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The best dhabas near you

Nitya Varadarajan, Tejaswi Rathore, Deepti Khanna Bose and Ritwik Mukherjee     March 16, 2008

Driving to a town a few hours from your home? Chances are you will feel hungry on the way. Check out the finest dhabas that are sure to make you want to drive down the same route again.

Sachin Ka Dhaba
Where: Thoraipakkam, Old Mahabalipuram Road, Chennai
Contact: 044 32548888
Meal for two: Rs 400-450
Open from: 11 a.m.-3.30 p.m. and 6.30 p.m.-11.30 p.m.
Must try: Malai Kebab, Chicken Punjabi, Dum Biryani

The chill factor

If you are taking a drive down the Old Mahabalipuram Road and feel hungry, Sachin Ka Dhaba is the place for you. It is frequented not only by the northerners who feel homesick, but also by locals who love Punjabi food.

In fact, the place is a boon for the techies. Sachin Ka Dhaba is owned by the Dhaba Express chain run by Kewal Krishan—and the interiors have that classic dhaba ambience, with furniture carved from tree trunks, low seating and long, wide wooden chairs. There are, of course, regular seats for those who don’t quite want this. You will even find the classic khatiya—cots strengthened with ropes for those who would like to sit on them. While the place is known for Punjabi food, it also provides great seafood (the Fish Amritsari is quite popular here). And Krishan says with pride that even Hyderabadi customers have complimented his biryani.

Says Ashwin Rajagopalan, an avid foodie who has set up his own public relations enterprise: “In Sachin Ka Dhaba, the service is very efficient. This is one of the few dhabas that provides great value for money while offering authentic sarson ka saag and makki roti. Their jalebi is also very good.”

Gulshan Dhaba
Where: G.T. Road, 40 km from Delhi, near Murtha
Contact: Not Available
Meal for two: Rs 400
Open from: 24X7
Must try: Paneer Parantha, Special Lassi, Panchranga Achar

The chill factor

This is the Mecca of dhabas. Welcome to Gulshan Dhaba. Forty kilometres north of Delhi on G.T. Road, is Murthal—a small township famous for its dhabas. As you get closer, you’re welcomed with a strong whiff of panchranga achar and paranthas. For more than 50 years now, Gulshan Dhaba has been satiating the gastronomical desires of all comers. Everything on the Delhi-Chandigarh Highway stops at Gulshan Dhaba to savour the tandoori paranthas and lassi. Other than the regular dose of dal-makhani and mixed vegetable, you get the most amazing malai paneer here. What’s so special about malai paneer? Well, this one here is made of fresh paneer (cottage cheese). So, the paneer cubes melt in your mouth. In fact, the fresh paneer also makes their paneer paranthas a must-have. The panchranga achar only teases your taste buds further and leaves you wanting for more.

Mayur Sharma, Anchor of the Highway On My Plate show on NDTV Good Times, loves the place. “Gulshan Dhaba is definitely my pick for eating near Delhi. I get in there in under an hour and just dig into the delicious paneer parantha,” he says.

Kshanbhar Vishraanti
On the Mumbai-Goa highway. 60 km from Mumbai
Contact: 022 24042501
Meal for two: Rs 300
Open from: 11 a.m.-12:30 a.m.
Must try: Chicken and Mutton Tandoori Kebabs, Fried Fish, Fish Curry, Fried Prawns, Bombil Fry

The chill factor

If you’re looking for a taste of local coastal cuisine before you’ve reached your destination in Goa, this is just the place for you. This family-owned haven lacks the frills and fancy the city’s elite are used to, but its surroundings more than make up for that. Set in the foothills of the Western Ghats, a mere 60 km from Mumbai, lies the tranquil Kshanbhar Vishraanti. Rubbing shoulders with the Karnala Bird Sanctuary, it is a perfect picture of serenity, where you can relax and concentrate on your meal amidst chirping birds. The food, simply put, is mouth-watering.

Nitin Tandon, Chef and Owner, Seijo and The Soul Dish and Lemon Grass, says: “It’s my favourite place. I am a great believer in the content and significance of food and the cuisine at Kshanbhar Vishraanti transports you to Goa.”

Sher-e-Punjab dhaba
Where: Sukanta Nagar, Jessore Road, Kolkata
Contact: 033 25672848
Meal for two: Rs 400
Open from: 11:00 a.m.-12:30 a.m.
Must try: Kadai Chicken, Kadai Mutton, Chicken Hyderabadi, Dal Amritsari, Aloo Parantha

The chill factor

If you want to take off—gastronomically that is—Sher-e-Punjab on Jessore Road, just five minutes from the NSC Bose International Airport, can certainly be your next port of call. The open-air dhaba now has a 120-seat AC restaurant attached to it. This dhaba, known for its tadka and kadai items, always has dozens of cars parked outside. If you find it full, just sit back and relax within your car and place your order. The waiters will serve you kadai murgh, sarso-da-saag, tandoori roti or aloo parantha in your car. You can guzzle down a bottle of beer, too, if you want. Says Ranjit Kaur, owner of Sher-e-Punjab: “We almost always have guests who come in large groups.” Visit this place on a Saturday and you may come across a few Tollywood faces and even top corporate execs.

Anjan Chatterjee, MD, Speciality Restaurants (which owns restaurants like Mainland China and Oh! Calcutta), says: “Whenever I am in Kolkata, I make sure to drop in at Sher-e-Punjab. I just love the ambience and enjoy their andaa-tadka, sarso ka dal and kadai gosht.”

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