Johannesburg offers a thoroughly eclectic mix of dining possibilities: Just about every national cuisine is represented, so if you have a particular craving, simply ask your concierge or host to point you in the right direction. Alternatively, take your pick from our listings, all located a reasonable distance from our reviewed accommodations. Note: Foodies currently rate Roots, at Forum Homini, Johannesburg's best restaurant, but it's a schlep to get there. If you want to dine there, plan to stay overnight -- a great idea in any case.
If you like cafe society and browsing through menus and venues before deciding where to dine, head for one of the following restaurant-dense neighborhoods.
Melville & Auckland Park
Bohemian Melville is quixotic; blink and you'll discover a favorite restaurant along 7th Street replaced by another. You'll also find the mix of down-at-heel and sophisticated eateries a little confusing at times, because Melville's arty crowd will happily put up with outrageously poor service and crude decor once they've committed to a preferred venue. Also keep in mind that 7th Street is aimed at attracting the city's party crowd rather than serious foodies, and that the popularity of 7th Street means that it inevitably suffers from congestion as well as some shady characters; increasingly, restaurant owners here are selling up and reopening in Parkhurst, while nearby 44 Stanley Avenue is where the growing action is. That said, a few perennial favorites remain: Soulsa, 16 7th Street (tel. 011/482-5572; Tues-Sun; main courses R45-R125), a decent distance down from Melville's frenetic bar action and Melville's best restaurant, offering such tasty food as tuna wrapped in noi with a bit of wasabi, served with braised cabbage and noodles; follow this with their signature hot fig pudding with homemade vanilla ice cream. Good wine recommendations are standard. If you're in the mood for Asian cuisine, Soi, on the corner of 7th Avenue and 3rd Street (tel. 011/726-5775), is still popular, serving up spicy chicken basil and angry duck along with pre- and post-dinner neck massages; while nearby, the quaint, atmospheric, ant-size Ant still serves up pizzas at rickety wooden tables to a loyal clientele. Note: Stick to busy 7th Street; do not venture up the intersecting avenues alone.
If you are in the area during the day, pull into the Service Station, Bamboo Centre, corner of Rustenberg and 9th streets (tel. 011/726-1701; daily 8am-4:30pm). This is an unpretentious vibey deli-style restaurant, where you help yourself to a buffet of great-looking salads, Mediterranean mezze, and delicious quiches, all paid for by weight (an extremely good value); alternatively, order from their predominantly sandwich menu, which includes light meals such as grilled chicken served with light curried mayo and greens. Browse for vino next door at winesense (www.winesense.co.za), one of the city's finest wine boutiques; ask for a wine "credit card" so you can taste from a wide selection of excellent South African vintages before making your purchase.
If you'd like to combine your meal with some great shopping, in far more salubrious surrounds than Melville's 7th Avenue, head over to the très trendy 44 Stanley Avenue complex, headquarters of the burgeoning Milpark loft district. This is a great outdoor/indoor shopping destination experience, with a mix of carefully selected stores that are individual. Equally so are the dining options; grab one of the city's best espresso's at Boat, a popular courtyard cafe (tel. 011/482-7793) that also serves up delicious Portuguese pastries (try the custard tartlet), but keep space for lunch at Salvation Café (011/482-7795; www.44stanley.co.za), a funky bistro with a menu filled with items culled by yachting chef Claudia Giannoccaro's travels around the world. Food is organic wherever possible, and all of the meats are free-range and free of hormones; the wine list also boasts organic and biodynamic products. Open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday to Sunday 8am to 4pm.
Parkhurst & Parktown North
These two adjoining neighborhoods represent the city's most relaxed restaurant nexus, with great cuisine, popular with the chic set who combine lazy weekend lunches with the chic set who combine it with browsing: Locals flock to 4th Avenue not only for its sidewalk restaurants, but also for its quaint specialty stores -- selling anything from Belgian chocolate to African art or English antiques -- a far better atmosphere than the dime-a-dozen malls. Recommended restaurants are Cilantro, 24E 4th Ave., Parkhurst (tel. 011/327-4558), which serves up an eclectic European-Asian menu, from Belgian-style moules et frites (with homemade mayo) to Greek kleftiko and sublime calamari. The folks who brought (and sold) The Loft to Melville have now opened The Attic (tel. 011/880-6102) next door, featuring a menu of Asian and French cuisine created by the London-trained chefs, though some diners have complained of less than stellar service. Espresso, 23A 4th Ave., Parkhurst (tel. 011/447-8700), must rate as one of the most popular Italian restaurant groups in the city, serving pizzas with some fabulous combinations -- try, for instance, the pear and blue cheese pizza. Note that credit cards are not accepted. But for the best dining, head to Parktown North's 4th Avenue to Fino Bar and Restaurant and, right next door, La Cucina di Ciro.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.