Restaurant Review: Down South Food Bar serves super Southern ribs ‘n prawns


Talk of the town as far as new restaurants go is Giorgio Nava’s newly opened Down South Food Bar in the less savoury southern end of Long Street, near the Long Street Baths.  Compared to his 95 Keerom Street and Carne, you won’t find Nava at Down South, the restaurant being far more casual, more friendly, non-Italian, and offering a small selection of good food and beverages, at excellent value for money. 

We were told that the restaurant name comes from the restaurant concept of food that comes from the American south, such as gumbo, jambalaya, and cajun fish, something Morton’s did in the Waterfront when the shopping center first opened.  Down South does it in a far more casual way, bringing the simple home-style American deep south classics to Cape Town in a tasty and affordable way.  It is good as a relaxed place to have a beer, to watch a game with the boys, and to eat inexpensive and tasty food to soak up the drinks, so don’t expect ‘fine’ food here.       

Carl Penn is the chef at Down South, having worked with Nava as his right hand man at 95 Keerom Street and Carne.    The staff are very friendly and laid back. They wear black pants and T-shirts, strongly Southern Comfort branded. 

The restaurant has a narrow front to the street, but extends deep into the space.  Light wooden tables are functional, with brushed aluminium chairs and uncomfortable wooden benches providing seating.   One wall is wood panelled, another painted cream.   The dominant colour scheme is brown.  A bar counter has bar stools made in the same brushed aluminium design.  Free wi-fi is available.   An eclectic mix of music is played, including Coldplay and Moby.   The TV is set on sport.   Cutlery is cheap and cheerful, with paper serviettes.  

The Menu has some stars and typing errors, is made to look old Down South, and is divided into Starters, Ribs, Sandwiches and Prawns, to which is added Sides and Dessert.  Having only opened a few days ago, the advertised Daily Specials (Gumbo on Mondays, Jambalaya on Tuesdays, BBQ Brisket on Wednesdays, Best Burger on Thursdays, Cajun fish on Fridays and Fried Chicken on Saturdays) are not yet available, neither were the cheesy grits and coleslaw.   Starters cost between R40 – R45, and include prawn cocktail, thick cut bacon, caesar salad, buffalo chicken wings, and 8 of the most wonderful crispy batter fried prawn tails served with a delicious red pepper rémoulade.  Ribs are ‘dry spice rubbed and twice baked, basted in Down South BBQ sauce”, and the two racks were sweet and spicy, an extremely tender and generous portion at R 65, which includes one side dish (‘whipped potatoes’, home fries, chopped salad or corn bread).   “Po’ Boys” sandwiches (poor boy sandwich originating from Louisiana, usually a submarine sandwich made with meat or seafood) cost R50 – R55, served with pork, prawns or BBQ brisket, while the “Muffaletta” sandwich (originates from New Orleans) costs R45, and contains mortadella, salami, white cheddar, tomato and olive pickle.  Butterflied prawns, grilled with olive oil, cost R70, including one side dish too.   Desserts cost R35, and the choice is pie – apple, pecan or Mississippi – or baked cheesecake.

The winelist is uncomplicated and simple, the prices being unbelievably affordable, with three categories: Cheap (Buitenverwachting Buiten Blanc, Mooiplaas Chenin Blanc, Villiera Down to Earth Red, Wolftrap, Mount Rozier Red Blend, all at R25 a glass and R100 a bottle); Decent (Villiera Gewürztraminer, Hartenberg Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz, and Helderberg Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, all at about R 32 a glass/R120 per bottle); and Good (Fat Bastard Chardonnay, Iona Sophie Terblanche Sauvignon Blanc, Thelema Red and Villiera Merlot, at about R34 per glass/R135 per bottle); and a separate mention for Rosé (Kleine Zalze at R20/R80), as well as for “Bubbles” (Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel at R30/R125).   Beers cost R18 (Heineken), R17 (Amstel, Windhoek) and R21 for 500 ml of Jack Black Draught.  A cocktail list features eight options, all with American South names, most costing a very affordable R35.  The cocktail menu carries the branding of Southern Comfort, Jack Daniel’s and Frangelico.

One hopes that Nava does not overextend himself in his opening of new restaurants – he has also just opened the Mozarella Bar in lower Kloof Street (opposite the Vida e Caffê), and also plans to open a Down South Sandwich Bar.  

Down South Food Bar, 267 Long Street, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 422-1155. (website under construction).   Monday – Saturday, “10am – late”.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:   Twitter: @WhaleCottage

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9 replies on “Restaurant Review: Down South Food Bar serves super Southern ribs ‘n prawns”

  1. Prices seem very similar to the ‘new’ Cafe Paradiso, although the Kaapse Vonkel here is cheaper (R125 vs R155). The former seems to be at a very good price – hope it lasts! Interesting that the Sophie T in Twankey Bar is just R1 more a glass and R5 more per bottle than here.

  2. I knew it was too true to be good. The Kaapse Vonkel is actually R175 not R125 – yes I know the 7 looks a bit like a 2! So Cafe Paradiso scores on this wine too! They also score for the overall product – food and service, ambiance and surroundings.

    The prawns – agree gd value at R40 for 8 but they tasted like a commercial product – bought in frozen is my guess. The pepper remoulade lacked bite. We were initially given a plate of chicken wings instead of the prawns – someone elses order?

    The specials are now in operation. This being Thurs it was the beefburger. The specials are not priced but on request informed it was R55 and included a free glass of wine and chips. The wine was worth R25, making the burger just a modest R30 – which included tasty bacon and less tasty cheese. The patty itself was fine but not much else about the dish – but at R30 what can one say?
    Staff were friendly but seemed more interested in the TV than any of the customers and plates were cleared even when the rest of the table were eating.
    Perhaps I am too old for this part of Long Street? – the next table really enjoyed the spare ribs – but for me at this price point I would choose Cafe Paradiso every time!

  3. Chris I heard that Giorgio Nava is only a part owner and haS nothing
    to do with the concept and running of Down South, maybe its obvious….

    Great place.

  4. I’ll find out for you Rob. All communication I have seen as well as the restaurant staff told us that it belongs to Nava.

  5. I have just called Rob, and the Manager has told me that Giorgio Nava and Carl Penn are co-owners of Down South Food Bar.


  6. […] *   Down South Food Bar, 267 Long Street: Rib & Prawn Platter including a side and sauces R75.  Winter.  Tel (021) 422-1155. […]

  7. […] *   Down South Food Bar, 267 Long Street: Rib & Prawn Platter including a side and sauces R75.  Winter.  Tel (021) 422-1155. […]

  8. Hi Chris
    Do you know Down South has been bought and has moved to Rondebosch?

    Brand new, sounds really nice the new version

  9. Thank you for sharing Laura.

    The intended opening in Rondebosch of Down South is on our restaurant news blogpost. Has it opened already?


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