While in South Africa part of the plan on our itinerary was to visit two of the townships of Johannesburg, Soweto and Alexandra. Previous to my trip, Soweto was the township that I had heard about and I knew that there were tours that would take you through the township to meet families that lived there and taught you about their life. I was definitely interested in visiting but the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind to eat there or if that was even an option.
The famous cooling towers of Soweto
We were scheduled to eat lunch in Soweto near Nelson Mandela’s house however our extraordinary tour guide Robin had a different idea. Before we set off for the day he talked to us about the townships and to compare the two together and what they were like he said “Alexandra is the township where people from Soweto go to have a “real” township experience“. I took that as meaning that Alexandra was considerably different and slightly rougher around the edges. Robin then gave us a few options, perhaps one might even call it a challenge.
A street market in Alexandra.
He told us we could stick to our plan and visit Alexandra quickly then go to Soweto and eat at the planned restaurant or we could eat at a favourite place of his in Alexandra. A place that he has never taken a tour group to eat at before and a place that he could almost guarantee a tourist has never eaten at. Being the “always up for new things” kind of people that myself , JD, Mike and Kate are we all said “the Alexandra experience” right away.
I know for sure that I was a bit worried with this option and had no idea what to expect but was up for trying something new.
We walked in and it was almost like we had just walked into Cheers, everyone knew Robin and he was stopping to talk with each person. We were at a place called Joe’s Butchery. When you first walk into the patio to the left there is a bunch of meat being cooked up on a “braai” aka BBQ and to the right picnic tables where we sat outdoors with awning overhead. There was a TV playing a football game (soccer) that a few locals were drinking beer and intently watching and a DJ was setting up to play some tunes for the afternoon while people ate. Robin told us that this is the place to go on Sundays in Alexandra and within a couple hours time it would be one of the busiest places in the area.
At first I was a bit apprehensive to put my purse down or even take out my camera. I wasn’t sure if it would be snatched or if people would scoff at me however I soon realized that all my thoughts and worries about this place were entirely wrong. I felt someones hand on my shoulder, it was Thembi, the mother of the owner of the restaurant with a big smile on her face saying “Hello” and welcoming us.
Thembi, the mother of the owner of Joe’s Butchery bringing us some more delicious sausages.
Robin ordered a bunch of food and in no time we were drinking beers, eating tasty steak, chicken and sausages with cabbage, Chakalaka and pap.
Chakalaka? Yes it sounds kind of funny but its actually a type of spicy South Africa vegetable relish and it made the bland pap (traditional porridge/polenta) taste a whole lot better. There are many variations of it and people say it was actually invented in the Johannesburg townships.
It was a tasty meal that I even went back in for seconds and I was glad that I didn’t let my preconceived thoughts on the townships get the best of me. I don’t advise you to visit by yourself but perhaps you can get your tour guide to take you there too.
Thanks to South Africa tourism for sponsoring my trip to South Africa. All opinions and views expressed and tasty food in my belly are that of my own as always.