Tag Archives: Mzoli’s

A Backpacker’s Guide to Mzoli’s Meat in Cape Town

mzoli's meat south africa cape town gugulethu


Imagine this.

You’re in a scant South African township in the far outskirts of Cape Town. You and a few of your friends go there to attend a braai (bbq) in the middle of the township. Only this braai isn’t your typical braai. There, you eat boxes and bowls full of deliciously grilled and sauced up meat with your bare hands while deep South African house and marimba music jam out in the background to mobs of vibrant dancing and celebrating. The libations and springbok shots are aplenty. The music is pumping. The meat is plentiful. And the guests there are a mix of locals and international tourists from all around the world, together under one large red tent simply having a good time.

It’s called Mzoli’s and it’s happening somewhere special in Cape Town. And after personally experiencing it on a handful of joccasions, I have outlined for you the best guide to experiencing this the proper Mzoli way.

What is Mzoli’s? 

Some pronounce it as em-zoh-leez, fewer as miz-oh-lies, but I, along with most other people pronounce it as miz-oh-leez. 

A man named Mzoli Ngcawuzele began the tradition more than a decade ago in the township of Gugulethu in Cape Town, South Africa. Basically, it’s a South African BBQ (braai), but turned up quite a few notches. Mzoli’s restaurant is all about the people, the rhythmic South African house music, the drinks, and most importantly the “Tshisa Nyama” (braai meat)! It has become so popular throughout the years that international tourists in addition to Capetonian locals began popping up year after year to be a part of this unique experience.

When To Go

First and foremost, plan on going only on a Sunday.That is the day when Mzoli’s is most alive. I went there on a Wednesday once and it was absolutely dead. Sunday is the day to attend, year round. It’s still very possible to go during the day during the week but then you’ll be missing out on the true experience.

Mzoli’s Butchery is open every day from 9am to 6pm. However, the tent stays open later.

I usually get there around noon in order to make sure I have a table ready for my friends and I before it becomes packed with guests. It’s first come, first serve here. I normally leave no later than 6pm. Since you are a tourist in the middle of a township, it’s the safest idea to leave before it gets dark.

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Getting There

Getting to Mzoli’s is simple. It’s about a 30-minute drive from Cape Town.Simply take a taxi or better yet, an Uber. Taxi drivers are used to taking passenger’s there, as well as Ubers. When using the Uber app, Mzoli’s in Gugulethu pops up as a drop-off location on the map. I personally wouldn’t drive myself there. There isn’t anywhere suitable to park. Plus, it can be a tad dangerous leaving your car parked in the middle of a township.

Leaving Mzoli’s is another story. If you have data service, requesting an Uber is simple, but without service, you must simply find a taxi service. Taxis are usually located nearby the premises. Like I mentioned earlier, its best to leave the area well before it gets dark. Another option is to ask your previous taxi or Uber driver to pick you up from there at a certain time. You’d be surprised how willing they are to help.

Cost and Fees

The cost to enter Mzoli’s is 20 Rand (as of 2017).

You pay this fee in the meat shop directly next door to the main tent. The cashier will give you a receipt. Take this receipt to the security guy at the front of the tent entrance and he will stamp your hand for admittance. Now, you are free to come and go in and outside the tent as much as you please. Just show your stamp upon re-entry each time.

Mainly mixed drinks and shooters are served at the two small bars located inside the tent, but it is allowed to bring your own drinks from outside. There is a small bottle shop about three minutes walk just a block or two from the main tent. Ask someone nearby for easy directions (I also provides a map below), but know that they may want to escort you there and then ask for a tip at the end. It’s safe just to go on your own. Just mind your belongings.

I typically go to the bottle shop and buy a couple bottles of red along with packs of beer to save some money.

Now you need some ice to keep your beer or even your wine cold. Next door to the meat butchery is a convenience store. There you can buy bags of ice, along with other snacks and goodies if you wish. Ask for an extra bag to store your ice or even better yet, you can ask for a cardboard box from the aforementioned bottle shop. You may even see some locals on the corner selling cardboard boxes if you wish. It may be worth it in order to store your ice and booze comfortably.

I found the maps on Google pertaining to Mzoli’s to be a tad outdated, so I customized it to make it current:

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1= Actual location of Mzoli’s

2=Convenience store

3=Local bottle shop to pick up cheap booze in bulk. You cannot actually enter the store. Instead, tell the woman inside at the counter what you would like and she will fetch it for you.

 

Note: In between 1 and 2 is another small bar where you could pick up beer and wine which is just a touch more expensive.

Right outside of the Mzoli’s tent is a stand selling modified glass bottles customized into cool drinking chalices. There you can buy a glass for your wine. The prices start at R10 and go slightly up from there.

mzoli's meat south africa cape town gugulethu

Ordering Your Meat

Sorry vegetarians, meat is the only thing served here and it takes about 40 minutes to an hour to grill, if not a little longer depending on how busy it is. I found it more enjoyable to wait a little into the day, maybe around 3pm before going inside the meat shop to order the meat. Try not to forget! Then in about an hour, go back into the kitchen with your ticket to retrieve your bowl of your delicious barbecued meat!

mzoli's meat south africa cape town gugulethu

Take it back to your spot in the tent and chow down! No utensils are necessary. Eat with your hands!

mzoli's meat south africa cape town gugulethu

You have a variety of meats to choose from: sausages, chicken, steaks, ribs, and lamb fillets. Just point, mix and match if you want, and the butchers will weigh everything on a scale for pricing.

mzoli's meat south africa cape town gugulethu

Once you receive your container of raw meats and sauce…

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…take it to the back of the kitchen and deliver it to the hard-working grill masters. They’ll keep your order separate from the rest and prepare it especially for you. Keep the ticket they give you.

mzoli's meat south africa cape town gugulethu

If you’re really hungry, order a little more than you think because drinking and dancing all day in the tent works up an appetite and there is nowhere else around to get more food. Plus, grilling will shrink the meat a bit. I always managed to order just enough or not quite enough to satisfy my craving. If you order too much, then other patrons you meet will be happy to share. I’m not exact on how much you pay per kilo, but for a box full of meat, we paid R350 to split between four of us hungry dudes and it was the perfect amount.

mzoli's meat south africa cape town gugulethu

More Useful Advice

The area on the patio (the narrow section to the back not covered by the tent) is a great place to bunker down when the weather is nice. There is a small under-utilized bar and a few tables to stand, drink, eat, and mingle with other patrons. Mind the sneaky local kids who sometimes put their grabby hands through the uncovered holes in the gate.

mzoli's meat south africa cape town gugulethu

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–Avoid the man with the drum. My last few visits, there was always a local man walking in the tent carrying a bongo-style drum. He would then go up to groups of patrons, introduce himself, and tell a story about how he helps the community and then urges you to beat his drums. Then at the very end, he drops the bomb and persistently asks for money. I would just politely say “no thanks” right from the beginning. He claims the money would be used for the community, but my gut tells me otherwise.

Mind your belongings. I’ve never felt to be in any danger while at Mzoli’s but pickpockets are a thing there. On one visit, my friend felt a hand reach into his pocket, grabbing his phone. It happened so quickly that he wasn’t able to catch the culprit. However, out of the several times I’ve been, that was the only incident that occurred within my group while I was there.

There is a restroom facility inside the main tent. Don’t expect much. It gets the job done.

–The woman who sold bottles of wine from her home on the corner of Mzoli’s a few years ago is gone. Sad.

Get there early and stay there all day! Mingle with the locals and the tourists alike and have a fantastic time being a part of such a cool South African experience you can only find in Cape Town.

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Mzoli’s is always evolving, so if there is any information I should add on here or modify, please do let me know!


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Disgustingly Delicious Freakin’ Meat!

I woke up to a knock at my door. It was Avele. I let him in, gave him my iPad, and then I went back to sleep for a bit. I think these kids like my gadgets and gizmos more than they like me! They can’t get enough of Subway Surfers haha! I finally had a morning of not doing anything so I wanted to take advantage of it. It was short lived though; once I’m up, I’m up. I went to shower and when I came out, Mawande and Toy Toy were there too. Soon some of the others came over. It was pouring cats and dogs outside by the way and these kids still woke up early to swing by. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have them stay long, as I had plans for the day. I was going to meet the other volunteers in Cape Town tonight. Whenever I tell the kids I have to leave or I won’t be here on a certain day, I feel a bit guilty. I know they look forward to hanging out and if I could do that with these kids everyday until I leave, that would be absolutely fine with me. But, there are a lot of things I still want to do as well before my time in South Africa is up and hitting up Long Street tonight in Cape Town is one of those things. I haven’t done that yet. Actually, I’ve never been too interested really. I hate wasting my money on junk when instead, I could be giving that money to a kid who is in dire need of school supplies.

I took the train (which took forever to arrive) to Cape Town from Stellenbosch. I jogged in the rain from the train station to a restaurant in the Waterfront. If I can avoid a taxi then I will! I usually never mind going by foot. I still have to work off all the crap (but delicious) food I’ve eaten this past week anyways! At the restaurant, I met up with Alissa, Nicole (Germany), and a friend of theirs from New Zealand. I was a good boy this time and forced myself to order a huge salad. The olympics were on the tv’s and it was the women’s speed walking event. I didn’t even know speed walking was a sport! The women looked silly, but let me tell you, they probably walk as fast as I can run! I told Alissa how everything is going great for me in Kayamandi. Great homestay, great school, awesome kids, no complaints. It’s not the same for the other volunteers. She said they have strict rules at their homestay and there is nothing to do in their town. Some of the U.K. girls even left South Africa early because it wasn’t what they expected. Yikes! I hate when volunteers do that. This is Africa people! Don’t come here expecting a five star hotel with a towel folded into a swan sitting on your bed. I say your trip is only as good as you make of it. I came here wanting to do anything and everything I possibly could. There’s still tons more I want to do here! Also I’m pretty lucky with my homestay, I have all of Stellenbosch to play in. 🙂

Later on after eating, we met up with Mohammed, who was still sore from hiking up Table Mountain yesterday. He vows to never hike a mountain again after that. Speaking of which, I was originally supposed to hike Table Mountain for a THIRD time today and then abseil down the cliff, but once again the rain ruined that idea. After hiking Kili, Table Mountain looked like a joke haha! So instead the plan tonight was for all of us to hop around Long Street. But…that didn’t happen either. At least for me. I took a brief power nap at the hostel I was in which turned into a longer nap which turned into me waking up the next morning. I vaguely remember them trying to wake me up but I was knocked out. Oh well.

I woke up early and took a train the next morning to Muizenberg from Cape Town. Around noon, Lucy, Jaime, Spencer, Larry, and I were going to Mzoli’s! Mzoli’s is a huge braii in the middle of some random township where they serve up nothing but meat. Tons and tons and tons of disgustingly, delicious freakin’ meat! Steak, lamb, sausage, chicken, kabobs, beef chunks, you name it, they have piles of it. My mouth was watering the whole morning just thinking about it! We took a large van and picked up other volunteers, who I never met, from the Palmer House. Mzoli’s is set up in a big red tent with tables and chairs everywhere. There is a DJ who plays an amusing assortment of beats for all of the people who attended. Lucy, Jaime, and I ordered up about R155 worth of meat. Three strip steaks, a loin of sausage that stretched for miles, and mounds of chicken, all smothered in sticky barbecue sauce :).

🙂
A whole lotta meat!
Can you cook these for me kind sir?
Ready to chow down!

No silverware necessary, everyone at Mzoli’s eats with their hands and fingers. Like true carnivores! No napkins either. I loved every moment of it. There was barbecue sauce all over my fingers and face. I felt like a kid again! The food was delicious. As for the drinks, Jaime and I went through three bottles of horrible tasting red wine. I’m still unfamiliar with South African red wine but the wine we picked was extremely dry and had a stingy after-taste. But no fear, this is when I introduced the other volunteers to a Kalimotxo. What is a kalimotxo you ask? It’s simply coke mixed with red wine. Sounds weird, but if your wine doesn’t taste all that great, put a little cola in it to make it all better. That’s what we did. Worked out great! We stayed there for hours and I got to know the new Palmer volunteers a little better too. Mzoli’s is authentic South Africa and I would love to come here one more time before I leave. The ride back to Muizenberg was interesting afterwards haha!

There was so much sausage leftover. I couldn’t do it.
Larry, Lucy, Me, Jamie, and Spencer.

When we arrived back to the Rec House, I met the rest of the volunteers who now resided there. I can’t even tell you any of their names, there was way too many of them for me to remember. They have all just come back from the Garden Route. We hung out at the house for the remainder of the night. I didn’t really want to spend the night because then I would be late for school in the morning, so I called up Abdullah again and he was happy to take me back to Kayamandi. I could guide him to Kayamandi but once I got there I wasn’t exactly sure how to get to Mama Zulu’s haha! It was dark and there aren’t any street signs. I’ve been here for about a week now and I still get lost in this rather large community every single time. It’s a giant maze to me! Usually when I’m walking around with the kids, they guide me to wherever I need to go, but I’m so interested in talking with them – that I don’t pay close attention to my surroundings. One day, when the sky isn’t dumping rain outside, I will have to take a stroll around to familiarize myself with my township. Abdullah had the patience of a saint and drove me around until I figured out where I was. He wouldn’t let me get out until I found Mama Zulu’s! Thanks Abdullah.

I have no idea what we are doing here, but this is on the way back to the Rec House.

My weekend was sweet! I felt like a kid again at Mzoli’s but now I must revert back to teacher mode. Tomorrow I would begin a new week at the school.