7580 Miramar Road, Miramar
(No longer in business.)
When you discuss getting dinner or lunch with friends, a litany of cultural choices are bound to come up: Thai? Mexican? Sushi? Nobody ever says, "South African?" Until recently, I barely knew it was an option. Last year, Cape Town Pub opened in Miramar — a slightly less onerous trip than flying to the other side of the planet to taste this stuff — so I took a chance.
Authenticity wasn't really going to be an issue for me, but walking into a spacious bar and restaurant decked out with typically African geometric patterns did feel like a departure. Never mind the fact you must walk by a weird zebra-headed mannequin standing sentry out front.
The sports bar features several large screens that show alien sports like cricket and rugby, as well as plenty of soccer, golf, and surfing competitions. Granted, this place does sit across the street from a US military base, so baseball, football and basketball aren't going to be out of the question.
Most of the plentiful space is given over to a large dining room with casual table service. I helped myself to a seat and started trying to understand the menu. The words peri peri were vaguely familiar, and there was actually a bottle of the hot sauce included in my table's condiment basket. Judging by the ingredients, it's not too different than Cholula or Tabasco — a mix of peppers, garlic and vinegar — skewing maybe a little less bitter than Tabasco.
There were a couple of sandwiches featuring the flavor and also a couple of curry-styled dishes and a variety of savory pies. I'd honestly like to give them all a shot at some point. But what kept drawing my eye was the boerewors pap and gravy. The boerewors (say it with a V sound) might as well translate as Boer wurst — in other words a sausage hailing from the Dutch and German forbearers of white Afrikaners.
My waiter described pap as being similar to polenta, though I found it to be more like dry grits (not that there's much difference between the two). The gravy in question does beg the polenta comparison, as it's the sort of gravy Tony Soprano might like, really more of an onion-heavy tomato sauce. The heap of pap smothered in sauce dominated my plate, and since I'm quite fond of ground corn, tomatoes and onions, it suited me. I did enjoy it a little better with heavy dousing of that peri peri (I'm not sure if that's proper, but nobody tried to stop me).
The house made boerewors sausage certainly held my interest. A little research tells me the coarseness of the pork and beef blend was intentional, as were the holiday spices I detected. It reminded me a bit of beef bratwurst, though seemed to derive more from a Northern European profile than German. Tasty, again, with peri peri (a reasonable mustard substitute).
I can't say the food was outrageously good — more along the lines of good pub fare. But considering the de facto exoticism of South African flavors, I'd say it's a worthy alternative to American or even British sports bar menus, which certainly seem boring by comparison.