Day 17: South Africa
I’m writing this on my birthday, I’m hung over from last night and I really want breakfast. So I’m sorry if your computer smells like last night’s bacon toffee and Tecate.
Yesterday I went to Springbok Bar and Grill with GirlfriendBites and her parents to get a taste of South African cuisine, and I must say that there is something strangely intriguing about it. It’s almost like a culinary-geographical science experiment: What happens if you take the cuisine of a country like England and set it down somewhere completely different like the bottom of Africa? The result is an interesting mix of foods and spices from basically all over the place. The epitome, to me, of modern South African food is a dish called “bunny chow”— Indian curry served in a bread bowl. You kind of have to love people that can make a dish that sounds like something someone thought of in a TGI Fridays test kitchen, then said, “Okay, maybe that doesn’t make any sense.”
To get our own taste of this cuisine, GirlfriendBites and I met up with her parents at Springbok Bar & Grill in Van Nuys, CA. I like that this place is essentially a sports bar that decided to bring in the food of a country and fit it into an American setting. While they’re a hot spot for rugby, they also seem to do good business on days like yesterday where the focus is on the Ryder Cup and college football. We arrived at the restaurant and found GFB’s parents already seated. Her father was born in South Africa, but left around the age of 18 and GFB couldn’t wait to hear his take on the restaurant. “So dad! Do you feel like you’re in South Africa?” “I feel like I’m in Van Nuys.”
Our waitress was South African too and started GFB and I off with two native alcoholic beverages: Savanna dry cider and Windhoek lager. A sip of those, by the way, is sounding pretty darn good right now. We ordered a sampler of beef and vegetable samosas as our appetizers, which were very crunch and tasty. Coincidentally, those sound satisfying right now too as I definitely think they could soak up some serious alcohol.
GFB’s mom ordered the chicken sosaties— skewered meat with an apricot marinade. I go with the boerewors, a homemade traditional all beef sausage, (they don’t serve bunny chow here anymore) and GFB gets the chicken sandwich “peri-peri” style (spicy and slightly sweet). Her dad gets a turkey burger, but with their house made “monkey gland sauce”. All the dishes were well prepared and fit the bill for sports bar food, but had a nice twist from the South African flavors. If this place was close to my house, it’s definitely somewhere I would go with friends to watch a basketball game.
We decided to go with dessert and ordered the mostly traditional “Auntie Spookie’s Pudding”, which sees the pudding filled with bananas, vanilla wafers and custard, all topped with cinnamon and whipped cream. Stepping away from tradition, we also ordered “Shaka Zulu’s Mud Hut”— a warm chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream and chocolate syrup.
Both were tasty, but I had a particular fondness for the pudding. In the end it was a nice meal with good flavors which were enjoyed by all. I only wish I’d eaten it— or really anything at all— later in the day so that I wouldn’t have drank so much alcohol on an empty stomach. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to curl up in a ball and celebrate my birthday.
Springbok Bar & Grill
16153 Victory Blvd
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Food Breakdown: 2 alcoholic beverages, 1 appetizer, 4 entrees
Price: Not totally sure. GFB’s parents picked up the tab and it feels rude to call right now and ask. Probably about $80.
Distance From My House: 15.8 miles