For years, local trains have shaped the way Mumbai plans its day, enjoys music, makes friends, shops, sleeps and in many ways, even eats meals. For instance, dangling off a Virar fast seems worth the pain after a Pav Bhaji Franky at GVC at Andheri (W) station. Many of these iconic eateries even have interesting histories. Santosh Sawant, who now owns the always-crowded Batata Wada Samrat right outside Santacruz (W) station, first started out with a stall. “I used to stand in front of this gate,” he says, pointing to…well, a gate that all those who disembark at this station know well.
Over the years, the railway stations have remained pretty much the same, but the eateries have undergone many makeovers — iconic stalls have turned into eateries, famous juice centres have become air-conditioned multi-cuisine restaurants, and there are several other places that nightlife aficionados remember only to be open post 1.30am for that after-drinks snack. So, as the lifeline of Mumbai, the Western Railway, celebrates its 150th birthday this year, we take a local from Churchgate to Borivali to visit some of the famous eateries, and hear a few heart-warming success stories that these stations have stood witness to.
Started as a small juice stall by Jayesh Goragandhi over 30 years ago, this Gujarati-run restaurant is an unmissable landmark outside Borivali station, and stands testament to the success stories this city nurtures. Today, it has the capacity to seat over 200 people, has an AC section, and a menu that serves everything from Mexican, Oriental and Indian cuisine to soups, starters, and an extensive dessert section. “It is a Gujarati restaurant that serves the best south Indian food in all of Borivali,” we were told by a regular.
* MM Mithaiwala
If you’ve ever stepped out of Malad (W) station, chances are you know where MM Mithaiwala is. There are three massive hoardings right outside; and in the rare instance that you’ve missed these, there are a few other billboards all over Mumbai too. The man who heads this 62-year-old conglomerate is Manmohan C Gupta and a clearly influential man in the area. Known for the dahi samosa and collection of sweets, his shop is almost always flooded with people. If you ever get a chance to meet him, like we did, you might even get a live recital of some of the Hindi poetry he has penned.
* Batata Wada Samrat
This 28-year-old eatery is owned by a national level swimmer, Santosh Sawant. After quitting his job of a swimming coach and lifeguard at a leading city hotel, Sawant decided he make his mother’s stellar cooking available to the rest of the city. “I wanted to provide good quality food. So, our ingredients are top class, even the coriander that we buy isn’t cheap; I get it from Nasik. Our vada pav might cost slightly more (`18) than others, but it is as good as two of theirs,” says Sawant.
* Bhurji Pao stalls
Pick from any of the stalls placed right outside the station and be assured of a delicious doused-in-butter (on request) egg scramble. The most popular serving here is the omelette-pav (`30). Around for decades, the cooks at these stalls keep changing, but the food, they say, remains consistent. Of course, since it’s cooked out on the street, it might not suit queasy stomachs. For the famous night shift here, we were told that these stalls shut at 1.30 am, and then start again at 3 am to continue till 6 pm.
* Gayatri Vegetarian Corner
These days, outside Andheri (W) station are about eight different eateries. From an omelette-pav guy and fruit plate stall and Aakash Lassi and Snacks Corner to the big daddy of fast food, McDonald’s — this stretch has options for everyone. The one that stands out, however, is the Gayatri Vegetarian Corner or GVC. Started in 2009 by a former call centre employee, Pranav Rajendra Rachh, it now has four stalls all over Mumbai. The Khichya Masala Papad, Cheese Khichiya Papad, and Pav Bhaji Franky are the items it is famously visited for.
* Jain Sweet and Bhelpuri House
Step out of Kandivali (W) station and you’ll find yourself surrounded by eateries. To your left is Sarovar Pure Veg and to your right, stands the Jain Sweet and Bhelpuri House. Once you get past the impatient servers and generally unhelpful staff at Jain, you will find one of the freshest vada pavs in town waiting for you. In addition to the Mumbai snack, the chhole bhature (made in pure ghee) and pani puri (made using Bisleri water) are the big draws here.