A lively and diverse city, Johannesburg—known by locals as Jozi, Jo’Burg or Joeys—is the largest city in South Africa. With a history chock full of crime and decay, the city’s future is heading in a different direction. An influx of creative energy has tourists eager to visit and the city is coming back into its own. There’s certainly a food boom afoot in Johannesburg, and the mix of traditional and new dining options makes this town more appealing than ever.
At Five Hundred, Chef Candice Philip uses an exquisite sense of refinement that lets individual ingredients shine. The restaurant’s onsite garden drives the menu, serving as a hyper-local source for heirloom vegetables and herbs. Philip’s pea wasabi mousse, with lemon curd and parsnip fudge is a standout, but you’ll also find heartier items like wagyu fillet and smoked brisket served with BBQ king oyster mushrooms, savoy cabbage, ginger oil and Asian greens.
Five Hundred / 36 Saxon Road, Sandhurst, Johannesburg / +27 11 292 6000
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Kwa Mai Mai Market
This is Jo’Burg’s oldest market, and the city’s center of traditional healers and alternative medicines. Wander through long enough and your nose will lead you to the braai (traditional South African barbecue) vendors preparing simply grilled rib eyes, pork loin and off-cuts over an open flame. Served with chilies and sliced tomatoes, grab a seat at the communal tables and get ready to fall in love with barbecue all over again.
Kwa Mai Mai Market / Corner Anderson Street and Berea Road, Johannesburg / +27 11 833 7344
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Credit: Imbizo Shisanyama
For more than 15 years, Imbizo Shisanyama—known to locals as ‘Busy Corner’—has been preparing authentic African braai, delicious grilled meat. After choosing your specific cuts—from skewers to sausages, wings and small steaks—feel free to watch them sizzle on the grill or grab a seat and refreshing cocktail. Locals flock here for crazy packed parties, so stick around after dinner and dance away the evening.
Imbizo Shisanyama / 29 29th September St, Midrand, Johannesburg / +27 11 312 0630
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Duba Duba Snack Shop
For a quick and cheap meal, hit up Duba Duba Snack shop for a kota sandwich, hollowed out bread filled with a variety of local curries.
Duba Duba Snack Shop / Tshithuthune St, Soweto, Johannesburg
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Credit: Leon Krige
Clean and simple, Post is a cute café with pops of color and a seasonal menu. Open for breakfast and lunch, enjoy a morning coffee with your fluffy flapjacks or apricot juice with a grilled halloumi sandwich. Your call, it’s all good.
Post / 70 Juta Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg / +27 72 248 2078
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Every Saturday from 8:30 A.M to 1:00 P.M, you need to hit up Jozi Real Food Market in the middle of Johannesburg North. With roughly 40 stands selling everything from organic fruit and vegetables to meats and, of course, ready-made meals. It’s a one-stop shop with great vendors and food.
Jozi Real Food Market / 25 Braeside Road, Johannesburg / +27 83 532 2992
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Credit: Clive Ferreira
Drawing influence from classic bistro menus with a contemporary twist and molecular technique, chef Marthinus Ferreira has made dw eleven-13 a must visit restaurant in Johannesburg. Dishes are served with beautiful tableside manner; there is no lack of attention to even the most minor details. Go for the tasting menu, with items like polenta with cauliflower espuma and brown butter, or brie ice cream with poached pear, pepper crumble and port gel.
dw eleven-13 / Dunkeld Shopping Center, Johannesburg / +27 11 341 0663
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Set in a modernist warehouse space in the Braamfontein neighborhood in the center of Johannesburg, Neighbourgoods Market is the place to go for all sorts of artisanal culinary goods. From clean cold pressed juices to charcuterie, pastries to fantastic local wines—it’s a fun place to spend your Saturday afternoon. Don’t miss the kudu pate from Apple Tree Terrines, one of my favorite finds here.
Neighbourgoods Market / 73 Juta St, Johannesburg / +27 11 403 0413
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With gleaming copper and mosaic-mirrored walls, Moyo is a fun restaurant located right in the heart of Johannesburg. Serving African cuisine, from fried mopane worms to springbok carpaccio, most diners opt for the variety of skewered grilled meats or braised oxtail. Go on a night where they have live music, the atmosphere is fun and you’ll get a taste of traditional African-influenced jazz and folk music.
Moyo / Shop 5, The High Street, Melrose Arch, Johannesburg / +27 11 684 1477
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Credit: Carnivore’s Website
Attention game meat lovers: Carnivore is everything. Serving a variety of succulent, grilled meats ranging from the exotic (crocodile, zebra, giraffe) to the everyday (pork, beef, chicken), you’ll feast alongside up to 500 other diners in an African safari themed atmosphere. It’s a fun, yet Disney-ified twist on an African steakhouse.
Carnivore / 69 Drift Boulevard, Muldersdrift, Johannesburg / +27 11 950 6000
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Sup on European influenced dishes made with local South African ingredients at this quaint guesthouse with friendly staff. Dinners are intimate and romantic, but not pretentious.
Clico Boutique Hotel / 27 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg / +27 11 252 3300
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Credit: Cube Tasting Kitchen
For a unique culinary experience, head to Cube Tasting Kitchen, a 30-seater offering a 10-course tasting menu. Bring your own wine or beer, and try whimsical dishes like pickled squid heads with oyster ‘caviar,’ a mulled wine berry cleanser with burnt cinnamon and a whole plate of beef applications. There’s a recommended stay of 3 hours, so make yourself comfortable and feel free to linger.
Cube Tasting Kitchen / 17 4th Avenue, Parktown North, Johannesburg / +27 82 422 8158
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Credit: Roots Restaurant
For the ultimate fine-dining experience in South Africa, head about 30 miles outside of Johannesburg’s city center to the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s produced some of the world’s oldest hominid fossils. Now home to a tranquil game reserve, I highly recommend spending an evening at the Forum Homini hotel and eating at Roots. The stunning plates use local ingredients and flavor combinations that are as unique as they are tasty. As you dine, look for game wandering the reserve and listen for the sounds of hippos in the distance, something likely heard by our ancestors 3.5 million years ago. How cool is that?
Roots / Letamo Game Estate, R540, Kromdraai, Johannesburg / +27 11 668 7000
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This flourishing market brings to life what makes Johannesburg such a diverse and lively city. With a focus on regional foods and local design, browse through galleries, edgy art installations, small cafes and vendors with local goods. It’s a fun place to spend your Sunday afternoon. Open Sundays 10 A.M to 3 P.M and the first Thursdays of the month from 7 P.M to 11 P.M.
Market on Main / 264 Fox Street, Johannesburg
Feature Image Credit: Imbizo Shisanyama