Time and time again I find myself trying a cuisine or a restaurant that I would not have tried prior to becoming a food blogger. Springbok on Main Street is the perfect example of this! A few years back I was invited to happy hour at Springbok. After a bit of googling, I discovered that Springbok is a restaurant/bar specializing in South African cuisine. Ignorant old me wanted no parts of that and declined the invitation. Fast forward to now and I am currently the events chair for the Houston Food Blogger Collective. Our group was invited to a tasting at Springbok and ironically I became the host at a restaurant I would not dare try a few years back. Despite my doubts, Springbok really impressed me!
Springbok is right off the Main street corridor which seems to be under a much needed revival. The location works for the standard after work happy hour and is right off the light rail, but if you intend to park like I did it can be a rough spot to visit. I circled the block a few times and ultimately ended up parking in a garage a few blocks away. I felt safe until I encountered a large stain in the stairwell that looked suspiciously like blood. It could have been red Kool-aid though, I am no expert.
Anywho, despite having some difficultly with parking, once I entered Springbok I immediately saw it’s appeal. Housed in an older building, Springbok benefits from the grand high ceilings, making the place feel big and important. Downstairs was pretty impressive, but it has nothing on the upstairs area! In the upstairs wing, there is one area that looks like a small lounge for live performances. On the other side there are large leather couches all around and of course televisions. I felt like I should be watching rugby or soccer in this section, not American football. As if this space was not enough, there is even an outdoor patio with views of downtown. I looked around and immediately thought of a million events that I could host in this space.
Each of us tried a springbok mule, similar to your traditional moscow mule with a few spins. There was quite a bit of ginger in it for my taste. I am not a big ginger fan though so do not trust my opinion on the drink if you are in fact a ginger fan! Others in the group seemed to really enjoy it though!
We started off the tasting with a demonstration from the chef of biltong otherwise known as South African beef jerky. The process of jerky has always amazed me. We just let raw meat DRY and eat it?? Of course the health department requires a bit more process in our restaurants, but the chef took great care to explain the traditional process and the restaurant’s current process. Afterwards, the waiters presented us with a platters of biltong to share. Let’s just say I did not want to share because it was so good! The pieces were thicker than the American jerky I have had, but it was a similar flavor.
Next, we sampled prawns and pap, a spin on shrimp and grits. Somehow I do not have a picture of this, sorry guys! This dish though is similar to what you would expect with the addition of what reminded me of picante sauce without the kick. Finally, we tried the bobotie fried bread with spiced beef and green salad. This was hands down my favorite dish of the night. The spiced beef was ground and placed on the bun in the same fashion as a sloppy joe without the sauce. What stood out to me though, was the fried bread. I did not get a chance to ask about this “frying” process and how I can replicate this at home, but goodness it was perfection!
On my way out, I ordered some mac and cheese to go. Apparently others in HFBC have noticed my mac and cheese obsession! I order it everywhere I go and let me tell you I am disappointed about 75% of the time yet for whatever reason I continue to order it. Thankfully, Springbok fell in the good category. Yes, folks their mac and cheese passed the BGWB test. There is a clear cheese sauce rather than cheese thrown on pasta, gross. Then they included several cheeses making for a stronger flavor. Then this mac and cheese touched an oven before being served. This is essential! Thumbs up Springbok!
I would pick Springbok as a great happy hour spot especially if you work downtown. The food and drinks are good and the venue is large and comfortable. I also think this would be a great spot to watch sports on the weekend if you are looking something different than your typical American sports bar.