Panchgani is a small hill station in the Satara District of Maharasthra, enroute to the famous weekend getaway Mahabaleshwar. Maharashtrian food is loved as much for its vada pav and misal pav, as it is for its spicy, non-vegetarian specialties. A recent visit to Panchgani was a delightful experience on various fronts. Warm people, superlative weather and the beauty of the sun-roasted hills makes one want to stay back forever. Add fresh, healthy sumptuous food to that, and you have the perfect recipe for a memorable holiday.
Panchgani’s terrain is slightly different from most hill stations, with dry western winds flowing in and rendering a golden, brown landscape for the most part of the year. The spring is, however, bright and colorful, and the monsoon transforms the slopes into vivid shades of green. And thus, Panchgani is best visited in spring or during the monsoons.
Panchgani lives in an era of its own with boarding schools lining up every other street and aged Parsi uncles smiling back at you. The misty mornings and the windy, chilly nights, a sky full of stars and the unceasing chatter of the birds are just what a tired, city soul needs to find its bearings. The area offers many treks and hikes, there are lakes, caves and a variety of other close-to-nature activity options.
The main market at Panchgani is situated right on the highway to Mahabaleshwar, with shops lining both sides. A shiny, newer set of outlets with twinkling lights attracts attention. This part has relatively better infrastructure than the other shops.
This article talks about some of the most visited restaurants in Panchgani, offering popular dishes and local favourites.
Snack Corner is the first outlet that comes to mind among the restaurants and occasional hotels. Among the most loved joints for a quick bite place across ages, it has an uber cool seating area on the street with the Bollywood classics playing in the background. With a sense of pride the owner asks you to try the ‘Grilled Cheese Corn Sandwich’ which will be among the best decisions you take that evening. Teamed up with a creamy glass of “strawberry with cream”, it makes for a satisfying evening snack. The pizzas are very well prepared and other milkshakes are equally good.
Best For: Grilled Sandwiches, Strawberry and cream shake. Also Try: Veggie Pizza.
The next stop is the five-decades-old Lucky Restaurant, run by a local Parsi family. This semi-bakery, semi-café is like a walk down memory lane for the local people, who remember this place through their childhood to growing up years to now. They emphatically state that neither the taste nor the outlet has really changed over these years, something that they are thankful for. Most of the items available are home-baked and the comforting, enticing smell of freshly baked bread could easily be the reason for hanging around at Lucky for hours. Their burgers and sandwiches are especially sought after and there are few who can say ‘no’ to the butter-soft muffins and buns.
Best For: Burgers & Rolls. Also Try: Sandwiches, Tea.
Moving on to an entirely different cuisine, Purohit’s, Lunch Home is best known for its delectable Gujarati thalis. Mind you, it’s a lunch home which means it is only open during the day and has a limited quantity to supply. The obvious choice here is the Gujarati Thali because that’s all there is on the menu. The dishes change every day as they cook with the fresh produce available. Quite a wide spread, the thali comes with 4-5 curries, special dry chutneys, rice, roti and a dessert of your choice. If you’re new to Gujarati food, a quick word of caution – most main course dishes have a sweet bent. But for everything, it’s totally worth the experience and should be on the must-do list in Panchgani.
Best For: Gujarati Thali.
The next must-visit food destination on the list should be Apsara, the go-to joint for the yummiest keema pav. Standing bang in the middle of the highway market, every dish here is worth a try and multiple visits, if needed are quite the norm. Although the Mutton keema at Apsara is often quoted as the highlight of this popular eatery, their astoundingly big dosa, spicy Misal Pav (a Maharashtrian lentil curry topped with freshly chopped onions, a dash of lemon and a mound of farsan, and then eaten with local pav bread), and flavourful Mutton Biryani are equally sought after.
Best For: Mutton Keema, Mutton Biryani. Also Try: Mutton Bhuna, Chicken Tikka Masala, Misal Pav.
This is a quick round-up of the most popular local joints but there are a dozens of other small and big eateries all around the town. Panchgani is the stuff nature-filled days and dreamy nights are made of. Explore its lanes and bylanes, stopping every now and then, at quaint cafes to enjoy a sip while chatting with friendly locals.