What began in the 1930s as an extension of the Apartheid government’s mission to maintain a divide between black and white people, has now grown into one of the biggest townships in South Africa. We call her Soweto. She’s an energetic pool of gold; rich in history and culture, an oasis for local music, home of the pantsula and the bookkeeper of a few lifetimes of stories.
Her’s is a rag to riches story… She went from being an ostracized space which borders the land of milk and honey, Joburg, to now being a renowned tourist attraction, the place to be when the beat drops and host to Vilakazi Street. Vilakazi Street gained popularity for being the only street in the world where two Noble Peace Prize winners lived; today it’s a social hub, constantly abuzz and brought to life by a string of some of the finest restaurants in Soweto.
If you’re ever in that neck of the woods, which I hope you’ll make a point of visiting, here’s a list of the best places to feast.
You may or you may not agree with me when I say that naming your restaurant after one of the most famous streets in Soweto sort of forces the owners to step up to the plate or at least you’d hope that it would. They’ve done a good job at reaching the benchmark guided by their mission to treat you to an authentic Soweto dining experience through a rich variety of traditional and urban dishes. Interestingly enough, the menu boasts Mediterranean as well as local urban and traditional foods which is a spectacular display of Soweto fusing with the world.
You’ll spot Sakhumzi by the foot traffic that regularly points there. It doubles up as a tourist attraction and the place to go if you’re in the mood to catch a dope party. It came to be in 2001 and although relatively young, it’s created a name for itself as one of Vilakazi’s best. Whether you want an a-la-carte menu selection or you feel like exploiting their famous buffet you can’t go wrong with anything out of their kitchen and the live entertainment on certain occasions, is a treat on its own.
Nambitha, which means 'taste' in isiXhosa, first opened its doors in 1999 and is the brainchild of Khulani Vilakazi. It’s famous for its sticky wings and homey feel, a go-to spot for when you’re in the mood for a taste of something warm, familiar and flavoursome. You know when you’re keen to chill with your people, devour a plate of something good and indulge in the best of being in Soweto? Nambitha won’t let you down.
The word is colloquial; a fusion of two words next and door and is locally used to refer to a nearby location in kasi slang. The restaurant is the creation of Soweto-born entrepreneurs who shared the dream of creating an urban Afro space that appeals to a range of adventurous palates. NexDor has an upstairs balcony from which you can enjoy a stunning view of Soweto beautifully stretched out before you. They serve a little bit of everything with meals as simple as fish and chips to fancier dishes like a delectable cut of lamb shank with mash.
Initially inspired by the fictional story from the Hansa Pilsner and SAB beer advertisement, Vuyo’s Restaurant is the real life tale of an entrepreneur from the township who made it “beeg” selling boerie rolls. The real life tale doesn’t involve boerie rolls but the same “beeg beeg dream” and passion for orchestrating unforgettable moments married to delicious food have been poured into making Vuyo’s Restaurant the success that it is. It’s an upmarket joint that doubles up as a restaurant and a catering service.
What's your favourite restaurant in Soweto?