The satisfaction derived from tucking into a steaming plate of pliable momos is nothing short of paradisal when achieved at a particularly high elevated point, say about 2,004 m or to be more precise, at a sleepy restaurant in Mcleod Ganj. Ensconced within Dharmsala, this sleepy village is a melting pot of Tibetans, monks, locals and foreigners, and offers three things in ample variety: peace, panoramic views, and palatable delights.
With interesting crowd, comes interesting fare. Mcleod is stuffed to the gills with little restaurants that jostle for space on its narrow streets, each with a view that kills any love for polluted metro cities. Like any other Himalayan tourist destination, these restaurants offer cuisine that is a far cry from fancy. (In fact they might render an average spice-loving Indian homesick). And most of them are vegetarian or vegan.
That said, the variety of food available here is mind-boggling, hot and delicious in its simplicity, enhanced by mountain-air inspired appetites: imagine sipping a hot mug of apple cider at KhanaNirvana on a crispy, cold evening atop a wee balcony or licking off the last sticky crumbs of Woeser Bakery's carrot cake while surrounded by friendly chatter.
Here are seven restaurants that one must absolutely visit to get a hit of Mcleod's heady flavour.
Woeser Bakery/ Facebook
Located on Jogiwara road, this is an excellent breakfast time place, especially if you’re looking to get some morning caffeine in your system. Their home-made cappuccino is best followed by the pancakes and chocolate sauce, or even a slice of carrot cake. The bakery is closed on Mondays.
Pankaj Kumar Mishra/ Highway On My Plate/ Facebook
This tiny restaurant serves classic Tibetan food that won’t excite the Indian who loves his spices. Instead of the thukpa and other main course items, settle down with a plate of chicken momos instead. They are incredibly flavoursome, and don’t even require the usual dunk in any sort of condiment.
KhanaNirvana Community Café/ Facebook
Founded in 1997 on Dalai Lama Temple Road by a team of international volunteers living in Dharamsala, this place only believes in serving up vegan all –natural food that is organic, free of all chemical preservatives, and super sanitary. Cheese is not on the menu but provided to those who ask, and a cup of their steaming apple cider that’s mind-blowingly cheap will set everything that’s wrong in the world right again. The only issue here? It’s several narrow flights of stairs up, so you are already earning your supper.
The Chocolate Log/ Facebook
If you have a hankering for some sweet stuff, head to The Chocolate Log on Jogibar road. Owned by an elderly couple who also offer lodging, it is a peaceful, quiet setting that's excellent for contemplating matters of the world over a chocolate brownie and a cup of joe.
Abhilash Vikram/ Nick's Italian Kitchen/ Facebook
Close to the central square in Mcleod Ganj, this is a comfort zone for food lovers. An ample variety of Italian dishes with even more abundant offerings of cheese is proffered here, and complements the fresh fruit juices beautifully. If you find the food a tad bland however, ask for the momos and their freshly-prepared chilli sauce.
A chilly evening is best spent on the rooftop of this restaurant with a warm oven-baked pizza, and a view of the mountains for company on comfy old cushions that have hosted many a tourist. And if you’re feeling particularly indulgent, try their chocolate cake afterwards.
Siddharth Sood/ Facebook
It's hard enough to find excellent sushi in Indian cities - let alone a sleepy hillside village. Add to this that Lung-ta is a vegetarian eatery, and you might not be tempted to go. But go you must for their sushi rolls and miso soup. Located on Jogibara road, a set meal is priced at an average of Rs 150.