The roadhouse: the legend is still alive and well in Ekurhuleni

Kota Joe Roadhouse
(Image: Kota Joe )

There’s something about the anticipation that fills the car the moment you turn into a roadhouse. You can’t wait to roll down the window for the grid tray to be clipped on to it, for the first sip (no, scoop) of the double-thick milkshake that’s just as good as when you were five years old, for the driver to pass on everyone’s super-sized burgers or toasted sandwiches and slap chips (as true to their name as you’ll get), and for that first bite of nostalgia ...

If you grew up in Ekurhuleni, formerly known as the East Rand, chances are that your fondest memories include trips to the local roadhouse and you probably know what a Dagwood, Blondie or Fatboy is.

While many roadhouses in Johannesburg have closed down in recent years – the latest being the iconic Doll House on Louis Botha Avenue in Highlands North – they're still alive and well in Ekurhuleni.

In fact, some of them are now showing movies on a big screen at night, combining the roadhouse and drive-in feel for an even better trip down memory lane.

Feeling nostalgic (or ravenous)? Then head east to one of these:

The Fireplace

The Fireplace Sign
This neon sign has been welcoming patrons to the roadhouse for decades. (Image: Jannie Rykaart)

If you’re looking for authentic, The Fireplace roadhouse in Boksburg first opened its doors in 1958 and still has a list of “Roadhouse Originals on large toasted bread” on the menu: a Blondie comes with a patty, fillet, bacon, egg and cheese; the Dagwood is a Blondie minus the fillet; the Fatboy comes with two patties, cheese, lettuce, gherkins, mustard and BBQ sauce; and then there are also the Popeye, Bennie, Hennie, Kenny and Van der Merwe specials, which all have three things common – egg, cheese and tomato – with either mince, bacon, ham, boerewors or viennas, depending on your choice.

Roadhouse Food
What’s for dinner? A Fatboy, and ribs with chips and salad. (Image: Jannie Rykaart)

As at most roadhouses, there seems to be no limit to the menu, and you can also opt for all-day breakfasts, salads, burgers, mixed grills, spare ribs, crispy fried chicken, schwarmas, curry and rice, spaghetti bolognaise, toasted sandwiches and hotdogs.

Many of these meals are available in family sizes.

There are two branches:

  • 85 Main Reef Road, Boksburg
  • Corner of Nossob Street and Heidelberg Road, Dalpark, Brakpan

Casbah Roadhouse

Dating back even further, to 1955, Smittys Teapot in Brakpan was taken over by Sylvia Kongos and her brother, Peter Theologo, and transformed into Casbah Roadhouse. The name “Casbah” was taken from the American TV series Casablanca, according to the website.

A burger fit for a king. (Image: Casbah Roadhouse)

The other brothers, Evangelo, Russel (Lucky), Costa and Johnny soon joined them.

Evangelo, or Ponch as he was known, then went on to open roadhouses in Alberton, Wemmer Pan, Johannesburg, Malvern, Benoni, Vereeniging, Krugersdorp and Port Elizabeth.

Today, you’ll see the familiar coconut tree logo on the East Rand and in Pretoria.

“Ponch always believed in VFM. Value for money. Everything that you made for a customer you had to make as if you were making it for a friend,” reads the website.

Find a Casbah Roadhouse and pick and choose between a Hennie, Bennie, Ken or Popeye Special, a Dagwood, Blondie and a range of other meals:

  • Shop 5, 6 and 7a, Alberton Crossing
  • 91 Gladstone Avenue, Brakpan
  • Rynfield Terrace, Old Pretoria Road, Benoni

Grills & More

Grills And More Roadhouse
Roadhouses are quite a familiar sight in Ekurhuleni. (Image: Grills & More )

Roadhouses might all differ slightly, but there are a few things most of them have in common: they’re for the hungry, you can choose if you want your burger on a bun or on two slices of toasted bread, sandwiches are made using “jumbo” bread, they serve a cooked Sunday lunch with a free dessert, and they always have something on the menu for the whole family.

Grills & More is no exception. Treat the family to a Family Pack: a kilogram of spare ribs, a whole chicken, a large box of chips and a Greek salad.

Find it here: Corner of Leeuwpoort and Kaap streets, Boksburg.

Kota Joe

With the first branch having opened only in 2011, Kota Joe is certainly the new kid on the block when it comes to roadhouses.

This fast-food and roadhouse chain has put a new spin on the traditional quarter loaf (kota) of bread, which is hollowed out and filled with slap chips, polony, cheese, egg, a Russian sausage and atjar. It’s basically carbs-on-carbs with all the trimmings.

Kota Joe Dagwood And Milkshake
Kota Joe’s version of the Dagwood. (Image: Kota Joe)

The kotas on this menu are made from half a hollowed-out Portuguese roll filled with slap chips and a filling of your choice, such as grilled chicken; beef strips; chicken mayonnaise and bacon; a beef patty, cheese, ham, bacon and egg; mince and cheese; atchar, egg, polony, cheese, a Vienna and Russian; and many more.

Make sure to leave some space – if that’s even possible – for ice cream or a double-thick gourmet milkshake. You’re spoilt for choice with flavours such as tiramisu, Nutella coffee, fudge brownie, cookies & cream, Peppermint Crisp, Oreo and peanut butter, Ferrero Rocher, Lindt Caramel ... and the list goes on.

There are two Kota Joe roadhouses on the East Rand:

  • 13 Van Riebeeck Avenue, Edenvale
  • 141 North Rand Road, Boksburg