It’s common knowledge that no road trip is ever successful without indulging in finger-licking food that features local delicacies and simple preparations. A vital aspect of travel, food brings about a sense of comfort and warmth that is satisfying for the mind, body, and the soul.
For a true gourmand, food often forms the basis of travel. Nothing beats the joy of travelling to eat a delicious parantha dripping in butter, some freshly made pakodas, or a glass of hot masala tea.
Dhabas are an integral part of India’s culinary heritage. Spread out across the country, they can be found along major highways or cosily tucked on routes that primarily witness truck traffic. Another speciality about dhabas found in the North of the country, similar to the ones featured here, is that more often than not they serve pure-vegetarian dishes. But the food is so rich and full of flavours that the most ardent of non-vegetarians are easily enticed to stop at them for a bite or few.
The last two decades have seen a revival of this unique Indian legacy wherein dhabas are no longer a resting stop just for people travelling from one place to another. Instead, they are popular destinations in themselves, frequented by friends and family over weekends and holidays.
Delhi is a city brimming with food lovers, individuals who often travel distances far and wide to experience the many delights of mouth-watering food. So, it comes as no surprise that a day trip from Delhi to one of the following dhabas makes for an essential foodie experience. A reason to satisfy cravings, this is the perfect excuse for an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Chabbra Hotel and Restaurant – Gurgaon (drive time – 1 hour)
For an adventurous foodie drive that takes you past villages, open fields, and eventually, next door to the famous Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary, head to Chabbra Hotel and Restaurant, a real hidden gem that is still unknown to many of the locals.
One of the unique points of the food served here is that the vegetables are taken from fields nearby guaranteeing the freshest and in-seasonal produce. This means, no matter what you order, the food is going to be absolutely divine.
Mind you; they can be a little heavy handed with the cream on top of the curries. If you are on a diet, let them know in advance, although that will kill half the fun of your dhaba visit.
Must-Have: Tandoori parantha (ask them to make it crisp).
Prem Pavitra Bhojanalya – Alwar (drive time – 3 Hours)
Many of the new contemporary restaurants that try to please everyone with their extensive menus can learn something from Prem Pavitra Bhojanalya. Established in 1957, they have a one-page list that focuses on a select few dishes done right.
Its location on a busy market road in Alwar gives Prem Pavitra Bhojanalya an old-world authenticity, whereas the wood and coal fire chula adds to its culinary charm.
When it comes to food, start your meal with a dahi bhalla that is so soft that it melts in your mouth. The rotis are best eaten with gatte ki sabji and kadhi but do remember that the spice levels are a little on the higher side as is often the case in many vintage Rajasthani eateries.
Must-Have: Dahi Bhalla, Kheer, and Dry Fry.
Amrik Sukhdev – Murthal (drive time – 1 hour)
Ask any Delhi resident about their top foodie locations and Murthal will undoubtedly find itself among the list. What started as a row of traditional rustic dhabas along the famous G. T. Road is now a busy city undergoing a food revolution that consists of multiple national and international brands entering the market.
Sukhdev is one of the oldest “dhabas” in the region with a 60-year-old legacy. Purists still swear by its tandoori paranthas which are a must-have when here, but many think that it has become too commercial now. Cars have replaced trucks, and small booths have popped up where children can enjoy a game of virtual reality.
Moreover, the menu reads like a book, trying hard to please everyone that passes by. But there is nostalgia still attached to Sukhdev that makes it an ideal place for a lazy Sunday brunch.
At the heart of it all, the food at Sukhdev is still spectacular, a reason why hundreds of customers flock here to satisfy their gastronomic desires every day.
Must-Have: Tandoori gobi parantha, chhole bhature, and vegetable pakodas. End your meal with a glass of hot tea.
Old Rao Hotel – Gurgaon (drive time – 1 hour)
Situated along the Delhi-Jaipur highway, Old Rao Hotel is the most recommended eatery in the region. The drive from Delhi to Old Rao is on a smooth road that passes through Gurgaon and Manesar. The dhaba is easy to spot with many cars parked outside as well as its bright red signboards visible from afar.
The transformation of the old-school dhaba into a city dhaba is evident here as the menu now features dosas and chow mein, something that would never be available earlier.
However, if you are on the lookout for good food at Old Rao, it’s best to stick with the North Indian classics such as the creamy handi paneer and tangy aloo gobi. The spice levels can alternate between low to medium, but the overall value for money as well as the quality of the food is still the best.
Must-Have: Palak fry and shahi thali.
Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar – Jaipur (drive time – 4 hours)
LMB, as it is popularly known, is a culinary institution. This 64-year-old restaurant that serves Rajasthani specialities has an aura that is a constant reminder of the bygone era. There’s a sentimental joy in watching the owner sit cross-legged behind the counter dealing with money, without a cash machine, and in knowing that some of the staff here have been with the restaurant since its initial days.
Even though many locals believe that LMB has lost its original charm, there are those who come here on a daily basis to have kachori for their breakfast.
The restaurant has two parts to it. There is the main hall with chairs and tables, while on the outside the setup is that of a café/bakery with standing space only.
For those visiting for the first time, the Special Rajasthani Thali, that you are not allowed to share, is a must and comes with churma bati, Rajasthani bela, and kair sangri.
Must-Have: Ghewar, Pyaz ki Kachori, and Rajasthani Thali.
Image courtesy: All the images are provided by the blog’s author, Raghav Modi