Conveniently located between the Sandton and Rosebank business districts, Illovo is a popular suburban hangout offering a wide choice of eateries, serving everything from pizza to poke bowls. Here is our rundown of 20 great places to eat in the area.
ILLOVO JUNCTIONStraddling Corlett Drive and Oxford Road, this bustling corner has over half a dozen cafés and restaurants to choose from, all lined up beside each other. In addition to the options below also look out for gastropub The Griffin, wine bar Le Wine Chambre, burger bar GBC and Italian restaurant Trabella.
This chain of pizza joints does takeaways and free deliveries but you can also stop by and eat your pizza at the store. The menu lets you choose as many toppings in whatever combination you prefer. Do as the South Africans do and order avocado as a topping. The pizzas are always excellent and the best thing? They are available 24 hours.
GOOD LUCK CLUB
This cute little cafe-style joint is a popular hangout for the legions of craft beer-drinking young professionals who live in the area. The menu is a mix of Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese styles - highlights include the dim sum selection and the crispy twice fried beef. Intimate street terrace and good value week day dinner deals.
The secret to a good Hawaiian poke bowl is fresh cubes of raw fish (usually tuna or salmon) seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil and spring onion. At this chic little casual eatery you’ll get to design your own bowl. Add your choice of rice, fresh greens, chopped slaw, and something zingy like pineapple salsa, all splashed with one of their tasty sauces and you are ready for the island life.
Part restaurant, part neighbourhood hangout, the lively atmosphere, frozen margaritas and a neon bright interior that spills seamlessly out onto the street, are the main attraction at this perennially busy spot. Highlights include the popcorn polo taco and spicy pork belly.
A lively taverna serving Joburg’s best Greek fare since 1993. Their wide-ranging menu includes a large selection of meze dishes, delicious roasted fish specialities and other standard Greek fare like kleftiko and souvlakia. From 21:30 on Fridays and Saturdays the restaurant heats up with belly dancers and smashing crockery. For a quieter meal get there early.
POST OFFICE CENTREThis small centre has an eclectic selection of restaurants all of which open out onto a covered arcade.
This perennially popular Italian restaurant strives for the kind of Northern Italian home cooking you would imagine worthy of a long table, a lazy Sunday lunch and a warm famiglia. Try the simple salad ingredients dressed with truffle oil, homemade pastas or the rich veal dishes. For an unforgettable treat there's the Dolce della Nonna (Grandmothers Dessert). A good local wine menu with many wines sold by the glass.
BABA G: ROTISSERIE AND DELI
Named for the Middle Eastern aubergine dish Baba ghanoush, this small rotisserie chicken takeaway spot specialises in Afro-Mediterranean flavours. Choose one of three varieties of roast chicken; and pair it with a selection of salads and super soft ‘pillow breads’ made fresh with your order. Alternatively get a takeaway chicken wrap. If you can’t wait to get home to eat settle in at the counter.
ESCONDIDO TAPAS AND WINE BAR
This tapas bar with its rustic décor and varied menu displayed on a massive chalkboard brought to your table, attracts a lively crowd. The tapas is more international than Spanish crossing many borders with Greek, Italian and Asian-fusion inspired options. For a big hunger you’ll need a budget to match. Worth it if you enjoy sampling lots of delicious tastes. For a taste adventure, match each dish with a glass from the impressive wine cellar.
A favourite of the ladies who lunch, with its bold pink and white striped walls and small French-style tables. There is an awesome display of pastries and cakes, plus a light meals menu. Favourites are the fluffy scrambled eggs or the generous helping of salmon fishcakes with salad.
ILLOVO MUSE CENTREYou’ll know the oddly named Illovo Muse centre by the two huge bars – the rowdy Hogshead Pub and the 86 Public pizza and wine bar – that spread along Oxford Road. Venture inside for two of Joburg’s most popular gay hangouts, Beefcakes burger and cabaret bar and Babylon nightclub.
Pink, sparkly and staffed by muscular topless men, the menu quips; “Best Buns in town and the Burgers aren't bad either." The Beefcakes stage sees action every night with fun drag shows and camp cabaret starting at 20.30. It's wise to book a table in advance. Gays, straights and lesbians
Specialising in Taiwanese and Chinese street food with a twist this casual restaurant has a wide-ranging menu with plenty of small dishes to be shared. Start with traditional potstickers, Norwegian salmon tacos, and crispy Korean fried chicken wings; the grilled Chinese ‘soko’ skewers and the stuffed bao (steamed buns) are worthy of a bow.
The much-awarded Yamato serves elegant and traditional Japanese food with polite service. The superior sushi and sashimi menu is more than a few cuts above your average conveyor belt and the gyoza dumplings and light tempura dishes – best eaten with a touch of chilli oil and soya sauce – are a definite highlight. Solemn atmosphere but what a combination of flavours!
THRUPPS CENTRENext door to the Illovo Muse centre on Oxford Road is the Thrupps Centre named for the large Thrupps supermarket (one of Joburg's oldest grocery stores) in the basement.
The refrigerators in this place encase beautifully decorated pastries and cake slices, while the table overflows with freshly baked goods. Mouth-watering gateaux, pastries, savoury burekas and gourmet sandwiches are on the menu. Try the chocolate volcano – warmed to make the chocolate ooze. Supremely delicious. Menu items can be ordered and elegantly boxed to take home.
A casual yet sophisticated choice for seafood and sushi. Try the prawns cooked Portuguese-style. There's also a good selection of salads and sides, and excellent crispy battered hake and chips. As is typical for Joburg, the outdoor tables look directly onto the car park.
TURN N TENDER
With five Joburg branches this steakhouse, dating back to 1977 when four brothers opened their first restaurant, is still grilling consistently tasty basted steaks with the best selection of sides. A favourite is mielie pap (made from maize meal) with tomato and onion gravy, a South African staple. The service is swift and friendly, the sizzling spare rib platters come with an elegant bib and there's a respectable offering for fish-eaters and vegetarians.
ALSO IN THE AREAARBOUR CAFE & COURTYARD
Don't be deceived by the petite street frontage, this cute French-inspired cafe in Birdhaven actually occupies an entire courtyard that is reached via the back of the cafe. The menu's French inspiration is found in its perfectly executed omelettes and galettes (a savoury French crepe made using buckwheat flour) with fillings such as spinach leek and feta or chorizo, mozzarella and tomato.
Not an exclusively seafood restaurant, but the flawless fish dishes are the main attraction. Grilled kingklip, gigantic langoustines and seared tuna steaks feature prominently. The pasta menu is the real deal, straight from a Ligurian fishing village. Bellagio is suited to lazy weekend lunches on the terrace, Mediterranean style.
This unfussy little bistro is a socialites hub with the crowded tables groaning under the weight of open wine bottles, designer handbags and lively conversations. The food is simple but accomplished bistro fare - the fillet salad is delicious - and the excitable atmosphere akin to a wine bar. Bookings for lunch only.
For the best Israeli shakshuka breakfast there’s this stylish café with an outdoor deck perfect for sunny days, serving generous portions of food that would bring comfort to any troubled soul. Other musts are the vanilla infused kitka French toast with mascarpone, halva and toasted almonds or the New York deli-style Reuben Special of brisket on rye.
VOODOO LILY CAFÉ
With its recycled materials, organic, Fair Trade ingredients and menu full of vegetarian and carb-free options, health junkies and environmentally conscious diners will feel right at home at this popular neighbourhood corner spot. The customisable breakfast menu is excellent and portions are exceptionally generous. There’s also children’s menu, kids play area out front and even a small menu for dogs.