pasta. A large bowl of handmade bucatini with prawns and red chile oil was really well made. Both the pasta and seafood were fresh and spice level was just right.
House-made bucantini with prawns, chilli, basil and garlic oil
Here we have a popular Spanish Tapas restaurant that's recently started to expand due to that extreme popularity. This was actually the first place went as it was a short walk from the first of the three different AirBNB units we rented. The sun was still up when we walked in, and it was packed, and then when we left after the sun went down it was even more crowded. We were able to grab some seats at the bar and the friendly bartender threw us some suggestions and we ordered away.
The food was good but the atmosphere was better. With large crowds and people pouring over into the sidewalks this place really had the feel of a tapas bar in Madrid. The food was above average and stuff like the fried calamari and chorizo also took me back to Spain. While the tuna lacked flavor the croquettes were enjoyed but none will ever match the ones I tried at a popular bar in Madrid.
You might not have known that the largest population of Indian people outside of India is Durban, South Africa. Cape Town doesn't have as many but you can all but guarantee many Indian people from Durban have moved to Cape Town at one point or another. Durban style Indian Food is it's own style which is said to be heavy on the spicy stuff. You can find a Durban style Indian scattered about town as well as many other regional variations of Indian cuisine.
Sundoo looked good with it's Indian style Tapas menu and when we walked by one day before lunch that allowed us to stop in. We sat at the windows which were all the way open allowing us to people watch while we ate. Our order consisted of a few things since this was tapas style dining that said all of the tapas were portioned big enough for two people to enjoy them. Just order a few and you should be good. We got the samosas, squid and an order of the spicy prawn curry.
Sweet Potato Samosas
Spicy Wok Fried Squid Heads
I'm not a big sweet potato guy but I very much liked the samosas with a sweet and spicy dip. I pictured deep fried squid even though the description clearly said wok fried. The heat level on these were the real deal. So even thought the calamari wasn't what I was expecting it was still the type of Indian food that I love being heavily spiced and full of flavor. Also that was the prawn curry which we had to order another round on. It was the best curry that I ate this trip.
Anjuna Prawn Curry
With the Sunday night dinner options limited I settled on this upscale Indian restaurant located inside the Cape Town location of the Taj Hotel. I liked how the menu read and the online scores were very high which was something pretty uncommon in my research. The dining room is a knockout and the service was wonderful but the food was a bit of a letdown. For a variety of reasons but spicing more than anything. A starter of some veggies / chips / dips was pleasant enough but it felt like they just opened all of the crispy stuff from a package and paired it with the veggies and dip. Then there was amuse touche which the specifics of I dont remember. Good but obviously not memorable.
Complimentary Chips and Dip
Moving onto the menu items we ordered we tried the grilled spice rubbed lamb chops, basil ‘tulsi’ prawns from the tandoori, and an app our waitress recommended we try. None of it awful but none of it magical. The one item I really did like was the kingklip curry. Kingklip is a locally caught fish that remains moist and flaky throughout cooking. The curry dish contained chunks of it mixed with a nice tasting tomato based sauce that I kept going back to. I was hoping for more considering the price we paid for this meal. It may have still been cheap by American standards but it was in the same price-range as some of our better meals in town.
Grilled Lamb Chops, Shrimp, ????
Food Inn India
As you might've gathered Long street is a popular strip for late nite dining. Food in India is another one of these large foodcourts with multiple stalls selling different foods. In this case they had a few different food stalls pushing Indian specialties and others with Burgers, Pizza, Gatsby's etc.
a peek inside
If you take a look at the menu item in the upper left corner up above you can see what I ordered. I got a Vegetarian Bombay Sizzler as this spot was popular. Well what I was given was nothing like what it looked like on the menu and definitely wasn't something anyone else ordered. Otherwise I would've seen it and said no. This mess of a container contained half rice and half noodles that were topped with onions, fries and a bunch of other stuff including a small pond worth of sweet sticky red sauce. This was so messy all I could do was leave it for the workers to clean. I couldn't give it away.
Vandiar's Indian Cuisine
This is one of a few places that came up when searching around where to find some real Durban style curry in Cape Town. It was actually my last meal as we were headed to the airport a couple hours after. I have no premise with which to judge Durban style curry which has it's very own regional flavors but I enjoyed my meal here. For starters I had an order of tandoori grilled prawns that were good. They could've been a bit less cooked but the spicing was really on point with them.
From what I had read about Vandiar's they were making Durban style curry so that's what I was there for. I ended up getting the lamb bunny chow because it's pretty much the perfect amount of food for one person. No need for leftovers as I was headed to the airport shortly thereafter. What's said to differentiate Durban style curry from the others is the spice level. They like it hot and this order of lamb curry was no exception. If the meat was a bit more tender it would've been near perfect.
You want to hang out with other tourists? Head this way. It's a who's who of people from across the globe. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront attracts over 25 million visitors per year. It's a shining example of mixing old with new as it sits in the city's oldest harbor but houses endless new shops and restaurants. It's also the launching point for the Robben Island Tour. It might be mainly for vacationers but it's still a beautiful location with backdrops of the Atlantic Ocean, Table Bay Harbour, Table Mountain and the city itself. My suggestion is to plan your Robbens Island tour for a Sunday which is when much of the city shuts down. What doesn't shut down on Sunday's is the Waterfront where everything is open including all the restaurants and such. It's worth spending an hour or two.
Located in it's own building is this new age food market with 30+ vendors dealing everything from fresh baked bread to biltong to jerky. It's a popular stop due to it's location at the waterfront. We walked around the Market and while it was nice it wasn't anything like those you'll find in Spain and even America these days. Nonetheless we tasted a couple of items.
This place was fine but would've been better had they not been sitting around. We were given the option to wait for a fresh batch but it wasn't going to be the desired potato filling we asked for so we settled on some of the pre-cooked ones instead. That said I've never really met a samosa I disliked.
Lamb Fold Over
Also in the market was nice smelling stall where they roasting fresh bread and filling it with lamb. I decided to try once since it was Sunday and damn near everywhere else I wanted to go was closed. I liked this filling sandwich but felt the bread could've been cooked a bit longer.
Baia Seafood Restaurant
As mentioned most restaurants are closed on Sunday's in Cape Town. It's kind of a drag but you can still find spots to dine just dont expect any of the trendier places to be an option. One option you have is pretty much the entire offerings of the V&A Waterfront and there are a ton of them. It took us a while to find Baia but we were glad we did. None of the seafood spots at the V&A Waterfront are cheap by South African standards but they're still pretty reasonable for American dollars.
Tender Calamari with a Crayfish Tail
To start we did a dish of baby calamari with a crayfish on top. This dish was simple with mostly garlic and olive oil being the flavors that came out along with the fresh seafood. We tried it on rec of our waiter and he made a damn good call. Also a good call by the waiter was the langoustines. These were the sweetest of all the shellfish we ate this trip and so good we couldn't help but to order more.
I feel awful for anyone who travels to Cape Town with a shellfish allergy. The best thing to eat around this way just might be the prawns. For this reason they're found all over. Typically you'll find them slit down the middle and then grilled and served with a peri peri dipping sauce. We ate prawns pretty much every day we were there and never got sick of them. Here's some spots to seek them out.
There's a few spots that keep coming up when trying to find the best seafood restaurants in town. Miller Thumb would be one of them. This place very much reminded me of a classic Floribbean style fish shack. They had a nice well rounded menu with a focus on seafood and particularly on fresh fish. You choose which type you want and how you want it cooked from a handful of options. She went ahead and got an order of the prawns sitting atop a small mountain of grilled calamari tubes. The prawns were extra plump and full of juice while the Moroccan spiced calamari was full of flavor.
Calamari And Prawns
I opted for a piece of Kingklip as I really enjoyed the light flakiness of this fish the last time I had it. I opted to get it done Cape Malay style which came grilled and then lightly baked with a sweet chili, garlic soy glaze sitting over it. This dish is served with a bowl of fried egg noodles. Loved this as well and again it reminded of the fish preparations down in South Florida. I would seek Miller's Thumb out for a nice lunch or even dinner which is said to be a very popular time so consider RSVP.
Malay Style Kingklip Fish
This is thee stop for seafood in the trendy Camps Bay neighborhood. Located on the second floor overlooking the beach this is a nice looking place. Yet another spot I recommend getting a reservation for because we walked in around 6:30 and were told we'd have to be out for a 7:30 reservation. Seafood is why all the people are in a rush to come here. Be it in the form if sushi picked up off the revolving belt or fresh shellfish picked out picked out of the display case and cooked to order.
Fresh Seafood / Sushi
I wasn't all that impressed with the sushi. It wasn't anything that's going to excite someone from Japan but it is a nice snack to have. What most people are here for are prawns. You can also get fresh crayfish from both coasts as well as whatever fish is fresh that day but you'll notice there's an order of prawns on every table and that's because they have a variety on offer and all of them are species lauded for their sweetness. You just order them by the pound and or exact number and can choose if you want rice or fries or something else on the side. It's pretty no-frills as far as preparation.
They like to let the fish shine and that's the sign of a spot that knows it's product is fresh. Another sign is the price. Don't expect this to be cheap but then again when is seafood ever all that cheap? We're talking upwards of $25 usd per pound but it's probably worth it in the end. They supply you with a trio of sauces to dip your shellfish into as well as a empty basket to throw your shells into. All in all we liked the Mozambican prawns the best and thought the West Coast Crayfish was a bit too chewy. This was likely due to it's massive size. Not bad with lots of peri peri and garlic butter but the prawns were what made the meal worth the money spent.
Prawns and Crayfish
Chapman's Peak Hotel Restaurant
When we saw the crowd on the deck at this popular hotels restaurant we figured it was mainly for the sunsets. But as it turns out was for a combination of the Sunsets and the food with some drinks. That was obvious when I took a peek at people tables and they all had calamari and prawns on them. So they say they're calamari is famous throughout Cape Town where it's known to be the very best.
I dont know about that. Not even sure what makes this stuff so special as to me it was just rings of calamari that was either fried in low temp oil or pre-fried before I place my order. The breading was similar to grocery store bought chicken and the meat was soft in an odd way. Not my style. Now the prawns on the other hand were tasty. I liked the size of these and also the garlic butter and peri peri dipping sauce options. The nice thing about the sauces is they also make the frozen fries enjoyable.
Famous Prawns with Fries
On our daytrip to the Cape of Good Hope amongst other spots our driver rec'd both this place and it's more grown-up sibling located upstairs and called Harbor House. Since we just wanted an order of prawns after our fish and chips at Kalky's we stayed downstairs at the more casual of the two seafood options that sit in the same building. These prawns were sitting in a puddle of spice that was much deeper than previous orders we had ate. There was no need to use any dip on these as they were coated with chiles, butter, and oil and all of the other flavors typically found in Peri Peri sauce.
On the same trip down to Cape of Good Hope we stopped at Muzienburg Beach to take in a few views and get an early dinner at a spot I found. I was very intrigued by Carla's because there were so few reviews and very little info online but what there was was nothing but praise for the prawns. Upon walking up we weren't sure they were open as the gate to inside was
the restaurant was locked. Luckily the ladies inside informed us they
were open and let us inside in doing so.
I saw it as a pretty good sign that the menu was basically prawns and a few other options. Carla is the owner and she was present on our visit. She was working with one other lady who was the cook. This two person team is said to make some of the best prawns in the area using an old family recipe from back in her homeland of Mozambique. The prawns also come from there. They get served in what can best best be described as a creamy peri peri sauce. I found myself enjoying these more and more with each shrimp finished. A side of white rice was perfect for soaking up the nicely spiced sauce.
Pigalle is one of the places that will keep popping up when searching for the best prawns in Cape Town. It'll also show up early in the results when one is searching around for the best place to experience live music on a nightly basis. From the moment we entered this high scale spot we felt like we were transferred back to mid-70's Las Vegas. This is definitely a date night out type spot or somewhere you go when you got the corporate card.
a peek inside
The dining room is large with about 30 something tables overlooking the stage where there's a dance floor in front. Lots of couples were going back and forth from their tables to the dance-floor. Wine seemed to be the preferred choice of drink but big martinis and individually labeled bottles of Johnnie Walker gave it more of that old Vegas feel. The menu is Pigalle is seafood dominant with plenty of South African and Portuguese influence. As mentioned every other review talks about the prawns so we knew what we were there for. Still a starter of mussels seemed like a good idea to get going.
Mussels in Cream
I love virtually all preparations of mussels but like some ways better than others. I'm a white wine or beer type guy when it comes to to the sauce. Pigalle serves their mussels in a cream sauce. The prawns came in a few different options including King and Queens. We were told that the queens were the sweetest and each got an order. What set Pigalle apart for me was the peri peri sauce.
Peri Peri Sauce
Pretty much every single one of these spots served their prawns with a small bowl of peri peri dipping sauce amongst others. Pigalle's was by far the spiciest of any we tried. So you didn't need alot but just a pinch of it on each sweet prawn made for a great contrast of sweet and spicy in the flavors. These were addicting to the point where we got a third plate to share.The following days we played around with the idea of returning but I had so many spots I wanted check out it never happened.
I was intrigued by a new school Jewish deli that was inspired to be an old school NYC style deli. This hipster spot was happening but it was happening with old timers who seemed to be regulars. Ladies out to lunch with their friends and grandmas with their grandkids with a young tourist couple here and there. The menu reads like a typical Jewish deli menu with bagels, pastrami, and other hits such as chopped liver, and cheesecake. We stopped for brunch one early afternoon and I got to say they did a nice job of recreating the classic Jewish-American deli.
Bagels and Lox
I'm not placing the bagels in the same class as those from the most
beloved NYC spots but considering we were half way around the world these
were more than sufficient. The lox was smokey with a good texture and I
enjoyed eating my half as an app. My entree was a pastrami sandwich that I felt the same about as I did the lox and bagels.mMaybe not to the level of the best of the best but still a fine housemade product that most certainly hit the spot. We also had an order of housemade fries that were wonderfully crispy. I dig this place.
Housemade Pastrami Sandwich
El Burro Taqueria
I just wasn't going to be able to go three weeks without any tacos so I searched out some spots in the months leading up to the trip. There were a few options but most of them screamed Gringo-Mex which is an inferior cuisine to Tex-Mex. However there was one taqueria that was opened by a team behind another popular Latin American restaurant and it seemed like it was worth trying. El Burro reminded me of the countless hipster taco shops that have opened up in the states over the last five years. It was colorful, they had some decent drinks, and the tacos came on housemade tortillas.
The fact that this place offered chilorio as a filling was a telling sign for me. I barely see this Sinaloan specialty on the menu anywhere in Chicagoland. So seeing it in Cape Town was indeed a surprise. Chilorio is heavily spiced twice cooked pork thats commonly used as a filling in tacos in the State of Sinaloa where it originated. I dont have a huge catalog of chilorio tacos to judge this one of off but I really enjoyed the offering. It was spicy and the tortilla had a decent kick of corn. A Baja Fish Taco wasn't quite as good but still good enough to seek out for if you're craving tacos in Cape Town.
Baja Fish Taco
The Power & The Glory
Located directly across the street from this taqueria was this happening little bar / cafe. I decided to check it out while I waited for her to meet up with me. Turns out this place was on my list for their hot dogs. Cape Town loves it's hot dogs and this place was featured on a list as having one of the best. I ordered some local craft beer, which I really liked, and had a hot dog to go with it. The fact ketchup was included on it was something I was willing to look past since we weren't in Chicago. But I was hoping for more from the wiener. It wasn't all that high in quality. So I'd go back again but probably just stick to the beer. This place is very popular for late 20 and 30 somethings following their workday. People flowed out into the sidewalk while doing a combo of talking, drinking, smoking.
Kloof Street House
We both the cocktails at this bar were worth returning for. The bartenders had some good skills and the drinks in more than a few cases had nice balance of booze with multiple liquors used. We lied the atmosphere and the design of the place which turned an old school 20th century Victorian house into a really classy bar with a wonderful garden at which people can sit in and imbibe.
a peek outside
Outrage of Modesty
We'd heard some thing about this secret cocktail bar that was said to have some original recipes which is something slightly uncommon. There's lots of spots to find Margaritas, Moscow Mules, and Caipirinhas but not lots of spots making inventive drinks. You;re said to need a reservation though we just walked on in albeit it was around 7p so that's the early side. They dont tell you on the menu (Pic'd above) what liquor is in the drinks but the waiter will tell you if you ask. They say that's to let the flavors of the drink be the focus or something like that. I liked them but again I'm pretty sure most of these were made with just one liquor. If I'm in the States I most always go on onto the next drink if that's the case but I didn't have much choice in Cape Town. The drinks we're well made with all of them being interesting but when they served the signature drink (fire and ice / hot and cold) in a plastic glass I passed some judgement on them with that. It tasted great but it felt wrong.
Peas and Flowers - Stellenbosch Peas, Nectarine, Rose, Lemon Pelargonium
Here's a place I was very much intrigued by. I read somewhere that this Pan-Asian influenced restaurant was one of the best in Cape Town. It just didn't seem to get that much press due to the fact it was located in the sleepy beach community known as Hout Bay. The town itself is located about 20 minutes from City Centre so many people dont make it there. However Hout Bay is also the launching point for Chapman's Peak drive which is one of the most scenic in the world, so you may find yourself in Hout Bay and if so I recommend this place for sure.
Signature Cocktail (Fire Monkey)
I had got in contact with the owner (who's name is Cheyne pronounced like Shane) through social media and we became friendly. Following along on his instagram always made me hungry. He really seemed to have a passion for cooking so i was excited to try his place out. Starting off with the cocktails I ended up getting the restaurants signature drink which goes by the name of 'Fire Monkey'. Made with Whiskey, Togarashi Pineapple Juice, lime, ginger, and smashed lemongrass this was the best cocktail I drank in South Africa. The food dint disappoint either.
Poke Bowl - Salmon, Green Chile, Lime, House Ponzu
I was really hoping to try what looked like one of the most beautiful looking tuna poke bowls I've ever seen but they didn't have nay fresh tuna on this day. So I switched over to the salmon option and it made for a great consolation prize. It was served deconstructed with a heavy Japanese influence.
Short Rib Gyoza - Five Spice, Star Anise, Nam Jim Dipping Sauce
The other items I got were equally good. Starting with an order of braised short rib gyoza which put together two of my favorite things in slow cooked beef and dumplings. Of course I was a big fan fan of these. The chasu pork was tender to the point where it was easily cut with a fork. Sitting over a layer of potato based cream that basically had the same flavor profile has mashed potatoes with lots of butter so this was another dish that was hard not to like.
After a day of sightseeing we got back to our spot in Hout Bay just in time for the wonderful sunsets they get. After that we walked over to Cheyne's sister restaurant which goes by Lucky Bao. Located directly next door this is a small 8 seat restaurant with a smaller menu. It too has a big Asian influence with baos and other items like gyoza and ramen shaping up the menu.
We might've slightly over ordered but none of the food went to waste as all of our choices satisfied. The bao buns were light and the pork belly was crispy. My preferred style. An order of minced pork over rice with a fried egg over that was pure comfort. It had some sort of sweet sauce that worked really well and I'm usually not a fan of sweet.
San Choy Bau
Two weeks in and I hadn't a burger in forever. The one I saw on social media that chef posted looked to good to pass up on. The Wagyu burger is a big half pound patty of local wagyu with kimchee, miso and spring onion aioli, bourbon maple and soy glazed bacon, and 8 year aged Boerenkaas cheese. This thing was cooked to perfect medium rare request and thus was extra juicy. It totally hit the spot. I had a chance to meet Cheyne the owner who spent a good amount of time working in London before coming back to his hometown to complete his dream of owning his own spot. Now he has two with a third close to opening. Look out for Shio Contemporary Japanese in Green Point. Well done.
Note: You're going to have to look up addresses on tour own however I'm happy to share my google maps guide with you. There's lots of spots I didn't make it to that are listed as well as all of those seen on here. Please email with any questions you may have as I'm happy to help. See ya next time.