Have you ever eaten something that struck you in such a way that your mind won’t release the memory, no matter how much time passes? Of course, we all have our favorite dishes attached with fond thoughts of childhood, college life, family get-togethers, and the common lunches with a friend. Yet when it comes to traveling, somehow the food tastes better. An ingredient we’d never think to cook with at home now, while on the road, sounds exotic and worth trying. Many times it’s the company and/or atmosphere of the restaurant that provides a lasting positive experience.
My top 5 favorite places in North India to eat
- Veda, New Delhi
A recent addition to India within the past 5 years, the sumptuous interior of Veda Restaurant is reason enough to pay a visit. Alok Aggarwal, a successful restaurateur from NYC, combined with well known Indian born chef Suvir Saran and fashion designer Rohit Baltoare are the three pivotal players responsible for bringing the lavish Veda to life. Located in the wildly popular shopping district of New Delhi, Connaught Place, the darkly mysterious interior, brilliantly executed service, and hauntingly tasteful food create a memorable experience for all patrons. $$$
- Haifa, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
The worn, tattered interior of Haifa Hotel and Restaurant is as opposite as one can get from #5 Veda. This location is somewhat of a traveler’s unspoken find. Perched above street level, the restaurant’s large windows look out onto the main road leading from Assi Ghat providing not just a bath of sunlight, but a fantastic viewpoint of the quirky city that is Varanasi. Diners sitting at no-frills cafeteria tables must battle the swarming flies for first dibs on the food. Meals are brought from the kitchen as they’re prepared so don’t wait for your companion’s food to arrive before eating. Simple, honest cooking, for next to nothing prices, brings in a range of patrons that reads better than any novel could dream up. $
Rooftop restaurants seem to draw in tourists like heat to the desert of Rajasthan. But this one particular place atop the Hotel Harasar Haveli has stuck in my mind for years. Hungry diners must trudge up several flights of stairs to access the restaurant that is situated on two levels (shade or no shade). Authentic Rajasthani spiced food is served with no fuss. It’s the view and atmosphere of other wayward foreign tourists that makes this place so fun. Never one to let a good thing go, I visited this rooftop delight more than once during a brief stay in Bikaner. Card games with an ice-cold Coke and setting sun over the desert is hard to beat.
- Chopsticks, Manali, Himachal Pradesh
Momos! Yes, this restaurant in the heart of Manali’s Mall serves some of the tastiest momos in all the world. Ok, maybe just Himachal. Their extensive menu actually has so many delicious dishes, it would require a visit every day to find a dud. Foreign tourists love this pick which partly makes up the fun atmosphere. Even traveling Indian families enjoy a casual, friendly environment. A cramped kitchen in the rear of the dining room coexisting with the toilets has one wondering how they put out such delicious meals so quickly. I first stumbled onto Chopsticks in 2006 when not just one, but many meals came from here including momos for breakfast. And the memories of this place led me back 3 years later to find nothing had changed.
- Gakyi, Mcleodganj, Himachal Pradesh
Another favorite in the mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh also brings momos on the menu. Yet, Gakyi couldn’t be any more different than Chopsticks. The simple, no-nonsense Tibetan owner draws tourists in with her low cost, big portion meals. Just a smattering of tables offers limited seating in this cafe accessed right off one of the main walking roads of Mcleodganj. Hungry travelers flock to empty seats as soon as they become available. This mixed way of eating provides a brilliant chance for crossing tourists to make new friends, exchange travel tips as well as finding possible accommodations which can be tricky at certain times. Get here early for brown bread with butter and jam. Ordered with any of the various homemade hot tea concoctions and you’ll have plenty of reason to come back. This was a favorite find in 2006 that I couldn’t stop thinking about until revisiting in 2009. Still not satisfied, I’ll be returning as soon as possible. $