Not technically a restaurant but one of the most popular khau gallis (street food stalls) in the city, Manek Chowk comes alive after hours. A vegetable and jewellery market by day, the foodies of the city flock to Old Ahmedabad for some great variety of food. The story behind the place is interesting. Though I couldn’t find a written record, the local vendors told me that the semi-circular area is home to some of the oldest jewellery stores in the city. Since the area was a security risk at night, the enterprising owners started a few food stalls that functioned until late at night so that there was always some activity around the store. A few stalls became many, then restaurants followed and soon Manek Chowk emerged as the place to go for a late night meal. Among other things, try the buttery Gwalior dosa (a heart attack on a plate, mind you), pav bhaji and chocolate sandwiches. Manek Chowk, Khadia, Ahmedabad.
-Sejal Mehta, Former Web Editor
Among the most talked-about restaurants in the city right now, The Bombay Canteen offers contemporary takes on Indian dishes we’ve all grown up eating. Case in point: the seafood bhelpuri, or their gajjar-halwa toffee pudding, made with Delhi’s sweet winter carrots. This quirky approach extends to their funky bar menu too, which features cocktails like the guava-chilli mojito and the Royal Ginfield (gin, amla juice and jaggery).
-Kamakshi Ayyar, Web Features Writer
Don’t underestimate the laal maas after your first bite. I did. The spice hits you about a minute later. But it’s an addictive sort of spice that will have you scarfing down the red gravy and succulent mutton along with bajra roti. Ignore the smug waiters who’ll keep refilling your water glass – you’ll be grateful for them after you’re done. Maya Mansion, Opposite GPO, MI Road, Jaipur (0141-4028436).
-Fabiola Monteiro, Web Features Writer
Mehran Terrace rustles up a good Rajasthani thali, but more than anything, I love the spectacular location – sitting under the open sky on the terrace of Mehrangarh Fort, with the city of Jodhpur below you. Mehrangarh Fort, Fateh Pol Road, Sodagaran Mohalla, Jodhpur, Rajasthan (+0291-2549790).
-Niloufer Venkataraman, Editor-In-Chief
After your morning darshan at the temple, don’t miss the free chai prepared at the langar or community kitchen. I’m not sure if it’s the gud (jaggery) or the elaichi they add to it, but whatever it is, it’s the best chai I’ve ever had. Golden Temple Road, Amritsar, Punjab.
-Diviya Mehra, Art Director
This dhaba within the main city is known for its tandoori chicken. It’s served as a whole chicken and is freshly prepared. While you are in Amritsar, also visit Makhan for their fish, and head to Lawrence road for aam papad – ask for the guy whose address is “peepal ke ped ke neeche (beneath the peepal tree)”. Ground Floor, Nehru Shopping Complex, Lawrence Road, Joshi Colony, Amritsar, Punjab (0183-3294334).
Ahdoo’s is one of the oldest restaurants in Srinagar. Go early by around 7.30-8pm, as their food gets over fairly quickly. The Mughal decor of the restaurant takes their authentic wazwaan (traditional Kashmiri feast) a step further. I went back twice in two days, that’s how good their food is. Ahdoo’s Hotel, Residency Road, Srinagar, Kashmir (0194-2472593).
Popularly known as IIFT Dhaba, because of its proximity to the university, this is a perfect place for a dinner out on an amazing Delhi winter night. Expect a couple of chairs, tables, and a staff that delivers at the speed of light. Sit out under the stars, with steaming aloo, mooli, gobi parathas and hot chai. Opposite IIFT, Qutab Institutional Area, New Delhi (+91-9818967110).
Fried, lentil-stuffed balls dunked in tangy yoghurt – don’t leave the capital without gobbling up the famous dahi bhalla at this popular chaat shop. Chandni Chowk Road, Maliwara Tihara Bazaar, Katra Dhulia, New Delhi (+91-98211208811).
-Neha Dara, Deputy Editor
Delhi’s restaurant scene is the most vibrant in the country. Korean, Kannadiga, Japanese, Bihari, new-age Indian, and, my personal sweet spot, Northeastern cuisine—they all find a place and faithful following in the capital. I eat out as much as possible when I’m visiting, always looking for a different regional cuisine to try out, but I always make time for one meal at Rosang Cafe. The Green Park restaurant puts cuisine from Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and the other seven-sister states in the spotlight. Their dohneiihong (pork belly cooked in black sesame paste) is spectacular as is their kol posola (banana trunk curry) and voksa rep chhum (smoked pork and mustard leaves) with purple wild rice. Ask for the specials: they often have snail curry and boar barbecue, although they do not advertise it. S 20, Near Uphaar Cinema, Green Park Extension Market, Green Park (011-33106210).
-Neha Sumitran, Web Editor
The buttery, aloo pyaaz paratha at Sukhdev Dhaba near Murthal will keep you coming back for more. G.T. Road, Murthal, Haryana (+91-8607610002).
Perched on a small knoll overlooking the Dhauladhars, the café near the Palamapur main market is the No. 1 local recommendation for tourists. Take your cup of Kangra tea out on to the hill and watch the Neugal stream gurgle by. The food is strictly average, but it’s the views that are really nourishing. Palampur, Kangra, Himachal Pradesh.
-Karanjeet Kaur, Former Chief Senior Editor
If you have ever dreamt of a gastronomic exploration of the world’s best cuisines, you were probably on a food pilgrimage in the City of Joy, Kolkata. Whether you wish to savour authentic Bengali cuisine or indulge in the Chinese offerings at Chinatown, whether you yearn for unrivalled street food or you want to walk into a dizzying assortment of confections at a celebrated sweet shop, Kolkata truly delivers the taste of travel. The grandeur of the Colonial era may have been taken over by lounges and new-age bars, but the vintage charm has been kept alive in the heart of the city especially at this incredibly popular Kolkata Restaurant Peter Cat. This Park Street joint is best known for its legendary Iranian style chelo kebabs (barbequed fingers of spiced, ground-lamb or vegetable mash). These special kebabs available in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options are prepared in rare spices blended with Persian herbs and served on a bed of rice with butter and egg. The perfect accompaniment to this meal is a glass of Bloody Mary while the best finish to it is a portion of pineapple melba or meringue with vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce.18 A, Park Street, Kolkata (033-22298841).
-Ritika Basu, Business Manager
A meal at Sonar Tori is like a step back in time as you feast on a traditional Bengali thali in a structure that resembles a zamindar’s house, right down to the stacks of revenue forms. It’s hard not to break into a sweat as you work your way through the mounds of rice and bowls of curries and dals. But you’ll leave a very satisfied customer. Sonar Tori, Ganga Kutir, Raichak-On-Ganges, West Bengal (031-74275632).
If you like nibbling on munchies with your afternoon chai, make sure you visit Grand Sweets in Chennai for their south Indian snacks. The murukku items like thattai are especially addictive – it’s one of the closest thing you’ll get to a Tamilian granny’s own cooking. No.24, 2nd Main Road, Gandhi Nagar, Adyar, Chennai (044-24914213). You can also place your orders on +91-8939993372.
This Neemrana property is beautiful by day and prettier by night, with candle-lit tables under a starry sky. Tuck into the Creole and Pondicherry preparations that are a curious, tantalising blend of influences in the former French colony of Pondicherry. We couldn’t get enough of the Creole chicken curry in cashew sauce and the Creole tamarind fish curry. It’s a meal worth lingering over, in keeping with the easeful, leisurely way of life in this balmy seaside city. 17 Rue Romain Rolland, White Town, Puducherry (0413-2343067).
-Saumya Ancheri, Assistant Web Editor
Vindaloo, balchao, cafreal, xacuti – who better to steal your heart through your stomach than a Goan mama? The restaurant serves up an irresistible culinary spread based on traditional recipes procured from Goan Hindu and Catholic mothers. Ask the friendly waiters to help you order; try the keel khatkhatem (bamboo shoot curry) and the pork sorpotel. This local delight is open all year round. 854, Martins Building, Dayanand Bandodkar Street, Panaji, Goa (+91-9822175559).
A visit to Goa demands a lunch at Star Bar, a tiny local joint by the Mandovi river. En route to old Goa, it’s kind of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot on the Panjim-Belgaum Road. Once you find it (keep an eye out for a “Star Bar” sign on the left side of the road if you’re coming from Panaji), opt to sit outside. The fried tiger prawns are a must-have as well as their shinane (mussels) – both go wonderfully well with beer. For another course, have their fish curry and rice. Don’t forget to toss your seafood scraps to the floor for the cats lazing around. Near Navelcar Hill City, National Highway 4A, Tiswadi, Goa. For more accurate directions, follow Google Maps here.
Atithi Bamboo is a simple establishment with bright yellow walls, two dozen Formica tables and chairs, and a large poster featuring pictures of various fish along with their English and Marathi names. Offerings range from rawa-fried sardines, mackerel, king fish, and pomfret to lobster, shrimp, crabs, clams, and rock oysters in a rich coconut-flecked masala. A generous portion of tisriya masala (clams) costs as little as ₹60. So does a slab of surmai the size of a quarter plate. A kekda (crab) thali will set you back a princely sum of ₹110. As the proprietor of Malvan Kinara in Dadar says, “The taste of the fish in Sindhudurg is something else.” You’ll be inclined to agree, especially after a meal at this local institution. Maghi Ganesh Chowk, Rosary Church Shejari, Malvan, Maharashtra.
-Neha Sumitran, Web Editor
Established in 1924, this legendary Parsi restaurant run by the lovable nonagenarian, Boman Kohinoor, has ensconced itself deep in the hearts of its patrons. We never tire of the rich berry pulav, bursting with the unforgettable tang of chicken or mutton pieces, kebabs, cashews, fried onions, and tart zereshk berries. Make space for the delectable patra ni machchi, sali boti and chicken cutlets, all best washed down with Duke’s raspberry soda and rounded off with caramel custard. Wakefield House, 11 Sprott Road, Ballard Estate, opposite Old Custom’s House (2261-5264).
I like both Peshawri and Peshwa Pavillion at ITC Maratha. Although Peshwa Pavillion is a 24-hour coffee shop, I have found it to have outstanding food whenever I’ve gone and it’s a great spot to hang with friends, especially if someone is passing through town and you want to meet for a meal near the airport. At Peshawri, I’m not too excited by the decor or seating, but the Peshawari raan, malai murgh, paneer tikka and dal bukhara are all fabulous. Sahar, Andheri (E), Mumbai, Maharashtra (022-28303030).
I have a soft spot for Mahesh Lunch Home at Fort. Their tandoori rawas, pomfret green masala, prawn pulao, and superb chicken stew (which you normally wouldn’t order in a fish place but theirs is just yum). 8 B, Cawasji Patel Street, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra (022-22870938).
Niloufer Venkataraman, Editor-In-Chief
This Udipi institution dishes out a healthy thali to cherish, with vegetarian curries, chapattis, red rice, buttermilk, papad and pickles served on a banana leaf, with a payasam of the day, and kesari shrikhand for a lasting sweet finish. LBS Market Building, First Floor, outside Matunga Central Railway station, Matunga (E), Mumbai, Maharashtra (022-24142422).
A small eatery tucked away in Vile Parle East, Mee Marathi serves some of the best Maharashtrian fare in the city. The place is basic, simple and there isn’t space for too many tables, so be prepared to wait for your turn or parcel away your meal. But it is completely worth the wait. Try the delicious thalipeeth served with white butter and chutney, freshmisal pav, sabudana wada, varan bhaat and wash it down with fresh chaas. The service is incredible, they’re delighted when they know you’re enjoying their food (which you will) so tell them so. 5, Alfa Apartment, Shree Parleshwer Road, Vile Parle (E), Mumbai (022-26134636).
Everyone has their favourite pavbhajiwalla but my vote goes hand’s down to Sardar for the best pav bhaji in the city. The restaurant isn’t the cleanest but more than makes up for that with its flavourful bhaji that comes swimming in about 2cms of melted, golden Amul butter. Forget your dietary restrictions and prepare for a meal you’re unlikely to forget soon. Tardeo Road Junction, Opposite Bus Depot, Tardeo, Mumbai (022-23530208).
Heaven tastes like Thaker’s, a grateful visitor once told me after being introduced to this Gujarati bastion. Their large, shiny thalis, accompanied by buttermilk, are endlessly filled with farsan, khichiya, chutneys, veggies, and a range of dals, rotis and rice preparations good enough to win over non-vegetarians and make you forget about photographing your food. Arrive early to grab a table, dressed in your loosest clothes and prepared to roll your way out. In the summer, Thaker’s serves bowls of arguably the best aam ras (mango pulp) in the city. 31, Dadiseth Agiary Lane, off Kalbadevi Road, Kalbadevi, Mumbai, Maharashtra (022-2206-9916).
I love Soam not just for the fact that I can have hygienic sugarcane juice, but for almost everything on the menu and for the seasonal specials. I love Gujarati food and this is as good as it gets, in my opinion. Ground Floor, Sadguru Sadan, Opposite Babulnath Temple, Chowpatty, Mumbai, Maharashtra (022-23698080).
Mumbai’s khau gallis offer a masterclass in nose-to-tail cooking. The rickety stalls that line the streets of Bohri Mohalla in south Mumbai offer stewed trotters, liver kebabs, masala-smacked chicken gizzards, and rolls stuffed with creamy goat brains—not for the weak of stomach. 45 Gujar Street, Bohri Mohalla (23459994). Daily breakfast 5-9am, dinner 6.30-10.30pm.
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