If you’ve shopped yourself out or drank away your last dime, worry not—Delhi won’t leave you hungry. We may have our fair share of fancy places, but we also have an array of inexpensively awesome eateries. In a way, some of our budget restaurants are the best nods to wholesome and honest food. You can take away ambient lighting, star-ratings and beautiful plating, but what you’re left with is strong flavors and simple brilliance that you’d happily pay twice as much for. You’ll also still get good, smiling service, and a full belly for less than $7. Plus, you’ll get some of the city’s most notable food, at my five favorite budget spots: Andhra Bhavan’s thalis are legendary, as are the dhaba-style dishes of Bille Di Hatti. If you’re looking for diversity in cuisine, try the Lebanese at Al Bake, Ladakhi at Wangchuk’s Kitchen and something we’ll agree to call “Continental” at Big Yellow Door.
Who knew that a humble canteen at a state house would become the gastronomical superstar of Delhi city? You’ll most likely end up sharing a table with others in pursuit of a meal that satisfies tummy, mind and pocket. The steel chairs are perhaps designed to get you out of there quick. But with limitless servings of the thali dishes and utter yumminess of their meat dishes and rice-based biryani, standing up quickly afterward is a tall order indeed. Costs about $2.50 per person.
Shawarma lovers, rejoice. At some point, between working restaurants in Saudi Arabia and India, the owner of this little joint realized that the universal formula for good grub was as simple as a sandwich-y bread and meat done right. The chicken and mutton shawarma are superbly flavored and cooked to tender perfection. Along with the pickled vegetables and creamy Lebanese mayonnaise, you can’t really ask for more. Shawarmas cost about $1.50 per roll.
Bille Di Hatti
Of all the dhabas in this city serving chhole bhature—a chickpea curry served with fried bread—this one seems to have the most people coming back for more. They don’t do a whole lot of dishes, but I don’t think anyone has gotten past the samosas or the thick yogurt drink lassi. There’s not much ambiance to speak of, but if you’re on a mission to tuck into some Punjabi heartland classics, keep your head down and truck on. Chhole Bhuature + Lassi cost $2.
Big Yellow Door
Okay, this place is far from authentic when it comes to Italian cuisine, but sometimes you just want some Western-style comfort food—pizzas, burgers, shakes—and this place excels at them nicely. BYD, as it’s known in student circles, does some rather unusual menu innovations—like the Cajun Spiced Bombay Burger— so stick to what sounds right and enjoy the cute coziness behind the lopsided yellow door. One salad and a non-vegetarian pizza cost about $5.
Wangchuk’s Ladakhi Kitchen
As I look at the lovely mountain image blown up against a wall, the prayer flags and the weathered white tent in Ladakhi Kitchen’s outdoor space, I feel inspired enough to safely say that this mountain cuisine is well worth the trek to Gurgaon. Specializing in Tibetan, Nepalese and Ladakhi food, they show a serious commitment to Tibetan dumplings, or momos, with their menu featuring more than one type. You can BYOB, and soupy noodles with momos cost about $6.50.