Pune’s Foodmantra : Eat Local in Pune
Don’t forget to carry your rubber slip-ons if you’re leaving for Pune. Drive through the luscious green mountains, feel the cool breeze blow through your hair and smile pointlessly. Lounge with a beer in a city where retired uncles and aunties get-together for karaoke nights, and the college ‘katta’ is colonized by Bengalis, Punjabis and Gujaratis, as they all bite into a vada-pav.
People from around the world come here to spend months in the Osho Ashram, a world-renowned meditation center, and some just drive down for the wildest parties ever. Whatever be your reason, this historical city and now an IT hub makes you feel its spirit. Casual conversations, comfortable climate and its laid-back, what’s-the-big-rush attitude are addictive. If you’ve been here once you will want to keep coming back again. So while you are in Pune, lounge, eat and be merry like the locals. Here is a list of 20 of the local favourites, each has its own vibe and specialty that prints in your head. Remember the time we went to.. kind of places.
#1 Goodluck Café
Opens at 7.30 am, Goodluck Café, located at its namesake Goodluck chowk in the middle of all the hustle bustle in the Deccan area of Pune is not a restaurant but a history. A history of generations that have been coming to this eatery day after day, just for the Keema Pav and Bun-Maska, Chai. Being close to the Film Institute, this affordable eatery has seen celebrities like Dev Anand, David Dhavan walk through its doors since they were students and through decades for the delicious food. Goodluck used to be among the few places in Pune that offered non-vegetarian food at affordable prices at the time. If you’re in Pune, you can’t give this place a miss, you must try out the Keema-Pav here, it is legend (Wait-for-it)dary! It is still affordable with good quality food, what we call practical pricing, for hygienic food. Try the Chicken ra-ra with rumali rotis during the lunch hour, but before that, you must wait in a long que, only to be seated within minutes, just as your food appears on the table like magic!
#2 Burger King
Not to be confused with The Burger King Chain, this is a local stand-alone. There are two Burger Kings, one around MG Road and the other near Koregaon Park (Let’s call it KP like the locals). The one in KP has great ambience, and by ambience I mean it is full of trees and has three separate seating areas, each isolated from the other. The plastic chairs and tables are worn out but there is one high table with bar stools of-sorts that is right in front of the creeper adorned entrance, that is the most fun place to sit and is usually occupied. It is a cheap, self-service place that almost always has a long line to place the order and their sandwiches get over fast. I usually tell them to skip the ketchup in my sandwich, but I absolutely love their simple salami sandwich and the sausage surprise with lots of egg bhurji. The veg burger is also really big and the massive beef burger takes it away. What I like the most about this place is that it is simple, straightforward and casual, just like the people of Pune.
#3 Marz O Rin
Like every other Puneri, I have grown up on the homely macaroni and cheese, chicken sandwich and coffee of Marz-O-Rin. Why it is named so, remains a mystery to the world even today. Right on the main street, MG Road the big red and white board of Marz-O-Rin cannot be missed. Marz-O-Rin has fed the city since the time the roads used to be empty, and bike races were organized on the main street. The mac n cheese is still the same, so is the make-at-home chicken sandwich and coffee. The people that run this place are still surprisingly quick though they seem easy-going. The sturdy, neat furniture humbly fulfills the purpose of seating you as you grab a quick, cheap bite. Lot of people come here just to sit and take a breather between shopping, but there is a rule, ‘No food on the table, no seat’.
There is always a large crowd outside Vaishali on FC road waiting for a table, and for good reason. Have you tried out the ‘world-famous’ Sev Puri Dahi Puri (SPDP) and sabudana wadas here? No one can make sabudana wadas with coconut chutney like that, and that white butter, or loni they add on their special dosas makes them so butterly drool-worthy, it’s a sin to go on eating like that. If that wasn’t enough reason for you, hop in here for breakfast or for a pav bhaji and you will enjoy this hustle bustle just like the locals do.
#5 Amriteshwar Pohe
Hungry at 4am after a great party last night? Join the students after their ‘study-sessions’ and in the middle of a sleepover night, as Amriteshwar at Nal stop signal serves freshly made kaande Pohe, sabudana khichadi, idlis and chai. He is too busy serving to even lift his head, he opens the shop at 4am, and even earlier sometimes, as newspapers are sorted, and street lamps light up the empty road, you will find dozens of bikes parked outside amriteshwar. The mild and humble kaande pohe have a taste that lingers in your memory. Try it out once, and it will urge you to stay up every night.
#6 Tiranga Non Veg
Looking for delicious gawti chicken curry and jowar bhakris in the city? Tiranga non-veg is the place to be. With nearly half dozen branches in different parts of the city, Tiranga is where you will find home-style Maharashtrian curry with the perfect blend of hot spices and soft, hot millet (jowar) bhakris straight from the tava. This too, like many other favourite eateries in Pune, prepares fresh food everyday, which is likely to get over if you reach late. Vegetarians don’t step back, I had the freshest, softest, bestest ever palak paneer here, which was equally good, if not better than the non-vegetarian food. They use desi chicken in their curry, which means less meat but more flavour in every bite. I’m not a mutton lover, but even so, the mutton sukha and the mutton biryani here is a out of this world, finger lickingly yummy. It is the best, softest and the tastiest mutton there can be, simply because their maharashtrian spice blend makes it so good. This place is by food lovers, of food lovers and from food lovers. I’m still day dreaming about the food as I speak.
#7 Sinhagad Trek
If you’re in Pune for a weekend and in the mood for a meal on the mountains in a local’s hut, then go for an early morning trek to Sinhagad Fort and work up an appetite. You will be rewarded with a rustic meal of Zunka-Bhakar and Gawti Kombdi (Rustic, desi Chicken curry), and the adventurous picnic will be worth every ounce of effort you put in to climb up that mountain. This place becomes lush green, and 3 times more beautiful during the monsoon, and the roasted bhutta (corn) and chai make it all the more romantic. You will find a lot of couples coming up to the historical site for lovely view and a different, yet wonderfully economical desi meal. The trek may tire you, but the experience is priceless.
Thalipeeth, is a local delicacy made with a variety of grains and eaten with chutney, this and many other authentic Maharashtrian delicacies like sabudana khichadi, bhareleli vangi (stuffed brinjal), batatchi bhaji (potato preparation), amti (Maharashtrian pulses), varan-bhaat (Dal-Rice) can be tried and enjoyed at Shabree. Shabree also serves a Maharashtrian thali. Pohe and sabudana wadas are also served, it is very crowded during meal times, but of you’re a vegetarian and want to try the local food, then this is the place to be.
#9 Bedekar Missal
Missal, is a spicy preparation made with sprouted lentils, topped with farsan (fried munchies) and served with pav. Puneri Missal is considered to be the best missal in Maharashtra, and the most famous missal-pav in Pune is served in Bedekar Missal. This humble shop with steel plates and crowded benches has no branches, and known for selling lip-smacking Puneri missal.
#10 Sujata Mastani
Ever tried a mastani loaded with dried fruits, flavoured with kesar or in your favourite fruit flavour? Skip a meal if you want to try this creamy, desi handmade ice-cream, it is no regular ice-cream, you will not be able to finish your glass full right after a meal. Yes, I said glass full, this hybrid ice-cream milkshake is served in a glass and topped with nuts and dried fruits, kesar and in some cases cherry. It is unimaginably creamy, and was whipped by hand over an ice block when it first started almost 50 years ago. Sujata Mastani is very famous and has several branches, you must find the nearest one and try it out.
# 11 Kalyan Bhel
They have a number of branches in the city only because no one else makes bhel like they do. I can try to explain what is so great about it, but you will only be able to appreciate the awesomeness of this bhel once you have it yourself. The mélange of sweet, spicy and sour flavours is oh-so-perfect and the flavour of the chutneys they add is a signature that can’t be replaced.
# 12 Vohuman’s Omlette
Near Ruby Hall Clinic, go to Vohuman’s when you’re in the mood for breakfast all day, he serves the best bun-omlette, and his cheese omlette gives you both, satiation and hunger-for-more at the same time, what a feeling that is! Just sit back and relax, and enjoy your omlette. And yes, of course it is a cheap and fulfilling meal at any time of the day.
#13 JJ Garden Vada Pav
Want to try the best vada-pav in town? Go for JJ Garden vada-pav in Camp area, near MG road.
#14 Arthur’s Theme
Arthur’s Theme has served continental food from the time when people didn’t really know what continental food was, it catered to the world citizens that lived in this area, yet the locals have always loved this place. If you love classic French sauces, gorgeous vegetables with potatoes on the side then Arthur’s Theme with that ‘cosy Pune-feel’ will win you over. It is casual fine-dining, cosy with food that makes you feel cosy. Solomon prawns are yummiliciously popular, and the creamy sauces and fresh herbs with names like Diane and Ferdinand give this place a very English or French restaurant character. They have no branches in Pune, other than the one in Koregaon Park, but they do have a branch in Mumbai.
# 15 Coffee House
Located in the heart of the city, very close to Moledina road Coffee House for years has been the one place every Punekar would to go to. Why? When concept of fast food restaurant was in its infancy, Coffee House was one of its kind in the city. I don’t even have to look at the menu, I can tell you they serve everything! Everything? Yes, everything meaning, Pav Bhajis, Dosas, Idlis, Uttapams, Indian food, Chinese food, Mexican food and lovely, thick milkshakes. They serve everything that a typical Indian fast food eatery serves and what’s more, they are quick, the food is familiarly good (I don’t know if that’s a word, familiarly) and it is like the go-to place for all the locals when we are in that area. The waiters always smile, no matter how busy it is, and it is very busy all the time, they even know your name, and who doesn’t love to go to place like that?
For the Late Night Food Hunt
Be there at Nal stop signal at 4am for kaande pohe and chai, now don’t keep your hopes up if you reach an hour late, because I told you, there is a big crowd there and kaande pohe get over in no time.
Shivajinagar Station Stalls
For pav-bhaji and bhurji-pav, late in the night, drive down to the Shivajinagar station, usually there is mad traffic and hustle bustle here, but later in the night it is quiet and lit up by these little stalls that sell bhurji pav and pav-bhaji outside the station
Where to Drink
1st Brewhouse in Corinthian on NIBM Road, try out there Bob Barley and other freshly brewed beer in the open air seating area as you enjoy the music.
High Spirits in Koregaon Park is a very popular place if you wish to go drinking.
The Irish House in Phoenix Mills, Vimannagar is great for International beer brands, don’t miss the happy hours here.
For The Road – What to Take Back from Pune?
# 17 Kayani Bakery
There are literally hundreds of people that crowd inside the shop, the moment Kayani opens in the second half around 3.30pm. Nobody wants to miss out on those Shrewberry biscuits and Mawa cake, and both run out in no time. Why you ask? Visitors and even locals love them so much that people buy 20, 30 and even 50 fresh cakes at one time. The baked goods are freshly made everyday but you never know in how many minutes it will vanish today. So if you want to try these signature of Pune cakes and biscuits, then be there in time, jump in and leap before you get mobbed.
# 18 Budhani Wafers
If you love wafers, and who doesn’t? Do pick up your big bag from Budhani Waferwala for your journey back. Their plain salted wafers are great, but the chili potato wafers are even better. Some soft drinks with these chips, and you’ve got yourself an all nighter to pull. Budhani wafers are available all around Pune, in the local shops.
# 19 Laxminarayan Chiwda
Loaded with nuts and dried fruits, Mr. Laxminarayan, the man behind this chiwda, travelled for 15 years across India, even from Peshawar to Maynmar, and then came up with the perfect recipe for Laxminarayan chiwda. This is probably why people from around the world, love and buy this Puneri Chiwda. Many have tried to ape the flavour, but no one succeeded in replicating it. The credit of this unique flavour is still given to its founder, and the flavour has remained the same over the years. They have a shop and a manufacturing unit in Camp area, but Laxminarayan Chiwda too, is available in local shops across Pune.
Chitale is famous not only in India, but around the world for its pedas and bhakarwadi. The owners have got new machines to double, and triple the production, people love it so much, no matter how large the quantity they make, it always gets over. The kesar pedas, saakhar pedas and now, the sandwich pedas are very popular, there are a number of varieties, and you can pick one that you like best. Don’t forget to get your supply of bhakarwadis though, cause Chitale bhakarwadis are crunchy and tasty as heaven.
Rethinking Old Favorites
When everywhere you look there’s a firang (Hindi for foreigner) in a maroon Osho gown know that you’ve hit the vicinity of German Bakery. In the Koregaon Park area of Pune, amidst trees and lavish bungalows, German Bakery on the main road is pretty easy to spot. They have redecorated the German Bakery now, even the added in a few new specials on the menu. We would go here with a book or a friend and lounge for hours with a cup of mint tea and a muffin. In the past it hasn’t really lived up to the expectations of German Bakery patrons, the place is considered over-priced and the old awesomeness is sadly missing as on date (October, 2013).