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Trudge up the stairs of this made-to-order denim jeans market, till the second floor. Walk into the large, airy, falling-to-pieces coffee house. Pick up a chair (check it first – their furniture is none too steady) and carry it outside into the terrace. Don’t worry about the troupes of monkeys: they don’t bother customers. Order a coffee (Rs.17) and a mutton sandwich (Rs.28) and celebrate the cheapest snack in the centre of town.
Adjoining the petrol pump near Pragati Maidan is an empty plot with a couple of chai-walas and two biryani sellers. Both claim to be the original. We prefer the one at the back, called Babu Shahi Bawarchi. Sit in your car and keep hunger pangs away, with the only offering that is always available: chicken biryani (Rs.50 a plate).
You can bask in the sun, watch a Chhau dance class in progress, rub shoulders with eminent customers from the shrinking world of culture and order a bowl of poha (Rs.90) at this extremely pleasant outdoor café in the bastion of art and culture. Nobody will mind if you stay on for an hour or two, except between 1 and 3 pm when the rush is immense.
This may be famous for its Mumbai street eats, but its dosas are good value and though you might have to wait endlessly for a table at mealtimes, it’s not very often that you get a masala dosa for Rs.95, in the heart of the city. Most of their other offerings are priced marginally more than the magic figure of Rs.100, but it still gets our vote for cleanliness, central location, speed of service and good old value for our hard-earned money.
Finally, the nostalgia quotient of this outlet on Ramjas Road is hard to beat. The heart-shaped tikkis with a sweet-sour-spicy sauce that has not changed a whit for decades together is the favourite snack of all who live in the area. Eating there is sheer gluttony, and even then, all you pay is Rs.90.
Appearing incognito is The Phantom's style, so we are keeping this identity under wraps. What we can tell you is that this is one food critic that has earned the respect of restaurateurs and foodies alike. With an astute palate and an adventurous spirit, the Phantom Critic has more than 20 years of experience writing about food and reviewing restaurants