Tally's Silver Spoon

Tally’s Silver Spoon (Rapid City, SD)

As mentioned in our previous review of Vertex Sky Bar, both before and after our Centennial Trail backpacking trip, we stayed in downtown Rapid City at the historic Hotel Alex Johnson. Looking at the various options for breakfast, a simple look out the hotel window showed us that there was a very popular breakfast spot right across the street: Tally’s Silver Spoon. Even at 8am they had a healthy backlog of diners waiting out front for breakfast, so we decided to check it out.

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Vertex Sky Bar

Vertex Sky Bar (Rapid City, SD)

After a week of recovery back in New Hampshire, we found ourselves quickly heading out again to Rapid City, SD, to rendezvous with friends from Fitpacking for a hike along South Dakota’s Centennial trail. We were hiking the northern third of the trail, from Nemo SD to Bear Butte. Before we rendezvoused with our hiker colleagues, we spent a night at the historic Hotel Alex Johnson downtown. Built by its namesake Alex Johnson, a railroad baron with the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, it’s an interesting old grand hotel, and supposedly haunted by multiple ghosts. While we didn’t encounter any such hauntings on either of our visits (we stayed there after our trip as well), staying at the hotel has another nice perk: access to the Vertex Sky Bar, their rooftop bar.

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Airport Craft Brewers

Airport Craft Brewers (JNB Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa)

One of the downsides of our frequent travel at Offbeat Eats is that international travel means spending a lot of time in airports, which often aren’t exactly focal points of good cuisine, and usually “expensive” and “mediocre” are the order of the day. But every once in a while I find a refreshing exception to this, and that was definitely the case for our return trip through OR Tambo International Airport on our return to the United States. After checking in to our flight, we had a few hours to kill, and wandered down to the south end of Terminal B, where we found Airport Craft Brewers.

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Marble (Rosebank, Johannesburg, South Africa)

Both on our outbound trip and returning trip, we tried to get reservations at Marble, which is considered one of the best restaurants in South Africa, and were not able to secure at table. On our last evening in South Africa, however, we got lucky and I managed to secure a 7pm reservation, so we found ourselves heading out to the Keyes Art Mile, a part of Johannesburg’s Rosebank neighbor known as a newer restaurant and gallery district.

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Hogshead (Illovo, Johannesburg, South Africa)

Soon enough, we found ourselves heading back to the King Shaka International Airport in Durban, and onward to Johannesburg, back at the very pleasant Hyde Park Guest House. After getting settled in and unpacked, and relaxing with a nice glass of Pinotage, we decided it would be good to head out for a nice light supper. Looking at the various options walking distance from the guest house, including quite a cluster of restaurants on Oxford Road in Illovo (side note: our tendency to actually walk to places vs. taking an Uber seemed to shock our hosts a bit; while Johannesburg is not exactly a low-crime area, Hyde Park is rather secure, well-lit, and well-policed), we decided to check out Hogshead, a local beer and burger bar.

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The Bovine Head Market (Durban, South Africa)

When we first arrived in Durban, we took the coastal Highway 2 up the Eastern, past Richards Bay. As we passed through the minor town of KwaMsane around 4pm local time, we noticed a stretch of highway where several dozen groups had all set large cooking fires with metal pots, and were preparing meals, many of them preparing to sell them roadside. The food wasn’t ready yet, and we were actually in a bit of a hurry to get to the Zulu Nyala lodge, but I was curious. Several days later, talking to our Zulu Nyala guide, he told me that what they were preparing was a local dish, “Inyama yenhloko”, which means, literally, “head meat”, and it’s a traditional Zulu dish, especially for special occasions and for the head of the family, although it’s gotten broader acceptance more recently. The process is simple: fresh bovine heads are collected, they skin the heads, cleave the meat off the skulls (usually with an axe), and boil the meat in large pot of salted water, along with some cornmeal bread. It’s then all chopped up, lightly seasoned with a seasoning mix, and served on a wooden board with salt, pepper, and chiles. I was intrigued, but our travel plans didn’t have us driving down any Zulu-region highways at dinner time. But our last full day in Durban had us taking a Cultural Walking Tour of Durban run by a local named Johnny, who showed us many of the various cultural aspects, and sometimes the grittiness, of Durban. It was a very insightful tour, and after seeing the Durban skyline, and visiting several of the area markets, he took us to a very special niche market right outside the Early Morning Market: the very aptly-named Bovine Head Market.

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The Cargo Hold (Durban, South Africa)

Our first full day in Durban was taken up doing some light sightseeing and getting a feel for the area, visiting The Kwazulu Natal Society of the Arts, the Phansi African Art Centre, and spending a nice early afternoon wandering about the expansive Durban Botanical Gardens, after a nice stroll along the Golden Mile beach (which was pleasant, but swimming was not recommended due to elevated bacteria levels from the recent major flooding), we decided to check out one of Durban’s more unique restaurants, Cargo Hold.

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Billal Cuisine (Durban, South Africa)

The next stop on our trip to South Africa was a few days spent in Durban to explore the beachfront and explore the area a bit before heading back to Johannesburg. Durban has an interesting history; it’s the third largest city in South Africa, and one of Africa’s largest ports. Now just part of the larger eThekwini municipality, it is a highly ethnically diverse city, with large Zulu, White, and Asian populations, and the metro area hosts one of the largest Indian populations outside of India. From that history, Durban has developed it’s own variety of Indian food, with one particular dish that’s become well-known: Bunny Chow. We first got turned on to bunny chow from UK chef Ottam Yottolenghi, when he did a Guardian article on the dish. It’s one of those unique fusion dishes, with a loaf of bread (usually white sandwich bread, and sold by the fraction of a load, so a “quarter Bunny” is a 1/4 of a standard loaf), hollowed out and filled with a curry of your choice. The local curries tend on the spicy-but-not-overly hot side, and it’s traditional to eat it by tearing off break and sopping up the bits of curry. There are many, many places to get Bunny Chow in the Durban area (heck, it’s pretty popular across South Africa, I saw it several times in Johannesburg, too), but they were concentrated in the suburbs. Downtown, there’s a number of well-known cafes that serve up Bunny Chow, but one of the better-reviewed ones was Billal Cuisine out by the beachfront.

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The Ocean Grill (St Lucia, kwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)

A week at Zulu Nyala Heritage Safari Lodge passed surprisingly quickly, and we soon found ourselves packed up after one last morning game drive, ready for the drive back to Durban, where we were spending a few days. Since we had most of the day available, we decided to take a bit of time getting to Durban, checking out the nearby town of St Lucia. St Lucia sits at the mouth of Big Five False Bay, and is known for both iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the large bloats of hippos in the river that occasionally ramble through the town. We weren’t around during ideal hippo viewing times, but did have a pleasant visit to Jabula Beach and Mission Rocks in the Wetland Park, and decided it was prudent to have a late lunch before the final drive down to Durban. Looking around the downtown area of St Lucia, we settled on The Ocean Grill

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Mpunyane Restaurant (Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park, kwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)

As I mentioned in the previous review of Ngweni Railroad Brewery, we did several side excursions while staying at Zulu Nyala, and one of the more enjoyable day trips was to the nearby Hluhluwe Imfolozi Reserve. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa, having been established in 1895 from the former hunting reserve of King Shaka as a preservation reserve for the Southern White Rhino, and it’s a very nice reserve; in addition to having populations of all of the Big Five game animals, it also has quite a bit of scenery as well, with several high ridgelines and hilltops overlooking the Imfolozi and Hluhluwe river valleys. After a splendid morning observing sunrise, lions, and rhinos, our driver took us up to the Hilltop Camp, where we had breakfast at the Mpunyane Restaurant overlooking the valley.

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