I generally feel very strongly about food and take restaurant recommendations very seriously. That is why when someone asks me for where to go for a particular meal, I give a lot of thought into suggesting a place. I’d like to believe I’ve never given a bad recommendation and for the first time ever I’d like to test that theory out here on the blog.
On my most recent trip to Naggar, I spent a day visiting Old Manali just for the food and boy was it a great day! I’ve been to this area thrice now and each time I’ve tried food at different places. Like many other hill towns, Old Manali also has a large population of Israeli nationals. They have had quite an influence on food here too. Besides that ever since the area started becoming popular, most cafes and restaurants became multicuisine. You will now find items from almost every cuisine (Chinese, Italian, Israeli, Indian, Burgers, and other fast food) at all restaurants. It’s just a matter of picking a place that suits your taste palace.
So to help you out, I thought I’d make a comprehensive list of all the places I like here. You might find that some names repeat with those on other lists on the interent. but look at the bright side – if so many people are recommending these, there must be something to it, right?!
The Lazy Dog
This is one of the most beautiful cafes in the entire area. With a huge open space and a canopy of trees covering the majority of it, you can spend hours lazing here. They also have a cozy indoor seating and a covered nook outdoors that offers seating on steps.
As for the food, we tried their non-veg hummus platter and cheese-jalapeno poopers along with a side of chilled Tuborg. Both items were very well prepared. The cheese poppers had just the right balance of mozzerella with jalapeno and were fried to perfection. The hummus platter also served a decent quantity but I did want a little more tang in the hummus. Overall, I would rate the food a 4/5.
Price for two (with alcohol): Rs 1,200
This place is an all-time favourite. You’ll have read about this on several blogs and Instagrams but this place is worth the mention every single time. River-side seating, good food, and live music in the evenings make for a great experience overall. If you’re going to Old Manali for the first time and can’t pick a place, this is the place to go. You won’t be disappointed. Althought I didn’t go here this time around (there was no time), I do have favourite items that I order everytime I visit.
I will say though that this place doesn’t have the greatest menu on the planet, but it offers comfort food. So if you come here after a tiring day and dig into a plate of cheesy alfredo pasta with a side of rum-added hot chocolate, you won’t end up complaining. Do try both these items though.
Price for two: Rs 1,000
A small hole-in-the wall place near Drifters towards the end of the Old Manali region, this place is a hidden gem! And I would never have discovered it if we hadn’t decided to hike up till the end of the market road. By the time we reached here, we were already starving and I couldn’t think of anything better than a hot steaming plate of chicken momos to break the fast. It was a bangin decision!
Their stuffing is excellent and so is the quantity. On talking to the staff we found out they also serve a good bowl of thukpa, but since we wanted to eat at as many places as possible, we skipped that here.
Price for two: Rs 300
Non Stop Cafe
Undoubtedly the best place to go to if you’re looking for a budget meal and drinks. These guys serve everything supercheap. The food quality is decent, nothing too fancy, but it offers a place overlooking the street where you can find good music, kind people and a relaxed vibe. This place reminded me of cafes in Pushkar. The best part about them is the inexpensive alcohol. You get a pint of beer for 90 bucks. Plus they also have reasonably priced rooms if you’re looking to stay in Old Manali.
Price for two (with alcohol): Rs 500
Another river-side establishment (next to Cafe 1947), I love this place for its bakery items. They have quite the selection of pies, cakes and desserts. I really really loved their chocolate pie – perfectly flaky and sinfully chocolatey. Sit here with a cuppa and your favourite dessert to while away time as you read a book or enjoy the view.
Price for two: Rs 500
Now I know this is post is about Old Manali, but I want to mention one other place that deserves a spot on every Manali food-guide list:
Located about 35km from main Manali, this small roadside dhaba is situated next to Jana Waterfalls, a popular tourist spot. If you’re looking for the most amazing local, Himachali food, this is the place to be. They only serve one item on the menu – the Himachali Thali – which consists of 11 different items cooked to perfection. There’s red rice, rajma, kadhi, makki roti, saag, achaar, chutney, siddu (Himachali Tingmo), ghee, shakkar, and kheer. The kadhi was my absolute favourte with siddu coming a close second.
And if you’re the kind that also likes a great seating along with great food, they’ll set up a table right next to the waterfall for you. There are a few other dhabas next to Maniram as well, serving up a mix of fast food, chinese and non-vegetarian items. You can make a day excursion out of your visit to Jana falls and try some items at each of these dhabas if you like, but don’t miss the Himachali Thali at Maniram.
Price for two: Rs 600
If you’ve been to Manali, do share your restaurant and cafe recommendations in the comments so that I can try them out next time ❤