A large and international metropolis, you'll find a large variety of foods in Cape Town; so many actually, that it will be much harder to find “authentic” South African dishes than you may think. For those more interested in nightlife or adventure, this may be a minor issue; for those who fear that they'll have a lesser experience without a taste of Zulu, Xhosa, or other dishes representative of traditional culture, then you've come to the right cape-wearing, travel-savior of a website.
The two most prominent tourist areas in Cape Town are downtown and the V & A Waterfront. At the former, you will find a great range of foods and prices, making it a convenient district in which to chill out cafe-style or play high society for a while at more sophisticated establishments. The V & A Waterfront, the biggest tourist turnstile in Cape Town, will rarely be cheap, but great seafood and a lively atmosphere are the selling points here. Kloof Street in the CBD is superlative for cheap, delicious meals, whether you want breakfast all day (Arnold's), outdoor seating with views of Table Mountain (Van Hunk's), or fat and tasty burgers (Hudson's and Da Vinci's). Your Indian fix can be had at the Eastern Food Bazaar on Darling Street, where Naan and all-things-curry will put nary a dent in your wallet. The tapas at Fork Restaurant on Long Street are also excellent, while more quick bites can be had at numerous locations around downtown. Then again, since you'll inevitably find yourself at the V & A Waterfront, it's worth it to try some of the cuisine on tap. Quay Four and Willoughby & Co. are hot seafood spots, while Primi Piatti is good Italian and simpler deli fare can be had at Melissa's.
More traditional African cuisine can be had at various locations around the city, although you're best chance at authenticity is in leaving the city and joining a township tour. Then again, there are a few places you can go without daring more dangerous areas. Mzoli's in the Guguletu district (southeast of city center) is an enthusiastic consumption of grilled meats and personal alcohol stashes. In the city, there are a handful of traditional places that work hard to look as authentic as the food, including Gold Restaurant (just off of the V & A Waterfront), Mama Africa (a benchmark on the famous Long Street), and Africa Cafe (in the CBD). Cognito Restaurant in the suburbs of Stellenbosch is also great for authentic African cuisine.
As far as “authentic” food is concerned, the self-labeled “rainbow cuisine” of South Africa encompasses a lot of influences. Foods like Biltong (a type of meat jerky), Chutney (a sweet topping), Koeksisters (a fried pastry), Potjiekos (an Afrikaan stew), and Umngqusho (the Xhosa staple of dried corn and beans) can be found in Cape Town, while a local specialty called Gatsby is a must for hoagie/sub lovers (although the French fries that usually fill them will make the carb-conscious among us feel a bit faint).
For more information on what to eat and where while in Cape Town, consult our activity pages or talk with our community. Otherwise, start putting together your itinerary today.