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Get a whiff of Srinagar’s most authentic fare at these vintage restaurants

Paradise on earth is home to fragrant concoctions and indulgent plates. Between the fiery mirchi korma, vibrant noon chai, and comforting girda – Kashmir has a kaleidoscope of flavours to savour. In Srinagar, the most authentic experience is offered at vintage restaurants – from century-old spaces that hosted political leaders and writers to local-approved spots for wazwan. Here’s our pick of a few must-visits.

Every season and occasion has a culinary interpretation in the valley. Take the doughnut-like snack chochwor for instance, traditionally lathered with jam or butter and perfect for tea-time. Or the warming winter delicacy harissa, laden with spices and cooked in an earthen oven overnight. And let’s not forget the popular wazwan, the poster child of Kashmir’s culinary diversity and an indispensable part of celebrations – complete with kebabs, rogan josh, goshtaba, and more.

Naturally, a visit would be incomplete without a taste of these traditional flavours. And although a sit-down meal at a local’s home would be the best way to experience all that the region has to offer, heading to a space that’s been serving up authentic delicacies for decades comes close. This, especially if you’re in the capital city for just a few days. Here are a few vintage restaurants in Srinagar to add to your Kashmir itinerary.

Vintage restaurants in Srinagar to pop by on your next visit

Linz Cafe (1975)

 

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When Sheikh Ghulam Mohammad first opened Linz Cafe, he aimed to provide opportunities for employment in the valley while serving up quality, flavourful food. Fast forward a few decades and the family-run space, helmed by Sheikh Farooq Mohammad, has firmly established itself in the dietary habits of locals. Most recommend savouring the Kashmiri pulao, laden with ghee and served with kebabs as well as other wazwan fare.

Also popular here are the tabak maaz, goshtaba, and rogan josh. Combine that with a quaint, old-school ambiance and breezy music and you’ve got yourself a wholesome dining experience. That’s not all, the restaurant is reportedly built in the shape of a traditional Kashmiri lock. It doesn’t get more authentic than this.

Address: Residency Road, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir

Lala Sheikh (1890)

 

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The local go-to for a cup of tea with a side of flavourful chicken patties, this hole-in-the-wall has several stories to tell. With over a century of service to its name, this iconic restaurant was first established by Lala Mohammad Sheikh, then a young man from Budgam. As government offices cropped up in the region, business picked up, eventually paving the way for an establishment that would host everyone from local shopkeepers and students to writers and politicians.

In fact, around World War 2, Lala Sheikh would serve soldiers, who’d pay in gold. It later drew several writers and political figures, each with their own set of ideas to share. Today, the space sells thousands of cups every day, at times with buttered toast. Don’t miss out if you’re in the region.

Address: Residency Road, opp. Polo View, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir

Ahdoo’s (1918)

 

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A beloved spot that’s been around for over a century, Ahdoo’s has served celebrities and journalists alike. The establishment, which specialises in authentic Kashmiri cuisine, first began as a standalone bakery. Run by Mohammad Sultan, who’d studied at the East India Company’s confectionery in Kolkata, the establishment was named after his father, Ahad. Considering how it was the first of its kind in Kashmir, it soon found a place in local’s hearts, helping the owners to branch out into a full-fledged 60-seater restaurant.

Over the years, the three-storey, expansive space has hosted people from across different cultures, age-groups, and professions. Prior to Indian independence, this clientele included British officers and bureaucrats. Ahdoo’s has also served celebrities like Shammi Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachan, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Karan Johar, and Alia Bhat, amongst others. While here, savour the hustaba, mirchi korma, butter toast, chicken pattice, kebabs, cakes, and wazwan. Best part? It’s only a hop-skip-jump away from Dal lake.

Address: Residency road, Regal Chowk, Raj Bagh, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir

Mughal Darbar (1984)

 

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Established by Haji Mohammad Ibrahim Mugloo, this space went from being quaint to a bustling spot that serves up some of the most authentic mutton and chicken dishes in the valley. The wazwan here is popular as well. Besides this, you could savour the harissa, pulao, biryani, korma, and rogan josh here. A family-run business, Mughal Darbar holds the reputation of being clean and hygienic and is conveniently located in the heart of Srinagar. Head on over for lunch when you’re in the neighbourhood.

Address: Residency Road, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir

Lhasa (1976)

 

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One of the oldest eateries in Srinagar, this establishment offers diners a taste of Tibet. It was established by Abdul Rehman Zareif, whose family had moved to India after being exiled from the Himalayan kingdom. A former employee of the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamshala, he first served only Tibetan and Chinese delicacies, finding few takers. Later, however, as the local palates shifted, Lhasa began catering to a host of diners. Today, the space – complete with old-world Tibetan calligraphy and Kashmiri artefacts – is the perfect fusion of Chinese, Tibetan, and Kashmiri fare. While here, savour the momos, thukpa, fried rice, and soups.

Address: Lane 3, Boulevard Road, Near Shah Abbas Hotel, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir

Imran Cafeteria (1972)

 

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Nestled in barbeque street (Khayam Chowk), Imran Cafeteria was established over 50 years ago by Muhammad Yusuf. The road here is often jammed come sundown, as locals and tourists make a beeline to the spot for a taste of smoky meat on skewers. Boasting a clientele that includes businessmen, civil servants, students, and high-profile individuals, Imran Cafeteria is a popular spot. It’s also known to have served former chief minister Omar Abdullah, who reportedly headed there with a friend. Best part? It’s just two kilometres from the central Lal Chowk. This one’s a must-visit.

Address: BBQ Street, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir

Alka Salka (1976)

 

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Old-school tables draped with gingham cloths, Alka Salka is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. On the menu are delicacies like biryani, galouti kebab, murgh malai tikka, gulkand zafrani kahwa, mutton kanti, chicken pudina, and more. However, most locals recommend the trout delicacies. Found across streams and rivers of the Kashmir valley, this fish is culturally significant. That aside, the naan here is a must-try. Visit with your family if you’d like lunch on a crunch.

Address: The Bund Road, Munshi Bagh, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir

Feature image: Courtesy @dawoodposts/Instagram  ; Hero image: Courtesy @downtownguy98/Instagram

Get a whiff of Srinagar’s most authentic fare at these vintage restaurants

Eshita Srinivas

Eshita is a food, alcohol, travel, and entertainment writer who spends her days thinking of the next big trend to write about. She’s a communication graduate with bylines in Conde Nast Traveller India, GQ India, Deccan Herald, and Girls Buzz. When not at work, you’re likely to find her hunting for a good read or charting out the perfect itinerary for a solo trip across Asia.

   

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