Hey dear readers, welcome back!
If you hail from North India, there are high chances that you’ve already visited the bustling hill-station of Manali at least once. The popularity of this teeming little place doesn’t seem to be diminishing – it still attracts hordes of foreign backpackers, Indian honeymooners, families and friends looking to breathe in some of that cool air and enjoy mountain capped views during a quick weekend.
And tourists gotta eat, right? Here are some of the best restaurants and cafes that I’ve tried out in Manali. It only scratches the surface of the burgeoning food scene, but at least its a start!
CAFÉ 1947 – This restaurant has quite a reputation – it is an institution of sorts! Known for its wonderful views of the stream that flows beside it and lively ambiance, it features on the to-do list of every visitor to Old Manali. The food Is decent, yet a tad overpriced. Opt for the pizzas, they are goooood!
THE LAZY DOG – The ambiance coupled with decent food, makes this place one of the best restaurants in Old Manali. It has a great mix of serenity (courtesy the gushing stream and branches of trees offering leafy shade to the outdoor section) and upbeat, thanks to the music! The food again is quite pricey here, but the salads and trout are amazing! Avoid the Pad Thai.
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PEOPLE– It’s hard to miss the huge signboard over People Café. While the lower section is pretty shabby, the al fresco section has a much better vibe and you can chill out here for an hour or two, sipping on some of their amazing chai. The English breakfast I tried had an overload of masala on everything. If you go, I’d suggest ordering something other than this.
LILY’S CAFÉ – Go for the juices or the Indian food. The salads are downright terrible and mostly comprise of raw shredded cabbage. Ambiance wise, it is a cozy space to spend a couple of hours and get some work done, if you are a digital nomad.
ENGLISH BAKERY – Fresh, home-made confections always lure me like a moth to a flame. This tiny outlet has some simple cheesecakes, chocolate cakes, rum balls, biscuits and my new favourite, Bhaksu Cake. If you’ve never tried Bhaksu cake before (I hadn’t), bite into a cold, crumbly one here!
THE SHED – I visit on a rainy night and the live music made me forget all about the gloomy weather. Settle down in one of the comfy couches, pick a magazine off the stand and you’re all set. The food has definite scope for improvement –some actual sauce for an alfredo sauce pasta and a few more interesting veggies in the burger wouldn’t hurt, for starters.
CHOPSTICKS – The food is incredible – plain and simple! If you are someone like me, who, ever-so-often craves some Indo-Chinese fare, you won’t find a place that does it any better than Chopsticks. The Tibetan Food is mouth watering – from the Thukpa to the Momos! Sitting pretty on the famous(ly chaotic) Mall Road, it has a funky China-Town vibe to it, however the music played is everything from Michael Jackson to Spice Girls and Kishor Kumar thrown in for good measure. Don’t miss this place for anything, and here’s a tip- go early as there’s a waiting list during lunch and dinner time.
FAT PLATE – Run by a darling elderly owner with green thumbs, Aunty Rati, Fat Plate, on the outskirts of Manali town, is as picturesque as it can get! It appears to be bursting at the seams with flowers of every conceivable shade and the air itself is naturally scented. This charming family-run restaurant has Aunty Rati’s son at the helm in the kitchen and they offer spectacular fare! Whether you order Fish n Chips, Rogan Josh, the bacon wrapped chicken served with plum compote or a juicy burger (I tried all these over 2 visits) you will leave belly-full and content.
XO BURGER – XO burger is not located in the main hub of activity in Manali, but at a distance of 20 kms away in Karjan, near Shivadya Resort. This outdoor restaurant has a good selection of burgers and their ‘small’ portion of fries is huuuge – not that I’m complaining! There is nothing gourmet about the food as most of the ingredients appears to be of the ‘ready-to-eat’ variety. I wouldn’t recommend travelling here exclusively to try the restaurant… but if you are passing by, it is a nice place to stop and enjoy a burger, while being surrounded by apple trees.
JOHNSONS CAFÉ AND BAR – Another must-visit Café in Manali for the cheerful spirit and lip-smacking food! The great restaurants tend to be overpriced and this one is no exception, however, it is worth a visit nonetheless. The pizzas and trout are amazing – and so are the hot-chocolate and lemon cheesecake! I doubt you can go wrong with anything you order here.
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RASTA CAFÉ – Located in Vasisht, Manali, Rasta Café is a decent place to catch up over coffee and light bites like momos, either in the day or at night. If you are looking for budget places to eat, this one serves the purpose just fine.
BIG BEAR CAFÉ, NAGGAR – You may find it difficult to locate, and if so, just get to ‘Alternate Terrain,’ which is where the café is located. On walking in, it is hard to believe that you are in Manali – the intimate interiors, wooden accents, giant bear statue and Aztec patterned seating set beside huge picture windows make you feel like you’re in Canada! I thoroughly enjoyed working (and just being) here – the food is good, but portion sizes, way too small.
Until next time! xoxo