EAT: BEEFCAKES

The hottest new gay-owned eatery in Cape Town’s pink village promises camp good times, great burgers and hunky staff. Aptly named Beefcakes – a play on the 1950’s ‘beefcake’ muscle magazines – this trendy burger joint has become a popular gay hangout and meeting place for locals.

What strikes you immediately about the restaurant – billed as “the beefiest Burger Bar in Town” (with a touch of madness and Miami chic – is the over the top décor; complete with flamingo cut-outs and a pink piano in the corner. My first visit was not the most promising of introductions. But then, perhaps Monday lunchtime was not the wisest time to take on the Beefcakes experience.

We were greeted by a largely empty venue and indifferent staff and presented with a menu emblazoned with retro ‘muscle mary’ pictures. The focus is very much on easy, American diner style food: variations of the burger; nachos; milkshakes and floats. If you’re not keen on meat between two buns, then you could try the small selection of salads, wraps or sandwiches on offer.

I was, however, firmly set on a beefy experience. But, just as I was deciding which burger to choose (including an option with cranberry jelly and rocket and another with salsa, guacamole, grated cheddar and sour cream), I was informed by the waitress that they were out of beef patties. I did a double take. Out of beef patties? Yes, apparently the beef had not been delivered. Oh, and they were also out of chips…

I should have left then, but I compromised and instead opted for a chicken version of the Buffy the Hamburger Slayer (R69). Dubbed “the full monty”, it was well-presented and came topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, caramelised onion, avocado and mushroom sauce. Instead of chips, I got spicy wedges. My lunch-mate, a vegetarian, selected, unsurprisingly, The Veggie Burger – which he described as acceptable.

I was not impressed with my overly dry flame-grilled chicken breast and the spicy wedges were mushy and tasteless. I could have instead gone for a lamb burger (topped with home-made tsatziki) or the lean ostrich burger (served with a wild berry and apple schnapps sauce) and perhaps those would have been better choices. Either way I left largely disappointed.

A couple of days later I was contacted by Beefcakes owner Grant Eglin. He had heard from a mutual acquaintance about what happened and apologised profusely, explaining that the weekend before the Monday in question had been their busiest ever. He insisted that I had not had the true Beefcakes experience and invited me to return for dinner. Capetonian friends who are ardent Beefcakes fans also urged me to go back, citing their fun and memorable nights at the restaurant.

And so it was that we returned to Beefcakes – this time after dark. And I’m happy to report that it was worth the revisit. While Grant was admittedly expecting me this time, the restaurant seemed like an entirely different place. There was a great buzz among the busy tables, occupied by largely gay clientele, and the staff seemed sprightly and attentive – not just to me but to other patrons.

It was clear that the vibe of Beefcakes is one of its most appealing features; a fun, relaxed and gay-friendly environment with a tongue-in-cheek edge. It’s a place to meet, eat and greet. Grant insisted I try the Macho Nachos (R35), which consisted of a plate heaving with tortilla chips smothered in melted cheddar, guacamole, salsa and sour. Totally dripping with grease and totally moreish. The portion was a bit much for a starter and could easily be shared.

I also got another chance to test the Beefcakes burger – once again in the Buffy the Hamburger Slayer incarnation – but this time with a large and succulent home-made-style beef patty. There’s only so much one can do with a burger, but here all the rights things really had been done. It was one of the better burger experiences I’ve had in a while.

Instead of a surly waitress, we were treated to one of the tasty waiters on hand (I suspect Grant sent the night’s most appealing specimen our way) who was very helpful and friendly. I noticed that towards the end of our meal the waiters were placing pink cowboy hats and feather boas on some of the patrons. Although we couldn’t stay much longer I was reliably informed that it is not uncommon for someone to start tickling the ivories and to begin to belt out a show tune or two as the night progresses.

Beefcakes has quite a full itinerary of events during the week, including a drag show on Thursday nights (booking essential) and on Fridays and Saturdays – when things really get into full swing – there are after-dinner drinks at the stylish, hidden-away downstairs bar, Smoke & Mirrors; a spot that Grant says he has big plans for.

If it’s stuffy fine dining you’re after, then give Beefcakes a miss. If it’s a relaxed, stylish and potentially reckless night out with pals and your favourite fag-hags, complete with waist-enlarging (but tasty) comfort food and great cocktails, then you could do much worse than Beefcakes. It’s a very welcome addition to Cape Town’s gay nightlife and easy-dining scene.

Beefcakes is located at 40 Somerset Road, Greenpoint, Cape Town (opposite Boardmans and KFC, and on the block next to the gay clubs). Call 021 425 9019 to make a reservation (especially on weekends and in season). Visit the website at www.beefcakes.co.za.

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