The 20 most popular restaurants in South Africa

Could these be the country’s most popular restaurants? Here are the spots that pulled in the most traffic on our site in 2019.

1. Wolfgat (Paternoster)

That the World Restaurant of the Year can start a tasting menu with a skillet of bokkom butter and a hessian bag of breadsticks is a testament to the assured ease of Kobus van der Merwe, who’s just doing his own thing here – and you will love him for it. The focus is on simplicity, purity and locality with dishes like creamed white mussels served in its own shell with buttermilk rusk crumbs or black mussel custard with coconut.

2. Saint Restaurant (Sandton, Johannesburg)

It wouldn’t be a most-popular list without perennial cool-kid Saint. David Higgs’s Italian restaurant is ever-popular, with its offering of creamy burrata, fluffy gnocchi and meaty mains.  If you find yourself at Saint, though, you’re probably there for the perfect pizza, with simple options like the Neapolitan and margherita that will have you coming back for more.

3. San Deck at Sandton Sun Hotel (Sandton, Johannesburg)

A rooftop bar in Sandton – need we say more? Go for breakfast, lunch and dinner (all with cocktails, of course) or enjoy Thursday to Saturday nights with a live DJ spinning you into the weekend.

4. Mustang Sally’s Pub & Diner (Hatfield, Pretoria)

If you want an American diner experience, this is the place to get it. Mustang Sally’s offers giant burgers, mac-and-cheese balls, Southern fried chicken, and freakshakes topped with everything from entire doughnuts to mounds of candy floss.

5. Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia (Constantia, Cape Town)

Ivor Jones’s punchy flavours and inspired tapas-for-two menu keep guests coming back to this wine farm gem.

6. Momo Kuro (Rosebank, Johannesburg)

The newest Momo boasts bold flavours and delicious tapas options in a gorgeous open restaurant space. Be sure to try the Formoso calamari with mint, basil and ginger; the Siu Mai open dumplings; the crispy salmon ceviche tacos; the Szechuan prawn wontons; the pulled beef brisket; and the Peking duck.

7. Momo Soko (Illovo, Sandton)

The little sister of Momo Baohaus, Momo Soko serves up sublimely delicious Asian street cuisine with a modern twist. Be sure to try the soko – tender marinated skewers of protein and vegetables grilled to perfection and seasoned in various ways – and the fluffy bao.

8. Thali (Gardens, Cape Town)

This must-visit Gardens restaurant comes from chef Liam Tomlin of Chefs Warehouse. It’s an oldie but a goody, offering a spectacular feast of modern Indian cuisine and décor to match.

9. The Athletic Club & Social (City Bowl, Cape Town)

Athos Euripidou, who hails from Durban and was behind Station Drive’s Fortune Coffee, is the brains behind this hot new speakeasy-style bar. This perfect spot for after-work drinks or a cosy date night serves up Greek and Mediterranean cuisine like charred aubergine, home-made labneh and roasted lamb shoulder with tzatziki.

One of the cosy areas in The Athletic Club & Social. Photo supplied.

10. The Wing Republic (Braamfontein, Johannesburg)

This popular spot pulls in the crowds for its saucy chicken wings, ribs and burgers. If you’re one of those who used to travel all the way out to Braamfontein to get your fix, you’ll be happy to know that another branch will be opening in Pretoria in August.

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11. The Royale (Craighall, Johannesburg)

This Cuban-inspired bar and eatery has a food offering that’s fuss-free, inexpensive and unpretentious. Pair with one of the rum-based cocktails and your Friday night is set.

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Our heart is in Havana….

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12. Views at Twenty5 (Morningside, Durban)

Shisa nyama and craft cocktails are the name of the game at this Durban restaurant that serves as the ultimate weekend spot, opening only from 5pm on a Friday.

13. Billy G at Suncoast Casino (Marine Parade, Durban)

This buffet restaurant is a winner when it comes to feeding big families. Enjoy everything from carvery and casseroles to seafood and salads galore.

14. Time Square – Food and Wine Bar (Florida Road, Durban)

This food-and-wine bar’s offering includes an extensive cocktail, beer and wine selection; easy-eating grub like pizzas, pastas, burgers and small bites; and large indoor and outdoor seating areas with televisions to catch any live sporting action.

15. The Commissary (City Bowl, Cape Town)

The small menu here packs a big punch, with all the dishes designed to be shared, drawing inspiration from global street food. Whether you start out with fresh oysters with a piquant Vietnamese nam jim dressing, tuna tataki with a velvety, citric peach and peanut sauce or the Korean fried chicken wings, you won’t be sorry.

16. The Restaurant at Waterkloof (Somerset West)

SA’s number three restaurant is no stranger to this list. Even those who’ve already been lucky enough to dine here are planning their next sojourn. Magnificent food on inspired plating (as well as a not-to-be-missed wine pairing) makes this one for the books.

17. Saigon Suzy Asian BBQ & Rock ‘n Roll Bar (Parkwood, Johannesburg)

This rock ‘n roll bar features cocktails and street food inspired by countries like Thailand, Vietnam, China, Korea and Japan. Try the pho or one of the broken rice BBQ bowls.

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Send noods. #saigonsuzyjhb #suzysays

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18. The Test Kitchen (Woodstock, Cape Town)

The number two restaurant in the country from Luke Dale Roberts continues to draw repeat visitors locally and globally.

19. The Burner (Bellville, Cape Town)

This curry spot in Cape Town’s northern suburbs is known for its generous portions and fantastic bunny chows. Pop in for a lamb, chicken, bean or mince kebab bunny, plus dessert of soji or sago.

20. FYN Restaurant

Go for an interplay of Japanese and South African flavours, with the deft touch of skilled, experienced chefs. A kaiseki tray might feature a Wagyu-beef spring roll with onion petals and truffly accents, or tender sea trout with crunchy counterpoints of apple, dune spinach and tempura samphire. The famous chokka ‘tsukemen ramen’ lives up to the hype, and the pre-dessert ‘cheese sandwich’ is a masterstroke. Dessert comes in a set of three; a hot-and-cold parade of berries, blossoms, cake and crumbles.

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