Roadhouse road trip: where to park & eat in Joburg

Thomas Falkiner steers the new Mini Cooper Countryman to Edenvale to sample the menus of three different roadhouses

13 August 2017 - 00:00 By Thomas Falkiner
The new Mini cooper Countryman.
The new Mini cooper Countryman.
Image: Thomas Falkiner

WHERE TO EAT

The roadhouse is dead. A construct of decades past, this purveyor of fast street food has been tossed in the same great cultural landfill as the compact disc, pager and answering machine.

Or has it? Just because the Doll House is days away from demolition doesn't mean these once-proud culinary institutions are not thriving in other parts of town (or the wrong side of the tracks, depending on how you look at it).

Prime your tank for a drive out Edenvale way and you'll find three roadhouses worth visiting.

Starters at The Applebite Roadhouse

Situated slap bang in the middle of The Vale, the innocuous-looking Applebite Roadhouse is one of those places you'd spend a lifetime driving by but never actually visit. Big mistake. It might not look like much from the street, but its narrow car park and hole-in-wall-esque kitchen harbour the stuff of fast-food fantasy.

How do I know? Well, the easiest way to judge whether or not a roadhouse is worth its clip-on window plates is by tasting the chips. And these, my friend, are damn good chips. Freshly cut. New oil. Crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside: the way potatoes should be served.

With fries this fine I'm kind of sad I didn't stay for a burger. Or a schwarma. Because I'm sure they're similarly up to scratch.

Address: 95 Van Riebeeck Ave, Edenvale

Entrées at Kota Joe

A quick blast up the main drag you'll find Kota Joe: a more visible locale that attracts those with a penchant for modified cars and exhibitionism.

The car park is alive with the thud of dance music as eager waitresses charge up down the service lanes with menus and buy-it-you'll-like-it smiles.

"Screw the diet," she exclaims as I order a classic beef burger: the timeless roadhouse staple. It arrives and after the first bite, well, I'm kind of disappointed. It looks good enough, presentation is top notch, but the patty is bland and flavour is lacking. It conjures up memories of tuck-shop burgers of school days past.

Address: 13 Van Riebeeck Ave, Edenvale

The Fireplace Roadhouse.
The Fireplace Roadhouse.
Image: The Fireplace Roadhouse/Facebook

Dessert at The Fireplace Roadhouse

No automotive dining experience is complete until you've smashed a super decadent, super unhealthy dessert in your face.

Kota Joe has an impressive line-up of sweets but I decide to see what the nondescript (hoot and you'll miss it) FirePlace Roadhouse has on offer. I settle on an Oreo Cup, basically a plastic container's worth of vanilla ice cream topped with Oreo biscuits and chocolate sauce.

It's satisfaction in its most base form: a sugary escape that seems in keeping with the blue-collar, working man vibes of the John Mellancamp song now blasting through my car's speakers.

Address: 13 Terrace Road, Edenvale

WHAT TO DRIVE

Helping me on my fast-food road fix was the new Mini Cooper Countryman, coming in at R428,500.

What is it?

It’s the second generation of the Mini SUV — and it sells.

What’s different about it?

Built on the BMW X1/2 Series Active Tourer platform, it’s wider and longer than its predecessor, so there’s extra people and luggage space. It feels more grown up and has a three-cylinder turbo engine.

Is it good to drive?

The bigger the Mini gets the less exciting it is to drive, especially when compared to the smaller hatchback models.

Is it comfortable?

BMW has injected the compliancy it needs to negotiate our mean streets. Refinement is impressive and the seats are great.

Does it fit in at a roadhouse?

With its retro-modern sheet metal, go-faster stripes and boxy silhouette, the Countryman was perfectly at home at the diner.

WHAT TO LISTEN TO

Sarah Buitendach's put together some cool roadhouse playlists.

Music to eat fries by:

  • Mustang Sally by Wilson Picket
  • Barracuda by Heart
  • Leader of the Pack by The Shangri-Las
  • Take It Easy by Eagles
  • Cherry Bomb by John Mellencamp
  • Paradise by the Dashboard Light, Meatloaf

Tunes for post-binge remorse and a sugar downer on the way home:

  • Cars and Girls  by Prefab Sprout
  • Fast Car by Tracy Chapman
  • Drive by The Cars
  • A Long December by Counting Crows
  • Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen
  • Desperado by Linda Ronstadt 
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