What does Cape Town taste like?

It’s time to look at the greatest hits in Cape Town food, from the healthiest to the most artery-clogging. 

As I bid the Mother City a semi-teary-eyed farewell, I’m doing a special post on food. That’s how delicious Cape Town is!

While it’s developed its own cuisine over the years, it has even more dishes from across the globe. Get ready for your tummy to rumble!

 

  1. Healthy eaters, meet Kauai.

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Kauai’s chocolate protein smoothie bowl.
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Thai Crunch, my favourite Kauai salad. The grilled chicken and cashews make a nice touch on the colorful plate.

Kauai is one of my favorite restaurants in Cape Town and definitely my favorite food franchise in South Africa. It sells breakfast foods, smoothies, wraps, and salads which all have fresh ingredients that you can count on your fingers. It’s popular among gym rats and smoothie lovers due to its quick service, rewards app, and of course delicious tastes.

My go-tos here are the Thai Crunch salad and chocolate protein smoothie bowl. However, if I’m in the Kloof Street franchise in Cape Town, I order the cacao crunch froyo with cacao nibs!

If this place was in the states, how could it not do well?

 

  1. Unhealthy eaters, it’s time you meet Gatsby.

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A half portion of Gatsby I bought at the Food-Inn in Bellville, a 30-minute drive from Cape Town.

Think of all the unhealthy foods you’ve ever had. Now put them in a sandwich. That’s a Gatsby, a Cape Town original. Though there’s many variations of the sandwich, it usually comes down to these ingredients:

  • French fries
  • Ketchup
  • Fried egg
  • Cheese
  • Grease
  • Sausage
  • Steak
  • Basic submarine bun

My first—and and only—time getting it, I ordered a half sub and was shocked to receive a 12-inch beast! I take pride in my stomach’s capacity, but ingesting all that was tough!

 

  1. Butter chicken is Cape Town’s fixin’.

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A healthy portion of butter chicken with brown rice and veggies from a non-Indian restaurant. If this was an Indian place, the rice portion would be doubled… and there wouldn’t be any veggies.

Cape Town’s the only place where I’ve found Indian restaurants thriving on selling butter chicken. That’s flabbergasting because butter chicken has almost no spice. To me, Indian food = spice!

Hoping to understand Capetonian tastes, I’ve ordered butter chicken a few times but still don’t know what all the fuss is.

 

  1. Neon green ice cream: McDonald’s shows new colors.

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McDonald’s Choc Lime McFlurry. Would you try it or take a pass?

Billboard advertisements have no power over me. Unless they show food. After passing a McDonald’s billboard daily for a couple weeks, I decided to try what they were showing: Choc Lime McFlurry.

The Choc Lime McFlurry is soft-serve vanilla ice cream with chocolate chunks and a green slimy lime syrup mixed into it. The syrup looked something between ogre snot and the juice from glow sticks, but I tried to not think about that as I had my first bites. Believe it or not, it was good enough to eat again!

 

  1. How do you make the world a more inclusive place? Buy a brownie.

Brownies and DownieS is one of Cape Town’s favourite restaurants and is located in the same building where I worked the last 6 weeks. They serve the richest brownies my tongue has had the privilege of tasting. Here’s their decadent flavours:

  • Chocolate 
  • Blondie
  • Salted caramel (my fave)
  • Vegan 
Mpriza Zitha from Khayelitsha says equality is important and Taurik Hendricks from Mitchells Plain says that people are too selfish.
My friends Mpriza and Taurick work at Brownies and Downies on Long Sreet. Photo: Natalie Elliott.

The downieS part of Brownies and Downies refers to people with Down Syndrome. You might think that’s an offensive way to talk about them, but in Cape Town it’s not viewed that way. Besides, the employees working there, all of whom have Down Syndrome, learn skills for the hospitality and retail sectors.

 

     6. Burgers, burgers, and more burgers!

 

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My first waffle burger ever, ordered at Mustacchio Caffé on Kloof Street.
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A beet burger (right) served with loaded fries (left) at Hudson’s Burger Joint on Kloof Street.

There’s not many Cape Town restaurants that don’t have a burger on their menu.

But for this post, only one place deserves special mention: Royale Eatery, located on Long Street. They serve about 50 different kinds of burgers as well as double-thick shakes. When I was there, I tried an ostrich burger! You can bring your vegan, gluten-free, and whatever other ingredient-free friends. There’s some version of burger for them too.

 

  1. Taste and experience Bo-Kaap culture.

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This is bobotie, a Cape Malay dish. It’s mince with an egg casserole topping served over yellow rice.
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As you can see, Bo-Kaap is a very colorful place! It’s located on the mountainous outskirts of Cape Town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bo-Kaap is one of Cape Town’s gems. It’s a section of Cape Town with colourful homes where the Cape Malay community, which consists of Indonesian, Malaysian, Indian, and East African descendants, live. Although their ancestors came to Cape Town as indentured labourers (basically slaves) a couple hundred years ago, most of them have kept their Muslim faith.

However, they have changed up their cuisine. While they still serve flavorful and colorful curries, rotis, and rice dishes, their foods aren’t spicy, partly because the Europeans they’ve catered to generally don’t like spice. Try denning vleis (lamb tenders in brown-onion tamarind sauce) or bobotie (spiced mince with egg-based topping and  yellow rice).

 

  1. Springbok, crocodile, zebra…It’s all game to be eaten.

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At The Raj in Simonstown I ordered springbok tikka masala with spicy naan.

If you want to meet your safari animal friends on a plate, Cape Town would be an excellent place to do it. However, I would caution that you ask where your meat is sourced from first!

I sampled springbok, one of the local types of antelope, at an Indian restaurant in Simonstown, a town 45 minutes outside Cape town. Springbok tikka masala was on the menu, so I thought: why not try it? If you like how game meat tastes, then you’d be happy.

 

  1. Picky eaters have no complaints at Food Lovers Market.

I never was a big fan of the lit-up booths at grocery stores with salad bars, hot food, and other dishes ready to be plopped on your plate and weighed at checkout. Why? Because it wasn’t a buffet! The more I ate, the more I paid. So I’d be stuck with a little plate.

In Cape Town, the weigh-your-food and eat-it-now concept has taken off. Near Cape Town’s city centre, there’s several of these, most notably Food Lovers Market. Every food you can possibly think of is there. It’s also cheap, which could save you from prepping your own lunch every workday.

 

  1. Every cuisine you’ve dreamed (and haven’t yet dreamed) of trying is here.

 

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Empanadas from Picada’s, an Argentinian restaurant on Bree Street.
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Cape Malva pudding, a Capetonian delicacy known for its apricot flavor and spongy carmelized texture. It’s served with custard.

Moroccan. Argentinian. Burmese. Mexican. You name it, the Mother City’s got it. I tried empanadas, curries, chicken livers, puddings, and other concoctions, with many names that I’ve long forgotten. But though words may fail me, I’ll never forget the experiences I had and people I met throughout my food journey.

***

Whether you’re the most selective eater on the planet or you go for (almost) everything like me, Cape Town is calling your name. If you answer with your appetite, you won’t be disappointed.

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Trying Libyan pasta made by my friend, Maein. It tasted like regular pasta, only it had a kick!

Bonus Food Photos

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Ruby chocolate is the 4th chocolate flavor on the planet after milk, dark, and white! It’s fruity but tastes so mild it’s a letdown. I tried it at My Sugar in Sea Point.
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Moroccan fish cake with couscous at Rick’s Cafe Americain in Gardens.
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This is khow suey, a Burmese chicken curry served over rice and noodles, with 12 little spice dishes on the side. I got it at Mojo Market in Sea Point.
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This is labneh, radish, and spring onions served on toast at Clarke’s  on Bree Street. Labneh is a mixture of yogurt and cheese, nearly synonymous with Greek yogurt.
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Nothing beats food and company! Here’s me with Maein, my Libyan friend, at the Eastern Food Bazaar, one of the only places in Cape Town with affordable halaal food.
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I joined my journalism buddies for drinks at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel. It’s Cape Town’s poshest hotel where all the celebs go. I, of course, had only water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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