If you've ever taken a bus out of Mumbai to Lonavala or Pune, you will know that the food along the way is highly unremarkable. Food courts selling standard-issue snacks seem like the only option. But as frequent travellers will tell you, you only need to look a little to find plenty of places that will whet your appetite.
Velkar Farms: This two-week old restaurant is run by the folks who started Mr Chow's, the popular Chinese takeout joint in Mumbai. It is located on National Highway 8, which connects Mumbai to Ahmedabad, and specialises in cuisines from Lucknow and the North West Frontier Province.
Isn't the highway that connects Mumbai to the industrial belt on the Gujarat border, an unconventional choice for a restaurant?
“We are targeting the crowd from Mira Road, Dahisar and Borivli,” says Swapnesh Golwalkar, chief operating officer of Deep Sands Resorts, the company that owns the Mr Chow's and Velkar Farms brands. “Besides, there are a lot of people who go to work in Vapi and the industrial belt.” The restaurant will serve five-star favourites like galouti kebabs at less-than-five-star prices. “We also have a tavern modelled on a British pub,” says Golwalkar.
Chokhi Dhani: The Mumbai branch of Jaipur's famous village resort and restaurant offers many of the same delights as the original. Spread out over a sprawling five-acre property just off Kalyan, you'll find Rajasthani puppeteers, henna artists, bangle shops, camels gamely taking you for a ride - and authentic Rajasthani food like daal baati churma, ker sangri and Rajasthani khichdi. The restaurant also serves a Rajasthani thali, with specials that change every day.
Toni Da Dhaba: You can have an encounter with long-legged lasses of the avian kind at Toni Da Dhaba, on the old Mumbai-Pune highway. This popular weekend picnic spot has an emu pen on its premises. If you can stomach seeing the fast-running and occasionally vicious bird served on your plate, you can even sample the restaurant's emu handi. The restaurant also serves delicious Punjabi dhaba staples, for those who're not game for meat.
Sunny's Dhaba: Sunny's Dhaba is also located on the old Mumbai-Pune highway, five km from Kamshet. It is also a popular weekend destination for vacationers looking for hearty Punjabi food.