India’s most well known dhabha closes?
For anyone who is familiar with dhabha culture, Kake-da-Hotel will always ring a bell. Kake-da-Hotel is perhaps the most well known dhabha in the country even though there maybe eateries, which may be preparing better food. This unique restaurant has closed down at its ‘original’ location in the Yusuf Zai municipal market in Connaught Place for the time being probably because of a family dispute. In its place, another dhabha by the same name owned by members of the same family has started a few shops ahead of the original Kake-da-Hotel in the same market. Whether the new place is doing better than the earlier one is for the proprietors to figure out but for many customers the change has not set in, not as yet. And it is not known whether the Kake-da-Hotel which has a couple of branches elsewhere in the city including Malviya Nagar will once again start functioning from its original location. Ashok Kaka, my friend and member of the family, which owns the dhabha, is cagey about its future. It is obvious he does not want to share the details since the matter could be sub judice.
While it is for the courts to decide what turn this dispute will take, as a Delhiite who grew up eating at some of the best restaurants and dhabhas in the city, the fate of Kake-da-hotel is disconcerting. Since the last several years, I have personally preferred the neighbouring Bhape-da-Hotel, which to my mind sells excellent food, but the absence of Kake da Hotel will always be felt on this particular food row in the municipal market. Bhape da Hotel owner Amit Chopra is the third generation member of his family, which also owns Minar restaurant in the Outer Circle of Connaught Place opposite where the dhabha is located. He is a grand host and makes all his clients feel very comfortable.
However, it is the National Restaurant in the same row, which continues to serve the most superb mutton preparations. There is always a huge rush at this dhabha for its incomparable Roghan Josh or Dahi Meat. Another food shack, Royal next to it used to also sell delicious non-vegetarian food at one time but since last several years, it now has turned strictly for vegetarians. The original owner passed away and his wife forced her sons to make the dhabha for vegetarians only. There was one more dhabha called Glory in the same row, which has ceased to exist. It used to sell excellent fish.
For many who may not know, after the partition of the country, the Yousuf Zai market dhabhas run by refugees from Punjab were originally located on the Irwin Road (now Baba Kharak Singh Marg). Some were subsequently moved to their present place while some others went to Panchkuin Road or to the Mohan Singh Place. Similarly, the Pandara Road restaurants, also dhabhas in those days were located where the Boat Club used to be. They were shifted to Pandara Road and for many years, Pindi remained the most popular though Chicken Inn, Have More and Gulati caught on very fast. At Pandara Road, many people would carry their bottles of booze to these dhabhas and had liquor in a clandestine manner before and while having their food. Delhi also had some other excellent dhabhas restaurants in other parts. The Shere Punjab and National near Jubilee Cinema, the Samrat at Kingsway Camp and the Darvesh next to Amba Cinema. There were some opposite the New Delhi Railway Station and the Punjab Hotel and Malabar at Fatehpuri remained open till late hours. The Frontier in Karol Bagh and the Ashok at Kasabpura were among such places. Of course Karim, Jawahar and Flora were famous eateries of the Jama Masjid area.
The dhabha culture was always there in the Northern part of this country. Puran Singh ka Dhabha at Ambala was a very popular jaunt for travellers to Punjab. Similarly, Kundan and Kesar ka dhabha and later Bharavan da dhabha in Amritsar attracted many people. In Chandigarh, a comparatively new city, Tehal Singh ka dhabha became a land mark after the original owner shifted from the Sector 22 Rehri Market to set up shop in proper premises. On way to Dehra Dun at Chutmalpur, there was a very notable dhabha run by a Sikh. But while on popular food joints, the Kake-da-Hotel was always considered the dhabha number one. Whether it will return to its original location is to be seen.