Road Trip: 3 Great roadhouses worth visiting

Road Trip: 3 Great roadhouses worth visiting
 

The roadhouse is dead. A construct of decades past, this purveyor of fast street food has been tossed in the same great cultural landfill as the compact disc, pager and answering machine. Or has it? Just because the Doll House is days away from demolition doesn’t mean these once-proud culinary institutions are not thriving in other parts of town (or the wrong side of the tracks, depending on how you look at it). Prime your tank for a drive out Edenvale way and you’ll find three roadhouses worth visiting.

Starters at The Applebite Roadhouse (95 Van Riebeeck Ave, Edenvale)

Situated slap bang in the middle of The Vale, the innocuous-looking Applebite Roadhouse is one of those places you’d spend a lifetime driving by but never actually visit. Big mistake. It might not look like much from the street, but its narrow car park and hole-in-wall-esque kitchen harbour the stuff of fast-food fantasy. How do I know?

Well, the easiest way to judge whether or not a roadhouse is worth its clip-on window plates is by tasting the chips. And these, my friend, are damn good chips. Freshly cut. New oil. Crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside: the way potatoes should be served. In fact this is way God would serve them. With fries this fine I’m kind of sad I didn’t stay for a burger. Or a schwarma. Because I’m sure they’re similarly up to scratch.

Entrées at Kota Joe (13 Van Riebeeck Ave, Edenvale)

A quick blast up the main drag you’ll find Kota Joe: a more visible locale that attracts those with a penchant for modified cars and exhibitionism. The car park is alive with the thud of dance music as eager waitresses charge up down the service lanes with menus and buy-it-you’ll-like-it smiles. “Screw the diet,” she exclaims as I order a classic beef burger: the timeless roadhouse staple. It arrives and after the first bite, well, I’m kind of disappointed. It looks good enough, presentation is top notch, but the patty is bland and flavour is lacking. It conjures up memories of tuck-shop burgers of school days past.

Dessert at The Fire Place Roadhouse (13 Terrace Road, Edenvale)

No automotive dining experience is complete until you’ve smashed a super decadent, super unhealthy dessert in your face. Kota Joe has an impressive line-up of sweets but I decide to see what the nondescript (hoot and you’ll miss it) Fire Place Roadhouse has on offer. I settle on an Oreo Cup, basically a plastic container’s worth of vanilla ice cream topped with Oreo biscuits and chocolate sauce. It’s satisfaction in its most base form: a sugary escape that seems in keeping with the blue-collar, working man vibes of the John Mellancamp song now blasting through my car’s speakers. – Thomas Falkiner

Roadhouse Rambler: 2017 MINI Cooper Countryman

Helping me on my fast-food road fix was the new Mini Cooper Countryman: a R428 500 SUV looking to challenge the likes of Audi, Mercedes and Nissan.

What is it?

What you’re looking at is the second generation of the Mini SUV car guys like you and me love to hate: simply because it’s the furthest thing away from the original car’s design philosophy. Be this as it may, the Countryman sells and sells well.

What’s different about it?

Built on the BMW X1/2 Series Active Tourer platform the new Countryman is both wider and longer than its predecessor, which means that there’s now extra people and luggage space on tap. It also feels more grown up and a lot more premium. The Cooper model now sports the firm’s three-cylinder turbo engine.

Is it good to drive?

The bigger the Mini gets the less exciting it is to drive, especially when compared to the smaller hatchback models. Although having said this, the Countryman does feel a lot shaper and more dynamic to pilot than its other SUV rivals from the likes of Renault, Nissan and Volvo. The driving position is excellent and the 100kW three-pot turbo motor offers a fine blend of performance and frugality. It’s definitely the one to go for in my opinion.

Is it comfortable?

Yes. The last Countryman was hard as nails: a sporty hatch trying to be a SUV. This time around BMW has injected this lifestyle vehicle with the compliancy it’s always needed to negotiate the day-to-day drudgery of our rough, everyday mean streets. Refinement is impressive and the seats are some of the best in the business, blending support with the suppleness needed for longer excursions.

Does it fit in at a roadhouse?

It does, actually. With its retro-modern sheet metal, go-faster stripes and boxy silhouette the Countryman was perfectly at home in the service lanes of our chosen diners – especially in Chestnut paint. The straight-edged windows seem tailor-made for those hanging clip-on window-plates while the front cupholders will comfortably accommodate an Oreo Cup. Just be sure to spec the optional (R18 500) ICE pack that throws in the must-have Harman/Kardon sound system. – Thomas Falkiner

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