Top Cheap Darjeeling Restaurants
I am usually not too fond of eating out in roadside eateries or small unknown restaurants that may look not so inviting. But over the years during my numerous stays in Darjeeling, I have discovered a few eateries that are not only cheap, but with the quality of homemade food they serve and the casual friendly atmosphere they provide, they have created little brands for themselves.
Those who know them and experienced them, keep returning to the lovely little eateries, some of which may not even qualify to be called as formal restaurants. Some look like shacks. If you are with your family, you may initially hesitate to get in.
All these small cheap restaurants are local family owned businesses, some run by Tibetans, some by Nepalis and Bhutias. Many of these eateries are favorites of foreigners. The reason being that the foreigners tend to research a lot more before they come and find the cozy places that offer great value for money and at the same time ensuring enough hygiene. And I say hygiene because you will be surprised to see that most offer packaged mineral water.
So what kind of food do you get in these cheap restaurants? Actually wide varieties, but predominantly Chinese, Tibetan and Nepali dishes. Because this is what the foreigners prefer who are their main customers. But they do welcome all. In some, you will get the typical north Indian spicy dishes as well.
But being small businesses, they keep limited stocks. So unless you go early (say by 7:30pm for dinner), you might often find them having run out of stock. And do not plan to eat there in a large group... there may not be that many seats (these eateries are mostly small) and they may struggle to offer good service to large groups.
Having been in the business of serving tourists for long, most of the owners of these small eateries have surprisingly learned to communicate fluently in English. Of course they do speak Hindi and their native language as well.
In my sections below, I'll often take references to local food like momos, thukpas and also of other Indian dishes that are readily available in Darjeeling. If you are not familiar with those, then check out Darjeeling Local Food & Drinks
to know about them
Here are my top picks out of the cheap restaurants in Darjeeling. I have mentioned the primary cuisine they serve next to their names. A 10% tip is appropriate.
(Chinese & Tibetan, Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
It's a small restaurant with three tables on each side and located right on Gandhi Road and below the Dekeling Hotel. The location is right next to the taxi stand and where the Nehru road for Chowrasta Mall begins. Unless you go well in advance, you will most likely need to wait.
Sometimes the tables are joined and you may need to share the table with others. This is a favorite haunt for the foreigners due to the steaming hot but non-spicy food they serve. My favorite here is the Wanton Soup which is almost a meal by itself. It comes with several momos dipped in noodle soup and vegetables. Although it's called a soup, it's really quite filling. Also don't miss out on the lemon tea with ginger and honey that not only tastes great but looks exotic with its golden tinge.
(Chinese & Tibetan, Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
Another small restaurant located right next to Kunga in the same building. The approach to this ground floor restaurant is from Gandhi road. It's owned by the Dekavas family who own the Dekeling hotel located upstairs. Although small, it has little more space than Kunga and a bit more organized being part of a well known hotel. While they prepare great Chinese dishes, they are best known in the hill town for their delicious momos.
Will you call it a restaurant? It's actually a tin shack located on Jawahar road that leads to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute & Zoo. It's run by a couple. You can actually walk it from the Mall Road. Once you take a look at all the comments on the guest book, the only thing you can say is WoW!
With a lovely view on one side of the restaurant and a casual homelike atmosphere, you can spend hours sitting here while enjoying the great vegetarian momos, thukpas and tea. You do get egg items here like egg burgers. Another attraction here is they serve homemade light beer as well. There is a small open terrace on the backside.
A little unassuming gem, this small restaurant is located on Zakir Hussain road, a few minutes walk from the Chowrasta Mall. With just three tables for seating, Sonam and her husband Puran run this small family owned business. In breakfast, my favorites here are the toast and the special omelet with vegetables and followed by the great lemon tea with ginger and honey. If you like to eat a little heavy, try out the set breakfast.
This budget restaurant is part of the Revolver hotel and run by the local couple Asnenla and Vikash Pradhan. They have converted their family house into a hotel cum restaurant with great passion and taste. This simple, friendly yet elegant restaurant serves mind blowing Naga and local Nepali dishes that you will seldom find anywhere else in Darjeeling. They are all home made and served steaming hot. You will only get dinner here (no lunch) and will need to book the meal in advance. Revolver is located on Gandhi road at a 10 minutes walking distance from the taxi stand.
Petrichor (Snacks & Pasta)
If you are willing to walk for 15 minutes along Zakir Hussain road that leads from Chowrasta Mall, you will reach this wonderful restaurant which is themed on an Art Cafe. On the left side of the road you won't miss this colorful eatery. It's also a working studio for the couple Dipak and Sweta who run this business. Along with great pasta, tea or coffee, you will get to see or even participate in making fascinating artwork. If you are looking for a small restaurant with friendly and homelike atmosphere which is also a locals favorite, this is the one you should target.
Update 2013: Petrichor has closed down. It seems the couple running the cafe had a problem (actually lots of problems) and separated.
(Vegetarian Indian, Chinese & Tibetan food, Lunch/Dinner)
Right on Nehru Road and on the left as you walk towards the Mall, this large and spacious restaurant has been there for quite some time. Earlier they used to display the sample dishes in front in the showcase. But no longer so. However, food continues to be popular and reasonably priced. You will get all sorts of vegetarian food like Indian, South Indian, Chinese and even momos and Indian snacks like Chole Batore and chats. As you enter the long section of the restaurant, walk down to the end crossing the open kitchen on the left and you will see another smaller section on the left with a great view of the mountains and the valley. This is the place to sit.
Frank Ross Cafe
(Vegetarian Indian & International Menu, Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
As the name suggests, its more like a cafe rather than a formal restaurant. Located on Nehru Road on the left as you walk towards the Mall, this restaurant offers a nice ambience with hanging table lights that look really attractive in the evening. It's run by the same family that owns the Frank Ross Pharmacy right adjacent to the eatery on the left.
Offering strictly vegetarian food, there are wide range of dishes including sandwiches & burgers, Italian items like pizzas and spaghettis, Mexican items like Tacos and Nachos, and even South Indian dishes like dosas and idlys. Other than these, they also offer Indian snacks and vegetarian Chinese dishes, and of course tea and coffee.
1) If you like to explore more restaurants & eateries in Darjeeling giving you wider choice of food and cuisine, then check out Darjeeling Restaurants Guide
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