Laurie Levine at The Radium Beerhall

#190. Head for the bright spot on Louis Botha avenue where Manny has been holding fort through the neighbourhood’s best and worst of times at The Radium Beerhall. If memory serves me it was often with a baseball bat. Not in evidence on Saturday night but still there’s no doubt he has it stashed somewhere.

Twenty six years in business and Manny is unbowed, but has a lot more gray hair. [it’s in keeping with The Radium’s history — it’s been around since 1929 when it started its life as a tearoom that doubled up as a shebeen. To read more about its colourful history click here.]

Today The Radium Beerhall is a bar and restaurant. A real bar. Well-worn. The smell of beer on tap lingers. You walk in expecting Norm and Cliffie to be hugging their barstools, chomping on beer nuts.

Manny’s decorating flourishes are everywhere, in the framed newspaper posters that adorn the walls “Cosatu stands up for sex workers” – The Citizen and the most famous “The situation is vrot with danger” – The Star circa the 1980’s, and of course the chalkboard that reads: “People with feet on chairs will be bliksemed, overcharged, donnerd and thrown out. By order Manny.”

On Saturday night the place overflowed. Singer songwriter Laurie Levine was the live music act – who kept the sell-out crowd in check. Her music brings to mind early Nelly Furtado crossed with Norah Jones if they were nice folksy Jewish girls from Joburg. Quite beautiful and full of soul.

The food as always was good. Delicious grilled sardines, dressing-drenched Greek salad [just the way it should be served] and tasty espetada although ordering it always makes me feel showy as it arrives with great ceremony on a tall skewer hanging over a plate of chips and there’s that Excalibur-like moment when you need to draw the meat from the stick.

Beer and Jonny Walker Black flowed. And in this often fickle city where places and people come and go as fast as the President’s love interests, The Radium is a stalwart. Solid and predictable in the nicest possible way.

* For more on the SAMA nominated Laurie Levine go to her website. You can find the The Radium Beerhall at 282 Louis Botha Ave, Orange Grove. (011) 728-3866 or manny@theradium.co.za. It’s in an edgy neighbourhood so park close to the front door.

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