Hungry in a train dabba?

Feb 12, 2012, 10:21 IST | Team SMD

We've all been there � a long, tiring journey in a Mumbai local that leaves you ravenously hungry. Sunday Mid DAY brings you the most famous eatries at different stations on the three lifelines of the city, Western, Central and Harbour, so you know where to head the next time hunger strikes

We've all been there -- a long, tiring journey in a Mumbai local that leaves you ravenously hungry. Sunday Mid DAY brings you the most famous eatries at different stations on the three lifelines of the city, Western, Central and Harbour, so you know where to head the next time hunger strikes

Mawa cakes at Grant Road station

B Merwan and Co right outside Grant Road station (West) has been the most economical and tasty eating option for thousands of businessmen, college students, taxi drivers and almost everyone else who alights at Lamington Road. The menu, the chairs from Czechoslovakia and the marble top tables from Italy haven't changed in 98 years. Everything served at the caf � has more than a good dose of Amul butter and the place never goes wrong with Puddings (Rs 10), perfectly cooked double Anda (Rs 20) and Brun maska (Rs 10). But you just can't afford to miss the small Mawa cakes (Rs 8), cooked to perfection and dripping in butter. People who have been eating the Mawa cake here for years claim that the taste hasn't changed a bit. But make sure you get there before 2 pm to get your hands on some cakes. People buy two or three dozens at a time and the owners refuse to make more once they run out of stock.

At: B Merwan and Co, outside Grant Road station (West)

Panipuri at Andheri Station (w)

In many ways, the railway tracks at Andheri station are like a metaphorical Berlin Wall. While those who sneak past to the West are welcomed by the affluence of the McDonald's and the Subways; those who remain on the East are serviced by the workman's Vada pavs from Jumbo King. However, as always, there are aberrations. Because standing right opposite the massive arch of the McDonald's is Aakash Snacks Corner. As a visit will confirm, its popularity ranks right up there with its rich cousin on the opposite side, and while it offers a variety of snacks -- Ragda patties, Sevpuri, Dahipuri and the like -- what really gets this place going is its Panipuris. The puris are crisp; in fact, every single one will crackle as it passes your mouth. And its red chutney is tangier, sour and sweeter, than any that this reporter has ever tasted. Each Panipuri contains so many tastes, and for six of them you have to just shell out Rs 20. Go for it.

At: Aakash Snacks Corner, beside Platform Number 7 exit, Andheri station (West)

Frankies at Churchgate Station

Sameeullah Farooqui, a face that most media professionals and bankers from Mumbai's nerve centre in the South would recognise even in a sea of people. Ever smiling and ready to provide a moment of jocular inanity, he is not only affable but also a genuinely nice guy, and a dedicated bodybuilder. However, it is not his workout regime that has won him so many fans. Quite the contrary. His single greatest contribution to the frequenters of Churchgate station is to provide them with a few minutes of gluttonous escapism. 
Sameeullah has been running the oldest Frankie Roll joint situated in a Mumbai train station for over 13 years, the shop itself being more than 20 years old itself. Churchgate frequenters swear by the frankies here, many of whom claim they are the best in the city. Sameeullah, however, attributes the success of the stall to the customers. He says, "We are always willing to customise our rolls to their specifications. A little bit of extra chicken here, some extra spice there and that's all it takes." In fact, the extremely long duration of his tenure at this Frankie stall has provided him with a keen insight on the tiny tweaks that can elevate the Frankie roll from the mundane to a taste bud sensation.  Another factor is the warmth for his customers that he has inculcated in his staff members. Much like him, they have been associated with the shop for the longest time as well.  Selling more than 200 frankies a day, the Frankie stall has become synonymous with Churchgate station. Much like Sameeullah himself.

At: Tibb's Frankie Stall, adjacent to ticket counter, Churchgate station

Peanuts and pak at Lower Parel station

Rujuta Diwekar would love Narayan Govind Bhandari. The 74-year-old has been helping hungry commuters at Lower Parel station satiate their pre-dinner munchies with boiled peanuts, a Diwekar recommendation to lose weight, for 50 years now. A cheerful man, Bhandari, who quickly warms to us to talk about his three daughters, says he boils the peanuts in salt water at home, which is right across his spot on the entrance to Lower Parel via the bridge on the East side, and carts it over at 11 am every morning. And though the city around him has changed, his prices have stayed affordable -- you can get a pack of groundnuts (peeled) for Rs 5, two for Rs 10, and two packs of monkey nuts (unpeeled) for Rs 5. And if you have a hankering for something sweet, he also stocks Adrak pak, a sweet with a pungent aftertaste, for Rs 3 each.

At: Narayan Govind Bhandari's thela at the entrance of Lower Parel station

Lassi at Malad station

If you are on a foodie's trail across the Western line, and you need something to wash down all the Panipuris, Ragda patties, and Samosas you've consumed, you should travel all the way to Malad. For waiting just outside the main exit of the station, will be a glass of Lassi with extra malai. Called MM Mithaiwala, this large store stocks all sorts of Mithais, Dhoklas, Theplas and Khakras. However, its Lassi section almost stands out by itself. Attended by two men, glasses of Lassi are always ready to be filled and offered. They cost just Rs 23, and they offer a generous helping of malai with a spoon to help you with it. MM also offers that perfect Jalebi (not too large to crumble into pieces, not too small to disappear in a gulp), which you can try out.

At: MM Mithaiwala, opposite Malad station (West)

Bhajiya at Thane station

It's 5 am and hot Bhajiyas are being stirred out of boiling oil at Rajpuri snacks. Through the course of the day, this 12 year-old joint will serve thousands of regular travellers, outstation visitors, bus drivers, college kids and idle rickshaw drivers. None of them will spend more than seven minutes to stand and enjoy a quick bite. You can order your Bhajia, the best item at this stall, with pungent green chutney, between slices of bread or take it home but make sure you eat it hot. They also serve Puri bhaji (Rs 20), Vada pav (Rs 8), Samosa, Upma, etc. The best part? They start early and end late, the first Bhajiya begins to sizzle at 5 am and the last batch is rescued from the burning oil at 1 am.

At: Rajpuri snacks, opposite platform number 2, Thane station (West)

Sugarcane juice at Dadar station (e)

In a sea of cabs, dime-a-dozen Udipi restaurants and loud honking, Dadar Ice Depot and Coldrink House can be easy to miss. The tiny shop is bare except for an old sugarcane crushing machine and four rickety tables. Owner Jeetnarayan Singh is an 84-year-old man who is a tad grumpy because he wants to shut the place down for lunch, but can't, because thirsty customers keep trooping in one by one. "I came here from UP when I was 20, and have been here ever since. I don't know how to run any other business, so I stuck to sugarcane," he deigns to tell me, while his assistant pours me a glass liberally sprinkled with masala. Business comes to a near-standstill during the monsoon, so he packs up and heads to his village. But for now, Rs 10 is all you need for a full glass, and Rs 8 for a half-glass, from 9 am to 9.30 pm everyday.
At: Walk right after exiting Dadar station from the east side

Popcorn at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

JH Bindal & Sons has been rescuing Central, Western and Harbour railway travellers from the munchies for the last 17 years. Freshly popped, golden corn is served in brown paper bags and will keep you occupied till your train arrives. Don't expect flavours, it's a strictly classic butter kind of place and at Rs 5 per pack, it's a steal. They also stock wafers (Rs 5), Farsaan (Rs 5) and Khaman Dhokla (Rs 10). Open from 8 am to 10.30 pm, you can count on a satisfying snack any time of the day.

At: JH Bindal & Sons, near platform 6 and 7, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

Veg diet at Chembur Station

Chembur station in many ways is the hub of activity in Chembur. Within a three kilometre radius of the station lie the locality's best shops, watering holes and eateries.  However, the genesis of the area's finest restaurant was in the heart of this harbour line junction. Sadguru Juice Corner was initially a 7/10 coop in Chembur station dishing out juices and sandwiches to travellers in the 1970s, items which remain a conspicuous success. But it was somewhere in the late '80s that they chanced upon the recipe for what would become an award-winning phenomenon.The Pav Bhaji at Sadguru can claim to be the best in the city, a reality corroborated by the numerous food awards that it has won. The success of the Pav bhaji over the past two decades triggered the transformation of Sadguru from a hole in the wall to a double-storied restaurant at Chembur station.  Over the years, the menu at Sadguru has integrated several other cuisines including some outstanding Udipi dishes, a bit of Chinese and some traditional Indian delicacies. However, Pav Bhaji remains their mainstay, with a mindboggling array of more than 20 different variations of this versatile vegetarian snack.  Politicians and celebrities, including actress Shilpa Shetty and singer Shankar Mahadevan vouch wholeheartedly for the incredible food at this gustatory paradise at Chembur station. Fairly reasonably priced, a plate of Pav Bhaji coupled with their fabled mango or strawberry shake will set you off by Rs 150. But rest assured, it is money well spent.

At: Sadguru Juice Corner inside Chembur station

Dosa at King's Circle Station

King's Circle is a rather perplexing conundrum as far as eateries are concerned. The locality itself boasts of some of the finest restaurants in Central Mumbai. And yet, King's Cross station wears a forlorn appearance, providing little gastronomical relief to the passengers alighting at this stop on the Western and Harbour Line. The eastern exit of the station, however, conceals a delicious little secret.
At the entrance of the ancient Mahatma Gandhi market sits Prakash, dishing out melt-in-your-mouth Dosas from 9 am till 11 pm from a tiny little stall. Although a Kannadiga himself, his Dosas are a marriage of Tamilian and Udipi influences, a style he devised to cater to the cosmopolitan palates of Mumbai. His Dosas are served not only to hungry passengers but also weary shop owners at the market. His stall also dishes out crispy Vadas and fluffy Idlis served with spicy Sambhar with anything between 200-300 plates (of any of the three dishes) being sold in a day. A sugarcane juice vendor and a lemon juice seller are conveniently located at arm's length from the store, to wash out the perspiration inducing heat from Prakash's food. Everything at the stall is available at an economical rate of Rs 15 per plate. In true Bollywood style the establishment packs an aura of mystery around it; the owner of this five-year-old stall has never been seen by either Prakash or any of his colleagues.

At: Prakash's Dosa Stall, eastern exit of King's Circle station

Malvani cuisine at Vashi Station

The rather inexplicable name, Dale's (Seven), in the words of Rajesh, the owner of the restaurant, is "just a nice name to have".  And as much as the name might portend, the restaurant is hardly a makeshift American diner or even a complicated bakery. Far from it in fact, Dale's is the only place within miles of Vashi station that serves authentic Malvani and Agri cuisine. For the uninitiated both of these are very traditional and extraordinarily spicy Maharashtrian fare, characterised by red chilly sauces and gratuitous meat composition.  The mutton and chicken variants of the Sukka, the Lapeta and the Palak Handi will leave your mouth, nose and nearly every other orifice on your body watering due to their fantastic flavours and pure, untarnished heat.  Prices are a little on the steeper side for these dishes with a full plate costing Rs 350, but that is the case for only these exclusive items. Everything else, including the wickedly delicious Biryani and Egg Masalas are reasonably priced. 

Another incredible characteristic of the restaurant is the jovial manager, Mr Nagaraj. Indulge him in a conversation about the food, the weather or anything else under the sun and he will not only engage you but also damned well entertain you. He is also an extraordinarily competent linguist, with competence in seven different languages, all of which he caught on the fly while serving food to his cosmopolitan patrons.  Great food and total timepass this.

At: Dale's (Seven), at the entrance of Vashi station

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