I’ve spent the past week planning half a dozen local travel trips (and trying to sort out issues with the backend of the Ask Katie blog). As you can imagine, it’s been a mix of highs and lows.
And then I decided to treat myself to a walk down memory lane in Clarens. This sweet little Free State town (which should be on everyone’s itinerary) doesn’t actually have a Memory Lane, but since there’s only a dozen streets, there’s no shame in that. There is, of course, a Main Street, where you’ll find a whole heap of restaurants and pubs. And, if you know Clarens at all, you know Main Street well.
I have no problem admitting that I love IPAs. Like none. Usually, I won’t even order a beer unless it’s an IPA. At the very least, it’s gotta be a solid craft beer.
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Clarens Brewery was first up on my itinerary for our weekend away. And the first visit to this vibey brewpub wasn’t the last; we circled around back to it a few times.
You can chalk that up to their IPA. It tastes like Cleveland at Christmas. And, that’s a good thing – for me at any rate. I realise a snowy rustbelt city isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s home.
Truthfully, I could’ve spent more time drinking my weight in the delicious taste of a Cleveland Christmas, but the menu offers zero in the way of vegan food. Non-vegans looking for some German-styled brewpub food will do well here. But, I eventually needed something to soak up the alcohol in my system.
If you’re planning to head to Clarens Brewery (and I strongly suggest it, at least once over the course of the weekend), keep in mind that they’re not open into the wee hours; you’ll need to move it up on your itinerary.
It’s also pub-style, even though it resembles a small beachside café; so it’s first-come-first-to-find-a-bench. That means that you’ll want to hustle for a spot as soon as you see all the 4x4s with GP plates pulling into town.
Of course, you can just keep circling round to the Clarens Brewery; it’s across from the square, right in the centre of town.
Vito's Restaurant & Pub
One of the best finds in Clarens was definitely Vito’s Restaurant and Pub. When you can find an online menu for a small-town restaurant that appears to satisfy the cravings of hungry vegans with more than chips and cheeseless pizzas, you know you’re in a good place.
These guys were even kind enough to respond to a Facebook message with questions about their menu.
Obviously, this was going to sit in top spot for vegan-friendly dining in Clarens. We passed it early on (which explains all the bright afternoon lighting), and we returned to Vito’s as soon as I couldn’t drink any more craft beers.
And, I wasn’t disappointed. My pasta was incredible; the portions were huge. And, no one gave me any grief about the whole vegan thing. You’ve gotta love that.
Vito's Restaurant & Pub: permanently closed
Sadly, a few months of lockdown in South Africa forced Vito’s Restaurant & Pub into closure after 12 years as a Clarens mainstay. According to their Facebook page, you can still some of their tasty meals at Clarens Koöperasie. Definitely check it out; I will.
After an evening of eating and drinking well, we headed out for breakfast at The Posthouse. This is definitely one of the most popular places in Clarens for lunch and dinner, but we had the spot almost to ourselves during breakfast.
With a warm fire views to the patio outdoors, I just can’t imagine why or how. But, the blankets on the benches outdoors should give you a clue to the season. And, anyone planning to stop here for a later meal probably wouldn’t need to rush out for breakfast.
On the other hand, this vegan immediately spotted an à la carte breakfast menu which immediately catapulted this restaurant into top morning spot.
No, you’re not going to get vegan croissants or a tofu scramble. But, you can score some beans and mushrooms to go with the toast and jam that vegans often find themselves confronted with.
I could show you pictures, but beans and mushrooms aren’t the most interesting subjects.
On the other hand, the old telephones and historical photographs dotting the venue are certainly worth a look.
And, if you’re a vegetarian with a penchant for pastries and soups, you can see that this is definitely the spot for you.
Connect with The Post House
- Daily: 6-22 (double check hours if you’re travelling during lockdown)
The biggest find of our weekend away in Clarens was definitely Rustic Vine. It wasn’t even on my radar, because I couldn’t find a menu online. But, my eyes quickly drew in the word vegan as soon as we passed the spot. That and glühwein – despite its random spelling, just popped out at me. But, the place is on Main Street, so it would’ve been impossible to miss.
At the time, it wasn’t listed on Happy Cow, which is why I didn’t know to pull in. Don’t worry, I’ve fixed that.
Certain words pulled me in, to be sure, but it was tough to pass this place without wanting to grab a seat.
Though it doesn’t have the largest patio, it’s definitely cosy – and sitting in front of an art gallery (which you’ll have a chance to walk through as the wine hits your bladder).
Somehow this place is both quintessential Clarens – and totally out of place. Either way, the service and the food were excellent. If it were closer to home, I’d probably find myself sitting here frequently.
And, in case you’re wondering, the very first item on the menu is a vegan platter. The whole menu is tapas, with plenty of cheese options, so if you’re vegetarian (and not more vegan as I am), you’re going to be very happy at Rustic Vine.
In short, this is definitely a winner for vegan snacks in Clarens. And, it’s a nice, tucked away patio to enjoy with a solid wine list – if you’re not on a pub crawl.
Connect with Rustic Vine
- Sun-Tue: 11-17 | Wed-Sat: 11-21
And then we were drawn in by the live music at Clarens Koöperasie and grabbed a seat to enjoy a few beers and classic rock. How could I not?
At the time, we didn’t need to eat another bite, so I didn’t spend a lot of time with the menu. But, based on the talent over at Vito’s, it’s definitely a promising spot for the future. Right now, I’m still in – even if it’s just for the live music and beers.
Actually, I don’t know if there’s a better way to experience sundowners in Clarens – and, I’m jonesing to return in a hurry.
Connect with Clarens Koöperasie
- Tues & Fri: 10-22 | Wed-Thu: 10-20 | Sat: 9-22 | Sun: 9-20