Durbanites have a particularly varied appetite. If they’re not scoffing down pineapples dipped in masala, they’re looking for the best fish and chips or spicy prawns – and when they find what they love they remain loyal for life. To get the most of local Durban flavour, here are ten restaurants locals love.
Bistro, Steakhouse, Seafood, South African, $$$
The interior of Butcher Block on Florida Road is classic and airy | Courtesy of Butcher Block
While still fairly young in a new location at trendy Florida Road, this steakhouse has quickly accumulated regulars and is a hit with carnivore lovers. Known for some of the best cuts of meat in town, this fine-dining spot is popular with patrons looking for quality meat, a glass of wine and an inviting atmosphere. They also have street seating if you want to get a feel of the vibe on Florida Road. With starters like biltong carpaccio and mains like ribs and steak, this meaty hotspot is a hit with Durbanites. There’s also a store in Umhlanga.
With humble beginnings in a trailer at Durban Day at People’s Park in 2012, it took this chicken and chips store just five years to become an established Durban favourite. The franchise now has nine stores in and around Durban, including two beach shacks which are popular with surfers, cyclists and tourists. With a distinct black and yellow design, decent prices and a simple menu of saucy chicken and chips that comes with peri peri or lemon and herb sauce, Afro’s hits the nail on the head with Durbanites. Stores are available in South Beach, Umhlanga, Churchill Road and Florida Road.
Surf Riders Food Shack has become a big hit with locals who are starting to spend more time and money outside the house. After a walk along the promenade, Durbanites relax at this charming beach shack with open views of the Indian ocean. With a clean and casual menu that boasts hamburgers, pizzas, milkshakes, salads and even treats for dogs, this hotspot is a haven if you want to kick back and enjoy a casual meal by the ocean – the perfect place for Sunday brunch.
Consistently good burgers | Courtesy of Smokin' Joe's
While still fairly new on the Durban scene, Smokin’ Joe’s has quickly earned a reputation as a consistently great burger joint thanks to its consistent quality and decent prices. Set on trendy Musgrave Road, where a whole host of new food spots are popping up, here you’ll find wholesome, juicy beef patties with fresh and wholesome ingredients. They’re also not afraid to experiment with the menu every few weeks, with burgers featuring daring sauces and exotic ingredients like peanuts and corn. They also serve a mean cup of joe and feature classics like cronuts, but also experimental desserts like avocado and raspberry ice cream.
Since Durban has one of the largest Indian populations outside of India, it’s no surprise that Pakistan-Indian-African franchise MY Diner is such a hit in this seaside city. With stores at North Beach and several malls, it proves popular with both locals and tourists. Offering an extensive menu that features some of the best curries in Durban, with Indian favourites like butter chicken, garlic naan and palak paneer, they also offer South Africa bunny chows, Chinese noodle dishes and a rich variety of South Asian desserts. They’re most well-known for their signature Pakistani chicken tikka.
The best place to satiate a curry craving at 2am is Sunrise Chip ‘N Ranch in Overport. They’re popular with locals and tourists for their budget double cheese and chips rotis, and bean curries. This hole-in-the-wall is also famous for its bean bunnies and biryanis and, entertainingly, for featuring in a low-budget local movie called Attack of the Indian Werewolf.
When Durbanites want to splurge on some fine dining, they head to Beluga at Gateway Theatre of Shopping. Located on the boulevard outside the mall, this casual yet smart restaurant offers the best in sushi, dim sum and seafood. It has beautiful décor, soft lighting and comfortable chairs. Take advantage of half-price cocktails and sushi during the day.
This is one of Durban’s best bunny chow spots for locals. A sports bar seems like an unlikely place to find a good bunny chow but avid eaters at this spot in Springfield swear by their spicy fare – it is said that even chefs only eat their bunnies here. The experts seem to think highly of this place too, as in 2014 Hollywoodbets came first in Durban’s annual bunny chow competition and second in 2015. They also offer a range of other pub food that’s popular with the offices nearby.
Old Town Italy, in the buzzing area of Umhlanga, has quickly become popular with locals for hearty and wholesome Italian food. Brimming with fresh ingredients, top-notch pieces of meat and consistent quality, this homely restaurant hosts a butchery, a bakery and a deli on its premises. It’s also a good choice for vegetarians and vegans and the perfect spot for a custard cronut and almond cappuccino.