Top 20 Food Tips for Manali Traveller
1. If you are sick of dal/sabzi/rice, an advantage of Manali's haphazard development is that there is a large choice of food in Manali from the numerous restaurants, many owned and run by Tibetans or Nepalis who learned their skills in Goa, Pokhara or Dharamsala.
2. Due to the many Israeli travellers, there are plenty of places selling mediterranean food alongside Tibetan specialties, Italian dishes of varying interpretation, the ubiquitous "continental". Ironically, Indian food is now something of a rarity in Old Manali, and there is certainly no restaurant selling exclusively Indian food.
3. The meat in Manali market, mostly chicken or Mutton, tends to be good as local people are big meat eaters and the animals are less scrawny and better kept than in much of India. Most restaurants have a good turnover and buy meat daily in the season.
Old Manali is chock full of restaurants of wildly varying quality, but here is a pick of our favourites :
4. At the top of the road to the village, just past the Manu temple turning is the Manu Cafe, probably Old Manali's oldest cafe. They have a nice patio as well as a small indoor area and sell good basic food at cheap prices.
5. Further down, Little Tibet is on the steep part of the hill up to Old Manali does fine pasta and italian dishes including an excellent Carbonara, although they are little pricey.
6. Next door is the Shiva Garden cafe, which sells good - and cheaper - food, and has the advantage of an excellent view from the balcony of the traditional wood and stone building.
7. Down the hill 20 metres or so is Yangkhor who sell good quality specialty Tibetan food such as momo and thupka. Breakfast is good too, but most of their "continental" leaves something to be desired.
8. Opposite is Cafe Manalsu, a spacious and very atmospheric place with stripped pine tables and a view onto the Manalsu river. Its run by Rajiv, who makes the place worth visiting as much as the food, and plans to have a full scale pizza oven for 2004.
9. At the bottom of the hill next to the barbers is a small wooden chai shop; the Gaddi tea stall, who does the best tea by far in the village, and sells simple food such as momos. Its a good place to sit and chill with a river view out back and a steady influx of locals.
10. On the left side of the road down to the clubhouse (turn right from the bridge) is the family run Tibetan Kitchen, one of Old Manali's few truly indoor restaurants, wood panelled and with an excellent menu of Tibetan food - try the Crispy chicken honey sauce. They probably also do Old Manali's best Chicken schnitzel.
11. Forno, on the Hadimba Temple road past the Shingar Regency Hotel, is run by an Italian woman and does the best Pizza east of Beirut, top notch pasta dishes and wonderful Italian coffee, plus excellent italian desserts such as Tiramisu during the season. Prices are expensive at around 200 Rs for a pizza, 250 Rs for a pasta dish, but on a par with Old Manali, and the food is of far better quality.
12. New Manali's more upscale restaurants are primarily aimed at Indian tourists, and signboards proclaim cuisine from every corner of India including Punjabi, Gujarati and South Indian. There are also a huge number of simple Dhabas and sweetshops offering thalis and specialty sweets.
13. Our picks are; Mayur restaurant, in a small turning to the right opposite Manu Market, is one of Manali's oldest restaurants, and has a decor that resembles a provincial UK Indian restaurant circa 1980, and serves some of Manali's best Indian food at prices that are very reasonable when compared to Old Manali, as well as good western style dishes - their apple pie is especially recommended.
14. Khyber is a beautifully decorated, wood panelled place next to the roundabout near Ram Bagh, is one of the most expensive places in town, but the Indian food is superb and the huge windows are a good spot to do a couple of hours India watching over a beer or six.
15. Opposite and a little down from the bus stand is Chopsticks, whose menu of chinese dishes is usually good quality and comes in extremely big portions. Pork is very unusual in North India, and Chopsticks is usually very tender and extremely tasty, especially recommended being the Roast Pork Chilli.
16. The numerous German Bakeries in Manali seem to specialise in rather stale bread, so if you want good fresh bread or cakes try Superbake in Manu Market or "Shop 10" (ask for shop 10 and ANYONE will point you in the right direction) down the first narrow lane after the HP tourism office.
17. Manali Sweets, down the small lane opposite the bus stand, is locally acknowledged as the best Indian sweet shop in town, we especially like it for their addictive Gulab Jamun and Rasmalai, although their chai is crap.
18. The best Chai in town is to be found in a small chai shop at the heart of Manu market, on a narrow 'crossroads' found by following the street straight up from Superbake, past the row of barbers shops into the smaller alley.
19. Manali's finest tandoori chicken is to be found in Manu Market (left side of the main street in town), where the almost legendary Mr Singh, a huge Sikh, has a near constant queue of people during May and June outside his tiny and rather grubby shop.