Jozi's Kitchen & Shebeen 4

South African soul food that warms the spirit

If you think the standard Mexican and Indian fare is as about exotic as food gets in the southern suburbs, then Jozi’s Kitchen and Shebeen in Parker is sure to expand your horizons.

Co-founded by South African brothers John and Angus Hicks, the year-old, order-at-the-counter restaurant specializes in the global cuisine that is their country’s hallmark.

“Just due to its location in the world, South African food has influences from cuisines and cultures all across the world—English, Dutch, Malaysian, Indian and French,” says Nadia Malik, who co-owns Jozi’s with her brother, Omar. 

“You’re going to find a very eclectic menu.” 

That means you’ll find everything from burgers to curry, Dutch-style farmers’ sausage to zingy chicken wings spiced with African Peri Peri pepper. 

The menu also includes salads, samosas, kebabs, desserts, and bobotie—South Africa’s version of shepherd’s pie.

“It’s a twist on familiar comfort foods,” Malik says. “Bobotie, for instance, is an improvement on shepherd’s pie. It has the egg custard on top instead of mashed potatoes, and the meat mixture is cooked with apricot jam, almonds and raisins,” she explains. 

“Most of the South African flavors tend to be sweeter.”

A recent Friday-night visit found a mix of curious families sampling unfamiliar cuisine and South African expatriates engaged in boisterous conversation over the foods of their homeland. Jozi’s weekend special of fall-off-the-bone, slow-braised lamb shank and a combo plate featuring curry, bobotie and sausage made a compelling case for this South African soul-food restaurant.

The restaurant has its roots in a shack that the Hicks brothers opened a few years ago at TheBigWonderful, a weekly outdoor food, beverage and crafts market in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood. That turned into a mobile eatery that garnered Westword’s Best Food Truck award in 2016, and eventually into the brick-and-mortar location in Parker.

Although Jozi’s may be more of an urban concept (the owners would eventually like to open locations in Boulder and downtown Denver), Malik is happy that the more adventurous eaters in Parker and Denver’s southern suburbs are finding their way to the restaurant.

“There has been a learning curve, but I think we’ve been really well-received in Parker, and the word is still slowly but surely spreading,” she says. “We’re still getting new people coming in almost daily saying, ‘We heard about this from a neighbor, and they say we just have to try it.’”