Question any traveller, and they will tell you that food is an integral part of a successful road trip. The idea of stopping midway and indulging in local delicacies adds to a sense of warmth that is felt by the stomach as well as the soul.
However, ask a die-hard foodie, and they will say that nothing beats the joy of travelling just for food. The tradition of street-side eateries (dhabas) found dotted along the roadways of the country are the fuel that drives its people. The dhabas were initially stopovers for trucks, but the pull of the delicious paranthas dripping in butter gave them an iconic status with food lovers in their regions. No longer just a stop for people travelling through, popular dhabas are now destinations in themselves.
Delhi loves its food and has no qualms about driving a few hours to have the best on offer. A day trip to one of the following roadside restaurants is nothing short of an experience that is guaranteed to satisfy cravings and simultaneously present the perfect opportunity to take a break from the mundaneness of everyday life.
Amrik Sukhdev – Murthal (1-hour one way)
No person in Delhi can call themselves a true food lover unless they have eaten at Murthal. A city in Haryana that has achieved fame because of its dhabas, there has been blatant food related commercialisation here over the years. What was once small dhabas with trucks lining outside are now large buildings with room facilities that can feed hundreds of customers at one time. Sukhdev has a 60-year-old legacy, and while there are only cars to be found in its parking now, the food has remained spectacular. Even though the menu now reads like a book, their tandoori paranthas with tea are the quintessential eat here. You can always add in some delicious chola bhaturas or vegetable pakodas to make it a complete comfort food meal.
Old Rao Hotel – Gurgaon (1-hour one way)
Another one of those iconic eateries that have evolved into a city-dhaba over the years, Old Rao is the one place everyone knows about in Gurgaon and surrounding areas. The drive is relatively simple on the Delhi-Jaipur highway, and the restaurant is easy to spot with cars parked outside and its big red hoardings. The menu here does offer dosas, chowmein, and the likes, but we strongly recommend sticking with the Indian classics. The handi paneer and aloo gobi are both excellent options. Their breads are just about okay, but the overall quality of the food will leave you licking your fingers in the end.
Chabbra Hotel and Restaurant – Gurgaon (1-hour one away)
Although it has a more solid foundation and gets frequently upgraded, Hotel Chabbra is the closest you will get to a traditional dhaba. The drive to the restaurant takes you through villages on the outskirts of Gurgaon and right next to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary. The tandoori paranthas are absolutely to die for, but make sure to make them kadak (well cooked). With a lot of vegetation in the area, the ingredients are fresh and often straight from the fields. Chabbra Restaurant is a real hidden gem that is still flying steadily under the radar of most epicures.
Prem Pavitra Bhojanalya – Alwar (3-hours one way)
A limited menu, a couple of essential dishes, an old-world location in between a busy market, and cheap food, Prem Pavitra Bhojanalya has all the trademark elements of a characteristic vintage eatery. Established in 1957 and situated on the Old Bus Stand Road, it is the dahi bhalla, kheer, and dal fry that have made the restaurant legendary with the locals. In addition to that, visitors are privy to watching the preparation of chapatis on wood and coal-fired open chula just outside the sitting area. However, to make your Alwar trip complete, take a quick 10-minute walk to Baba Thakur Das and Sons in Kalakand Market and pick up the softest and freshest milk-cake (Punjabi kalakand) for the drive back home.
Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar – Jaipur (4-hours one way)
The most extended trip on our list, but with a smooth as a butter highway all the way to Jaipur you can easily make it to LMB and back in a day. Nostalgia floats thick in the air at LMB, known for its pyaz ki kachori and delectable ghewar. There are no cash registers here. Instead, the owner sits behind the counter with a large metal box filled with money making bills and giving out change. A separate doorway leads to the sit-down area which has been renovated over the years and yet seems charmingly dated. First timers should avoid everything else and order their special Rajasthani thali that may look sparse on arrival but will fill you up with local specialities such as churma bati, Rajasthani bela, kadi, and kair sangri. If you manage to leave early for Jaipur on your day trip, it’s possible to squeeze in a visit to the Hawa Mahal as well, situated a stone throws away from LMB.
This blog is contributed by Raghav Modi, A Delhi-based food blogger. All the views and opinions in the article are his own from his own personal experience of having travelled widely around Delhi.