Food, We think, is an integral part of any travel. Wherever we go, trying the specialties is a must for us. Specially the local cuisines. And when it comes to Darjeeling, a mix of Nepalese, Tibetan and British colonial culture, gorging endlessly is kind of mandatory for us. Darjeeling is like the second home for us Bengalis, although it’s popular among people from other parts of India too. But as far as eating out is concerned, we have noticed, most visit only Glenary’s and Keventers. This two are legends, no doubt, but there are other places too which are worth trying. Here we are listing our favourite places to eat in Darjeeling, including the legends 😀 We think everyone should visit these places, not only for the food, but to know the local people, their stories, their liking, the ambience, everything!
1. Sonam’s Kitchen
This place is close to the famous mall, yet not on a crowded lane. From the mall take the road which goes past the horse stable and the food stalls till it forks into two lanes. Take the right one that is going uphill and you will notice Sonam’s Kitchen written on both sides. On your right is the old one and on your left inside hotel Magnolia Residency, the new one.
Both are run by Sonam and her husband Puran Pradhan. The one inside Magnolia is our favourite because of the view. A small and cozy place, it is brightly decorated and you will find small pieces of papers under the glass top of the tables, in which the guests have written or drawn their appreciations. A good way to kill time until the food arrives is to go through them. Most are very innovative. If there are not too many guests and Sonam di is not very busy, you can have a chat with her too. She is very friendly. The place opens around 8 in the morning and serves breakfast and brunch till 2:30. It reopens at 6 in the evening to serve dinner till 8:30.
We loved the pancakes here. Fat, well cooked and tasty with generous topping of banana, cashew, coconut and chocolate sauce. The hash browns were good too. But what we liked the best here were the tomato cheese omelette and the coffee. Not tiny pieces, but the omelette had big slices of tomato and was overloaded with cheese. And the coffee was for real coffee lovers. Not the overly milky one with a hint of coffee. It was strong, yet smooth. The hot chocolate was tasty too. A great place for breakfast and like most eateries in Darjeeling, really inexpensive.
2. Mamta’s Hot Pizza Place
If you are thinking why should I go to a pizzeria in Darjeeling, there are actually loads of reasons. But the best one is the pizzas here are better than most of the well known chains. Run by Mamta and her French chef husband Patrice, this place is on H.D. Lama Road. From Clock Tower the road to the right of Keventers will take you to the Mall. Take the one on the left going towards Hotel Elgin. The restaurant will be on your right.
The sweet and always laughing couple will make you feel comfortable and homely. We tried pizza, salad, chocolate shake and coffee here. Loved each one of them. All were tasty but special mentions for the shake and the pizza. The shake was thick and flavourful and the pizza had generous amount of toppings and loaded with cheese. They use the locally made Kalimpong cheese here. Tastes great. If you want buy some sausage from them too.
3. Boney’s Snack Bar
Food in Darjeeling is generally inexpensive. But this place have redefined budget eating. From Keventers take the road going downhill towards Big Bazaar. Just opposite the clock tower and beside ICICI bank ATM is the entrance to Capital Market. As the restaurant is within a market not many tourists visit this place. But you would find long queue of locals here throughout the day. After entering the market there is a small takeaway counter in the left. For the proper sit down restaurant you need to go further straight and then take left.
Although a busy place the servers here are polite and food is served quite fast. We initially ordered Tuna Sandwich along with a glass each of cold coffee and cold chocolate. We were planning to order something else afterwards. In came the sandwich and we instantly realized that we won’t be able to order anything else there, atleast for that day. The amount was huge. The filling was generous too. We loved the sandwiches here. The chocolate and the coffee were great too. If you love sandwiches don’t even think about giving this place a miss. And, while most restaurants in Darjeeling down shutters by 8, they remain open longer.
4. Hot Stimulating Cafe
This is a small shack located beside the quiet road which will take you to Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park from Governor’s House. Keep your eyes open, or you might even miss it. The cafe is run by Lily Aunty and her husband Mr. K. Rumba. While Mr. Rumba remains busy mostly organizing treks, Lily Aunty runs the cafe and is also the chef here. The place is small, but there’s a charm of seating in a local eatery of an unknown, distant small village. The view is great if you are seating beside one of the windows. Its better if you plan to seat outside on the open terrace adjoining the cafe.
The must try item here is the hot Tongba or the local homemade millet based beer. The container and the sipper, both we found innovative and it was great sipping on the hot drink as the day came to an end outside. The veg momos here were not extraordinary, but decent enough and the rustic egg burger was filling and tasty.
We found Lily Aunty to be very friendly and she told us stories of how they opened this cafe, which was named Captain Gorkha initially, and their childhood days. We found a tree outside decorated with painted egg shells. We initially thought it was some kind of ritual, but Aunty told us she did it just for decoration and people call it the egg tree. Visit this place for the Tongba, for the Addas, for trying some night shots of Darjeeling and for Bhalu, their friendly and religious dog.
This small Tibetan food joint is at stone throwing distance from Keventer’s. The family run restaurant is a pork lovers’ paradise. We tried the Pork Wonton Soup, Pork Bhagthuk, and Shabhaly (Shapale/Shapaley/Syabhale). The simple, uncomplicated soups were rich in flavour. Just what a good stock with little seasoning should taste like. Pork was well cooked and soft and the wonton wrappers soft and not too thick.
The Shabhaly is basically a deep fried dish stuffed with minced meat. Unlike what we had earlier, it was not oily. And the stuffing was yummy.
The noodles used here are homemade. And the prices pretty reasonable. Amount was huge.
Another small, pocket friendly restaurant serving Tibetan food, located just next door to Kunga. This is actually the restaurant of the hotel Dekeling, situated upstairs and run by the same family. We loved their Phing or glass noodle soup. Unfortunately they have stopped serving it due to lack of demand. But they do serve some other phing dishes. The amount served is huge and they serve insane amounts of pork in the noodle soups. Highly recommended for tasty, filling and pocket friendly meals.
Located opposite Kunga/Dekevas, this used to be a small Nepali Basa frequented mainly by the locals and the cab drivers. They have renovated their menu a bit and now serve typical Bengali lunch / dinner for those who can’t eat anything other than the same familiar dishes. But ofcourse we were least interested in those. So, once here, just skip the menu and order a plate of buffalo shapta or pork thukpa. We tried that on our first visit here and when couldn’t find it in the new menu, were told these items are still available, but are kept off the menu. If you, like us, want some unpretentious buffalo or pork dishes, ask them what is available and they will be more than happy to serve you those.
The atmosphere is friendly and they sell liquors by bottle too (not any expensive brands). A nice place to hang out before hitting the bed.
This is actually a small Beatles themed budget hotel. Located on Gandhi Road, behind Union Chapel, this place is run by Mr. Vikash Pradhan and they serve some delicious platters, albeit on pre order basis. You need to order few hours before the meal and they are very punctual about taking orders and serving food. The British Breakfast platter was filling and tasty. The baked beans were yummy and the sausages, though sourced from Keventer’s, tasted better as they were not too oily and over fried.
They also serve Nepali Thali, but the main attraction here is the Naga Thali. Mr. Pradhan’s wife being a Naga, you will get some authentic food here. The dried fish based pickle was spicy and hot. Merse-un or lentil broth with dried shrimp was flavourful. We took an extra dish of Smoked Pork with Axone [*Axone (Aa-khuni) – fermented soyabeans] separately with the platter. This one is a must try. Super soft meat with a smokey hint and a thick and rich curry. It went well with the hot steamed rice.
They also sell Dale Khorsani (local hot chilli) and Tama (bamboo shoot) pickles. We bought a bottle home and it was excellent.
9. Joey’s Pub
This place serves drinks and drinks only. The only exception is the bowl of Chanachur served free to munch on. We generally love finger food along with our drinks. But this place is so charming we happily remain satisfied with the chanacur. From the entrance to the lighting inside and the decor, this place has a very retro feel. The stock here is good and the prices reasonable. Their collection of music is also very good. Named after his son Joey, this bar was run by Puran Gongba, a guitarist. After his sad demise, his wife is currently running the place.
10. Frank Ross Cafe
This vegetarian restaurant is between Glenary’s and Keventar’s. If you are a vegetarian or, like us, eat veg on specific days, this is a good place to try. There are lot’s of small shacks selling veg momos, but if you want a proper meal with varieties, this is the place. From Dosas, to Nachos, Enchiladas, Tacos or Pizzas, the menu is quite big. We tried Mushroom Cheese Dosa, Cola Float and Cold Coffee. Everything was good, but the dosa was excellent. A bit pricey considering the average price at most of the eateries in Darjeeling.
11. Small Local Hole In The Wall Shops
They are everywhere if you keep your eyes open. They mainly serve Thukpas and Momos and the lcal favourite Alu Mimi. Though not the best, they were filling, pocket friendly and tasty.
The locals love Alu Dom here and you will find almost every small shop selling it. It is more like the Bengali Alu Curry, not the dry version. And they top it with sev. Last time we visited we saw most places replaced the sev with Wai Wai Mimi, a pre cooked instant noodle brand. At Rs.10 / bowl (the small pack of Wai Wai Mimi priced Rs.5 included) it was tasty and cheap.
And ofcourse the Legends 🙂
The best bakery we have ever been to, this place is like a paradise for us. And with the new renovated balcony seating, the love has only increased.
Not every item sold here are great though. The subs, for example, are decent. But the bakery items are out of the World.
From the jam or lemon tarts to the ginger biscuits, there are plenty of items for you to return every day. Also try some nice Darjeeling or Assam tea here.
We also love their chocolates and pork pickles. They have a full blown restaurant too, which was also decent. The ambiance was classy but the price very reasonable.
The iconic Keventers terrace and their pork platters have become legends. They are also the sole distributor of sausages and bacon in Darjeeling.
The ground floor shop is a good place to buy some, or even some Kalimpong or Sikkim Cheese.
When you are here don’t forget to try the hot chocolate, milkshakes, ham sandwiches and bacon burgers apart from the famous pork platter.