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Cape Town - Gone are the days when street food was all grease and no glam. No longer is the lowly burger, boerie or hot dog fare predictable. Over many years Cape Town palates have become accustomed to all things gourmet, and traditional street food is no exception.
And the quirkier, the better.
Karin Volbrecht is the owner of Oh My Burger in Westlake. She was an interior designer, but had a great love for food and cooking. With the help of her children, Danielle and Brandon – advertising school students – they came up with the gourmet burger restaurant idea.
“We just love burgers and with the right quality ingredients you can create so many variations – anything your heart or stomach desires. We also wanted to give burgers a new image, showing you that they can be healthy, taste great and look amazing,” says Volbrecht.
Oh My Burger’s most popular offering is the Babe Burger. This is a beef patty topped with imported Emmentaler cheese, bacon and avocado. Number 2 is the free-range chicken breast topped with cranberry and brie cheese.
Just because it’s a burger place doesn’t mean it’s all about meat. The third best-seller is the home-made veggie burger. Volbrecht says all of the pairing is done with local craft beer, Lakeside London Ale. But the burgers also go down well with milkshakes.
With fad diets being all the rage, Volbrecht has adapted her quirky menu and has made provision for even the fussiest of eaters.
“We have added a Tim Noakes option called a Skinny Malinki, which is a huge seller,” she says. This burger, also known as the no-carb burger, has seen the eradication of the devilish bun, and instead rests on a bed of salad.
The opposite of this is the Fat Boy, a double patty layered with egg, bacon cheddar and chillies. It can be converted into a low-carb dish by dropping the bun and swopping the chips for salad.
She says the biggest lesson learnt since opening is to always listen to clients – they are the best critics.
And if the response is just right, they’ll keep coming back for more.
On a Roll
ON A Roll, the 1950s rock ‘n’ roll-themed hotdog diner, is the brainchild of celebrity chef Peter Ayub.
They are situated in Little Mowbray, and opened their doors in 2012. Hot dogs are one of Ayub’s favourite food.
“Although I love burgers, I felt that they have had enough exposure and the lowly hot dog needed its turn in the spotlight,” he says.
There are 23 gourmet dogs on the menu, mostly named after 1950s icons, music and movie themes. There is the Frank Sinatra, Supremes Trio and Marilyn Monroe. Then there are the quirky dishes: Rug-Muncher and Pavement Special.
The Marilyn Monroe is one of the best-sellers, along with Big Oink, and Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll.
The Marilyn Monroe is a chicken wiener, slow-roasted tomato, rocket, basil, Swiss Chard, with parmesan shavings and pesto. The Big Oink is a Debreziner sausage with chunky roasted butternut, crispy bacon and sage cream.
But it’s the Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll that’s the chef’s personal favourite. This creation is bratwurst sausage topped with lashings of smoked salmon, capers, crème fraîche and watercress.
All of these, says Ayub, are best paired with beer.
But he adds that one of the biggest challenges they had was the way people perceive hotdogs.
“When people think ‘hotdogs’ they think nasty pink viennas slathered with cheap tomato sauce. So changing their mindsets was tough,” says Ayub.
Another challenge was perfecting their rolls. They now make the white sesame crusted roll, and a rye version every day.
While they have had offers to franchise, Ayub says they do want to expand at a later stage, but do not want to become a conglomerate.
But for now, they’re focusing their attention on the winter menu. While the theme is American diner, local is still lekker. Afrikaans icon Bles Bridges makes his debut on the menu this winter. It’s a Free State wiener with monkey gland sauce and pumpkin fritters, served with a double brandy and Coke. It doesn’t get more South African than that.
The boerewors roll is perhaps one of the most loved street foods available whereever there is a stadium, pavement or open fire.
Gourmet Boerie, which specialises in hand-crafted artisanal boerewors rolls, has put this South African delight on the international map. At the end of May the Kloof Street establishment was named by British Airways as one of the top 10 must-visit restaurants for “burger” fans across the globe.
The airline’s recommendation was the Gorgonzola boerie: covered in creamy Gorgonzola sauce, served with poached pear, caramalised onions, pecan nuts and rocket.
The brainchild of friends Justin Stead, James Murray and Craig Bright, the restaurant opened its doors in November 2012.
“Boerie is probably one the most locally recognised types of food. If we could have opened a restaurant just selling old-school boerie rolls we would have, but that would have been impractical. Going gourmet allowed us to have different options and variations,” says Stead.
There are more than 150 different variations on the menu.
One of their best-sellers is the Hangover. Perfect for the morning after a big night out, this wors is topped with avocado, bacon, caramelised pineapple and cheese sauce.
Also popular is the Mexicano. It’s topped with tomato salsa, sour cream, guacamole, jalapeno, chilli, coriander and lettuce. As with most street food, it’s best paired with beer – craft or traditional.
Stead says the biggest lesson they have learnt is to never divert from the main offering, or core product. Doing so will take you in the wrong direction.
Esther Lewis, Cape Argus