South Africa’s most lauded foodie destination may be Cape Town and the surrounding winelands, but Johannesburg also has plenty to offer travelers looking for quality food and drink. Jozi’s culinary scene is incredibly diverse, reflecting the city’s multicultural population of South Africans, immigrants, and expats. You could find yourself splurging on five-star European fare one night, and spending just a few rand on authentic Indian food the next. Although cuisines from all over the world are represented in Johannesburg, make sure to sample at least one traditional African meal while you’re there. This could be a shisa nyama feast in the townships, or a gourmet interpretation of indigenous staples like umngqusho or chakalaka. Discover our pick of the best culinary experiences the City of Gold has to offer.
Located inside Cresta Shopping Centre in the northwest suburb of Randburg, Plaka Restaurant Cresta is ranked first out of over 1,300 Joburg restaurants on TripAdvisor. Established in 1993, reviewers love it for its welcoming atmosphere and simple, authentic Greek cuisine. Sit amidst shades of Mediterranean blue and white in the light-filled restaurant and order traditional mezze plates to share with family and friends. Dolmades, pickled octopus, spanakopita, falafel—whatever your tastes or dietary requirements, there’s something for everyone at Plaka. Main courses range from Greek favorites like moussaka and pastitsio to international staples like fish and chips. With two other locations at Eastgate and Menlyn Shopping Centres, Plaka is open from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday and Sunday.
For a taste of Africa, head to fashionable open-air shopping and entertainment precinct Melrose Arch. Here, Kitamu restaurant (named for the Swahili word meaning "delicious") serves a smorgasbord of cuisine from across the continent. For starters, choose Tunisian flatbreads or Zimbabwean mopane worms. Sprinbok pies, kudu skewers, and Mozambican prawns give carnivores the chance to sample Africa’s more unique meat and seafood offerings. Kitamu caters to vegetarians as well with iconic dishes including authentic Egyptian koshari. You’ll want to make sure you leave space for dessert: Options range from traditional Afrikaans koeksisters to the country’s best-loved sweet treat, malva pudding. The décor and music are equally reflective of African cultures and customs, while atmospheric indoor and outdoor seating make Kitamu a great choice whatever the weather.
Ranked as one of the best destinations in the city for haute cuisine, dw eleven - 13 is the ideal choice for discerning epicures. Located in the Dunkeld West suburb, it is owned and run by master chef Marthinus Ferreira, who uses global influences to create experimental new dishes and reinvent well-known favorites. Each dish is made with sustainable ingredients sourced from local, artisanal suppliers. Decide between the regular four-course menu and the eight-course tasting menu, then sit back and enjoy a procession of exquisitely plated delicacies. Each course is paired with one of 250 boutique South African or rare international wines (unless you opt for a non-alcoholic or whiskey pairing instead). Menus change constantly, although sample dishes include poached sea bass and sous-vide lamb.
If you’re exploring Joburg on a shoestring, don’t worry: There are plenty of restaurants that cater to budget diners. One of the best is Dosa Hut, located in Fordsburg, the city’s unofficial Indian quarter. Don’t expect any frills from this hole-in-the-wall spot, which offers simple white tables and practical tile flooring. The menu is reason enough to visit, with its mouthwatering South Indian and Indo-Chinese curries, briyanis, noodles, and of course, dosas, which come in 17 different flavors. If you want to try a uniquely South African take on Indian cuisine, order a bunny chow. This Durban specialty consists of a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with bean or meat curry. Dosas start from 30 rand ($2) each, while curries cost as little as 59 rand ($4).
In Bohemian Melville, you’ll find that rarest of things: an upmarket restaurant that actively welcomes kids. A firm favorite with Johannesburg families, Bambanani exudes adult style with Oriental rugs, chandeliers, and a cozy central fireplace. It also offers a wealth of indoor and outdoor play areas designed for kids aged from 6 months to 12 years. These include a four-story jungle gym, a dress-up area, and a media room with Playstation and Xbox games. Your little ones can even take part in regular activities (think face painting and magic shows) under the supervision of trained child-care workers. The menu manages to satisfy young and old, with kiddies’ favorites like pizza and mac ’n cheese offered alongside more sophisticated international items such as shichimi grilled salmon and Moroccan lamb.
Housed inside luxury hotel 54 on Bath, Level Four is another esteemed fine dining location, this time in Jozi’s affluent Rosebank district. Couples flock here for the romantic atmosphere, created by the checkered marble floor and crimson floral wallpaper. The sun-drenched terrace, meanwhile, is ideal for lunchtime dates. Start by toasting a special occasion or anniversary with signature bubbles from the Perrier-Jouët bar. Then, order a succulent beef fillet or a flavorful plate of ravioli from the classic European menu. The wine list is a highlight, as is the dessert menu, which features indulgent options ranging from strawberry jelly and rosewater panna cotta to white chocolate ganache and raspberry ice cream. For something completely different, consider treating your loved one to a genuine English Afternoon Tea experience instead.
Best On-Trend: Urbanologi
Young, stylish singles or groups of friends can join the Joburg in-crowd for dinner and drinks at Urbanologi. Located in Ferreirasdorp, the oldest part of the inner city, the restaurant shares building space with independent Mad Giant Brewery. In 2017, it was named the best-designed restaurant in Africa and the Middle East for its industrial-chic decor. Grab a seat at one of the communal trestle tables and marvel at how concrete floors, exposed steelwork, and naked light bulbs somehow come together to create an atmosphere that’s as cozy as it is fashionable. The seasonal menu showcases sustainable ingredients from farms within a 150-kilometer radius, and features small plates made for sharing.
Most Joburg restaurants serve at least one vegetarian option, but vegans are increasingly being catered to as well. For the best vegan dining in the area, however, it’s worth driving out to Leafy Greens Café. Situated on a farm in Muldersdrift, it offers a seasonal menu featuring organic fruits and vegetables grown on-site. Tuck into a healthy Buddha bowl, a falafel wrap, or a breakfast sandwich made with vegan cheese and coconut bacon. The homemade vegan ice cream is a particular highlight, and to drink, there are cold-pressed juices, health tonics, and hot drinks made with raw almond or soy milk. Leafy Greens Café is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
One of several Tashas located across South Africa, Tashas Rosebank is a beloved breakfast and brunch spot for Joburg locals and visitors in the know. The boutique lifestyle café is striking to look at, with a unique hanging book installation above the wooden tables and a sunny outdoor terrace, perfect for lazy weekend mornings. There are two menus to choose from: the Classic Menu, which features long-standing favorites and is the same across each outlet, and the Inspired By menu, which is unique to Tashas Rosebank. The latter features maple bacon flapjacks and salmon and cream cheese bagels for breakfast, New York cheese dogs for lunch, and decadent sundaes for dessert. The café also serves alcohol and stays open for dinner every day except Sundays and public holidays.