Absolute must-visit hidden gem coffee shops in Joburg

Posted by Anita Froneman on 14 December 2021

Text and images by Ryan Enslin 

Joburg has some fascinating secret coffee locations, hidden in plain sight around the inner city. Let me present to you a few coffee options for when you’re tired of the mega-brands, and looking for something a little different.

Picture: Pexels

Cramer’s Coffee

This legendary Joburg coffee destination has been a favourite of mine for quite some time. Cramer’s Coffee is sometimes a quick in-and-out coffee stop, other times a co-working space and on other occasions a place to meet friends on the way to some other exciting event in downtown Joburg. And I’m not the only Joburger who thinks so, judging by those lining up.

Cramer’s has been around since 2007 and is known for the personalities that greet and serve you once you enter their Marshalltown shop. The window seats are prized amongst regulars and a great location from which to people-watch and snap a few shots of Joburger’s going about their day.

The WIFI is good, the coffee always freshly roasted and the staff will bring a smile to your face no matter how your day seems to be panning out. Find them at 17 Harrison Street, Marshalltown.

Did you know that Marshalltown was named by the surveyor JWL Simmonds in 1887 after Henry Brown Marshall, while he was laying out the 553 plots that would make up the township of Marshalltown? Marshall was born at Glenhove in Scotland and invested in wagons and oxen to provide transport services between Joburg and the coast, due to the lack of a proper railway infrastructure at the time. Now you also know where the name for Simmonds Street comes from!

The Joburg Culinary and Pastry School

A short walk from Cramer’s (yes it is safe to walk along the streets of Joburg) and just off Commissioner Street you’ll find a hidden gem in the Joburg Culinary and Pastry School. Housed in what used to be the old Barclays Bank building, gastronomic wonders await you. The grand old banking hall lends itself well to the culinary arts practiced by more than 1 800 students who have passed through this space. The Conception Restaurant is just the place pop in Monday to Saturday and be tempted by the delights on offer. Plus the WIFI is good. I think I’ve found myself a new co-working space for one. A win all round, I’d say.

The restaurant has a great balcony on the first floor overlooking Harrison Street and is just the place for a good cup of coffee. Close your eyes as you take in the hustle and bustle of the city below and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you were coffee’ing in New York, Paris or even Tbilisi. Find them at 85 Commissioner Street, Marshalltown.

Did you know that Commissioner Street has been an important street in Joburg since the late 1880s? Originally laid out using ox wagons, it housed the first chemist, Golden Mortar Dispensary, and first bioscope, the Empire Palace of Varieties. In 1973 the Carlton Centre opened on Commissioner Street, at the time the tallest building in Africa. Today Commissioner Street hosts Joburg’s own Bus Rapid Transit system, the Rea Vaya. It’s a good thing, as I don’t think these lanes could accommodate oxen in 2021.

The Rand Club

Founded in 1887, the Rand Club has had a rather chequered past in the minds of most Joburger’s. Formerly a place of exclusion, the private members club was once only open to monied, white males professing the Christian faith and highly accomplished in the Queen’s English. Back in the day, I would certainly not have been admitted to the club.

But common sense has prevailed upon the club leadership and the Rand Club is now proudly a collective of members with shared values around community. Race, gender and creed no longer come into the selection and admission mix as the club actively pursues younger members from across our multi-faceted, rainbow nation.

A cup of coffee at the Rand Club Restaurant is the ideal way to take in the history and heritage of Joburg, on display all around. Recent renovations following a fire in June 2005 have seen the establishment of a gallery featuring emerging local artists, as the club continues to redefine itself and remain relevant.

The restaurant is located in the Main Bar and open to non-members, with the bar boasting the title of longest bar counter in Africa. This title used to be longest bar counter in the Southern Hemisphere, but the Aussies came along and mucked that up. The club also boasts the oldest working lift in Joburg, dating back to 1904. I took a ride in it. Find the Rand Club at 33 Loveday Street, Marshalltown.

Did you know that the first soccer match played in Joburg took place in Loveday Street? Or that the streets of Joburg were once paved using tailings, a stone-like waste by-product from gold mining. Due to the rudimentary processes of the time, gold particles were found in these tailings and were often stolen to extract it, once the know-how was available.

Charlie and Gerald’s Town Treasure

A short walk down Commissioner Street, a quick right on Rissik followed by a sho’t left on Fox Street will see you safely to Charlie and Gerald’s Town Treasure. Backing onto Ghandi Square and housed in the vault of what used to be the United Building Society (later amalgamated into current-day ABSA), this restaurant and bar is yet another hidden gem dotted around inner city Joburg.

Coffee is most definitely available in this rather unique spot which regularly plays host to Charlie and Gerald’s famous Storytelling Dinners, as they share about the city of migrants. These two Joburg legends also offer private dining experiences for 10 or more guests or an intimate dinner for two in a section of the old vault, styled as booths. Find Charlie and Gerald’s Town Treasure at 110 Fox Street, Joburg.

Did you know that the vault was forced to close in 1978 following an infamous robbery? Closer inspection of the vault door today will reveal the remnants of the damage done to it. Should you choose to dine inside the vault, you could be sitting amongst priceless gems and other fine pieces. Of the 1 000 safety deposit boxes, only 60 have been opened to date.

A big thank you to Kennedy Tembo from Micro-Adventure Tours who took me on a tour of his favourite coffee spots. Kennedy is a master storyteller with a passion for people who runs a great variety of tours, not just limited to Joburg. Explore the Cradle of Humankind by bicycle, Cathedral Peak in the Drakensburg by foot or discover the Jozi nightlife. The options are endless.

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