Joburg’s restaurant scene is thriving. Urbanites throng to bars for after-work drinks, authentic Italian trattorias fill up on any given night, and a new wave of young people is seeking out – and finding – artisanal, ingredient-led food. There are some fantastic ethnic eateries, from the hidden Chinese spots in Cyrildene to casual Portuguese joints with great value-for-money prawns. Jozi is also home to two Top 10 restaurants and the best steakhouse in the land – according to our judges. Here’s our round-up of the best options in every category in South Africa’s most populous city.
District Six Eatery (Emmarentia)
Pull up a chair amongst the memorabilia and vibrant plastic tablecloths to sample traditional Cape Malay fare like lamb denningvleis, smoorsnoek and excellent milktart.
Little Addis Café (Maboneng)
Little Addis serves up fast, fresh food in an energetic streetside location. Try the traditional Ethiopian plate with a range of stews, all mopped up with light injera pancakes.
Qunu Grill at the Saxon (Sandhurst)
This hotel restaurant serves up a small menu of sophisticated, generously portioned bistro food, with a pinch of African flavour. Think hand-cut beef tartare, lamb shank with spiced pumpkin cake and sumac-spiced springbok.
Dukes Burgers (Greenside)
This easygoing burger joint turns out a vast array of burgers in truly gigantic portions. You’ll find every topping from pineapple, bacon and fried egg to goat’s cheese, apple and mint jelly.
This stylish, quirky spot serves up simple, satisfying Mexican food like slow-cooked pork on rice with pickled onions, black mushroom quesadillas and sweet-potato tacos.
Chinese Northern Foods (Cyrildene)
The décor may be functional, but this restaurant serves up great authentic food from all over China. Try the calamari and pork kidney stir fries, and beef and white radish hot pot.
The Good Luck Club (Illovo)
Think dim sum and soups or one-bowl wonders like ginger-plum chicken or chilli-orange pork. Service is eating-house style and at night there’s a hive of activity on the sidewalk.
The Great Eastern Food Bar (Melville)
This new-style ramen restaurant serves up great ramen along with other inventive dishes like sashimi tacos and smoked-trout buns with wasabi mayo. The vibe is fun and servers are happy and enthusiastic.
This slick, modern restaurant may be on the pricey side, but expect good quality ingredients and a variety of dishes such as rock shrimp tempura rolls, dim sum, sesame-crusted seared tuna.
Like at its Rosebank sibling, the food here is worth the slightly higher price tag. Share a large basket of steaming dim sum, dip into the extensive sushi menu or try the outstanding prime rib. A great, upbeat venue for after-work drinks and snacks.
Li Kou Fu (Linden)
This homey local gem serves up authentic east-Asian fare for both take-away and sit-down diners. It’s known for crispy duck pancakes and a wide range of noodle, rice and sushi dishes.
Orient (Melrose Arch)
This slick, urban space serves fragrant, spiced food. Highlights include the bang bang duck, green Thai seafood curry, crystal spring rolls, spicy prawn soup and wasabi Caesar salad.
Sai Thai (Cyrildene)
This unpretentious restaurant is unlicenced, so BYOB. Dishes like ‘heavenly’ shrimp, tom yum soup, ginger chicken and house curries draw in the fans, despite the traffic and lack of parking.
Shun De Chinese Restaurant (Cyrildene)
No-frills-no-fuss traditional Chinese cooking. They are famous for their dumpling selection.
A favourite among Jozi’s Japanese residents. Don’t miss the tempura; hana chirashi box (a bowl of sushi rice topped with avo, tuna, salmon sashimi and mayo); miso cha-shu ramen; and the beef fillet teriyaki with crisp seasonal vegetables.
Bistro Vine (Parkhurst)
This honest, French bistro delivers solid flavours in dishes like steak and frites with Béarnaise, bouillabaisse, juicy Namibian oysters and duck confit with braised red cabbage.
The ever-changing menu at this relaxed, sophisticated restaurant often features grass-fed meat and homegrown veg. Think twice-baked cheese soufflé with cashew praline; smoked lamb with raita and masala fries; and wild boar ragù.
Corner Café & Bistro (Craighall Park)
A New York loft feel complements dishes like salad with seared scallops, pancetta and caramelised pear; the ‘rump & roll’; and pasta with prawns, chorizo, red onion, white wine, cream and feta.
The Green Peppercorn Bistro (Sandton)
This is a sophisticated and hip shopping-centre option. Standout dishes include salt-and-pepper squid with lime and sweet chilli mayo, prawns tempura with slow-roasted artichoke and fennel purée, and beef Wellington. Book ahead for Sunday rib nights.
A buzzing drinks-and-snacks spot. Try a wood-fired pizza or the breakfast lasagna. Craft beer is on tap and there’s Karimikui coffee to sample.
Foundry (Parktown North)
Excellent gastropub dishes like pumpkin ale fritters and mussels in Weissbier with celery and herbs, along with over 50 craft beers, pull in the crowds.
The Jazzed Up Radium BeerHall (Orange Grove)
This unpretentious historic pub serves up Mozambican-style seafood dishes , grilled chicken and meat aplenty, as well as decent pizza and pasta and great milk tart.
House-baked bread forms the backbone of the gourmet sandwiches (think toasted cheese with brioche, three cheeses, truffle oil and tomato compote), but there’s also a small sushi selection, pizzas and savoury tarts at this cosy bakery and bistro.
Le Soufflé (Fourways)
This is a cosy Joburg classic that offers soufflés in every incarnation, from smoked salmon, fresh salmon and spinach, to chocolate chip, plus a range of other rich, French-inspired dishes.
The Leopard (Melville)
It may be quirky and playful, but the food here won our Best Bistro Award in 2013. Think spaghetti with Marmite and parmesan or Greenfields beef meatballs with butterbean mash.
Licorish Bistro (Bryanston)
There are frittatas, röstis, fritters and French toast for breakfast, global street food (from Jerk chicken to nkomazi chicken curry) for a little later on, and sticky ginger pudding to finish things off. A priority visit for the serious diner.
The Orbit (Braamfontein)
This jazz club offers tapas staples like rosemary-garlic prawns, heartier meals like rich braised oxtail, and tasty pudding like baked ricotta cheesecake and tarte tatin.
Possum’s Bistro and Deli (Parkhurst)
A charming and intimate bistro. Possums serves some clever dishes like a salad with Cape gooseberries, sweet potato, avocado and beetroot, and rump espatada with a cabernet and pear reduction.
Stanley Beer Yard (Milpark)
This bar serves a great variety of prego rolls – even a mouthwatering vegetarian option with halloumi. Order at the bar.
The Steamworks Gastropub (Fourways)
This steampunk-inspired pub offers a clever menu with the likes of a pork belly burger with hoisin and soy aioli, pickled cucumbers and Asian fries; and mussels cooked in craft cider, leeks and thyme.
Rabbit In The Moon (Illovo)
Begin with bruschetta with emmenthal, provolone and asiago with honey and basil, follow with grilled fillet tagliata or butternut panzerotti with burnt butter, fresh sage and walnuts. An indoor restaurant with a light, outdoor feel.
Thomas Maxwell Bistro (Parkmore)
Daring, well-prepared and tasty dishes include items like duck and porcini phyllo parcels, and ostrich carpaccio with red onion chutney and cactus pear jus.
The Wolfpack (Parkhurst)This buzzing, urban burger spot serves burgers with inventive toppings like chimichurri and grilled artichoke with a purple olive aioli, and veggie burgers with gorgonzola and caramelised pear.
Free Food Diner and Takeaway (Birnam/Melrose)
This quirky café is a hotspot on the Jozi vegan scene. Try the kale, cauliflower and ginger soup; brown funghi and calamata olive pizza; and the amazing the dairy-free hot chocolate.
Fresh Earth Food Store (Emmerentia)
This vegetarian and vegan store and eatery serves good veggie burgers, falafel wraps, wholesome sandwiches and excellent dark chocolate cake.
Grand Central Café, Restaurant and Bar (Melrose Arch)
A stylish urban spot for after-work drinks. The vast café-style menu offers everything from breakfasts to burgers, pizza, pasta, light meals and salads.
The Greenside Café (Greenside)
This vegan eatery offers fresh, sometimes raw dishes. Their famous Burger King (made from mung beans, mushrooms, nuts, seeds and vine leaves, served either on a bun or rye bread) is must.
JB’s Corner (Sandton)
One of Jozi’s most popular after-work watering holes offers a broad menu of pizzas, pastas, burgers and nachos. Try the barbecue wings.
The Kitchen at Weylandts (Fourways)
Situated inside the Weylandts shop, this café serves up simple, fresh dishes like a cordon bleu chicken salad, steak burgers and chocolate croissants and cakes.
Love Food Kitchen, Deli, Café (Braamfontein)
Jamie Lorge’s exciting salads are the heroes of the harvest lunch table. There’s also a monthly dinner club.
Nice on 4th (Parkhurst)
This neighbourhood breakfast and lunch spot is famous for their toast breakfast baskets filled with scrambled egg, smoked salmon and tomato relish. There’s also a deli takeaway service.
The Patisserie (Illovo)
Don’t miss the bourekas (filled phyllo pastries), pain au chocolat or marmalade carrot cake at this pretty cafe. Try a decadent high tea, or if your sweet tooth is missing, there are pies, quiche and plump salmon fishcakes.
A trendy, warm spot for all-day breakfasts, chocolate and Nutella flapjacks or generous sandwiches, burgers and salads. You can order to go and they deliver within a four-block radius.
The Pudding Shop (Parktown North)
This deceptively named cafe serves a great range of vegetarian and vegan dishes. There is a preserved ginger toffee pudding with coconut and pineapple ice cream, though.
The wonderful outdoor area is the place to enjoy breakfasts ranging from a halloumi burrito to American pancakes with fresh fruit. Burgers made with grass-fed beef are a lunchtime winner.
tashas le parc (Sandton)
Breakfast on eggs Benedict with salmon and lunch on the steak salad with rocket in this Parisian-themed tashas branch. Do try the cherry and marshmallow milkshake.
tashas (Melrose Arch)
The French toast mascarpone with berries or cherry preserve is a truly decadent start to the day. For lunch, choose from a range of tantalising salads, or build your own sandwich with their homemade breads.
Voodoo Lily Café (Birdhaven)
With a focus on organic and sustainable ingredients, the café offers great breakfasts, salads and in-house sushi. There is a banting menu, and even one for your furry friend – including homemade dog biscuits.
Warm & Glad (Craighall Park)
With its free WiFi and extensive range of coffees, this quirky coffee shop is a haven for freelancers. Try the toasted chocolate and walnut banana bread or nibble on artichokes with crispy potatoes, crème fraîche and fish roe.
The Whippet (Linden)
This crafty and cool spot put Linden on the food map. Stylish breakfasts are the big thing, featuring tempura poached eggs, omelettes, and French toast with figs and camembert.
Clico Boutique Hotel (Rosebank)
A modern interpretation of old-fashioned South African fare. Evenings and weekend lunches are limited to a five-course tasting menu with an option to pair with wine.
Cube Tasting Kitchen (Parktown North)
Dario d’Angeli’s experimental ten-course menus change every month. They aren’t licenced, so bring your own wine.
Five Hundred (Sandton)
The restaurant came in at number 2 in the 2014 Top 10, so rest assured, the food is exquisite.
DW Eleven-13 (Dunkeld West)
Another Top 10 restaurant. Chef Marthinus Ferreira’s food is hearty and precise, from the dry-aged sirloin through to the dulce de leche ice cream. The judges commended the big flavours and delicious combinations.
’86 Public (Braamfontein)
This trendy spot is well-known for its exciting pizzas with thin, crispy bases. The perfect place to catch up with friends over a lazy meal.
Amarcord Osteria Italiana (Illovo)
Fresh, seasonal ingredients are transformed into something magical at this authentic Italian spot. Pasta is the speciality – all made on site.
Well-crafted Italian cuisine in generous portions. Try the homemade egg tagliolini ai porcini if it’s on special. Outside tables are perfect on a summer’s night.
Café del Sol (Randburg)
Named Eat Out’s Best Italian Restaurant in 2012, this family run restaurant serves outstanding handmade ravioli, gnocchi and risotto, amongst other things. Give the dark chocolate tart a try.
Cornuti Stella e Luna (Parkhurst)
Snack plates like salmon tartare, beef carpaccio and the calamari with harissa and chermoula are justifiably popular. There’s also a strong pizza presence. Soft lighting and wooden panels lend a warm glow.
Dino’s Trattoria (Sandton)
This neighbourhood eatery has been around since the 90s. Woodfired pizzas are incredible. Sidewalk tables and large windows create the feeling of an airy Mediterranean café.
Gema Trattoria & Pizzeria (Kensington)
Mario Casagrande’s warm, comfortable restaurant serves up everything from spaghetti vongole to quail in white wine sauce – and pizza, too.
Il Giardino Degli Ulivi (Milpark)
Showcasing some unusual flavours, the menu includes grilled Karoo lamb cutlets with pumpkin bredie and vanilla pineapple salsa, and fantastic leg of lamb pizza with dried fruit, goat’s cheese and mint.
Il Tartufo (Hyde Park)
Classy, warm and authentic, but also child-friendly, Il Tartufo boasts a changing menu of Italian classics cooked by a real-life Italian.
La Campagnola (Bryanston)
There’s a new lighter, fresher section overlooking the city at this Joburg classic. Pasta is sublime, and the wine list is one of the most extensive in Jozi.
La Cucina de Ciro (Parktown North)
Famous for fresh pasta and a standout lemon tart, Ciro’s is a formal yet still relaxed option, with low lighting and soft jazz playing. Great for dates.
La Luna (Melville)
Chef Klaus Beckmann grew up in a multicultural neighbourhood between Italian and Turkish mamas. The clever, short menu draws on these influences. There’s a degustation menu with paired wines if you’re having trouble choosing.
Luca’s Ristorante Italiano (Sunninghill)
Packed on any given day, the eatery has all the warmth of a well-loved restaurant. Pizzas, pastas and risottos are popular, but make sure to try the veal Madagascar.
A cut above café food. The clear chicken broth for the tortellini in brodo takes 30 minutes to prepare and the melanzane alla parmigiana is done to perfection. A smart, sophisticated option.
Nonna Mia (Norwood)
This pizza and pasta institution has recently reinvented itself in a beautiful double-volume space. On the menu: square pizzas, homemade pastas, grills, salads, antipasti, seafood and soup. Great for a quick midweek lunch or a relaxed weekend dinner.
There’s a fresh antipasti buffet and gorgeous aromas of hot bread waft straight from the pizza oven at this beautifully appointed restaurant. Risottos and homemade pastas are excellent.
Remo’s Maximilliano (Sunninghill)
Sample the chorizo e patate or an antipasti board with hot, crisp focaccia, before moving onto the superb pastas and pizzas.
True Italian food cooked according to age-old recipes.: no pizzas and no messing around. Highlights include panna cotta with goat’s cheese, salmon and chives; home made fettuccini, ravioli and gnocchi; and veal cubes in homemade pesto.
That’s Amore (Parktown North)
Italian-born chef-patron Lorenzo Corleo’s ever-changing menu features the likes of fried dough balls filled with mozzarella and anchovies; homemade pastas; and gamberi alla Napoletana.
Tortellino d’oro (Oaklands)
You won’t find pizza here – only superb homemade pasta and classic Italian meals prepared with craftsmanship. It’s cosy, friendly and understated.
Tra Amici (Rosebank)
A great spot for a stop-and-go lunch. There’s a buffet of beautifully presented salads, vegetables and paninis and sit-down meals priced according to weight.
Trabella Pizzeria (Illovo)
Famous for their pastas and thin-crust, wood-fired pizzas with flavour-blast toppings, this jazzy, cool spot is also child-friendly. There are gluten-free pizza options.
Al Makka (Fordsburg)
Authentic signature dishes include brain masala and Al Makka special beef, and there’s also fast food like chicken roti rolls and bunny chows on offer. A neighbourhood spot, with a pristine dining area with white tablecloths and a private area in the back.
Dosa Hut (Fordsburg)
14 different dosa varieties include highlights like gobi 65 (cauliflower marinated in 65 spices); curries, briyanis, and fish curry made with cassava. More of an eating house than a restaurant.
This eat-and-run establishment may be lacking in the décor department, but the delicious, purely vegetarian curries are moreish.
Thava Indian Restaurant (Norwood)
A buzzing spot with a South Indian-focused menu. Ask your waiter for recommendations, or try the iconic Thava lamb chop masala.
Burhan’s Butchery and Kebab House (Mayfair)
Order some pides (Turkish flatbread) and a mix grill of shish kebabs, and other meaty treats to share. An unpretentious and simple spot.
Mezepoli (Melrose Arch)
Small plates like feta-stuffed calamari, sheftalia and grilled sardines are outstanding. The light, white space is always full.
Teta Mari (Illovo)
There’s a touch of New York deli about the place, with a cosy nest of tables with umbrellas outside. Shwarmas with beautifully spiced meat, tahini, Israeli salad and fried aubergine are perfection.
Bellgables Country Restaurant (Swartkop)
This opulent country restaurant serves uncomplicated, tasty dishes like calamari, chilli and cinnamon stew, springbok loin with a honey-Champagne sauce, and duck and black cherry pie.
Beluga (Waterfall Corner)
This casual but classy spot is the perfect place to meet for sushi and drinks with friends (especially if you can time it to coincide with sushi, dim sum and cocktail happy hour.)
Eatery JHB (Sandton)
The small, modern warehouse space has a dedicated craft beer menu, and lovingly sourced ingredients. Grass-fed sirloin, Karoo lamb and slow-cooked brisket will vie for meat-lover’s affections.
LEVEL FOUR (Rosebank)
Dine on duck baklava, confit chicken breast and steamed ginger pudding with rhubarb ice cream. The restaurant leads onto a lawn and rooftop garden, overlooking the jacarandas of Rosebank.
Lucky Bean (Melville)
This relaxed spot comes into its own at night. Try the snoek montecato, springbok and ostrich burger with a bobotie twist, or the vegetarian roast chermoula aubergine. Tables and couches spill out onto the pavement.
San Deck (Sandton)
Perfect for sundowners on the deck, serious business meetings or a romantic fine dining meal. Chef Garth Shnier is committed to sustainable, ingredient-led cuisine.
Mon Petit Throbb (Fourways)
This friendly bistro is close to Montecasino and some hotels, making it great for locals and visitors. Start with the stuffed calamari and move on to pan-fried veal medallions in lemon butter, or the signature of duck confit.
Sel et Poivre (Morningside)
Accomplished chef Coco Reinharz’s dishes are rooted in French cuisine, but with a modern African feel. It’s simply but tastefully decorated, with a lovely seating area outside under shady trees.
The Grazing Room (Dunkeld West)
The more casual sister of Top 10 restaurant DW Eleven-13, The Grazing Room serves up big-flavoured tapas. Think red bean chilli in homemade tacos, impala tataki with a kimchi dipping sauce, and Yorkshire pudding stuffed with oxtail.
1920 Portuguese Restaurant (Randburg)
LM prawns with crispy, hand-cut chips and other Madeiran specialities offer great value-for-money at this homespun, comforting spot.
A Churrasquiera Restaurant (Brackenhurst)
You’ll be mopping up the sauces from the chicken giblets, tripe stew and chorizo stew with olives and green pepper with floury rolls. There’s a kiddie’s menu and a large play area outside for children.
Restaurant Parreirinha (Rosettenville)
Authentic and delicious prawn, cod and trinchado dishes. A flamboyant and fun-filled restaurant with a bar and two dining areas. Book well in advance.
An almost completely seafood-focused menu executed with finesse. This stylish, light and airy spot gets very busy over weekend lunches and dinners.
Fisherman’s Plate (Cyrildene)
It’s a good idea to order a few different offerings and share them at this busy, buzzing restaurant: try chilli crab, deep-fried garlic prawns, whole steamed fish and moreish pork ribs. Think plastic tablecloths and mismatched chairs.
Alpine Restaurant (Randburg)
This unpretentious eatery offers generous portions and is ideal for a weeknight dinner or a delicious lunch on the deck. Aged rib-eye with caramelised beetroot and German potato salad and pork chops with apple sauce are highlights.
The Butcher Shop & Grill (Sandton)
This fabled New York-style steakhouse serves expertly aged meat. Investigate the extensive deli offering of aged beef, game, pre-cooked ribs and shellfish.
Chaplin’s Grill (Hurlingham)
Meat is matured on the premises for a minimum of 24 days. Other highlights include angel-hair pasta with prawns and pistachio pesto, and brinjal mille feuille with mozzarella and olive tapenade. Great views from the front veranda.
Fahrenheit Seafood and Grill (Edenvale)
With its large play area and kiddies’ menu, this is a family-friendly treat. The spicy peri-peri chicken is not to be missed. Vegetarians are also catered for.
The Grillhouse (Rosebank)
Excellent matured beef is served with expertly made sauces like the chasseur sauce, pap and chakalaka. The dark, wooden, masculine space is popular with businessmen.
Best steakhouse: The Local Grill (Parktown North)
Winner of our award for Best Steakhouse in SA this year, this eatery goes the extra mile. The slow-cooked beef cheeks melt in the mouth; and aged sirloin on the bone boasts is properly aged. The balcony is perfect for people watching.
The Meat Company (Clearwater Mall)
A classic grillhouse offering, with perfectly cooked steak. You won’t leave this fantastic steakhouse hungry. A good balance between family dining and casual elegance.
The Meat Company (Melrose Arch)
A relaxed, cosy space with a handful of intimate dining rooms, this steakhouse serves a range of cuts wet-aged on the premises.
Turn ’n Tender (Illovo)
Their signature dish of the lamb neck potjie is sensational, served in a rich onion gravy with mash. For steak lovers, the rib-eye on the bone is a must. The large, airy restaurant is made cosy with low ambient lighting.
Turn ’n Tender (Parktown)
This iconic grillhouse serves honest, no-fuss cuisine. Signature dishes include the rump steak, grilled chicken and beef ribs. Décor is simple, cosy and masculine.
Wombles (Parktown North)
Over-sized armchairs and colonial décor set the tone at this classic, old-school steakhouse. Think snails in garlic butter, fillet, rump and sirloin and crepe Suzette for pud. The patio is lovely in summer.
The restaurants in this list were the highest-rated restaurants in Johannesburg that made the cut for the 2015 Eat Out 500 featured in the new Eat Out magazine, which is on sale now. Meet the editorial panel who rated and reviewed them here.