What locals and tourist bureaus point to in the revitalization of Johannesburg is the popular Neighbourgoods Market. Located in the Braamfontein section by Witwatersrand University, the block has been transformed into a hub of activity during the day, especially on Saturday’s market day.
You reach the market, a converted parking garage, via a side street on the block off Juta or De Beer. You have a five hour window where you can soak in the dozens of food and drink stalls and local artisans while taking in DJs and buskers.
Inside is drool-worthy cuisines of African, Middle Eastern, Indian, Asian and South American origin that will make your foodie friends jealous. These people like their meat in various grilled form. It’s not a matter of where to start, it’s where to end.
Do a couple of laps around the facilities to check out your options. I got there at 10am and the place was already buzzing, thus I got my buzz going with a flat white from Origin Coffee.
Part One of my two-part lunch during breakfast hours meal started at Balkan Burgers. You can’t miss it. It has the line. Yes, it’s the stall Anthony Bourdain went on his Joburg episode of Parts Unknown. It’s a large but thin patty that’s folded over with cheese and grilled with the bun on top. You then stuff it with lettuce, tomato and hot sauce and dig in. It’s a perfect serving because it’s light and won’t set you over the edge.
Add some craft beer action from Jack Black’s Brewery and you have your 10am wake-up call.
Next up was a small plate of bunny chow, hollowed out bread with curried chicken stew inside from Durban Deli (I think that’s name, but shout out to them anyway). Washed that down with some South African white wine from the Frisky Zebra.
Dessert — so many to choose from and I can already felt my conscience telling me to take it easy. Do I go with the cupcakes, fudge, tarts, cakes, ice cream or donuts? I went with ice cream AND donut, because damn it feels good to be a gangster.
As you might have suspected, this is prime time to people watch the local scenesters, stroller brigade, dopey tourists and Instagram-snapping nitwits like myself. In the Bourdain show, he had to throw in a hipster swipe even throw in his future market in NYC will be all hipsters.
For the two hours I was there, it’s a diverse array of nationalities, locals and tourists. The Cape Town version of Neighbourgoods Market I briefly went to the week before seemed to be heavier on the tourists.
I took a seat inside the upper deck by the big bar, crafts people and performing stage. What was great was seeing the local fashionistas trip over the step you need to take before you get inside. Yup, I saw the breado lumberjack in skinny white jeans, plaid shirt, Orlando Magic trucker hat and cheap sunglasses as well as the sundress wearing, faded blue hair, skinny chick in the over-sized sunglasses and floppy hat eat floor over one small step.
Since this was Saturday, October 31, it was Halloween back in the States. The only evidence of the holiday was the face painting and a few cooks had on witches hats. I’m thankful that this was the extent of the South African observance of what has become the most annoying holiday in America. I won’t get started.
It’s a cool experience and well-worth it if you find yourself in Jozi or Cape Town on a Saturday. I just don’t understand why it’s only open for five hours from 9am-2pm. They still have a whole afternoon of prime eating hours ahead of them.