A Little Food, A Little History

In case anyone still thinks that when I moved to South Africa, I moved to the savannas and my best friends are the likes of Pumba and Timon…Johannesburg has a pretty big arts and culture scene, and is also very food-centric (yay for people like me!).

There are three main food/design/lifestyle markets in the city that feature various local food businesses, along with artists and designers showcasing their beautiful wares. These three markets are all located in and around the Central Business District, or the CBD. The CBD, as its name suggests, was the hub of business and finance back in the day, until it fell prey to a huge crime wave in the 80’s and 90’s. Because of this, most businesses packed up and moved to the north of Johannesburg, and the CBD was left to become a shadow of itself, with dodgy streets and dilapidated buildings.

In recent years, though, artists and forward-thinkers have been finding themselves back in the CBD and its surrounding neighborhoods, revitalizing the area with a new found energy. Like Soho, the Meatpacking District, and Williamsburg, this area of Joburg that had all but been written off, has slowly been coming back to life in recent years. Hotels are popping up along with trendy cafes and boutiques, and, of course, there are the aforementioned markets making use of the old abandoned warehouse spaces and buildings that are found all around this area. Where once you would have never set foot for fear of safety, or just a complete lack of things to do, these are now places where you can gather to socialize with friends while meeting and supporting local businesses. Urban renewal at its finest.

The first of these markets is The Neighbourgoods Market, spanning two floors of a former office building in Braamfontein. I had the opportunity to visit this market earlier this year when I first arrived, and it was pretty awesome. The first floor is filled with all sorts of food vendors, tempting you to eat fresh bread and biltong (South Africa’s answer to beef jerky), cakes and crepes, cheeses and terrines, samosas and paella, and oysters and champagne (no, really!). My eyes were probably as big and round as saucers as I took everything in, and had I not (smartly) limited the amount of cash to bring, I probably would have bought something from every stall. Mosey on up to the second floor, and there’s an outdoor space with tables, in addition to a large indoor space that features on one end some more large communal tables along with a bar serving up fresh, craft cocktails, and on the other end, clothing and accessories.

The entrance from the street
Meat pies & Organic People
Neighbourgoods - Long communal tables on the main floor
Long communal tables on the main floor
Oysters & Sparkling Wine! Maybe next time.
A table of meat.
They make paella pans this big?
I love each and every one of you.
Fresh coconut juice, anyone?

My favorite on this floor was the Hout Couture table. This company, based in Cape Town, makes eco-friendly sunglasses and other accessories out of responsibly sourced wood. “Hout” in Afrikaans means “wood”…hout couture…haute couture…hout…haute… Love it. The next time I find a place that sells these sunglasses, I’m definitely going to try on a pair and see if I can pull off the cool, hipster look (probably not).

Hout Couture
Not sunglasses.

The next two spots, Market on Main, and the newly opened The Sheds at 1 Fox, are still places that I have yet to explore. But in the meantime, I’m reading up on them and loving how vibrant the creative community seems to be here in Jozi.

Market on Main is located in the Maboneng Precinct of the CBD, and also features a fusion of food and design. The market is part of Arts on Main which has been at the forefront of transforming this area into a hub for the creative community. There are studios, offices, and galleries, along with old warehouses transformed into spaces that play host to weekly events like Market on Main.

From their homepage: “Market On Main is made for the people of Joburg by the people of Joburg. Our goal is to encourage inner city lifestyle, learn lots about sustainable living, and provide a relaxed and creative space for our friends to spend their leisure time.”

Sold! Count me in. I’ll be coming for you, Market on Main, and I’ll leave all of my money with you.

Fun fact: “Maboneng” is a Sotho word that means “place of light.” How apt is it that this industrial area is experiencing this renewal, making it an inner city destination and revitalizing the once-languishing neighborhood?

Last, but not least, is The Sheds@1 Fox, which debuted this past week. Another example of how a few great minds saw the potential in a rundown area, and made the move to make their vision become a reality. Located in a historic district on the western edge of Joburg’s city center, this industrial area, known as Ferreirastown, is full of warehouses from the 1920’s and 1940’s, though parts of the construction in one of the main buildings suggest that it dates back to before the Anglo-Boer War (or the South African War, 1899-1902). This is the area where miners first pitched their tents and set up camp during the gold rush, hence the abundance of mining sheds.

The Sheds@1Fox is an artisanal food and produce marketplace, and also focuses on spotlighting and supporting local vendors. As of right now, they are open Thursday – Sunday (which is big step up from the other two markets which are only open one day a week), and they have plans to be open daily in 2015, and to expand the space to make way for more permanent retail and event spaces in the future.

Before this place was rescued by the people behind The Sheds, it was just an abandoned area waiting to be torn down to make way for office building (bleh!). I’m so glad that it was saved, and I can’t wait to visit.

Here’s a great post with photos from blogger Mia Musings who managed to get in a visit: https://namz610.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/downtown-jozi-has-a-new-hangout-the-sheds1-fox/

All in all, I love the way that people have been finding a way to re-utilize all of these old buildings, spaces, and neighborhoods, and finding ways to pump life and energy back into them, while still retaining the original character and history. I do hope, though, that in this urban renewal process, these areas can continue to retain their roots as they grow, and not become super glossified (not a word, I know) like what happened to most of downtown Manhattan. I hope that they still keep their grittiness and local love, and can avoid being taken over by chain stores and commercialism. [steps off of soapbox]

Also, I would not mind having a meerkat as a friend.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. There are so many great foodie places to get to in Johanesburg (and even in Pretoria!) – I just wish there were more hours in the day or days in the week! I need to write a list and slowly work my way through them…..

    1. YokoLily says:

      Indeed! My list gets longer and longer and my wallet gets slimmer and slimmer. I’ve fallen into a routine here now and don’t go out exploring as much as I should or want to. Also, this reminds me that I really need to post something a bit more recent!

      1. And my tummy is getting bigger and bigger….which reminds me I need to get some work done so I can go to the gym 🙂

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