The Secret Diner
Where: 54 Problem Mkhize Road, Berea
Open: Sunday and Monday noon to 8pm, Tuesday to Thursday 11.30am to 8pm, Friday 1.30pm to 9pm, Saturday 11.30am to 9pm
Call: 031 309 1568
Durban – The good news this week is that the president has re-opened the bar, and extended our bed times for a few hours – moves that should at least assist restaurants in being able to make some sort of living. While it might not quite be the all-thumping, all-pumping festivities of our pre-Covid times, it’s something to work with.
Many had simply closed for January, a traditionally quiet time for restaurants, waiting for the booze ban to be lifted. Others made do as best they could, relying on takeaways or early dinners, yet others got creative, offering an array of virgin cocktails, with varying degrees of purity. But the good news for the hospitality industry is that vaccines are here, even though it may take some months to get through the cholesterol clogged arteries of our health system. But it is a turning point. And an exciting one.
So eating out in January was a case of outside lunchtime venues where alcohol wasn’t a factor. One such spot is the famed halaal burger bar Smokin’ Joe’s on Durban’s Berea. Based in an old house, it also has an outdoor verandah and open deck offering views of the city. The decor is pretty basic, as is the service, but then that’s not why people come here.
It’s a simple menu –burgers, burgers or burgers – but the array of burger options is enticing, which is what one would expect from an establishment voted Eat Outs best burger in 2019.
And if burgers aren’t your thing, you can get KFC – that’s Korean fried chicken wings in tempura batter and a hot sauce, and fries can be loaded with a chilli cheese sauce or macon.
My friend went for the classic Smokin’ Joe’s (R72), which is two 65g beef patties with cheese, caramelised onions, roasted tomatoes, secret sauce (and yes it was a secret), jalapenos, Smokin’Joe’s sauce, and ketchup. He gave it the thumbs up, but then it's also his regular order on Uber Eats.
Other options might include the Royale with cheese, tomatoes, red onion, gherkins, secret sauce and ketchup, or even the Nachos Libre, cheese sauce, nachos, lettuce, peri-peri chicken strips, secret sauce, cheese, roasted tomatoes and sriracha. That’s a big burger, but even bigger is the Tripswitch with three 65g patties, roasted tomatoes, double cheese, lettuce and sriracha.
There’s also a selection of kid’s single burgers and any number of toppings you can add to an already stuffed burger bun.
I eyed one of their heavyweight burgers and settled on the Rocky Marciano (R105) complete with secret sauce, sriracha, jalapenos, roasted tomatoes, mature cheddar and mushroom sauce. I enjoyed every gobstopping mouthful immensely, with sauces running down to the elbow and bits falling out onto the plate, table or even one's lap. If there was a criticism it was that the skinny cut fries were very average. A second frying would certainly have helped, and brought them up to the standard of the burger.
The drinks menu is fairly basic, some common cool drinks, and coffees, although we did spot the shakes section and really enjoyed a Vietnamese coffee (R55), basically a coffee milkshake.
Food: 3 ½
Service: 2 ½
Where: 394 Esther Roberts Road, Glenwood
Open: Tuesday to Thursday 7.30am to 2pm, Friday 7.30am to 4pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am to 2pm
Call: 082 381 9737
Another spot where one can sit on the pavement and not have to worry about Uncle Cyril’s prohibition order is Parc Cafe in Glenwood. It’s something of a favourite whenever I’m on that side of town. Casual, fresh, the menu always changing and the food always interesting, the friendly waitress always recognising my occasional face.
Normally I get fixated on their Eggs not so Benedict, a delicious serving of soft poached eggs with crispy bacon on baby spinach and with a whole grain mustard hollandaise. It is something of a signature dish here. But I felt like something sweet and so tried the banana bread French toast with poached fruit, creme fraiche, fresh blueberries and macadamia nuts. It was delicious. I’m getting hungry describing it.
It was all washed down with an excellent coffee and a smile.
Ambience: 3 ½
The Independent on Saturday