Linden keeps surprising me. At first glance, it doesn’t look like much. It is almost overshadowed by the busy, business-like bustle of Beyers-Naudé and the artsy, student-like rhythm of Melville. Unlike Sandton, Greenside and Rosebank, you don’t expect to see crafty coffee shops or uniquely decorated restaurants.
Yet, this little spec on the map of Randburg is full of gems. You might know of Whippet, Hashi or Rembrandt Butcheries, but did you know of a tiny restaurant/bar called Choo Choo Junction. Towards the end of a row of stores and restaurants on 4th Avenue there is a little restaurant with a large steel sign. The Choo Choo Junction is always packed and this week, I went to check it out.
The restaurant is divided into two areas. One acts more as a bar than a restaurant, but also doubles up as the smoking section. There is a lovely couch area outside, ideal for a quick catch up with friends, but in this chilly Joburg winter I didn’t dare sit outside.
The Choo Choo Junction reminded me of the Steam Punk movement that combines old-timey fashions with metal and steel. Old French doors divide the restaurant and bar with mismatching light fixtures. The bar lights have top hats for covers. There is exposed metal over the counters and a large, brown map covering one wall. Even the waiters are dressed in 1800s English fashion complete with an under jacket and top hat.
It almost feels like a scene from the Sherlock Holms films with Robert Downey Jnr. While the décor was enough to get me hooked on the little restaurant, the food and drinks only exceeds expectation. Surely such a tiny restaurant can only serve mediocre food. Well, turns out, Choo Choo Junction serves some of the best food I’ve tasted … ever!
I had their French Blond Flatbread, a fancy way of saying pizza, complete with caramelised onion, Parma ham and aioli (fancy English for a mayo). Debonairs and Lucio’s Pizzeria (with its 30 years in the pizza making business) on Beyers is no longer my favourite pizza joints.
Choo Choo Junction also serves burgers, pastas and a delicious Belgium Beer and mussels dishm, which is basically mussels in a delicious sauce with chips. The stew-like dish might even have been better than the pizza, if I didn’t have such an obsession with an open grilled bread with tomato and cheese topping. (Hungry yet?)
What was really impressive about Choo Choo Junction was that even though they are a bit on the pricy side (if you live on a student-like budget), they don’t skimp on their portions. Decide you want the mussel stew? You will be stuffed with at least 15 mussels (although no one bothered to count).
Not in the mood to eat? You can still visit the Choo Choo Junction for some drinks. It offers various craft beers and a nice selection of cocktails. Not even to mention the shooter selection. When you are there, try the M&M shooter. It was definitely a favourite of mine.
The Choo Choo Junction also has happy hour every day of the week! From Monday to Thursday, it’s from 12pm to 3pm (which will surely make that afternoon meeting a little easier to bear even if you don’t remember any of it). Happy hour on Fridays to Sundays are from 2pm to 5pm. If you buy a cocktail during happy hour you get another for free!
Whether you want a nice lunch, dinner or drinks with your buddies, the Choo Choo Junction is definitely the place to be when you are in Randburg. It transports you to another era with spectacular food and very friendly (although somewhat busy) staff. This little restaurant should definitely be part of your weekend plans along with watching the Super Rugby finals!