Cape Town is a foodie’s heaven. You can find everything from massive burgers to mouthwatering vegan treats to out-of-this-world sushi wraps. I’ve put on a few pounds in the past few months, but in the name of good food, it’s been worth it. Here are my top 16 places to munch, in no particular order – because they’re all so good.
1. RAW AND ROXY
Raw vegan, gluten-free and guilt-free. This place is quite literally a hole in the wall, with an open kitchen and a light-filled seating area dripping in green foliage. My personal favorites are the pasta (zucchini “noodles” in a creamy pesto cashew sauce), the curry (cauliflower in a light and mild red curry sauce), the red berry smoothie (a thick blend of bananas, raspberries, blackberries and more) and the chocolate ganache (a brownie/fudge hybrid that’s actually 70% avocado, part cocoa powder and part love). If you’re indecisive like me, order the tapas plate to try a bit of everything on the menu.
For foodgrams: @rawandroxy | Click for website
2. OCEAN JEWELS DELI
Fresh is the name of the game. This glorious seafood (calamari, tuna, hake, you name it) is served with crisp sides like slaw, salad and potato wedges. I love the calamri, which is the perfect blend of crispy and chewy – and dipped in mayo tartar sauce, it’s to die for.
For foodgrams: @oceanjewelsfish | Click for website
3. THE OLD BISCUIT MILL
The Neighbourgoods Market on Saturdays here is food galore. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. you’ll find booth after booth of mouthwatering local eats. I suggest you take a couple laps around the premises, eye everything up, and then go back and decide what you actually want to buy. With a selection including chocolate, dim sum, paella, flammkuchen, crepes, ice cream, dessert tarts and belgian waffles, you’ll be hard-pressed to pick just one thing!
4. THE TEST KITCHEN
Remember that scene in Ratatouille where Remy the rat visualizes flavors as colors and shapes that coalesce in perfect harmony? That’s the Potluck Club. This restaurant offers a selection of tapas, divided into Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter and Umami categories. You pick the tapas you want, and then the cooks serve your selections in the most optimal order for your taste buds. My picks were as follows: beef tataki, peri peri chicken, fish tacos, parmesan and buffalo mozzarella arancini, chickpea parmesan fries, Chalmar Beef fillet and grapefruit margarita sorbet – in that order. This was hands-down one of the best dinners I’ve ever had.
For foodgrams: @thepotluckclubct | Click for website
6. THE DOG'S BOLLOCKS
Be ready to work for an amazing burger. One person in your group must volunteer to be “the b*tch” for the evening, which means they’ll be the ones to place the order, fill up waters, and fetch drinks and food for your table. This restaurant is a hole in the wall, and you may actually hear it before you see it – you can’t miss the oldies tunes turned up loud. You’ll sit at a picnic table in an old garage bedecked with vintage fringe lamps. Oh, and the burgers are perfection – think patties about 15 centimeters in diameter and smothered in all kinds of toppings. If you like spicy food, make sure to try a bit (a teeny, teeny bit) of the “f*ckin’ hot sauce.” It will burn.
7. CITY BOWL MARKET
This is my favorite food market in Cape Town because 1) there are a lot fewer tourists than at the Old Biscuit Mill, 2) it’s cozy and has candles and live music, and 3) the selection of vendors is smaller – hence an easier decision-making process when it comes to picking a meal. I’m in love with the sushi wraps, empanadas, chickpea fritters and garlic bone marrow butter. End the evening with a chocolate shot (fruit liqueur in chocolate shot glass) for R10 – my favorite flavor is granadilla (or passion fruit, my American friends).
For foodgrams: @citybowlmarket | Click for website
8. FOOD INN INDIA
If you want the most flavor for your buck, this Indian restaurant is a must-visit. An unsuspecting, no-frills joint with giant, glowing menu boards and lots of sitting room, this place is located right on Long Street and is buzzing with an eclectic mix of humans until the wee hours of the morning. The butter chicken (only ~R30!) and naan is heavenly. If you can't decide what to pick, order a huge tasting plate, which offers a tasty variety of samples.
9. THE SIDEWALK CAFÉ
This place is a hidden, local gem nestled in a neighborhood just below Devil’s Peak. The restaurant is small, cozy and beachy. The menu offers a little bit of everything, and it’s all cooked to perfection. The thai green chicken curry is light with just the right amount of spice, but the chicken and prawn risotto really makes my heart melt – a hint of mint and a smattering of peas add richness to the parmesan goodness. An absolute must-order is the jam jar, quite literally a huge jam jar filled with cointreau, triple sec, champagne, a splash of orange juice and a bit of marmalade at the bottom. Bonus: you get two for one during happy hour.
The burgers and salads here are great, but what makes this place super special is its selection of 57 decadent milkshakes. I love the Frozen Berries one, but you can get a lot crazier – think Rose Water & Marshmallow, Malva & Custard and Sweet & Salted Popcorn, to name just a few.
For foodgrams: @gibsonsburgers | Click for website
11. HONEST CHOCOLATE
Dairy- and processed-sugar-free, this chocolate is instead crafted with coconut oil as a main ingredient, making each piece deliciously rich and creamy. When I eat this stuff, I cry tears of joy (confession: I got so addicted that I packed some in my suitcase before I left). A common favorite is the Bunny Chow, which is a hunk of banana bread scooped out, filled with vanilla ice cream and doused in macadamia chocolate sauce. Plenty of gluten-free and vegan options are available, too! 🙌
For foodgrams: @honestchocolate | Click for website
12. THE GIN BAR
Capetonians love their gin, and these gin-and-tonics are somethin’ special. The Gin Bar is hidden from the street, so most people who go there are locals, visitors who really do their homework and tourists who follow the Touring the Vine route on the first or second Wednesday of every month. To find this secret little bar, enter through Honest Chocolate and walk all the way to the back. I recommend The Heart – a mix of amber gin and light tonic, with a sliver of strawberry, a sprig of rosemary, a slice of orange and a couple cloves. The eclectic melée of flavors is both refreshing and soothing.
For foodgrams: @theginbar
13. HUSSAR GRILL
This award-winning steakhouse is one for the meat lovers. I’ve never seen such a big steak in my life (and I'm American) – imagine a slab of meat four fingers’ width thick and the diameter of a soccer ball. For huge steaks like these, make sure to order a bit more well-done than you usually do, as they can be difficult to cook fully. I highly recommend the ostrich, a smaller fillet that comes with a Kirsch berry sauce and tastes – for those of you who haven’t tried this bird – kind of like a mix of beef and pork. The desserts are all good, too. Let's just say I've never had a bigger food coma.
For foodgrams: @thehussargrill | Click for website
14. BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB
This bohemian place is the oldest gentlemen's club in the world. Dimly lit, steeped in the smell of incense and bedecked in gypsy-like decorations and antiques, this place could be a fortune teller's lair. And the food is just as mysterious — the types of dishes offered aren't anything new, but they're infused with an array of flavors so unexpected that you begin to question your preconceived notions about food. I heartily recommend the risotto.
15. TRUTH. COFFEE ROASTING
This place’s black walls and dark, wooden furniture hearken to coffee beans roasted in-house, and metallic steampunk furnishings interplay with the intricate, silver roasting machinery that fills the big space. Yet the atmosphere still has coffee’s warm glow — oversized lightbulbs add an auburn tint to the establishment. Waiters apparate in one-of-a-kind, black suits, outfitted with camel-colored leather and a smattering of metal gears and gadgets. Add a flat white or sunrise espresso (made with a splash of orange juice) to the mystique, and you're golden. I highly recommend ordering brunch as well (the Steampunk Florentine is my all-time favorite). Truth. has some of the best coffee in Cape Town — even the water, infused with mint and lemon and cucumber, is divine.
16. ROYALE EATERY
Some rankings have it that this cozy little restaurant on Long Street serves some of the best burgers in the world — and I wouldn't be surprised. My standard lettuce-tomato burger and sweet potato fries were out-of-this world. The milkshakes are a must-order, too (the banana milo shake made me swoon).
And that’s a wrap, folks! Stay tuned for my next post about the top coffee spots in Cape Town.
Alexandra Hehlen is a guest blogger for threadsproject.com, and this post appears both here and on the Threads Project website.