Cape Town: the Mother City, the legislative capital of South Africa, and, most importantly, the gastronomical capital of the world. When I first arrived in Cape Town, I asked a local what kind of foods are specialties here. She answered, “We have the same kinds of food as America; it’s just all way better.”
Cape Town does feature some game that may make you look twice—zebra, ostrich, springbok—but how Cape Town gifted me an extra 10 pounds was not through seemingly bizarre local specialties but instead awesome overall quality—fresh, local ingredients and sophisticated flavors. When a town has “avo” as part of the menu vernacular, you know they mean business.
Nobu: an opportunity to eat at the restaurant your high-end world traveler friend raves about without depriving your wallet of your month’s meal budget. Nobu is famous internationally with locations in the Bahamas, Malibu, and New York among others. The Cape Town location inside the luxurious One & Only hotel allows for an elegant and sophisticated meal without the bill-induced nausea we college students are used to.
Open Saturdays and Sundays from 8am to 2pm, the Market offers a paradise of local stands, pop-up boutiques, and live music. As any trained foodie would, I tried to make my rounds before making any decisions. It turns out the first area leads to a second and a third, all flooding with options from breakfast skillets to Belgian waffles to Thai bowls—so the clear solution is eat it all.
#SpoonTip: Cape Town’s markets are the perfect way to get a taste of local culture and incredible food. Also check out Hope Market and Hout’s Bay.
The Test Kitchen consistently ranks in the top 50 restaurants in the world. Unlike many high-end places with pretentiously-stingy serving sizes, this rustic spot leaves you drunk, full, and happy. For $110 a piece, you’ll be served a 7+ course (yes, that means multiple desserts) dinner paired with assorted wines and guided by enthusiastic and knowledgable waiters (because the only thing better than eating is talking about eating).
The restaurant definitely deserves its fame, featuring nitrogen-frozen garnishes, cauliflower cheese foam, and saffron pickled onions, among other delicacies.
#SpoonTip: The Test Kitchen hype is real. Plan to make reservations online or over the phone at least a week in advance.
By the same culinary genius as The Test Kitchen, The Pot Luck Club offers tapas-style dining, and each bite is unique and flavorful. The Korean fried cauliflower, fish tacos, and chickpea fries are musts. A ride up the glass elevator brings you to the rooftop restaurant overlooking Cape Town.
As a Texan taco snob, it means a lot to promote a taqueria away from home. El Burro features tapas-style tacos and quesadillas (and delicious margs) with interesting twists on classic fish, chicken, and steak tacos as well as more unique selections. After one visit, El Burro will quickly become a constant craving.
Bursting with over-the-top rich furnishings in a Victorian home and surrounded with a garden patio, Kloof Street House offers a unique dining setting with food to match. The menu provides a wide range of options from fish to chicken to beef to vegetarian, all with interesting flavors and twists.
Another quirky spot, The Bombay Bicycle Club guests will find themselves flaunting assorted costume hats and swinging on benches while enjoying their meals. The unique, bohemian environment makes the restaurant, but it also features exotic bites and cajun dishes.
Cape Town is bursting with tapas spots, but Asoka could take the crown. Asoka boasts interesting Asian-inspired dishes with rich, unique flavors that make you want to keep it all to yourself. You really can’t go wrong with the legendary menu, but some favorites are the butter chicken curry and the Norwegian salmon.
#SpoonTip: Tuesdays are live jazz nights! Talk about ambience.
Bungalow offers an expansive lounge area of white couches and beachy vibes to enjoy a sunset over Cape Town’s beach. The menu features fresh seafood and sushi with a rustic twist (yes, that means you’ll still get a hearty stack of fries with your fish).
A quick meal is quite the rarity in Cape Town, so Nü is a go-to spot for a speedy, yet healthy bite. Nü also provides many vegan and gluten-free options. With an expansive menu of breakfast, salads/wraps, juices and smoothies, Nü offers the satisfying Cape Town freshness without the wait.
Two words: all-day breakfast. Clarke’s, a trendy, fresh diner in the middle of town, is the kind of place you’ll want to sit down for breakfast and have coffees and drinks until you’re suddenly ordering lunch. The food feels healthy and clean without loosing delicious yolky goodness. Favorites are the three-egg hash and huevos rancheros.
Truth fully commits to the quirky cafe experience. It’s a Steampunk-themed spot complete with antique pieces, pipes galore, and full theatrical employee uniforms. The unique coffees, like the Sunrise Espresso with OJ and coffee, bolster the experience as well as decadent breakfast and lunch options like a croissant French toast.
You’ll find Honest Chocolate everywhere in Cape Town—at markets, in chocolate bar form, as truffles, and even as hot chocolate. The café features all these delicacies but with decadent drinks and baked goods tacked on (think banana nut muffin stuffed with vanilla ice cream drenched in homemade Honest chocolate fudge—the Bunny Chow).
#SpoonTip: The Gin Bar is tucked behind this chocolate heaven. Go at night to this hidden gem for the best of both worlds. Pair your decadent chocolate with trendy delicious drinks.