While the whole city sleeps, a kilometre long narrow street in Zakir Nagar area comes alive. Dotted with small eateries serving haleem, kebabs, kulfi or momos, the road is abuzz with activity past midnight. The shops and stalls are open throughout the week. Popular among students and MNC executives, known for staying up late, this street is a foodies paradise in true sense. Even long working hours fail to dim the enthusiasm of the shopkeepers and cooks who always greet the hoards of customers with warm, welcoming smiles.
The ‘liveliness’ of the street is best witnessed after dusk, while daytime is dull. The charm of this street is possible to experience only at midnight when it is jam-packed by people looking for scrumptious food items like tandoori momos, mutton haleem, kebabs and kulfi faluda, etc.
Zakir Nagar has a population of more than 3.5 lakhs people, and the midnight hustle and bustle has been the norm here since the 1990s when people started migrating from Old Delhi.
“I thought of exploring this food street and the experience was completely out of world. The wafting flavours are enticing and my taste buds sensed some amazing cuisine here,” said Aniket Jamwal, a visitor.
Food lovers from across the city, especially from adjoining neighbourhoods such as New Friends Colony, make frequent visits here. More than 20 food points small or large do a brisk business in its capacity.
A large number of students come to the market. Most of them belong to various parts of the country and this street is ‘next to home’ for them in terms of food availability and taste.
“Each evening, from 7pm to 3am, Zakir Nagar becomes a replica of Lahore’s world famed Food Street. This has become a culture and part of life for the people living here,” said Firoz Bakht Ahmed, a resident and grandnephew of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
The street begins from a juice corner called Akhter Blender and ends at Madina Hotel known for its nihari and paya. According to visitors, during the month of Ramzan, the month of fasting, the street is possibly the best avenue. Every visitor has a favourite on the street. Like Talib Kebab, operational for more than two decades, is crowded with elderly people who mostly come to get the kebabs packed. Moreover it’s a meeting point for many.
Outside the Jamia Masjid, Mohammad Ashraf is well-known among people. Sitting at the same site for the past 15 years, Ashraf sells delicious desserts like rasmalai, kulfi falooda and rabri falooda. During summers it is a favourite spot for children, who love to have these items along with their parents. Opposite to Ashraf’s stall is Dood Bhawan, which is thronged by people after prayers at the mosque. During the month of Ramzan it remains open round the clock in view of the demand.
HOD or Head of Delicacies is a popular joint for tandoori momos. It also sells nutrient-rich food items for body building, thus it is always flocked by people who come here after a workout.
Staffed with stewards dressed in blue jeans, brown kurtas and white topis, Purani Dilli Restaurant has been celebrated by food channels, magazines and food blogs. It is a family-friendly diner and is famous for its haleem.
A meal or a meeting with friends is always incomplete without tea. The charming hall of Qayyum Chai Walla is one such spot which can accommodate 20 people at a time. One can spend hours here over cups of tasty tea. It’s a student-favourite as many can be seen engulfed in discussions here over tea.