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Home > Food & Drink > Dining > 8 vintage restaurants in Goa that serve the spirit of susegad on a plate
8 vintage restaurants in Goa that serve the spirit of susegad on a plate

Amid the sea of eccentric eateries and bustling bars that have recently cropped up in the sunshine state, a few old-school spots continue to capture the hearts of locals. We’re going on a nostalgic walk through Goa’s most iconic vintage restaurants.

India’s beloved beach destination has long been hailed for its eclectic cuisine, much of which can be attributed to its Portuguese past. A smorgasbord of flavours, spices, and culinary styles – Goa’s gastronomical culture has a certain syncretic quality that few other regions in the country can lay claim to. Combine this with the state’s penchant for evolution and you’ve got the perfect destination for experimental restaurants and quirky bars. In fact, every month brings a slew of new menus – from Mediterranean to Middle Eastern – to the region’s buzzing neighbourhoods.

However, to truly immerse yourself in the quintessential, old-school laidback spirit of Goa (read, susegad), you’d need to step away from the glitzy spots and explore a few old-school establishments. Brimming with history and the region’s most authentic delicacies, these spaces have firmly established themselves in the dietary habits of locals. Naturally, they’re a must-visit. If you’ve got a ticket to Goa, pencil these vintage restaurants into your itinerary.

Walk down memory lane at these iconic vintage restaurants in Goa

Café Tato (1913)

 

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What started out as a local snack bar serving tea and bhajis in 1913 is now one of the most buzzing spots in the region. Cafe Tato is populated by locals, many of whom are found digging into generous portions of sukhi bhaji, alsande bhaji, and patal bhaji – signature Goan breakfast specialties. Samosas are popular here as well. Brought into existence by Keshav Dhuri, the cafe was first called Hindu Upahar Griha. This was later switched to the founder’s eke-name ‘Tato.’

Word-of-mouth and customer loyalty has kept the place running, with a few regulars who’ve frequented the place for over decades! Many of them just so happen to be on a first-name basis with the current business heads – Dhuri’s four grandsons. Tatos has three branches, with the one in Church Square being the oldest. And while the interiors have been remodelled just so, the menu is timeless and continues to boast of food that’s true to tradition.

Address: Souza Towers, No. G3, Dr RS Rd, Near Municipal Garden, Altinho, Panaji, Goa

Joseph’s Bar (1970s)

 

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A charming tavern that can seat no more than about 20 people, Joseph’s Bar is Goa’s best-kept secret. It first started as a one-room bar in the 70s, offering locals a spot to knock back a few over engaging conversations until it was due to be closed. That is until Atish Antonio Fernandes, took over. Tables and chairs spill out onto the road at this spot, with the menu offering only a few snacks – including fish cutlets, prawn rissois, and chicken samosas.

If you manage to grab a seat here, ask for local brews like Eight Finger Eddie or People’s Lager. You could also savour feni or ask the legendary, local-favourite barman Gundu for recommendations. If you’re over during the summer, you might be able to sip urrak, another local alcoholic beverage. That aside, evenings at the bar often involve jazz music and leisurely conversations. Head here for the local brews, stay for the susegad.

Address: Gomes Pereira Road, Altinho, Panaji, Goa

O’Coqueiro (1968)

Known to be the first to serve chicken cafreal in Goa, this establishment began as a small eatery with simple Goan fare on the menu. First crafted by chef Gines Viegas, the spread here is famed for its delectable Indo-Portuguese flavours. That aside, O’Coqueiro is also known to be the spot where the infamous Charles Sobraj – French serial killer – was apprehended.

The story, based on anecdotal evidence, states that in the 80s, this restaurant was one of the only to have a reliable telephone connection for international calls. As such, it became the perfect spot for the police to capture the criminal who was reportedly nursing a feni while savouring crabs and cafreal when he was arrested. Today, a sculpture serves as a reminder of the incident. That aside, O’Coqueiro (translated to The Coconut Tree) has withstood the test of time, with delicacies like mushroom xacuti, king fish recheado, and bebinca cheesecake being highly recommended.

Address: Edapally – Panvel Hwy, Defence Colony, Porvorim, Penha de França, Goa

Souza Lobo (1932)

This old-school restaurant in Goa happens to be one of the most popular, local-recommended spots to watch the sunset over Calangute beach. Featuring no-frills, homely recipes passed down generations, the space first began as a stay-eat-drink weekend place in 1932 and was an instant hit amongst tourists and locals alike. With only 15 tables on offer, hopeful diners would have to queue up for a spot. This prompted the owners to knock down the hotel rooms and expand the restaurant.

Although the space is famed for its lobster thermidor and baked crab, vegetarians can dig into the mushroom or vegetable xacuti. The baked crab, chicken cafreal, and pork roast are a must-try as well. These are complemented by fine wines and delectable cocktails, of which locals recommend the feni-based margarita, pina colada, and the in-house punch. If you’re in the neighbourhood, pop by for dinner.

Address: Beach, Calangute, Goa

Cafe Real (1946)

 

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One of the most frequented Goan cafes, this spot was established in the 40s. Delectable snacks coupled with some classic word-of-mouth advertising instantly piqued interest around the spot. And although time has led to several renovations, Cafe Real continues to hold a nostalgic ambiance for most locals. However, it’s also quite popular with tourists.

Savour the samosas, sukhi bhaji, aloo vada, chilli pakora, and the classic Goan alsande tonak and kanda bhajjis. And don’t forget the coffee and tea. With flavours that have withstood the test of time, there’s few old-school cafes that can boast of being as in demand as this one. Be sure to slot in some wait time when you head here.

Address: GR2G+4PG, MG Road, Opposite Azad Maidan, Ozari, Panaji, Goa

Mr. Baker (1922)

 

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Another charming space in Panaji, Mr Baker is believed to be one of the oldest for classic, homely baked goodies in Goa. A quaint, Portuguese-style space that’s run by a family, the menu’s most popular features include croquettes, risoi, battica, rum ball, and other delicacies that the owners claim hails from the time of the founder, Vincent Vaz. Also popular are the beef samosas, patties, serradura, and dodoland.

However, a meal here is incomplete without their crowning glory, the bebinca – a seven-layer, melt-in-the-mouth delight that’s consistently ranked as the best in town. If you’re here over the summer, ask for the Niro, a refreshing cashew juice. Considering how this is one of the last few places that continue to make authentic Goan sweets, a visit comes highly recommended.

Address: Dr. Dada Vaidya Road, Opposite Municipal Garden, Panaji, Goa

Hospedaria Venite Restaurant & Bar (1954)

 

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Serving as the perfect time capsule – with its colonial details and beer-bottle chandeliers – this restaurant came about over 60 years ago. Nestled within a 200-year-old building, it was first a lodging and boarding space under Portuguese rule. Back then, Venite was frequented by officers and administrators alike. Post independence, the high ceilings, Indo-Portuguese fare, and balconies that overlook the picturesque Fontainhas by-lanes won the hearts of locals.

Additionally, the graffitied walls, many created by artistic patrons, have a certain nostalgia about them as well. The food here is just as memorable as the ambiance, with popular options being pork chops, beef chilly, and steaks. However, the seafood creations, including stuffed crabs and fish fillet, take the cake. That aside, the coconut coffee liqueur and eclectic cocktails are worth writing home about. Several locals have a long-standing relationship with the owners here, which adds to the charm of the place. Don’t miss out if you’re in the neighbourhood.

Address: Rua 31 de Janeiro, Near Head Post Office, Altinho, Panaji, Goa

Cafe St.Francis Xavier (1933)

 

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A quaint yet contemporary space, this is another stellar spot to dig into authentic Goan fare. In fact, for locals headed to the famed Mapusa Market, this is an indispensable pit stop. Running for over 80 years, their beef chilly fry, prawn risoi, king fish fry, xacuti, beef patties, croquettes, roast chicken, and cakes come highly recommended. The space also stocks a range of breads. Since its establishment cafe St.Francis Xavier has drawn a throng of diners and seating could take a bit of time if you’re headed there during peak hours. At once elegant and buzzing, this one’s got the quintessential Goan hospitality going for it as well.

Address: Shop No. 141, 141, Market Rd, Municipal Market, Goa

Featured image: Courtesy Joseph’s Bar; Hero image: Courtesy @joelalen/Instagram

Eshita Srinivas

Eshita spends her days writing, rewriting, and thinking of things to write about. In the little time she has left, she daydreams about going on a solo trip across Asia.

 

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