In the centre of Kampala city on a hot afternoon, it is always a relief to not have to trek far to find a place to rest and have a cool drink. The weather in Uganda means that you have many hot afternoons but not as many venues that are accessible and where you can just chill and rest your tired feet. Antonio’s Grill is one of those places.
Kampala’s streets are filled with people walking – looking for a job, or a deal, going to work or coming from – and, understandably, many of these are in need of a rest. Many establishments in Kampala don’t tolerate people who come in to simply sit calling it, ‘being idle’. But, with so few green parks and public places to relax where to go to spend a few hours becomes a tough puzzle to solve.
Antonio’s attracts an eclectic crowd – young, old and just about everything in between. The restaurant is filled with the conversations of nearly a hundred people eating, drinking yellow coloured fruity drinks, or just occupying a table. The fact that no one seems in a hurry to move them one is just one of the peculiarities and charms of the place.
Antonio’s Grill, Bar and Restaurant’s tagline is ‘the Meeting Place’ a tagline that has become so ingrained in its customers mind that many Kampalans who have grown up meeting their friends here know it only by that name. This, their central location, and the fact that no one is viewed as a ‘hanger on’ or ‘idler’ makes it a heavily frequented spot. Dreamers starting up their own companies or those who are looking for a place to plug in and use a computer will find a number of sockets along one wall.
A lesser known secret is that the place has some of the finest pillau around. For 5,000 UGX, this rice dish is Antonio’s flagship dish and comes full of tasty spices and is prepared using a secret catalogue of ingredients. Different drinks – like juices and soda – are a standard. Antonio’s concentrates on boiled foods like fish and goat and is a hallal restaurant no pork or alcohol is served.
Service is fast even with such a big clientele. Every day, the restaurant fills up starting around 12.30 pm and the lunch hour stretches until 2pm when seats start emptying. Be prepared to squeeze in at your table since many will be looking for places. Antonio’s lunch customers seem to grow faster than they can add seats and the lunch menu is your local standard buffet – rice, matooke, cassava, potatoes, chicken, beef, chapatti, etc. all for 7,000 UGX. Extras like liver, extra fries or chapattis costs between 3,000 and 5,000 UGX. When ordering the waiter leaves you a card which you’ll need when being served and the wait for food is never long.
Music videos play on the raised TV in the corner and you can watch that or the other customers who are crammed together at other small tables.
Uganda food is readily on order. Breakfast is available and you can get either an English breakfast or a Mexican Breakfast of an omelet, chapatti, bread and coffee for 3,000 UGX. Antonio’s is also famous for ice cream, serving different flavours. Prices range from 1,000 UGX per scoop to 5,000 UGX for a tin.
In the evening, the joint is known as one of Kampala’s cheapest places. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Antonio’s serves an Iftar meal especially for those who have a busy schedule but also have to follow their religious obligations.
Antonio’s is located at Pioneer Mall along Kampala Road. It is a walking distance from the Old Taxi Park and adjacent to the Constitution Square. It opens early for the morning traders who want the katogo breakfast (matooke, Irish, offals, greens, avocado, etc) and closes at 10pm.
To phone: +256 (0) 701 210 179 or +256 (0) 772 482 517 or find them on the map below.