I hear you, you’re thinking: an Alexandra food tour? What the wat-wat? (You’ll get this joke later, promise)
Well at first I thought that too. As South Africans, we seem to have an aversion to our own street food if it doesn’t come in a neatly packaged food truck, complete with hipster branding. The truth is though, we have a pretty incredible street food culture in this country, you just need to make the effort to find it.
I was invited to join Tour2.0 a while back to explore Alexandra from a foodie perspective. I was told to arrive hungry for this Alexandra food tour, and to throw all expectations out the window, and so I did exactly that! Tour 2.0 are a really great tour company that offers unique tours that focus on cultural exchange, rather than drive-by tours of the cities they operate in.
This particular Alexandra food tour takes you deep into the heart of Alex, to four different foodie stops ranging from greasy to gourmet, and is topped off with cocktails and conversation. But you need to be very, very hungry! We were led through Alex by our guide Asanda Daza, who is not only a tour guide by trade, but is also a connoisseur of Alex’s food and designed the tour herself!
Featured above is the beautiful Mavis from Mbopha’s Place, the first stop and the home of…
Okay so here’s the opening zinger (ha!). A sly wat-wat is the slang name for what we ate first at Mbopha’s Place. This cafe slash hangout spot was pretty busy for a weekday afternoon, and apparently we had missed the lunch rush, but you know if it’s busy, then it’s got to be good.
What the wat-wat!
So, a sly wat-wat is a the uniquely Alex version of a kota or a bunny chow. It can only be found in Alex (I was told), and is a major sanwich situation with every possibe item stuffed inside. You choose your stuffing, we were served a deluxe version with polony, slap tjips, cheese and even some vinegary tomato sauce. It’s a monster, but it’s an affordable meal in Alex and you absolutely will want to eat it all, but shouldn’t! Only because you still have three meals ahead of you though.
My mouth still wasn’t actually wide enough to get a proper bite
Meat-ing at Joe’s Butchery
If you’ve spent time in Alex at all, you’ll know that Joe’s Butchery is rather famous ’round these parts. Visitors are met with a big smile, possibly a hug, and then get an option on what meat they would like thrown down on the flames for their meal. A bucket of cold beers completes the equation, and honestly, you don’t need cutlery.
We delved into a mix of chops, boerewors and steak. It was absolute perfection washed down with a Black Label, and an experience that I would go back for time and time again. This is also a great place to eat like a proper Alex local, and get to meet a few while you do.
This is Wilbert from Joe’s Butchery, our grillmaster
Wilbert’s hand in action
Fine dining with Happiness
Not only was the third food stop a happy one, it was literally with the vibey Happiness Makhalenele in her home! A couple of years ago, Happiness started a small business selling street food from a trailer each morning to commuters, but her dreams were always bigger than that. The couple now runs a gourmet Alex restaurant from their home, serving delicately plated meals packed with flavour!
Happiness literally exudes happiness from every pore
Happiness was excited to serve us one thing in particular: Mogodo or tripe. Now, I don’t mind the odd piece of tripe, but I am not the biggest fan of the dish. That being said, Happiness persisted that it depends on how it’s been prepared, and laid unashamed claim to hers being the best.
I can say after trying it, it was definitely the best I’ve tasted, whether it’s the best of them all will need to be left up to an expert Mogodo fan though. That being said, I still think I’d eat those bugs all over again in Thailand instead if I had to choose.
A tasty morsel of fillet, and the best Mogodo I’ve tried
Cocktails, canapes and Theo’s Kitchen
A passion for food runs in the family, as our last stop was with Happiness’ son Theo. Theo runs a roving kitchen pop-up that takes the food to the people at markets and events around the city. It’s sorta like being on a cooking show, with Theo and his friends prepping bite-sized dishes while simultaneously mixing cocktails and entertaining their guests.
Theo, with a clear resemblance to his mom in the happy department
Theo has dreams of opening his own restaurant when the time is right, and the food he serves up isn’t strictly street food, but it was a tasty end to the day nonetheless. Sipping cocktails, shooting the breeze and watching the guys from Theo’s Kitchen put together their little stacks of food was a fun ending to our Alexandra food tour.
Jam jar cocktails served by Theo’s Kitchen
Ostrich fillet, asparagus and kidney beans served up by Theo
Want to book this Alexandra food tour?
After all this food and story, you must have a hankering to do this tour yourself right? Great! Tour2.0 offers this tour through their website here. The tour costs from R1 649 per person, which includes your transport around Alex, food and refreshments and four hours with Asanda as your guide.
I would recommend you don’t eat for at least 48 hours in advance and take the time to chat to the people you meet on this tour, they’re all wonderful, fun and will give you a completely different perspective than your own on good South African food.
For more pictures from this Alexandra food tour, visit 2Summers.
Don’t forget the Zamalek!