What to eat in Manali? Food recommendations for your vacation in 2016

Manali is one of the most famous and most visited tourists destinations in India. Every year it sees hordes of visitors from Northern Plains looking to escape the heat and just to ‘Chill’ a little. Besides that the town sees a regular flow of tourists not only from all over India, but rest of the world as well. Besides being a destination in itself it also acts as a base for lot of treks and travelers looking to explore Greater Himalayas. And on their way back it serves as a perfect spot to relax a little and rejuvenate their tired bodies.

Though the Hill town is surrounded by many worthwhile places, however I always look at Manali in 3 sections – Old Manali, Vashishtha & Main Manali.

Main Manali houses majority of eating options and that is the part that gets most chock-a-block with tourists and it is not uncommon to see it drowned in an ocean of white taxis ferrying tourists from one view-point to the other. While it remains popular with family audience, the more trendy urban populace of India chooses to hangout in Old Manali.
Old Manali is a different world from main manali – spread around a stretch of incline leading to a popular temple on top – this is a town in its own. Almost all the famous cafes are in this Area and have plenty of options for those who are looking to rub shoulders with some hipster and hippie populace.
Vashishta is a small village around 3 kms from the bus stands in Main Manali. The village has a smaller and less urban feel to it when compared to Old Manali, however it has plenty of guest houses & cafes to keep budget travelers and trekkers happy. Though there are no names that pop-up to my mind from that area, however almost any cafe would fix you a very decent sandwich, omelet, pizza or lasagna.
If you are a North Indian, then avoid eating North Indian anywhere in Manali. To throw more light on eating joints & food areas in the area, do read some of the recommendations that have come from fellow Food Enthusiasts. After these comments you can see my recommendations and some of the food pictures from Manali.
Nitin Shivani Different sandwiches and coffees at Dylan’s Cafe in Old Manali.
I had one with avocado, loved it. Their cookies are nice too.
 Taran Sikka Where’s it exactly?
 Nitin Shivani When you cross the bridge to enter old Manali, take a left and keep moving for around 200-300 metres. It’ll be on your right. If unable to locate, ask locals
 Sonia Chhatwal Redcafehouse
 Pia Jhamb Old Manali has the best restaurants to chill. Please avoid NewManali, its super crowded. Must go to The Lazy Dog, Dylans and Drifters. check this to know more: http://www.eatstory.in/best-restaurants-in-old-manali/
 Pragya Saxena Chopsticks is must on mall road.. Along with that drifter’s cafe, cafe Johnson
 Taran Sikka Must haves at these places?
 Pragya Saxena Taran Sikka.. Chopsticks mainly for non veg.. RestAnchor-Comedian Aman Srivastava will tell u
 Aman Srivastava Try anything you want to at chopsticks.. I don’t even remember the names of the dishes.. Try their springrolls for sure.. Gyathuk was tasty too.. Try Tingmo if you haven’t (it’s a bread).. Ask the waiter for suggestions.. He’ll guide you well.. But all in all, don’t skip Chopsticks.. It’s the top rated in Manali in all aspects..
 Aman Srivastava Chopsticks on the mall road is a must visit but only if you’re a non vegetarian.. Johnson’s cafe, drifter’s inn and cafe 1947 shouldn’t be missed either..
 Manish Jolly Johnson cafe and mum’s kitchen.
 Taran Sikka Must haves at johnson?
 Pragya Saxena Spaghetti pasta n French fries
 Pankaj BhardwajChopsticks, Johnson’s cafe
 Pragya Saxena Chopsticks… Johnsons cafe… Drifter’s cafe
 Khadeeja Memon Janapav for the local thaali
 Naman Yadav River trout with rice in khyber restaurant
 Naman Yadav If you are a lucky one then you can also find red rice must eat
 Shivangi Goyal Riverside cafe ! Johnson’s caFe
 Manish Jolly Mum’s kitchen
 Annkur Kapoor Club sandwich at Gozy restaurant
 Annkur Kapoor Cocktails at Apple country resort
 Sumit Pandey Village Goshani must be on the list… You can fish trout on your own and enjoy by the shore
 Aman Srivastava Cafe 1947 as well.. Chopsticks on mall road is a must visit…
 Saloni Madan Thank you so much everyone for the valuable suggestions. smile emoticon
 Manik Batra You should definitely not miss the freshly made chocolate chip cookies at Dylan’s cafe.
 Sumit Pandey Village Goshani must be on the list… You can fish trout on your own and enjoy by the shore
 Aman Srivastava Cafe 1947 as well.. Chopsticks on mall road is a must visit…
 Saloni Madan Thank you so much everyone for the valuable suggestions. smile emoticon
 Manik Batra You should definitely not miss the freshly made chocolate chip cookies at Dylan’s cafe.
 Tarun Yadav Rivers cafe, cafe 1947, drifter’s inn
 Anurag Sahni Evergreen cafe old manali. Johnson cafe
 Anurag Sahni Casa bella vista old manali.
 Anurag Sahni And do go to il forno if its still open for pizzas
 Anisha Kapoor The food at Drifter’s Inn is exceptional. Also chill at Lazy Dog… Once ur done with these places..try the Bhagsu Cake from any of the German Bakeries, its a 30/- version of our 300/- Banoffie Pie. Once ur done with these…try anything else. Johnson is over hyped and over priced…it just enjoys being the only ‘fine dine’ in the city.
Pradeep KumarDrifter’s Inn >> just grab your ordered food and go right up to the roof top and enjoy with mountains all around you ! The food is quite good, though nothing like “not-to-be-missed” !!!
Conversation and comments above would give you a vague idea of the general opinion, however having visited Manali on a few occasions myself, here are some of my personal recommendations :
  • Visit any of the German or English bakeries that you can spot. They make their own bread and can fix you a mean sandwich at a reasonable price. Also opt for Yak cheese if they have to offer. Avoid the meats as they most probably would be canned, stick with vegetables and eggs. Their other baked goodies might not be as refined as what we see in fancy bakeries these days, but then once you get hand of them, you cannot get enough of them.
  • Drifter’s Inn – one of the personal favorites – have tried Pizzas, Eggs Florentine, various Pastas, breakfast combos, burgers, shakes, rajma chawal etc – they might not be THE best, however mostly manage to hit the spot right.
  • Johnson’s Cafe – This place is an experience in itself. One of the finest done places in India, they have multiple seating areas and options. This restaurant with well stocked bar is one of the most popular places in Manali and having tried their Food, specially baked Trouts a few times – I am not surprised at all. A bit expensive by all standards, however well worth the price.
  • Casa Bella Vista – One word – Pizza. Some of the finest you will taste in India. Do visit the restaurant of this resort run by a European lady to experience genuine food fired oven pizzas done with fresh cheese and pure veg ingredients. I love their outdoor seating or low seating in their main restaurant. Also try their drinks – specially the mint and lemon ones. Very refreshing they are.
  • Fresh Fruits – Just buy them from anywhere – cherries, strawberries, apples, peaches – they all grow in Himalayas and you get to savor them at their freshest best in Manali. Do consider picking few for home – they do sell by the cases – but make sure you haggle hard when buying in decent quantity.
  • 1947 Cafe, Lazy Dog, Bob Dylans – they have their own charm and have food choices to offer. Do visit to experience these places – though have nothing to recommend in particular, however you can expect decent version of almost everything.

And not to forget Maggi at numerous ‘maggi-points’ that you will come across around and beyond manali. There is not much to differentiate one from another, however find your perfect spot and just go for it. The chances are that it would be the best Maggi you will ever have in your life.

Apple Cinnamon Burrito with Vanilla Ice-cream and Chocolate sauce. It has a different charm when you are actually sitting under an Apple tree in an Orchad... :D @ Bee's Knee, Old Manali
Apple Cinnamon Burrito with Vanilla Ice-cream and Chocolate sauce. It has a different charm when you are actually sitting under an Apple tree in a Orchad… 😀
@ Bee’s Knee, Old Manali
Trout done in Indian spices.... @ Johnson's
Trout done in Indian spices….
@ Johnson’s
'Ten Don' at Lazy Dog in Manali. Its a 'Donburi', which is a Japanese word for one-dish meal. Consists of Tempura (deep fried vegetables) & Egg topped on Rice... Quite Delicious it was.. :D
‘Ten Don’ at Lazy Dog in Manali. Its a ‘Donburi’, which is a Japanese word for one-dish meal. Consists of Tempura (deep fried vegetables) & Egg topped on Rice…
Quite Delicious it was.. 😀
Would you believe me if I told you that these were Tacos ?? @ Bee's Knees, Old Manali
Would you believe me if I told you that these were Tacos ?? @ Bee’s Knees, Old Manali
Special breakfast @ Rainbow Cafe, Vashisht Manali. A glass of fresh apple juice and Kerala coffee not in picture. All of this for Rs. 170. And omelet cheese waala hai.. :P
Special breakfast @ Rainbow Cafe, Vashisht Manali. A glass of fresh apple juice and Kerala coffee not in picture. All of this for Rs. 170.
And omelet cheese waala hai.. 😛
A bowl of Spaghetti done in tomato sauce with olives and basil.... @ Cafe 1947, Old Manali...
A bowl of Spaghetti done in tomato sauce with olives and basil…. @ Cafe 1947, Old Manali…
Fresh brown bread, Omelet, Yak Cheese, vegetables and Home made Mayonnaise - AWESOMENESS @ English Bakery, Old Manali...
Fresh brown bread, Omelet, Yak Cheese, vegetables and Home made Mayonnaise – AWESOMENESS @ English Bakery, Old Manali…
Rajma Chawal I had in Manali. While you enter Vashisht area, there is Hotel Bhrigu on your left.. bang opposite that there is a dhaba that claims Rajmah Chawal to be their specialty. They are made in Desi Ghee and costs Rs.60 for the combo. I have no eaten much Rajmah Chawal outside my home, but this definitely has to be one of the better ones.. I guess the beans that are used in that area are different from the ones we use in Delhi.
Rajma Chawal I had in Manali. While you enter Vashisht area, there is Hotel Bhrigu on your left.. bang opposite that there is a dhaba that claims Rajmah Chawal to be their specialty. They are made in Desi Ghee and costs Rs.60 for the combo. I have no eaten much Rajmah Chawal outside my home, but this definitely has to be one of the better ones..
I guess the beans that are used in that area are different from the ones we use in Delhi.
Peanut Cookie @ German Bakery, Vashisht, Manali
Peanut Cookie @ German Bakery, Vashisht, Manali
Pan Grilled Trout @ Drifter's Cafe, Manali
Pan Grilled Trout @ Drifter’s Cafe, Manali
Oregano and Olive Oil Bruschetta at Il Forno, Manali
Oregano and Olive Oil Bruschetta at Il Forno, Manali
Mint tea.. perfect for Manali weather..
Mint tea.. perfect for Manali weather..
Mango Pie for Rs. 60 @ German Bakery, Vashisht, Manali Made from fresh mangoes...tasted just WOW! :D
Mango Pie for Rs. 60 @ German Bakery, Vashisht, Manali
Made from fresh mangoes…tasted just WOW! 😀
And here comes the show stopper. The great Himalayan trout.... Worth every praise that has ever been sung about it... @ Johnson's Cafe
And here comes the show stopper. The great Himalayan trout….
Worth every praise that has ever been sung about it…
@ Johnson’s Cafe
A common Sundae/Dessert across the backpacker trail in India. Can you identify this one ??..
A common Sundae/Dessert across the backpacker trail in India. Can you identify this one ??..
Delicious aloo palak at Freedom Cafe, Vashisht.. by Michelle Rowan
Delicious aloo palak at Freedom Cafe, Vashisht..
by Michelle Rowan
Cherries... had them in Manali last week.. the best I have ever tastedd.. :D
Cherries… had them in Manali last week.. the best I have ever tastedd.. 😀
Burger @ Drifter's Cafe, Old Manali
Burger @ Drifter’s Cafe, Old Manali

Again – this is not a comprehensive list and we consider this as a work in progress, if you have some other eating options to recommend, please do add them in the comments below, would be helpful for fellow food lovers.

Author: Shashank

CFE – Cheap Food Enthusiast Entrepreneur by birth, hippie by heart he is here just because he loves to eat. This adventurous biker is constantly looking for new avenues to satisfy his insatiable hunger for food & life. Though he loves sugar dense food, there is nothing sugar coated about him- brutally honest with his words, he often ruffles feathers with his stark naked opinions about food, fancy restaurants & orthodox ideas.

1 thought on “What to eat in Manali? Food recommendations for your vacation in 2016”

  1. Old Manali :

    Add Dragon’s to the list, I had grilled Sandwiches & Paranthas for breakfast and Dal Makhani-Lachha paranthas for dinner there. Its adjacent to their guest house Dragon’s Inn and is located in the alley which has the famous German Bakery approx 30m before Drifters on the road to manu temple. We stayed there as the rooms were value for money and the food was great. You’ll know what I mean when you look at the way they present the lachha parantha’s.

    Somu/Tibet Cafe- Had two live band perfomance’s with delectable Fresh Pizza’s coming out of the wood-fired oven, which were probably the best pizza’s I have ever had.

    Lazy Dog- The most upmarket place in Old Manali, Great food and service and the ambience created by the decor and the crowd alongwith the live music was phenomenal. Getting a table was a pain though because of the rush.

    AVOID Little Italy & Olive Garden at all costs, horrible service and average food. They had a fellow customer change his order four times because they were out of specific brands or other ingredients.Little Italy took 45 minutes to come up with the Breads while we looked at the curry and scratched our heads about why we went there in the first place and there was only one other table occupied other than ours.

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