Banaras, Varanasi or Kashi—whatever you may call— is much more than ancient ghats (embankments on the Ganges), Kashi Vishwanath Temple or thousands of big and small temples on its narrow lanes. If Baba Vishwanath and Ma Ganga are its heart, I would say, food served in its dingy, dark, street side shops are its soul. Believe me you won’t find the same taste anywhere else. Here I’m going to tell you about few places where you can find the best street food in Varanasi.
Blue Lassi Shop
The shop has derived its name from blue color painted on its walls, doors and everything else lying there. The owner told me that the shop was named by a Korean traveler. Blue Lassi Shop serves over 70 different tastes of delicious Lassi — a frothy drink prepared from delicious yogurt, cream, and thickened milk sprinkled with dry fruits. And their prices range from INR 50 to INR 180.
The shop is located in Chowk area on a by-lane that goes to Manikarnika Ghat—the burning ghat. From Chowk Kotwali Police Station, enter into the Kachauri Gali and take the first left to arrive at Blue Lassi Shop. It is easily recognisable.
Located at Hauz Katora in Bansphatak near Godawalia – the main market place of Varanasi, Baba Thandai is the best place to savour the taste of thandai — a drink made with milk, pistachios, almonds, and saffron. A local resident will never forget to add Bhang (cannabis) to the drink. But this is not recommended for you if you haven’t tried this before.
Jogi Ram Tea Stall
Painted in typical red and orange, Jogi Ram Tea Stall is a favourite hangout place of morning walkers on the ghats as well as of pilgrims who stop by here for a cup of tea. But the Lemon Tea is the most recommended. Price: only INR 5. The Tea Stall is located beside the Chitranjan Park on Dashaswamedh Road near main Vishwanath Temple.
Pehlwan Lassi Bhandar
Located in Lanka (actually Varanasi has places and mohallas named after all important temples and towns of India depicted in Hindu mythology. Lanka is also one of those, representing Sri Lanka of Ramayana period.), near Ravidas Gate almost 400 meters from the entrance gate of Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Pahlawan Lassi Bhandar is one of the best palaces to relish the taste of Lassi.
Lassi served at this shop is quite different from the one I had in the Blue Lassi Shop in Chowk area. It’s thicker and sweetened with a topping of cream and a generous blob of thickened milk with a nice creamy texture. There are three Pahlwan Lassi Bhandar in a series, but the extreme left to you is the authentic one. Other two started off later.
Chachi ki Kachauri, Sabzi & Jalebi
The shop was set up in 1920s when the BHU was being established brick by brick by Mahamana Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya. So this place has a history and a fixed clientele—students and teachers of the University and morning walkers of nearby areas. The shop established by a lady fondly called Chachi (Aunty) is famous for Kohde ki Sabzi (Pumpkin curry) with crisp Kachauris – deep fried wheat flour puris—and hot and crispy jalebis. It’s a must try, not only for taste but for an authentic Banarasi breakfast experience. The shop is located in Lanka on the road that goes to Sankatmochan Temple.
Babu Lal Kachori Wala
Located in Mandir Chowk in Kachauri Gali, Babu Lal Kachori Wala serves piping hot Kachauris with a clay pot full of kale chane ki sabji. The experience you will have here would cost you only INR 10 per plate for Kachauri-Subji and INR 6 for a plate of Jalebi.
Deena Chat Bhandar
Tamatar Chat—prepared of mashed tomatoes cooked with a variety of spices and served with onion and salty snacks toppings—is unique to Banaras. I haven’t seen this delicacy in any other Indian city or town. And Deena Chat Bhandar at Nariyal Galli near Chowk is the best place to savour this taste.
Pizzeria Vatika Café
A riverfront restaurant on Assi Ghat, Pizzeria Vatika Café is known for their signature pizza, apple pie, and soothing and refreshing mint mocktail. But location is its USP. The Café offers amazing view of the Ghats and the Ganges.
There’re many more places like Ma Kalika Hotel for non-vegetarian delicacies which I couldn’t cover because of the few days I was left with during Diwali vacation.