Some affix grid-trays to your car window, others exude open-road joie de vivre with their burgers, dawgs, and double-thick shakes.
Think two-tone floor tiles, American dinerstyle fittings, and pulsing neon that may be seen miles away.
Caroline Hurry flicks her lights at a few South African examples.
Older readers may recall Durban’s Cuban Hat, Midrand’s Flying Saucer, Pretoria’s earthquake-themed The Crack, Uncle Charlies with an airplane on the roof, and The White Pigeon on Hendrik Verwoerd Drive, frequented by the Randburg Dogs, an 80s motorbike gang hooked on hot dogs and women of easy virtue.
That was before many roadhouses fell victim to generic fast-food chains but luckily not all succumbed, so here’s a brief guide to the stalwarts.
Starting in Cape Town, the Burger Fair Roadhouse c/o Park Street & Strand Road in Bellville offers speedy service with their fast food. Orders are brought to your car. Another popular parking lot hangout is Wembley Roadhouse in Belgravia Road, Athlone – think frikkadels, samoosas, and halaal burgers, while Franky’s on 303 Main Road, SeaPoint, offers an American Diner vibe with red vinyl seating, checkerboard floors, ‘footlongs’ and Elvis hits. Go cat, go …
The roadhouse in Port Elizabeth on Marine Drive in Summerstrand is still the domain of bikini babes in denim shorts and beach boarder dudes, Something Good, nee the Bird Rock Roadhouse in the 50s, 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.
Just 283km north, East London’s Windmill Roadhouse, stamping ground for late-night jollers in the 1960s, still rocks. Waiters direct your car into a parking bay and deliver calorieladen, tasty chow to your window. Think burger and coke deals, combo meals, and budget-friendly ‘brekkie on the go’. When Phytos Kyriacou bought the place in 1994 it had just 15 staff members. Today 250 people work there.
Uncle Harry’s in Randfontein’s Battery Reef Road serves Sunday roasts, and pizzas almost too big to fit through the car window. Favourites include lime milkshakes, choc-nut sundaes, Dagwoods, and toasted sarmies. This iconic roadhouse just off the R28 is lit up like Bright Week celebrations in Greece. You can’t miss it!
Kota Joe at 13 Van Riebeck Avenue in Edenvale adds a South African twist to burgers and street food classics. At 95 Van Riebeck Avenue, Applebite is Edenvale’s oldest roadhouse – nearly half a century – and the chicken wraps are still good. Further east, Fireplace Roadhouse at 85 Main Reef Road in Boksburg offer Dagwoods, ribs, curries, salads, and veggies. Tuck in from your car or on the patio.
Still in Gauteng, the original Burger Box Roadhouse began 60 years ago in Krugersdorp before opening branches in Benoni, Kempton Park, Krugersdorp, and Vereeniging. With crispy onion rings, pregos, schwarmas, Sunday lunches, and foot-long Boerie rolls, Burger Box offers: ‘Good food and a smile … that’s roadhouse style’.