Melville's 7th Street was hit hard by Covid. The area has gone through many changes which have seen the closing and relocation of some beloved businesses. That said, 7th Street is always undergoing some form of transformation with new businesses opening up or older ones changing their names and ownership. In its lifetime Melville's main street, Seventh Street, has seen ups and downs, alternating between bohemian and grungy, but we think it's always worth visiting.
WHEN IN MELVILLEMelville's main street 7th Street is distinguished by its quirky selection of predominantly owner-run small businesses, many of which have been here for decades, and a strong sense of community, with just about no chain stores or franchised restaurants in sight. With so many students and young professionals living nearby, 7th Street maintains a reputation as a nightlife hotspot and is among Joburg's best-known bar-hopping areas. It can seem that the venue names change almost as regularly as the weather, but the nightlife manages to keep thriving, helped by a culture of nurturing a personal touch and offering competitive happy hour deals.
7th Street serves as a pedestrian-friendly road, intersecting with 4th Street past 27 Boxes. Along this route, notable landmarks include chiesa di PAZZO LUPi and Motel MiPiChi, designed by one of the key architects of the Constitutional Court. This road extends southward to the UJ campus and northward to Johannesburg Botanical Gardens and Westpark Cemetery. Parallel to 7th Street, it's less walkable and lacks the same aesthetic allure. The koppies are Melville's biggest natural attraction, visible in all their splendour from Pablo House and the Melville Turret guesthouse. For book enthusiasts, pop into the second-hand bookshop, Bookdealers, a Joburg institution on 7th Street.
Just off 7th Street on 4th Avenue is the 27 Boxes complex, a shopping centre ingeniously built from shipping containers originally designed as an affordable space for budding businesses. Many have tried and failed to find their way at 27 Boxes, although a number of small businesses have stuck it out and found success by curating a loyal, local clientele – a strategy that is key to making any business a success in this tight-knit community.
A few blocks away, near the koppies, the Bamboo Lifestyle Centre beckons with Love Books, Service Station Cafe, Superella, Reminiscene, and Gourmet Gimba.
Melville offers a glimpse into the artistic and unique side of Joburg that despite its changes, bounces back year after year with more to discover and some beloved institutions that have stood the test of time.
WHERE TO EAT
For young families, it doesn't get much better than Bambanani. Kids get the run of the indoor and outdoor play areas with full-time childminders and plenty of activities. Adults can take refuge indoors, and order a tasty Mediterranean-style meal and a bottle of wine. There's also a huge playground across the street in the 27 Boxes complex. It gets super busy so book ahead.
Café De La Crème
A cherished establishment in Melville, De La Crème seamlessly combines the roles of a café, bakery, and deli and will entice you with its daily selection of delectable cakes and pastries. Always a favourite among Melvillites, their breakfast menu offers exceptional value, providing the perfect backdrop for meetings and gatherings and we're big fans of their Primavera pasta and playful falafel salad, while their pastries alone are worth visiting Melville.
chiesa di PAZZO LUPi
This versatile event space in Melville has hosted captivating performances by some of Joburg's finest jazz musicians. chiesa di PAZZO LUPi is an unpretentious venue that doubles as a shared office space, catering to entrepreneurs, self-starters, independents and freelance professionals who value networking opportunities. Beyond its functional workspace, chiesa di PAZZO LUPi stands out as a vibrant hub for jazz and music events, making it a noteworthy destination in Melville.
Harissa Grill and Shisha Bar
A new spot on 7th Street, Harissa Grill and Shisha Bar invites you to experience authentic Lebanese cuisine and enjoy a Lebanese staple of smoking shisha or hookah. The menu at Harissa Grill caters to both meat lovers and vegetarians and offers diverse dishes from tempting manakeesh (flatbread) options and grilled kafta to baba ghanoush and delicious breakfast options. With a simple drinks menu and its relaxed space, Harissa Grill and Shisha lets you savour Lebanese hospitality in the heart of Melville.
Charlie Chen's Chinese café, Chopstix, stands prominently on the elevated pavement at 27 Boxes. Whether you choose an outdoor table or opt for the small and simple indoor space, the unassuming charm of the restaurant is immediately apparent. The exceptional waitstaff adds to the experience with their charming, efficient and genuinely friendly service. For a delightful start, we recommend sharing small plates and to complete your dining experience, explore the excellent selection of dim sum and dumplings filled with variations such as pork and chives, prawn and shiitake mushrooms, and flavourful pan-fried Chinese vegetables. Each dish is handmade according to authentic recipes brought from China by Chen himself.
Run by Portuguese-South African owner and chef Daniel Ribiero, this friendly café and coffee shop serves delicious café fare with a distinct Portuguese flavour. Reserved Cafe's simple chalkboard menu lists a regularly changing selection of beautifully presented daily specials, or opt for one of the many salads displayed on the counter. Don't leave without trying the traditional homemade pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts).
This corner café opens out directly onto the street (the window seats are perfect for people-watching) and there's also a lovely sunny courtyard terrace. The coffee at Spilt Milk is excellent and this is a popular place for those looking for a different space to sit and work on their laptop for a few hours. Watch their social media accounts for news of events that include poetry nights and sip and paint.
Tilt Coffee stands out as a haven for both coffee aficionados and those seeking delightful treats. This quaint café invites you to unwind, enjoy and bask in the friendly atmosphere that characterises the area. The atmosphere at Tilt Coffee is warm and inviting, making it a perfect spot to gather before or after a Saturday morning workout, or even a quick stop on your way to the office. The small shop exudes a simplicity that is charming, with an unspoken invitation to linger a little longer. At the heart of Tilt Coffee is, of course, its menu, which boasts a range of light meals, delectable baked goods, refreshing shakes, and, of course, a selection of expertly crafted coffees.
HIGH STREET STALWARTS
This Mozambican-themed dive bar has been around for years and Xai Xai still attracts a faithful clientele of locals who come for the cheap Mozambican lagers and unpretentious atmosphere. A little rough around the edges, the bar is certainly in need of a refit, but the rickety chairs and faded posters lend it a strangely appealing grungy charm, especially when dropping by to watch sports on the big screen.
A tiny but fun and ever so slightly grungy gay bar, Ratz is one of the mainstays of the ever-changing Melville bar strip, attracting a young LGBTQ+ crowd from all corners of the city. The music tends to be a classic mix of 1980s pop, rock and disco with a liberal sprinkling of Katy Perry and they also often host karaoke nights.
Six Cocktail Bar
One of the oldest bars on the street and still going strong after all these years. There's always a 'vibe' at Six with jazz on Wednesdays and when their daily 2-4-1 cocktail Happy Hour is in full swing. Very competitively priced, it is understandably popular with students who can usually be found downing the potent Excitabull (vodka, berries, Red Bull and a hint of Stroh).
NIGHTLIFE HOTSPOTSJo'Anna Melt Bar
With a curated, vintage aesthetic and craft beer menu, you'd expect Jo'anna Melt Bar to be overrun with trendy types Instagramming the house-special cheese toast, but Melville is a little edgier than that. Instead, you'll find more mature Melville residents discreetly having a good time, some of them suspiciously early during the day. A massive round bar dominates the space making ordering a drink or flirting with the bar staff considerably easier.
Formerly the home of the Melville Comedy Club, Karaoke Kong now stands boldly, marked by a conspicuous LED boom box illustration at the shopfront, leaving no doubt about the exciting experience that awaits inside. Karaoke Kong's diverse food menu is one of the many reasons to visit. From sticky ribs and hot wings to spring rolls and extra cheesy pizza, the culinary offerings are curated in collaboration with nearby neighbours, Spilt Milk. The fusion of flavours adds a delicious twist to the karaoke experience. As you indulge in the karaoke festivities, the bar at Karaoke Kong beckons with an enticing array of signature cocktails. From the spicy kick of the "Champagne Supernova" to the peachy notes of "I Got My Peaches out in Georgia" and the refreshing "Watermelon Sugar High," the menu is a delightful journey for the palate.
A unique and cherished space for diverse communities, notably the LGBTQ+ community and frequented by students and professionals from Braamfontein and beyond, Liquid Blue symbolises inclusivity and diversity in Joburg. Nights at Liquid Blue are a standout, drawing crowds with affordable drinks and vibrant dancing. The space quickly fills up, creating a lively atmosphere that encourages early arrivals to maximise the energetic dance floor. With their Thursday "buy one, get one free" special, Liquid Blue is the place to be for those seeking a good time without breaking the bank.
The Anti Social Social Club and Tiny Tiki Bar
The Anti Social Social Club and adjoining sister venue The Tiny Tiki Bar's co-owner and chief bartender, Alex Szabo, has worked the counter at almost every Melville bar at one point or another and really knows a thing or two about mixing a cocktail. The guiding inspiration behind Tiny Tiki's aesthetic, cocktail menu and overall atmosphere is the Pacific Ocean, from the tropical flavours of the Far East to the balmy beaches of Polynesia. Click into holiday mode and try a pineapple rum shooter or two, which comes with a flaming rum-soaked pineapple on the side.
If you understand a ‘dive bar’ to be the kind of place where there’s a slot machine in the corner, a guy ready to sell you a dodgy car and the faint aura that a fight might break out at a moment's notice – don’t worry, this is not that place. Smoking Kills is artfully grungy, intimate and inviting, still a dive bar of sorts, but one with cool music, great cocktails and occasional live gigs by local up-and-coming bands.
WHERE TO SHOP
Kevdon & Co
Kevdon & Co is a cool vintage clothing store owned by Kevin and Nomsa Dondashe further up 7th Street that is filled with carefully chosen items including great denim and leather clothing and accessories as well as a variety of good quality shoes. We also love that there's always vinyl playing on the turntable, creating an atmosphere that makes you want to hang around.
A super-friendly second-hand book store that first opened in the suburb of Yeoville over 30 years ago before branching out to Melville. At Bookdealers new titles arrive every week and there are loads of genres covered to interest just about any reader from popular fiction to cookbooks, history to detective novels.
Book Circle Capital
Passionate about African literature and promoting local stories, Sewela and Loyiso Langeni's small bookshop, Book Circle Capital, in the 27 Boxes centre stocks an interesting selection of books written by local authors including plenty of non-fiction and kids' books and hosts regular book launches. Dedicated to promoting child literacy, you can buy children's books at discount prices directly in the store to donate to a local child literacy programme.
The inviting scent of Lifestyle Hub and the warm smile of owner Obee make a visit to this store at 27 Boxes well worthwhile. Lifestyle Hub serves as a platform for entrepreneurs to showcase their unique creations, a space where handmade crafts feature, from herbal bath crystals and body scrubs to scented candles and bespoke fragrances. It's truly a treasure trove of one-of-a-kind items, perfect for gifts!
Starting off in Yeoville more than three decades ago, Reminiscene at Melville's Bamboo Lifestyle Centre has long been a Joburg fixture. Owner Rosemary has an exceptional eye for beautiful items, and her shop – a giant vintage wardrobe – is a trousseau of time and texture, with fringed embroidered shawls, lace gloves and silk flounces, beaded Sixties glitz, and enough glinting baubles (some costume, some precious) to make any magpie happy.
The perfect place for gift shopping, Krag Drag in 27 Boxes gives iconic South African and international brands a cheeky twist such as the "Amazulu" T-shirt (a play on global giant Amazon) and the super cute Smartie pants babygrows. The shop also stocks a colourful selection of retro-inspired cushion covers, tea trays, slippers, bags and other giftable items.
For bargain hunters and budget shoppers, Melville also has lots of charity shops including Bounty Hunters Charity Shop For The Cats (a store especially unique for the fact that there seem to be at least a dozen cats living inside it) and the Hotel Hope charity shop which supports a Melville foster home for orphaned or abandoned children. Or find out why we love Wishes Boutique, a shop at 27 Boxes that specialises in fabulous African print clothing and employs a veritable army of tailors who can tailor-make any design your imagination can conjure. If art is what you're after then head over to Denzil's & Jo for a look at some enlightening contemporary African art.
Bohemian, eclectic, alternative and diverse are all words used to describe the distinctive feel of Melville. This is a community that embraces the unusual and alternative, and one of the things that makes Melville so special.