Dhabas, or roadside eateries, have been a popular attraction for decades, especially for those travelling along highways.
Punjabi dhabas are known countrywide for their rich and finger-licking food on the roadside. But it is also the lavish spread of their interesting names that makes them stand out.
From simple names like the typical Punjabi Dhaba, which one can find all over, to the once well-known Puran Singh da Mashhoor Dhaba in Ambala, to Chandigarh’s famous Pal Dhaba, to the uphill attraction of Giani da Dhaba on the Chandigarh-Shimla highway, to modern ones like Dhaba Express near Hoshiarpur — dhaba names do carry a unique identity about themselves.
Dhabas, or roadside eateries, have been a popular attraction for decades, especially for those travelling along highways. Most of them are popular for serving hot, spicy food.
The common names that are associated with dhabas are Lucky da Dhaba, Kakke da Dhaba, Pappi da Dhaba, Sher-e-Punjab Dhaba and others.
Among the unique dhaba names that one comes across while travelling in northern India are Ladoo ji da Dhaba near Jalandhar, Pahalwan Dhaba, Veerji Dhaba and others.
“Dhaba names are as much an eye-catcher and an attraction as is the food that they serve. While many of the dhaba names are common ones — those that you will find after every few kilometres — some are really unique,” Sunny Brar, a businessman from Ludhiana who travels often, said.
While dhabas along highways are popular, at certain places even within city limits, some of the dhabas have acquired cult status. Though these city-based dhabas are more like casual restaurants rather than having the look of a rustic rural dhaba, they attract hundreds of dhaba-food hungry clients every day.
Amritsar’s most famous dhabas are Bharawan da Dhaba and Kesar dhaba. Ambala, 45 km from Chandigarh, had its ever-famous Puran Singh da Mashhoor dhaba. Jalandhar city had its popular Vijay Dhaba though other dhaba-style eateries along the Jalandhar-Ludhiana highway are now more frequented by people.
The Delhi-Ambala portion of National Highway No. 1 (NH-1) has always been a popular destination for its ever-increasing list of dhabas. Here, the likes of Sukhdev Dhaba, Gulshan Dhaba and Zilmil Dhaba Complex and the more refined ones like “Haveli” attract thousands of people every day.
“Some of the dhabas along the Delhi highway not only provide good food at reasonable rates, but also offer services like head and shoulder massage and foot massage. Some of the dhabas have interesting little shops selling things like music CDs and DVDs, “chooran” and even fashion accessories,” Anuradha Khanna, a Chandigarh resident who often travels to Delhi by road for work, said.
A real-time high for dhabas was when visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper came calling at a dhaba in Chandigarh in November 2012 and even hosted a roadside dinner.
“Dhabas are a popular phenomenon, especially for travellers. The very mention of dhaba food lightens up people’s eyes,” Bhagwant Singh, a leading horticulturist of Punjab, who recently opened Dhaba Express near Hoshiarpur, said.