South Africa's cities and towns are full of dining options, from chain restaurants like the popular Nando's to chic cafés. Indian food and Cape Malay dishes are regional favorites in Cape Town, and traditional smoked meats and sausages are available countrywide. Children are allowed in all restaurants, but don't expect toys and games as in American restaurants.
The restaurants we list are the cream of the crop in each price category. Price categories are based on the average cost of a main course at dinner (or at lunch if that is the only option). If you love seafood, you should make a point of visiting one of the casual West Coast beach restaurants in the Western Cape, where you sit on the beach in a makeshift structure and eat course after course of seafood cooked on an open fire.
Meals and Mealtimes
In South Africa dinner is eaten at night and lunch at noon. Breakfast generally consists of something eggy and hot, but many people are moving over to muesli and fruit. South Africans may eat muffins for breakfast but draw the line at doughnuts, so don't expect too many breakfast sweets. Restaurants serve breakfast until about 11:30; a few serve breakfast all day.
If you're staying at a game lodge, your mealtimes will revolve around the game drives—usually coffee and rusks (similar to biscotti) early in the morning, more coffee and probably muffins on the first game drive, a huge brunch in the late morning, no lunch, tea and something sweet in the late afternoon before the evening game drive, cocktails and snacks on the drive, and a substantial supper, or dinner, about 8 or 8:30.
If you're particularly interested in food, stay at a guesthouse selected by Good Cooks and Their Country Houses, which are noted for superior cuisine. For a guesthouse to qualify for inclusion, the chef must be the owner (or one of them).
Unless otherwise noted, the restaurants listed in this guide are open daily for lunch and dinner.
Good Cooks and Their Country Houses. www.goodcooks.co.za.
Many restaurants accustomed to serving tourists accept credit cards, usually Visa and American Express, with MasterCard increasingly accepted.
Reservations and Dress
Most restaurants welcome casual dress, including jeans and sneakers. Very expensive restaurants and old-fashioned hotel restaurants (where colonial traditions die hard) may welcome nicer dress, but other than the Blue Train, few require a jacket and tie.
Wines, Beer, and Spirits
You can buy wine in supermarkets and many convenience stores. Beer is available only in "bottle shops," which are licensed to sell spirits. Most restaurants are licensed to sell wine and beer, and many also sell spirits. From Saturday at 8 pm through Sunday, you can buy alcohol only in restaurants and bars. You may not take alcohol onto beaches, and it's illegal to walk down the street with an open container. You can, however, drink with a picnic or enjoy sundowners (cocktails at sunset) in almost any public place, such as Table Mountain or Kirstenbosch. The beach rule is also somewhat relaxed at sundowner time, but be careful.