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Serving a happy meal on graveyard shift

Located around a clutch of MNCs and BPOs, these stalls operate round the clock and are popular with young couples and teenagers

gurgaon Updated: Apr 19, 2018 22:23 IST
Kartik Kumar
Kartik Kumar
Hindustan Times
Gurgaon food,Gurugram food,Gurgaon night life
A late night food stall near the Vipul Square building. The stalls serve lip-smacking dishes at affordable rates.(Parveen Kumar/HT PHOTO)

In the dead of night, when most houses in the city go dark and the streets are deserted, there are some corners that remain abuzz with the gaggle of residents gathered for a late night meal.

Among the things that makes this city stand out is a wide range of eateries, offering lip-smacking food at affordable rates round the clock. These brightly-lit food shacks attract not just residents but also people from across the National Capital Region (NCR), who make the journey from across the border to satisfy their gastronomic urges.

Especially popular among the youth, these eateries are visited mostly by teenagers and people in their twenties.

Part of the reason for this is the clutch of BPOs and MNCs that have set up shop in the city. Hence, such eateries, which mostly mushroom around these commercial establishments, follow their work hours and stay open through the night.

Among the items that are mostly sold at these food shacks are paranthas, Maggi and steaming cups of tea and coffee. The steaming cuppas are especially popular at the time when the city is in grip of the winter chill.

Om Dhabha

One such eatery, offering food round the clock, is the Om Dhabha. It is located in block W of DLF Phase 3, which is a stone’s throw away from the Moulsari Avenue Rapid Metro station. It offers a stunning view of the skyscrapers in Cyber City, as it welcomes foodies for a hearty late night platter.

Established in 2011, the dhabha, with its makeshift tin roofs on concrete walls, draws customers who arrive in numbers and truck into paranthas, rolls, a range of delectable North Indian dishes and Chinese food cooked and served Indian style. There are several variations of Maggi on offer as well.

The rush at the cash counter, where customers queue up to pay their bills, and the dearth of empty seats in the dining area stand to attest to the popularity of this joint when it comes to a late night meal.

The customers here are a mixed crowd – young couples with little children, groups of friends looking for a quick meal after a night out, as well as office goers dressed in formal wear.

Although all food items are priced below Rs 550, customers insist that price is not an indication of the popularity of the dishes. This is proven true by the fact that the most expensive items on the menu - full portions of Chicken Do Pyaza and Chicken Joshila at Rs 530 each – are still no match for the dhaba’s butter chicken, which costs only Rs 430 and is ordered by the maximum number of people each evening.

“Whether one is a foodie or not, a flaw in butter chicken is hard to miss. However, at Om Dhaba, the butter chicken is flawless. The chicken is tender and succulent, the gravy has a nice blend of sweet, sour and spices which makes the hour-long drive completely worth the effort and money,” Manoj Sharma, a resident of Saket, New Delhi said.

Two other popular dishes are the tandoori keema parantha, priced at ₹100, and the aloo pyaaz parantha, at ₹35. Laden with a generous lump of butter and served in large quantities, they make for a highly satisfying late night meal.

“Fresh from the tandoor, the paranthas at the dhabha are a perfect late night snack and fills us with enough energy to work till the morning hours,” Shaurya Sinha, an employee of a software firm in Cyber City, said.

Unnamed stalls near Huda City Centre metro station

The Huda City Centre Metro station is known in New Delhi and in Gurugram as the terminus of the Delhi Metro Railway Corporation’s yellow line. However, slowly but surely, the area is building another identity of its own, courtesy of a bunch of unnamed food stalls operating out of an empty plot adjacent to the station and opposite the Hanuman Mandir.

It isn’t uncommon to find high-end cars, with number plates of Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, queued up outside the stalls after midnight, as their owners place orders at the outlets. The orders are delivered to their vehicles. If not inside the car, foodies often tuck into the eatables leaning on their vehicles, with the hood doubling up as a makeshift table for them.

Read I MCG’s hawkers zone opens in Gurgaon

Shyam, the operator of one of the food stalls, said that joints are open all night and are literally crammed with customers. He said the best hours of business are between ‘1am and 4am’.

“Around 70 per cent of our business takes place in these three hours. In most other places, people have limited options for food items at these odds hours. But the stalls here offer a range of items and reasonable rates,” Shyam said.

The eateries here serve momos, rolls, Maggi, and toast and eggs between 6pm and 6am, while parathas and tea are available at all hours of the day and night.

The cheapest item at the four stalls is a standard cup of tea, priced at ₹10 and upwards, and the costliest item is the mutton seekh roll at ₹80. A conversation with the regular customers reveals that these two, although on opposite ends of the price spectrum, are also the most popular items at these joints.

While Om dhabha attained its popularity through employees at the BPOs and MNCs, regulars here claim that it was more by chance that they got hooked on to these food stalls.

“Gurugram has a reputation among Delhities for its late night food and as I was exploring the city’s streets during a drive, I came across a long queue of vehicles outside these stalls at 4 in the morning. More out of curiosity than hunger, I parked my vehicle and tried the food. Since then, the city has become my preferred destination when I am looking for a meal after 12am,” Anuj Saxena, a resident of Noida said.

Stalls near Vipul Square in Sushant Lok Phase 1

A few blocks down from the unnamed eateries of Huda City Centre Metro station, in the lap of residential areas and office complexes in Sushant Lok Phase 1, are three stalls offering paranthas, toast and eggs, tea and Maggi round the clock, all priced below ₹50.

Although these eateries do not have an official name, locals refer to them, collectively, as ‘Vipul dhabha’, since they are located outside the commercial complex of Vipul square.

These establishments started surfacing in 2007 and, over the years, have had their fair share of highs and lows.

In its early years, the Vipul dhabha was a popular hub which offered non-vegetarian food, Chinese cuisine and different types of rolls. However, according to Laxman Kumar, one of the stall owners, things changed in 2014.

“After residents of the area complained about the noise generated by customers, some stall owners were forced to take their businesses elsewhere, and those who remained were only allowed to operate during the day. This greatly affected out footfall and business,” Kumar said.

The tide, however, turned once again last year, when residents permitted them to resume operations round the clock. Although the place is still only a shadow of its former self, stall owners say business has been steadily picking up.

“I have been visiting this establishment for a quick meal since I was a teenager. I became a regular here since it decided to revert to its original timing, 24x7,” said Sidhant Chawla, a resident of Heritage City.

One aloo parantha costs ₹20, aloo pyaaz paratha ₹30, egg paratha ₹40 and paneer paratha ₹50. Maggi, toast and eggs are priced at ₹20 each.

Food stalls outside Unitech Cyber Park, Sector 39

Although there are several options for those looking for late night street food in Gurugram, arguably the most popular destination is the area outside the Unitech Cyber Park in Sector 39, which houses around 50 food stalls. Testifying to its popularity, a long line of cars are parked outside these stalls as their owners and occupants satisfy their gastronomic juices. The vehicles often take up an entire lane spanning 500 metres, converting a three-lane road into only a two-lane one for moving traffic.

Located near Bakhtawar Chowk, this spot offers an unusually wide variety of food items, going beyond the usual paranthas, rolls and Maggi and also serve dishes from different states. Litti chokha, Rajasthani thalis, Amritsari naans and Bhel Puri are only a few of the items on offer here.

Barring the fish tikka stall and a few dishes on the menu of Chinese hawker vans, all items are priced below ₹100, making the options here light on the pocket as well.

Jagbir Singh, a food vendor selling rajma chawal, was one of the first to open a food stall in the area.

“We all started setting up businesses here in 2009 when a BPO opened its office in the area, allowing us to make its workforce our customer base,” he said.

Although all the stalls have different, often unique dishes on their menu, one item that appears to be commonly available and sought after, is coffee, with seven stalls selling regular coffee and five others offering cold coffee.

“As a caffeine addict, this place is an ideal spot if you wish for a break from American, French or Italian versions of coffee, which are often priced steeply. I love to indulge in a cup of ‘beat’ coffee, cocoa coffee or cold coffee here. They cost only ₹30,” Balwinder Singh Sandhu, a resident of Nirvana Country, said.

Unlike Om dhaba, the outlets in Sushant Lok Phase 1 and those near HUDA City Centre that operate round the clock, approximately 50 stalls outside Unitech Cyber Park down shutters between 11.30pm and 2.30am, following a request from police personnel in the area. The owners decided to stay closed for two hours after some untoward incidents were reported from the spot.

BOX:

Om Dhabha

Clientele: Young couples with little children, groups of friends looking for a quick meal after a night out, as well as office goers dressed in formal wear.

Price range: Rs 30-530.

Signature Dish: Butter Chicken

Timing: Operational 24x7

Location: 50 m ahead of the Moulsari Avenue Metro station.

Quote: “Whether you are a foodie or not, any flaw in butter chicken is easy to point out. But the one at Om dhabha is faultless; the chicken is tender and succulent, the gravy has a nice balance of sweet, sour and spice which makes the hour-long drive completely worth the effort and the money,” Manoj Sharma, a resident of Saket, New Delhi said.

Unnamed food stalls near HUDA City Centre Metro station

Clientele: Young families, couples and group of friends looking for a late night meal.

Price range: Rs 10-80.

Signature Dish: Mutton Seekh Rolls

Timing: Parathas and tea are available 24x7, remaining items from 6 pm-6am

Location: Near HCC metro station, opposite the hanuman mandir.

Quote: “Gurugram has a reputation among Delhities for late night food and as I was exploring the streets of the city during one of my drives, I came across a long queue of vehicles outside these stalls at 4 o’clock in the morning. More out of curiosity than hunger, I too parked my vehicle and tried the food and since then the place has become my preferred destination when I am looking for a meal after twelve am,” Anuj Saxena, a resident of Noida said.

Eateries outside Vipul Square (Vipul Dhabha)

Clientele: Group of friends looking for a late night meal staff from nearby offices.

Price range: Rs 10-50.

Signature Dish: Aloo Pyaaz paratha.

Timing: Operational 24x7.

Location: Outside Vipul Square, Sushant Lok Phase 1.

Quote: “I have been visiting this establishment since I was a teenager for a quick meal. I have started coming here more regularly since it has returned to its original timing, 24x7,” said Sidhant Chawla, a resident of Heritage City.

Eateries outside Unitech Cyber Park

Clientele: Office goers dressed in formals and families, including older generations.

Price range: Most dishes under rs 100. Chinese hawkers and Fish tikkas under rs 300.

Signature Dish: Cold as well as hot Coffee.

Timing: Closed between 11.30 pm-2.30 am. Operational in remaining hours.

Location: Outside Unitech Cyber Park, sector 39

Quote: “As a caffeine addict, this place is an ideal spot for getting away from the Americanized, French or Italian versions of coffee, which cost an exorbitant amount. Instead, I love to indulge in a cup of ‘beat’ coffee, cocoa coffee or cold coffee that simply cost rs 30,” Balwinder Singh Sandhu, a resident of Nirvana Country said.

First Published: Apr 19, 2018 22:22 IST