Jozi is a city filled with Hidden Gems. Sometimes you hear about a place and when you arrive it looks like a warehouse or shipping containers but once you enter it is like Alice in the rabbit hole. The whole world opens before you. I am not sure why this is, maybe it is a product of the crime levels or potentially the need to break away from a high pace lifestyle. This means that to really understand the food culture of this city, you need to live with your ears to the ground. Be brave, try places that look a little less 5 stars and be open minded. Yes, there are beautiful well-known restaurants as well but for today I want to focus on my Top 5 must visit, hidden gems of places to eat in Johannesburg.
1. Dosa Hut
Address: Shop 6, 48 Central Road, Fordsburg, Johannesburg
Open: Monday to Sunday 10am to 9.30pm
The location of Dosa Hut is not in the best area, let’s be honest. I do not recommend tourists going at night and leave all your valuables at home, just in case. Once you have taken the relevant precautions, this is for sure the best Indian in the city. With owners from Kerala there is a focus on Southern Indian food, which is rare in Jozi. Sure, it does not look like much but with this place remember you are going for the food. I dream about there Chola Bhatura (R69) and Ghee Dosa (R35). Most people will never find this place, so it is top of my hidden gems list.
2. Tasca Dos Amigos
Address: 11th & & Davidson St, Fairland, Johannesburg
Open: Monday – Saturday 11am-9pm
It feels like a local restaurant in Lisbon, except that the menus are in English. From the moment you walk in it is clear this is family run. The food is the star. Staff are friendly and attentive, while rocking a family vibe. Wait for the food. Full disclosure I have eaten here many times and just had the same meal – Espetada. I can’t imagine how they make a profit on this meal. The meat is gently seasoned, juicy, medium rare cubes of tenderness. I have also had their Pastel de Nata’s. Wine is cheap, food is amazing, and the vibe is casual, all located in the suburbs of Jozi.
3. Great Eastern Food Bar
Address: 53 Rustenburg Rd, Melville, Johannesburg
Open: Tuesday – Sunday 12pm-10pm
Some may argue that this is not a ‘hidden’ gem. Being voted regularly as the best Asian Restaurant in Johannesburg, they may be right. It does however deserve a shout out. Yes, here you do need a reservation and finding the restaurant on the rooftop of an arb building is not simple. Once you enter the clean, simply decorated restaurant the assault on the nose and the visuals of the chefs at work makes the spot a gem. You can’t go wrong with the menu and I like to bring a bottle of wine from home for a small corkage fee and enjoy a few starters in tapa’s style.
4. The Fat Zebra
Cuisine: Italian Bistro
Address: 71 7th St, Linden, Randburg
Open: Tuesday – Friday 7:30am – 3pm and 6pm-9pm
Saturday 8am – 9pm
Sunday 9am – 9pm
This is a small restaurant in Linden, an old neighborhood in Jozi. The owner is often around, chatting to guest and the staff are very hospitable. The décor is stunning, and the real pizza oven adds warmth and authentic vibes. I am more than happy to site uncomfortably for great food but at The Fat Zebra you don’t have to. The menu is small, but each dish feels like it was cooked and tasted 50 times before making the list. It is hard not to enjoy a breakfast or dinner on the sidewalks of Linden.
5. The Argentinian Bakery
Address: Cnr 4th Avenue and 7th Street, Linden
Open: Daily from 6:30am – 5pm
I almost don’t want to share this one as I really love the vibe as is. The clientele are the artists, creatives, journalists and Joburg locals. This is really the best place for an everyday treat. It is freshly baked, and the coffee is great. I can happily sit here for hours, reading my book and listening to people chatting about their lives. For those in the know this is absolutely an establishment in Jozi. It might not be the most exciting meal in town, but it really is the closest to my heart. Breakfast here, followed by a stroll down to the second-hand book store, will restore the soul every time.
Even though these are some of my favorites, my mind is already running away with other examples of hidden Jozi gems. Maybe this is less a Top 5 but rather the Top 5 at this moment with many more to follow.