This Old-School Barbecue Joint Is Known for Its Steaks... and Whip-Cracking

This Old-School Barbecue Joint Is Known for Its Steaks... and Whip-Cracking

Why you should care

Because it’s a whip-cracking — and … hugging — good time.

The dessert menu at Cape Town’s Bar-B-Que Steakhouse is basic, but if you’re not feeling like something sweet — and if you ask nicely — chef and owner Marius Strauss will crack his kudu-and-bushbuck hide bullwhip for you. His copper bangles glinting in the headlights on always-busy Voortrekker Road, he’ll deftly maneuver the 10-foot strip of hide, sending earsplitting cracks into the grimy night sky. If you’re really lucky, he may even let you have a go.

Wedged between a bridal hire spot and a lawnmower hospital, Bar-B-Que Steakhouse has been serving up steaks, ribs and schnitzels since 1969. The 70-seat restaurant has a reputation for massive portions (“I always give big people a little extra,” says Strauss.) and even huger welcomes — Strauss makes a point of sitting down at every table for a chat, and he talks of “friends” not “customers.”

That said, its dimly lit, wood-paneled interior is a monument to a chapter of South African history that many are trying to forget. The much-maligned old South African flag near the entrance gets quite a lot of flak on TripAdvisor, but Strauss says it “means fokol” to him and should be seen in context. The restaurant is chock-a-block with historical artifacts from the Great Trek, the Boer War and even Robben Island — most of which were there already when Strauss bought the place — in 1989!

The ladies’ ribs ($10), are big enough to down most rugby forwards.

Not that Bar-B-Que’s 2,000 monthly covers are complaining. The consistent quality of the food (Strauss grills every single dish himself — apart from the salads, which he says are “not food” — and boasts that his chip oil is “the cleanest in Cape Town”) coupled with his legendary hospitality means that dinner bookings are essential. Dining at the Bar-B-Que “has become a bit of a ritual for me,” says longtime regular Antony Schneider, who explains that it’s about a lot more than just the food: “It’s great to go somewhere with no pretense.”

The menu — almost as long as the bullwhip — includes quite a bit of seafood (calamari, fish, mussels) and a couple of veggie options (crumbed mushrooms, those salads), but most folks come here for the meat — and the cloyingly good sauces that smother it. The ladies’ ribs ($10) are big enough to down most rugby forwards, and the monkey gland rump ($13 for at least 300 grams of dry-aged SA beef smothered in a tangy tomato and chutney sauce) is a true South African classic. All meals come with fries, rice or a baked potato — and a mandatory dollop of sweet pumpkin. And a half-liter carafe of the surprisingly smooth house red will set you back only $4.50.

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Marius Strauss cracking his whip.

Source DNA Photography

Schnitzel lovers can choose from an array of toppings ranging from simple to audacious. The sliced banana, ham and hot cheddar cheese on the Copacabana are probably a bridge too far for most. But that’s precisely the point — dining at the Bar-B-Que Steakhouse is all about abandoning your comfort zone. As Strauss always says, “On a bad gravel road, never ever swerve for a rabbit.”

Go There: Bar-B-Que Steakhouse

  • Location: The Bar-B-Que Steakhouse is in a grimy but perfectly safe part of town about 10 miles from the city center. An Uber will set you back around $17. Map.
  • Hours: Open for lunch Tuesdays to Fridays (12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.) and dinner Tuesdays to Saturdays (6:15 p.m. until late).
  • Pro Tip: The Namaqualand Special ($23) is advertised as “1 kilogram rump for the very hungry,” but it usually weighs closer to 1.3 kilograms, according to Strauss.

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