Jangli Maharaj Road (JM Rd.), North Main Road, East Street and Fergusson College Road(FC Rd.) – all familiar streets to Puneites who follow their stomachs. Each of these streets has something unique to offer and together they are the meat of Pune’s lively food scene.
FC Rd. is home to co-eds from numerous nearby colleges as well as home to the Pune landmark Vaishali Restaurant, the eatery that is on the list of every visitor to Pune. With its dosas, milkshakes and garden setting it is perhaps the most popular restaurant in Pune. Down the road Wadeshwar fills the void of traditional Puneri snacks. Although there are a many roadside chaat stalls, Manmeet has ample place to sit and the food is more hygienically prepared. With its rich Lucknowi chaat Manmeet is a chaat lover’s treat and I recommend the dahi bhalla. They have recently begun a Nawabi thali which has become quite popular. Next door is dependable Subway for sandwiches and Chaitanya for a variety of filling parathas. Shabree is known for Maharashtrian thalis but a better bet is the veg eatery, Shravan which does not have thali but you can order ala carte Maharashtrian dishes. Ice cream is available in plenty on the road – Orchard Fresh for the best hand churned ice cream and Bliss for the best fruit thick shakes.
Parallel JM Rd. is packed in the evenings as hungry revelers roam to find what their taste buds yearn for. Both Pizza Hut and Smokin Joes for pizza lovers, as well as McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken for greasy fast food desires line the wide road. For those who prefer Indian fast food there are Subhadra Veg and Pune’s famous Joshi Wadewale serving hot batata wadas served with perfect chutney. Steamy Affairs has no place to sit but there are people eating on their many varieties of idlis right on the pavement – rava idli is particularly good. When you see a large group of people, most likely they are heading to Shiv Sagar, the family favourite for birthday parties or any special occasions, serving chaat dishes, pav bhaji and special milkshakes. Mayur has an excellent Gujrati thali where you must stop them from adding extra ghee to the pulkas! The cuddi is especially delicious.
East Street is a meat lover’s paradise with George’s and King’s. Both restaurants have biriyani, various meat preparations and Parsi dhansak. Nearby Kareem’s has over a dozen types of kebabs and unusual breads such as taftan, a rice flour bread. Listen to music with drinks at Thousand Oaks in a nice outdoor setting and don’t forget to try the dal makhani. 11 East Street Café, set inside a double decker bus is double the fun for kids and adults with a variety of Indian and Fusion food and a host of desserts! Chinese Room and Kwality restaurants haves been a part of the landscape for over 30 years now and still serve the same foods as you may remember. Kayani Bakery is also a Pune landmark and the place to get fresh Shrewsbury biscuits but be prepared to wait in a long queue. Olympia specializing in kathi rolls has moved under Kareem’s management. Luckily the same cook is making the famous egg smothered rolls – mutton and chicken are exceptionally good. Momos and chaat are available in plenty throughout the street.
North Main Road in Koregaon Park is known for its Osho ties and thriving expat community. All sorts of snacks, meals and ethnic varieties are available in the vicinity. Malaka Spice for excellent pan Asian, Arthur’s Theme for French and fusion, and Dario’s for authentic Italian. Count on Prem’s for good old palak paneer and naan as well as multi-cuisine choiced. Sweet Chariot will satisfy any sweet cravings. Fast food lovers do not fret there is a Pizza Hut, Café Coffee Day and Pune’s version of Burger King for you. ABC Farms, a large campus of restaurants, is located at the end of the road and has Swiss Cheese Garden, Aroma, Shisha Café, and Arcasia.
There is a plethora of choices as far as food goes in Pune and even these streets have other food joints — the above list is by no means complete!
Box 1 German Bakery is to Pune what Leopold Café is to Mumbai. Bustling all day long serving breakfast, lunch and dinner at all times of the day it was a popular hangout for the expats and Osho clientele. Since its bombing in February 2010 many expats are at a loss of where to get the same hearty breakfast omelettes. Oddly unlike the name suggests German bakery is not owned by Germans but at the time of its opening in 1987 had a menu that would make most Europeans mouth water in the times when pastries and sandwiches were scarce in Pune.
Box 2 Roopali on FC Road is known as Vaishali Hotel’s older sister since the crowd is older as well. But the saying, “older — the wiser” rings true, as this place has the best coffee in town. It may not have a fancy garden like Vaishali but the food quality and service is top notch. Roopali has its regulars from morning until closing, all coming for that familiar made to order coffee and special dosa served by waiters known on a first name basis.
Box 3 Chocolate toast does not sound appealing but it has a huge fan following. If you see a long line somewhere on FC Rd. it will most likely be for the small tapri-like eatery Flavours. Students happily wait in line for a minimum of 20 minutes for crunchy toast smothered in gooey chocolate on both sides. Do not try to make it at home; it just is not the same. Part of the charm is eating this unusual treat fresh off the grill hot, while those onlookers waiting in line drool at the treat in your hands.
Published in Touchdown Magazine, February 2011