Insider’s Guide: Where to Eat in Mumbai

The Insider’s Guide to Mumbai series is loaded with information to help you visit and explore this expansive and vibrant city like a local. After living as an expat for so many years, I found that to really get to know a city quickly you need to stay outside of the tourist zones and hang out and eat where the locals do. You will never get a fully local experience from just a visit, but this guide series will help you see a bit of the soul that runs deep beneath this eclectic metropolis.

South Indian Dosa (Photo by:https://www.flickr.com/photos/maintenancepic/)

South Indian Dosa
(Photo via Flickr)

Where to eat in Mumbai

From roadside dhabas to Michelin starred restaurants, Mumbai has it all. Our guide on where to eat in Mumbai will help you narrow it down to sample great authentic food representing flavors from all over India and abroad.  I probably owe multiple posts to eating in Mumbai, but for now I will give you my top choices in a few different categories.

Street Food & Chaat

Tourists are always afraid to try the street food in India. My rule of thumb has always been if it’s swarming with customers, is vegetarian and is being cooked fresh to give it a try. I know people don’t want to risk getting sick on their holiday, so instead, head over to Elco Arcade in the northern suburbs or to Swati Snacks down south for some authentic street food.

Sev Puri

Sev Puri (Photo via Flickr)

Elco Arcade

Located in North Mumbai’s suburb of Bandra this is the go to spot for authentic, cheap and delicious street food snacks at any time of the day.  Try out several dishes such as pani puri, sev puri, dahi puri, pav bhaji and even some South Indian dosas if you wish. If you are even more adventurous and here in the evening, try out the sev puri stand out front from 7pm for amazing (and mostly safe) street food. The tamarind sauce here is the best. You might as well top it off with a sugar cane or watermelon juice from the roadside vendor – hold the ice.

Swati Snacks

Expect a long line any time of day. This is a locals favorite. Well off the beaten track you probably won’t run into many other tourists. The staff are helpful and friendly, as are the other patrons so don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions.  Try the Panki. There is a great selection of Gujarati snacks/chaats with a few south Indian dishes thrown in too.

Jay Sandwich

Jay Sandwich (Photo via Flickr)

Jay Sandwiches

Located off Linking Road near National College in Bandra, this roadside sandwich stand has been in business for more than 30 years. The local government authorities have been known to temporarily shut down this favorite eatery randomly, so don’t be surprised if they are not open when you arrive. Keep trying though; it is delish!  The ultimate here is the veg grilled sandwich with potato, onion, cheese, spicy green chutney, three pieces of bread and loads of butter for grilling. And it’s dirt cheap by western standards!

North Indian

This is the type of food that most people outside of India think of when they think of Indian food. The places listed below is the food I dream about and makes the 24 hour flight from the US worth every second.

Kareems Bandra

Kareems, Bandra Mumbai

Kareem’s (Bandra)

This tiny hole in the wall will not pass any western food inspections with food prepped on the floor (Bandra location), but the end result is amazing. No AC or doors and only 4 tables, you will not be given royal service here. But, this is the best paneer tikka and black dal you will ever have. Trust me. You will continue to dream about this food for years to come. Their meat dishes are excellent as well. And the naan is so perfectly crisp you will never be happy with the naan you get at home again.

The Great Punjab

This is a family oriented restaurant and you feel it as soon as you walk in the door. The waiters are very helpful and the service is excellent. A favorite here is bhindi fry (aka lady fingers aka okra). To keep it crispy, ask for the masala on the side. Go for the traditional Punjabi/North Indian favorites like tikka masala, a spicy vindaloo or if you want something a bit sweeter, try the navratan korma. Prices are mid-range, but the quality is excellent.

Urban Tadka, Mumbai

Urban Tadka, Mumbai

Urban Tadka

An Indian Bistro? Yep, thats what it’s called. This family favorite in the northern suburbs has a great mix of veg and non-veg dishes, keeping everyone happy.  Kids of all ages will enjoy the eclectic decor, lamps made out of broken bangles and a wall of pinwheels. If the little ones are well behaved they may even get a wooden pinwheel to take home.  The chole biryani here is the best – the perfect level of spiciness and is super filling. For kids, try chicken or paneer tikka without spices.

Khyber

This is fine dining Indian food at its best. Clean yourself up a bit before going to Kyber. Always order a paneer dish; you will never have the fresh paneer that is so readily available in India back home, so stock up while you can. The same goes for naan. Since Kyber is well known for their meat dishes, try a few different varieties of lamb and chicken. The food is excellent and you will not go wrong here.

Parsi

If you are new to all things India, you may have never even heard of the Parsi community. They are an increasingly smaller part of the Mumbai population, but have left a large mark on the city in more ways than one. You will be hard pressed to find Parsi food outside of Mumbai, so give it a try. Our favorites are the local institutions Jimmy Boy and Britannia Cafe both of which are located in South Mumbai.

Jimmy Boy, Mumbai

Sali par edu (without the chili’s) at Jimmy Boy, Mumbai

Jimmy Boy

Step into an old school eatery. The staff are friendly and will help you decide what to try if you ask. In order to get a good sense of what Parsi food is all about, try a dhansak (veg or non-veg), pulao and fish in a banana leaf (patrani machli). Don’t forget the all time favorite sali par edu (basically hash browns with fried eggs on top). This will be one of the best meals you have in Mumbai!

Britannia Cafe

Another iconic Parsi institution in Mumbai. Britannia is only open for lunch, so don’t go too late in the day. The owner is a wonderful fella who will delight you with stories and entertain you for as long as you let him! Tell him what you like and he will recommend some amazing dishes. Again, the dhansak is a must, but there is plenty more to try as well.

South Indian

If you don’t have time on your trip to make it to South India, you can get an authentic taste of their delicious food and filter coffee in Mumbai.

South Indian Filter Coffee

South Indian Filter Coffee & Masala Tea (Photo via Flickr)

Cafe Madras

If you are a foodie, willing to drive and explore areas virtually ignored by most tourists, head to Kings Circle in Matunga (E) for authentic and cheap South Indian food. This is a favorite with local South Indians, even in an area full of udipi places. Expect it to be noisy, busy and rushed, but the food is what you are here for.  Try the butter topped idlis, dosas and of course the filter coffee. Watch the locals pour their filter coffee back and forth from the metal bowl to the cup – the local way to cool your coffee down. There is always a wait, so arrive early or plan to hang out for a while.

Vada with coconut chutney (Photo by: https://www.flickr.com/photos/surajram/)

Vada with coconut chutney (Photo by: https://www.flickr.com/photos/surajram/)

Banana Leaf

A family friendly South Indian chain restaurant located throughout the northern suburbs. The dosa’s are thin and crispy, the puri’s are light and fluffy and the flavorful vada’s are worth the effort. Don’t forget to try the coconut chutney to dip everything into. Open all day with quick service, this is a great stop when you are hungry. Enjoy!

International

After years of living in Mumbai and going from no western food options outside of the 5 star hotels to an abundance of chains and local eateries, the best western food at a good price still comes from Indigo Deli.

mumbai_april6 001

Indigo Deli, Colaba Mumbai

Indigo Deli

If you are craving delicious western fare such as eggs benedict, salads, sandwiches, or fish and chips, head to one of the many Indigo Deli locations. There is food to suit all tastes. The climate is informal, but the food is of very high quality. This is one of the few places where you can feel relatively confident to have ice in your drinks without any problems. Try the minted lemon slushie to cool down on a hot day.

Indigo

If you want a fine dining night out or a rocking brunch on Sunday, head to South Mumbai’s Indigo. This is a long standing institution of the upper class and expat communities. If you happen to be in Mumbai for an American holiday, go here for an excellent and authentic meal. Book ahead to insure a table as it is always busy on the weekends.

Cafe Zoe, Mumbai (Photo by: Kaho at https://chuzailiving.wordpress.com/)

Cafe Zoe, Mumbai
(Photo courtesy of Kaho)

Cafe Zoe

A relatively new addition to the casual dining scene is Cafe Zoe in Lower Parel near Blue Frog. They are already a favorite, serving up European soups, salads, mains, yummy cakes and teas. It’s a bit hidden behind the main road, but don’t get discouraged, just keep asking locals where it is and you will find your way there.  They are child friendly, but they do have (cheeky) rules about children’s behavior, complete with a threat of making them stand in the corner if they disobey! Service can be slow, so don’t go when you are in a rush.

Olive Bar & Kitchen

Now open in both North and South Mumbai, this is a nice restaurant for an expensive western meal. The Sunday brunch is fabulous and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon with friends. On Thursday nights, the Bandra/Khar location is hopping with Bollywood stars and those hoping to break into the business.

The Table

A new addition to the South Mumbai scene, The Table has already garnered rave reviews and is a favorite with locals and expats. Great decor, ambiance and food, The Table has it all. If you are looking for something other than Indian, but still want some unique flavors, check it out. International fusion food at it’s best with fresh produce and quality meats. Try the zucchini spaghetti.

Thali

Thali

Thali (Photo via Flickr)

Golden Star Thali

You can’t leave India without a thali. This is the large silver plate, circled with small silver bowls filled to the brim with deliciousness. This is a great way to try a variety of dishes and keep getting refills on the ones you like. Golden Star Thali is an authentic Gujarati & Rajasthani restaurant located opposite Charni Road railway station in South Mumbai. If you aren’t familiar with the differences in the regional Indian dishes, Gujarati food is always a touch sweeter.  If you happen to be in India during mango season, make sure to try their mango dessert. Be aware – while Golden Star Thali has great food, it is a very local joint. Do not drink the table water here or get ice in your drinks!

Late Night

Bademiya

Bademiya, Mumbai (Photo via Flickr)

Bademiya

People eat here at all times of the day, but this is the go to place for late night food in South Mumbai. The kebabs and rolls are to die for. Look for the long lines streaming from the neon lights lighting up the tiny alley behind the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Mumbai is a late city, but if you have to go out of your way for food, this is the place to go. There are tables and plastic chairs lining the alley, but they are perpetually full, so be prepared to eat standing up.

Other posts in this series: Where to Stay in Mumbai     Where to Shop in Mumbai      Mumbai’s Local Trains

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4 Responses to “Insider’s Guide: Where to Eat in Mumbai”

  1. Kaho Says:

    What a great guide! I love Elco, too! There are many other restaurants that I haven’t tried yet and now I would love to go out and try your recommendations!! Thanks for sharing!!

    Reply

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