Picturesque hills, tall pine trees, fresh, crisp, mountain air … and piping hot, flavoursome food and beverages to feed an appetite magnified by the surroundings. Just the combination we seek in hill stations. Except that some hill stations do a better job of providing the most scrumptious options for toothsome food of all sorts. Despite its popularity (sometimes even traffic snarls), there is nothing that quite beats Shimla when it comes to delectable food of all varieties. From decades-old street food destinations, to cafés with tons of character and sought-after food, to fine-dine restaurants in five-star properties, there’s something in Shimla for visitors of every hue.
We’re huge believers that the essence of a city lies in experiencing its local food – at the small, popular eateries frequented by natives. Strolling along the streets of Shimla, it is imperative that one runs into numerous stalls and tiny shops serving fresh, hot food. In fact, the food from the streets of Shimla is as colourful as the city itself. Here’s a list of the best street food outlets across this much-sought-after tourist town. (If you’d like to read about the iconic cafés in this much loved tourist town, check out this post covering 10 old and new cafés around the Mall Road area in Shimla.)
A visit to Shimla isn’t complete without trying the amazing Chola bhatura at the small but popular eating joint famously known as Sitaram and Sons. Being run presently by the sixth generation of the same family, the food at Sitaram’s is delectable and astonishingly cheap. Chola bhatura and Channa Tikka are among the most famous dishes here (priced at Rs. 35!).
The Chola (chickpea curry) is mildly spiced, bringing out the inherent flavour of the dish. The Bhatura – a popular, deep-fried bread – is soft and melt-in-your-mouth. The tikkis are crisp and the fresh, green pudina chutney adds colour, character and flavour to the dish. Both the chola bhatura and the tikkis are served with raw onions and a dash of lemon. This age-old eatery has its fans among the locals – even those who have shifted away have it on their must-do list every trip back home.
Note: If you don’t find a seating position for yourself within this eatery, you can always sit across the street on the benches provided there.
Must have: Chana bhatura
Also try: Aloo tikki
Distinguishable by his green tin boxes with paper cones pouching out from the bins, Rattan Jee Channewala can be spotted easily on Ridge, the Mall sitting comfortably under the shade of an old tree. His bins contain mixtures like wafers, peanuts and chana press. He sells them in creatively prepared cones that one can carry and enjoy while on a stroll. This small stall has been in Shimla for the last three decades now. For local Shimlaites, this stall is no less than an essential landmark of the town.
Note: In the movie “3 Idiots”, observe the scene where a peanut cone vendor on the Mall in Shimla guides Rancho’s two best friends towards his house.
Must have: Peanut cone
Also try: Channa cone
Mahendra Pal Stall, another of Shimla’s legendary age-old eateries, started operating in 1948. The stall stands tall at a place known as Takka bench, below the famous Gandhi Statue on the Ridge. Hikers climbing up to the Jakhu Temple usually pause here for a short chaat break before continuing on with their expedition.
Fruit chaat is what the stall is most famous for. Fresh, seasonal, chopped fruits are tossed with a flavorsome chutney and chaat spices resulting in a juicy, crunchy, peppy treat. The roasted jeera powder and black salt are especially effective in boosting the naturally rich flavour and aroma of the fruits. Interestingly, the chaat at this stall can be consumed throughout the year; in winters, the spicy flavors make for an enjoyable dish while the juicy, fresh fruits are invigorating during the summer months.
Note: There are a lot of monkeys in the area so be careful while eating.
Must have: Fruit chaat
Also try: Gol gappa
This eatery is so popular that the stairs leading to the place are known has Chole vali pauriya. Contrary to its name, which suggests that it is a chaat joint, Prem Chaat Shop is a must-visit eatery for aloo tikki with chole and for chola bhatura. The cholas (chickpeas) served here are spicy, tangy and served hot. The aloo tikkis have a flavourful filling of peas & paneer or chana dal. The tikkis are served straight off the sizzling pan, dunked in chole drizzled with two types of chutneys – sweet tamarind and green mint and coriander chutney. The bhaturas are soft and puffy.
Note: There are a few eateries serving the same menu here, but make sure you stop by at Prem Chat only.
Must have: Aloo tikki
Also try: Chola bhatura
One of the oldest bakery shops in Shimla, Krishna Baker’s offers the best chicken buns in town. Morsels of soft, well-cooked chicken stuffed in a dry roasted bun make for an excellent treat. A vegetarian version of the bun is available as well. The chicken bun here always contains a piece of raw onion, tomato and a large cabbage leaf, making it close to a burger and adding hugely to the overall appeal of the snack. The Cheeseburgers, Dry potato patties, and Kathi rolls are other good dishes to try.
Note: The best way to enjoy treats from Krishna Bakers is to get them packed and eat them at home.
Must have: Chicken roll
Also try: Cheese burger
A must visit eatery in Shimla, the Tibetan food corner is extremely famous for Kurkeys – a dish that isn’t served anywhere else in the entire country. Kurkeys is a mixture of puffed flour with various minced vegetables. A serving of crispy Kurkeys (consists of six long puffs) is best enjoyed with rich, creamy mayonnaise.
Note: The red chutney can be a bit spicy. If so, try the Kurkeys with mayonnaise instead of the chilly chutney.
Must have: Kurkeys
Also try: Spring roll wrappers
Mehru Halwai is one of the oldest and most popular halwais in Shimla. The Raj Kachori served here is extremely popular and attracts large crowds. Crisp on the outside, it is stuffed with mashed potatoes, moth sprouts, slightly sweet curd and spices. Finally flavoured with tamarind chutney and garnished with generous amounts of sev and aloo bhujiya, it makes for a perfectly irresistible chaat treat. They also serve other light snacks.
Note: Freshly prepared desi ghee sweets are also a specialty.
Must have: Raj kachori
Also try: Samosa and channa
Located right outside St. Bede’s College, Nav Bahar is a popular student hub. The tangy gol gappas (pani puri) prepared here are a favourite among students but it’s quite common to see international tourists queuing up as well. Since this lies on NH 22, many bikers and tourists make a halt to savour these hygienically prepared gol gappas.
Note: The stall lies on NH 22 and thus there’s quite some traffic around it.
Must have: Gol gappa
Also try: Stuffed Kulcha
Famously known as “Pappijee’s”, Himkiran Pappi da Dhaba opened around 1975. The Dhaba walls bear pictures of famous personalities who have visited ever since its commencement. Their Paneer pakoras (chunks of cottage cheese with an outer layer of besan that are deep fried) are especially recommended though the eatery serves all sorts of pakoras from spinach to onions, cauliflower, potatoes and even chillies. The Noodle samosa is also exceptional. A plate of Paneer pakoras and Noodle samosa with some hot ginger chai is a perfect way to spend an evening in Shimla.
Note: Initially there was just one Pappijee’s Dhaba but now two brothers have opened two different eateries just next to each other. Both serve good food.
Must have: Paneer pakora
Also try: Noodle samosa
Shimla also has some fabulous cafés offering delectable food across meals and even better views. Here’s a post on the best cafés around the Mall Road area in Shimla.
And in case you’re heading into or out of Shimla on NH 22, this post on the most popular eateries on NH 22 highway might be useful.