South Africans are serious about their meat. I thought Americans were big on barbecue, but then I moved to Cape Town, where South Africans quickly put our humble Fourth of July spreads to shame. Here, I find myself invited to at least one braai (barbeque) a week—even on the coldest, rainiest winter nights. You won’t find any gas or electric grills here: part of the experience is waiting for the charcoal to light up, and it’s preordained that the designated braai-master must be coated in smoke. And while you will spot the occasional burger, the stars of a truly successful braai are the lamb chops and boerewors, or Afrikaans-style sausage. Your best bet for experiencing a proper braai is, of course, an invite from a Capetonian. But barring that, here are five great local restaurants that serve up a solid braai experience for visitors and locals alike.
Head out to the Gugulethu township for one of the liveliest daytime parties around. Bring your own plates and napkins, and choose your meat from the butchery. Select the independent braai station that appeals most to you, and let them prepare your purchase on-site. Enjoy it all with a diverse mix of locals and tourists, and work it off by hitting the dance floor.
Backyard Grill & Lounge
In once-grungy, now-artsy Woodstock, you'll find this distinctly South African eatery, complete with live entertainment. Forget the fork and knife when you dig into “De Piggyback” or “De Show Stoppa. These braai feasts feature everything from chops to drumsticks, paired with pudding-thick xhosa stove-stop bread and mieliepap, a traditional corn porridge.
Whether you’re seeking exotic ostrich fillets, Malay chicken curry, or traditional lamb and sugarbean soup, Karibu’s extensive menu is sure to appeal to every appetite. The star of Karibu's menu, however, is its braai selection: tender skewers of beef, lamb chops, boerwors, and more. Pair your meat with a side of chakalaka, made with onions, beans, and tomatoes.
The Hussar Grill
This Cape Town institution has expanded to six outposts across the city, each of which shares a classic, dimly lit-pub aesthetic. This is more of a quintessential steakhouse, but a can't-miss for devout meat aficionados. Must orders? The sublime rump steak or the Carpetbagger, stuffed with smoked oysters and cheddar, topped with a brandy and mustard sauce.