Some affix grid-trays to your car window, others exude open-road joie de vivre along with their burgers, hot dogs, and double-thick milkshakes. Think two-tone floor tiles, American diner-style fittings, or pulsing neon. Flick your lights to these …
Older readers may recall Durban beachfront’s Cuban Hat, Midrand’s Flying Saucer, Uncle Charlies with an airplane on the roof, and The White Pigeon on Hendrik Verwoerd Drive, frequented in the 80s by the Randburg Dogs, a local motorbike gang hooked on casual dining and women of easy virtue.
As the latter’s sign was damaged, ‘The White Pig’ throbbed out in garish neon for years. Then, many roadhouses fell victim to generic fast-food chains. Luckily not all succumbed, so here’s a brief guide to the stalwarts.
In Cape Town, the Burger Fair Roadhouse in Bellville offers speedy service with orders brought to your car, while Wembley Roadhouse in Belgravia Road, Athlone, is a popular parking lot hangout for frikkadels, samoosas, and halaal burgers.
For an authentic 50s American Diner vibe, you’ll find red vinyl seating and checkerboard floors at Franky’s in SeaPoint, where patrons feast on ‘footlongs’ while Elvis sings about his blue suede shoes. Go cat, go …
“Somethin’ tells me I’m into something good”. That old Herman’s Hermits hit might equally apply to the roadhouse in Port Elizabeth on Marine Drive in Summerstrand. Still the domain of bikini babes in denim shorts and beach boarder dudes, Something Good was called the Bird Rock Roadhouse in the 50s.
Pet-friendly Something Good has lost none of its 70s-surfer charm, offering ‘tsunami burgers’ with gourmet milkshakes, great views of Pollock Beach, and that year-round summer feeling. Grillers at 330 Cape Road, Newton Park, is another American-style diner.
Just 283km north of Port Elizabeth up the 500km stretch of Sunshine Coast, East London’s Windmill Roadhouse has been around since 1946. The stamping ground for late-night jollers in the 1960s, this much-loved local landmark still rocks.
The food’s tasty in a calorie-laden, to-hell-with-my-cholesterol, kind of way. Think burger and coke deals, combo meals, and budget-friendly ‘brekkie on the go’.
Uncle Harry’s in Randfontein, which holds the world record for the most churches and bottle stores in one street, serves Sunday roasts, and pizzas so big you can barely get the box through the car window. Favourites include lime milkshakes, choc-nut sundaes, Dagwoods, and toasted sarmies. Opened in 1974 by the late Harry Pappas (aka Uncle Harry) and his sons, this iconic roadhouse just off the R28 is lit up like Bright Week celebrations in Greece. You can’t miss it!
Edenvale has plenty to offer the hungry motorist. Open daily from 10 am until 10pm, Kota Joe at 13 Van Riebeck Avenue adds a South African twist to street-food classics.
Also on Van Riebeck Avenue, the Apple Bite ‒ Edenvale’s oldest roadhouse at number 95 ‒ started out nearly half a century ago. The massive menu in in the parking lot offers a plethora of sinful temptations. Not so good if you’re aiming for a beach bod but what the heck, right? The chicken wraps are good.
Further east, Fireplace Roadhouse in Boksburg sells Dagwoods, ribs, curries, salads, and veggies. Tuck in from your car or on the patio.
The original Burger Box Roadhouse began 60 years ago in Krugersdorp before developing branches in Birchacres, Benoni, Kempton Park, Krugersdorp, and Vereeniging. Think crispy onion rings, pregos, schwarmas, Sunday lunches, and foot-long Boerewors rolls, Burger Box’s slogan is ‘Good food and a smile … that’s roadhouse style’.