Free Food Diner & Take-Away is a small space just off Corlett Drive. It's got three spaces to sit, including a long, communal table and a small one that can comfortably sit two medium-to-large bums. Sit down, decipher the menu and prepare to get cosy.
Now, before we go any further, you should know that this is a vegan restaurant. Don't freak out. Are you still there?
Free food is wheat free, sugar free, dairy free, gluten free... And it's animal free, which is very important to owner Ariel Cohen. This kind of diet is what he attributes to his health.
Cohen has been vegan since 2000 and his food beliefs are ingrained in everything on the menu.
Food: Delicious, filling, guilt-free and good for you. Eat the chickpea burger, drink the hot chai. Indulge in the carrot cake. Feel no remorse.
Service: Unpretentious and spot-on. Owner Ariel Cohen is a one-man show. He makes the food and brings it to you himself.
Atmosphere: This place is tiny. You'll make new friends here, just be nice.
According to Cohen, veganism is in a good space right now because it's trending. It's hot, it's happening and it's necessary. If you're not ethically inclined, which a lot of people aren't, it speaks on a health level. You can't ignore the fact that if you do vegan properly, you'll be healthy and if you eat poorly, you simply won't.
"I think the majority of the people who come into the shop are not vegans. I'm grateful for that because the vegan population is next to nothing."
"People understand wheat and gluten free and sugar free, they know that those things are not good for you. The meat thing is a bit of a taboo because people love their meat", he says.
All noted and maybe even hard to come to terms with as a carnivore but that doesn't mean you should shy away from this place. If it doesn't convince you to change your diet, the worst that'll happen is you'll eat a delicious meal and carry on with your life.
Here's a short breakdown of some of the things you need to stuff your face with at Free Food:
Chocolate cake: It's made with coconut oil, chocolate (only the good kind, sans sugar and dariy, obvs), rice flour, filtered water and dates. That's it.
Hot chai: This stuff is real. It's made from scratch - don't expect any pre-packaged powdered crap. It's sweetened with dates and contains fresh ginger, cardamom cloves, cinnamon, white pepper, star anise, water and almond milk. Done.
Guys, they even make good-for-you pizza. I could go on for days but I'll stop now. Just try it.
What? Free Food.
Where? 5b Reithmere, Corlett Drive and Delta Street, Birnam, Johannesburg
Why? Because this is the best vegan food you'll ever taste. Actually, this could be the best food you'll ever taste, full stop.
Mon - Thu: 9:00 am - 5:30 pm
Fri: 9:00 am - 9:00 pm (book a space, it gets busy)
Sat: 8:30 am - 5:00 pm
Photographs by Anele Khoza