Late-night fast food has come a long way

Time of article published Oct 20, 2006

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There's a delightful advertisement on the radio which points out the potential for drunken munchies which often lead you to order things with chilli, pickles and extra cheese, or a garlic polony Gatsby.

The ad speaks true. When that ravenous six-beer, six-tequila hunger sets in, you will eat just about anything. There was a time when post-midnight feeding options were limited, but Cadiz in Loop Street was always reliably open.

We would emerge from the Playground and head there for slap-chip rolls with obscene amounts of salt and vinegar, to this day one of the most delicious (and cheapest) meals in my life.

These days the Cadiz take-away section is much smaller, with a popular adjoining tavern. You can grab a bite to eat from 7am until anytime between 1am and 3am. It's closed on Saturdays between 3pm and 7pm, and on Sundays.

A bit further down Loop Street, on the corner of Strand, is Steers. It's open daily from 9am, and closes at 1am on Mondays and Tuesdays, 2am on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 5am on Fridays and Saturdays, and midnight on Sundays.

I've had really good burgers and fries from there during daylight hours, but the 1am order was awful.

We ordered a large portion of chips (R15) to share. They were old, soggy, dark and greasy, and reheated to such a high temperature they fused with the polystyrene container. My sweet chilli and cheese burger (R18), on the other hand, was ice-cold. My partner had a veggie burger with hash brown (R18), and he commented that the Steers vegetarian burger is the best available. At least he was happy.

You can't go wrong at the Engen garage in Orange Street. They have just about everything you could want.

The beauty of the Engen is the mini Woolies, which is stocked with quality eats, from sushi to fresh salads.

There are pizzas for R25.95, and a Barcelos Portuguese chicken outlet, both operating 24 hours a day, plus a bakery churning out speciality breads.

We stopped in for cooldrinks and a delicious vegetable rooti (R17.50), and I left impressed that you can get yourself something wholesome at any time of the night.

In Long Street you have Fontana Famous Roastery, which specialises in chicken. Fontana is open until 1am on weeknights, and till 5am on Fridays and Saturdays.

One of my favourites is the stall further up Long Street, outside Zula Sound Bar. Mohamed, or as we like to call him, Schwarma Guy, appears as if from nowhere as dusk falls.

A large pita filled with two boeries (nothing like a little South African/Middle Eastern fusion), onions, sauces, shredded cabbage and tomato - and two slices of fried aubergine to top it off - is R18. It's roughly the size of a guinea pig and weighs even more. Not to be eaten between bars and clubs, it's very, very messy. The vegetarian falafel (R12, medium) is much tastier, and easier to eat. Mohamed stays until 5am Wednesdays through Saturdays.

The star of this survey was Saul's Saloon & Grill on the main road in Sea Point. Another legend, it's open 24 hours and delivers until 4am (tel 021 434 5404).

They're not that cheap, but the portions are gargantuan. We ordered a large portion of chips (R37.50) to share between three, and they were fat, hot and, best of all, fresh. Best I've had. My dagwood (toasted 220g patty, bacon, egg to order and cheese, R37.50) defeated me and had to be eaten in two sittings.

The regular burger (R21) with pineapple and cheese (R5 each) was the size of a sideplate (you get a bigger one too), while a toasted cheese and egg was R13.50 with extra tomato for just R1. With two strawberry milkshakes, that bill came to R147.50.

Late-night fast food has come a long, long way and there's really no more excuse for a dodgy pie. Go forth and eat well.

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