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Customers wait at an exterior window of a shop outfitted with green bars and a sign reading Girish Chandra Dey & Nakur Chandra Nandy.
Outside Girish Chandra Dey & Nakur Chandra Nandy.
Priyadarshini Chatterjee

The 31 Essential Kolkata Restaurants

Deviled crabs at a midcentury cabaret, phuchka from a decades-old street vendor, and more of the best things to eat in Kolkata

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Outside Girish Chandra Dey & Nakur Chandra Nandy.
| Priyadarshini Chatterjee

Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is a relatively young city, an amalgamation of villages (including one named Kalikata) formed after the English landed on the swampy shores of the Ganges in Bengal in the late 17th century. By the turn of the 19th century, the city had metamorphosed into a haven of private enterprise that drew people from around the world: artisans, traders, landowners — and the cooks and confectioners who fed them. Along with British colonizers and native Bengalis, the city was home to workers from across North India who filled the thriving port and jute mills, as well as Parsis, Marwaris, and Gujaratis from West India. There were also sizable communities of immigrants, including Baghdadi Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Portuguese, and Chinese.

Today, the culinary landscape is a tapestry knit from these diverse culinary traditions, and the city’s industrial roots continue to show through in pice hotels, utilitarian eateries that serve unpretentious Bengali food at reasonable prices, mostly to working-class customers. But as a buzzing magnet for the arts, Kolkata is constantly balancing the comfort of old favorites with the thrill of exploration. Pice hotels are increasingly opening their doors to tourists — about as close as visitors can get to eating in a Bengali home — and the fabric of the city’s dining scene often welcomes new threads, from burgers to Neapolitan pizza. It all comes together in a food culture that is steadfastly cosmopolitan and quintessentially Kolkata.

Priyadarshini Chatterjee is a food and culture writer from Kolkata. Her work focuses on the intersections of food, history, and culture, and has appeared in publications like Whetstone, Rasa, Conde Nast Traveller India, Scroll, LIVE Mint Lounge, and Lonely Planet India, among others.

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Mitra Cafe

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One of the most iconic cafes of old Calcutta, the century-old Mitra Cafe now has several outposts in the city. People queue up for the signature diamond-cut fish fry (made from filets of Kolkata bhetki) and kabiraji cutlet (scalloped fish or meat in a filigreed mesh of whisked eggs). Offal lovers come especially for the brain chop: breaded croquettes made with spiced goat brain.

A tin dish of breaded cutlet with sliced raw salad and small side of sauce.
Kabiraji cutlet.
Priyadarshini Chatterjee

Girish Chandra Dey & Nakur Chandra Nandy

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In his book Sweet Invention, historian Michael Krondl calls Nakur the prince among Bengal’s moira, or traditional confectioners. The 177-year-old shop, located in a quiet north Kolkata neighborhood, is revered in the city for its sandesh, a genre of Bengali artisanal sweetmeat made with fresh chhana. The shop has innovated and expanded its repertoire of sandesh to include a mind-boggling variety of flavors, including mango, dark chocolate, mulberry, black currant, butterscotch, and so many more.

A box of sandesh in a variety of shapes and colors.
A variety of sandesh.
Priyadarshini Chatterjee

Badri Ki Kachori

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It isn’t easy navigating the complex maze of congested streets, teeming with people and vehicles, that make up Burra Bazar. The area is Calcutta’s busiest commercial district and one of the country’s largest wholesale and retail market complexes. It’s also a hub for the city’s Marwari community, which started migrating to Calcutta from Rajasthan in the 18th century. Naturally, the lanes and alleys are strewn with shops selling the community’s favorite snacks and sweets, including one favorite, Badri ki Kachori. The stand serves Rajasthani khasta kachoris (flattened balls of crusty pastry stuffed with lentils), topped with sev (thick strands of fried gram flour) and ladles of a creamy, spicy curry of diced potatoes and gram flour. The kachoris are finished with a swirl of chile-infused oil and some freshly chopped coriander leaves.

Putiram

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Putiram Sweets, more than 150 years old, is famous for its Bengali jolkhabar, a variety of sweets and savory snacks. People flock to Putiram for hearty breakfasts of asafoetida-scented kachoris, served with sweet-and-spicy cholar dal (split Bengal gram), followed by nutmeg-scented darbesh, soft spheres of syrup-soaked boondi held together with khoya cheese, nuts, and raisins. The shingara, Bengali-style samosa, is also legendary.

From above, a tray of items including amriti, darbesh, and lentils.
A platter of treats at Putiram.
Priyadarshini Chatterjee

Royal Indian Restaurant

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At the turn of the 20th century, Ahmed Hussain migrated to Calcutta from Lucknow and set up a small eatery with only three items on the menu: khuska (a light dish of turmeric-tinged rice), lightly spiced qaliya made with chunks of goat meat, and mutton chaap (slices of goat meat braised with a rich blend of alliums and spices and pan-roasted in clarified butter). More than a century later, Royal is one of the luminaries of Kolkata’s fabled Mughlai cuisine. The menu has expanded over time, but the place is still synonymous with chaap (now also made with whole chicken legs). The signature, crowd-favorite biryani doesn’t include potatoes, in keeping with the tradition of Hussain’s native Lucknow; instead, big chunks of meat and a few tiny meatballs nestle in a bed of fragrant, fluffy grains of long-grain rice. Note: A few years ago, the restaurant opened a glitzy outlet in Park Circus where it serves Kolkata-style biryani, complete with a glistening orange potato.

Swadhin Bharat Hindu Hotel

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The history of this nonagenarian pice hotel is closely associated with India’s struggle for freedom. In addition to serving homey, budget meals to students and workers, in the pre-independence era the eatery doubled as a hideout for revolutionaries. The menu is studded with pescatarian favorites like fish roe fritters — unctuous paves of katla cooked in chile-red gravy — and jumbo prawns simmered in coconut milk, though the array of vegetarian dishes also challenges the notion that Bengali cuisine depends entirely on fish and meat. The pui chorchori — malabar spinach cooked with assorted vegetables and fried fish head — has been the best-selling item for nine decades now.

Fish and side dishes arrayed on a table, some served on a large leaf.
An array of fishy favorites at Swadhin Bharat Hindu Hotel.
Priyadarshini Chatterjee

Sufia Restaurant

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A small, working-class Muslim eatery that stands in the shadow of the majestic Nakhoda Mosque in Chitpur, Sufia offers a meaty spread featuring dishes like beef bhuna (spiced meat pan-roasted to a dark burnished brown) and daal gosht (lentils and beef cooked together with a host of spices), along with breads to mop up the gravies. The restaurant is best known for wintertime breakfasts of steaming bowls of nihari, beef shanks in spiced broth enriched with bone marrow, simmered on a mellow flame all night. In North India and Pakistan, where nihari is wildly popular, it is typically paired with soft khameeri rotis baked in a tandoor, but at Sufia try it with crusty dal puri, a combination that’s classic Kolkata.

A crowd waits on the street at night outside a crowded restaurant.
Lining up for Sufia.
Arindam Sarkar

Adam’s Kabab Shop

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This century-old kebab shop is tucked away inside a warren of narrow lanes in a bustling central Kolkata neighborhood. Adam’s is famous for sutli kebab, spiced mince skillfully skewered and grilled on glowing embers. The kebab gets its name from sutli, cotton thread that is deftly twined around the skewer so it doesn’t disintegrate. Once the kebab is done, the thread is pulled out, and the moist, smoky meat crumbles onto the plate. The melt-in-your-mouth meat, textured with bits of charred crust, is served with slivers of raw onions and a wedge of lime. Adam’s is one of the most popular stops for those who visit the area during Ramadan, when the neighborhood morphs into an Iftar bazaar every evening.

Paramount Cold Drinks & Syrups

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This sliver of a shop in the heart of Kolkata’s historic college district is especially popular with students, who crowd in among the Italian marble-topped tables and walls adorned with sepia-toned photographs, framed newspaper clippings, and trophy mounts. They come especially on hot, sultry afternoons to cool off over their favorite sharbats: milk- or water-based beverages flavored with house-made syrups (rose, green mango, passionfruit, lemon, banana), enlivened with dried fruits and nuts, dollops of thick cream, or luscious rabdi (sweetened, reduced milk). The 104-year-old shop was conceived as a cover for anti-colonial activities and served as a hideout for Indian revolutionaries fighting the British regime. Paramount’s most celebrated drink, the daab sharbat — a refreshing blend of coconut water, crushed ice, syrup, and shreds of soft, tender coconut flesh — is said to be the brainchild of world-renowned Indian chemist Acharya Sir Prafulla Chandra Ray.

A bright pink beverage served in a sundae glass, topped with nuts and cream.
A sweet concoction at Paramount.
Priyadarshini Chatterjee

Tung Nam Eating House

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Many Chinese immigrants migrated to Bengal in the 1800s to work in trader Tong Atchew’s sugar mill and British tea plantations, creating a historic Chinatown. Tung Nam is an unpretentious eatery tucked in an alley in the heart of the area. Inside, the Hsieh family dishes out treasured family recipes: shreds of pork simmered in an umami-rich broth with salt-cured Chinese greens, silken wantons, kaptai mei fun (pig offal on rice noodles), and pork in hamei sauce that purportedly gets its distinct flavor from fermented shrimp paste.

A restaurant exterior, as seen through passersby from across the street, with a Coca-Cola ad above the entrance.
Outside Tung Nam.
Shreya Goswami

Hotel Sidheshwari Ashram

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Hotel Siddheswari Ashram is one of the city’s few surviving pice hotels. Inside the unassuming dining hall, men in bright orange shirts scurry among the marble-top tables with quiet urgency, taking orders, pouring water into earthen pots, or swiftly plunking wedges of lime and blobs of salt onto plates lined with banana leaves. In pice hotel tradition, the menu is handwritten on a blackboard; the spread, and the prices, depend largely on what’s best at the bazaar that day. You can usually take your pick from dishes like shukto (a bitter stew of assorted vegetables), lentils cooked with fried fish head, a robust mutton curry that everyone praises, or a light stew of fish and vegetables called kabiraji jhol, a typical sick-day meal in Bengali homes.

Nahoum and Sons Private Limited Confectioners

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By the late 19th century, Calcutta was home to a sizable community of Baghdadi Jews who came to the thriving city in search of economic opportunities. Among them was Nahoum Israel Mordecai, who opened a confectionery inside the city’s historic Hogg Market (New Market to locals) in 1902. Only a fraction of the Jewish community remains in the city today, but 120 years on, Nahoum’s popularity is intact. Everything hearkens back to another era: antique teak furniture, huge glass display cases, the century-old cash register, and age-old recipes. The shop is best known for its classic macaroons, spicy rum balls, jam tarts, almond pastries, and — surprisingly — Christmas specials like mincemeat pies and rich fruitcakes. There are also other global Jewish specialties like challah and caraway-studded savory cookies called kaka.

Kasturi

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Situated in the bustling New Market area, Kasturi is packed most days. The kitchen serves Bangladesh’s Dhakai food, distinguished by robust flavors and the bold use of mustard and chiles. The menu features different kinds of bhorta (various ingredients spiced and mashed) and shile bata (spiced chicken or dried fish, ground into a paste on a grinding stone), Dhaka’s famed morog (cock) pulao, and a rich bhetki bhapa (thick slabs of sea bass slathered with a mustard-based marinade and baked in foil boxes). But the star dish is kochupata chingri, taro leaves and tiny prawns cooked together in pungent mustard paste and finished with lashings of sharp mustard oil.

Kusum Rolls

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Few things are as ubiquitous on the streets of Kolkata as kathi rolls: chunks of spiced, grilled meat, topped with shards of onions, chopped green chiles, and a squeeze of lime, all rolled up in flaky parathas and fried on a griddle. Sold out of pushcarts, street stalls, and restaurants, the kathi roll is Kolkata’s favorite grub on the go. Even if loyalties are divided among the city’s many roll joints, 51-year-old Kusum, a takeaway counter that occupies a prime spot on Park Street, is among the top contenders. For a truly indulgent treat, ask for a double portion of meat in your roll.

A hand holds a kathi roll in a paper wrapping.
A kathi roll from Kusum Rolls.
Priyadarshini Chatterjee

Mocambo Restaurant and Bar

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One of Park Street’s ever-popular dining addresses, Mocambo is among the last bastions of colonial Calcutta’s storied Continental food, a quirky jumble of dishes of European and American lineage distinguished by heavy use of butter, cream, and cheese. When Mocambo opened its doors in the 1950s, on the city’s erstwhile cabaret row, patrons came as much for English Indian chanteuse Pam Crain’s jazz renditions as for the restaurant’s legendary deviled crabs and mayonnaise-laced prawn cocktail. The jazz is long gone, but Mocambo has preserved some of its old charm in its liveried servers and shiny red vinyl banquettes. Crowd-favorite dishes include chicken a la Kiev, loaded with melted butter; chateaubriand; and the signature fish a la Diana, an extravagant dish of bhetki (sea bass) stuffed with prawns and cooked in a silken cream sauce. Note: A few years ago the restaurant added an additional section of 70 seats to ease the long queues and hours-long wait times — but you should still be prepared to wait.

Russell Street Puchkawala

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A stretch of bustling Russell Street, just off Park Street, is occupied by street food vendors dishing out smoking-hot ghugni (curried yellow peas topped with puckeringly tart tamarind chutney and finely chopped onions) and tossing crisp puffed rice in aluminum tins with peanuts, chopped onions and chiles, bits of coconut, gram flour crispies, and pungent mustard oil. The biggest crowd gathers around the phuchkawala, who has been serving here for decades. The cook deftly pokes holes into crisp phuchka shells (hollow crisp spheres of fried wheat dough) with his thumb, stuffs them with blobs of spiced mashed potatoes, and dips them into a pot of fragrant tamarind water.

This iconic Park Street tearoom and bakery was established in 1927 by Swiss expats Joseph and Freida Flury and their compatriot Quinto Cinzio Trinca. It has become one of Kolkata’s most iconic eateries and continues to do brisk business with heritage platters of baked beans on toast and English breakfast. Flurys has expanded its menu over the years, but the original items, marked on the menu, are still the best. Come Christmas, the place is swamped with patrons who queue up for the bakery’s rich, spiced plum cakes. Other must-trys are the inimitable chicken patties (flaky domes of puff pastry packed with minced meat stuffing) and strawberry cubes (crumby sponge layered with buttercream beneath a sugary crust of pink strawberry icing).

A cube of cake topped with pink icing.
The must-try strawberry cube.
Flurys

Balaram Mullick & Radharaman Mullick

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With multiple outlets in the city, this dessert giant has been a pioneer in giving Bengali mishti (sweets) a contemporary makeover. The chain excels at fusion mishti, which combine traditional Bengali flavors with elements of European desserts. The most famous creation is the house take on roshogolla: The spongy cheese balls are usually boiled in syrup, but here they’re doused in thick, sweetened milk, topped with condensed milk, and baked in foil boxes until a delicious golden brown crust forms. There are other innovative offerings too, like seasonal mango lava sandesh, which imitate a lava cake, or sitaphal souffle that consists of a layer of grainy sandesh studded with custard apples and topped with a layer of airy custard apple mousse.

The Blue Poppy Thakali

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Tibetan momos are easily among Kolkata’s favorite snacks, and restaurateur Doma Wang is often dubbed the city’s momo queen. A native of Kalimpong, Wang has been running a restaurant inside Kolkata’s Sikkim House for more than two decades. Now called Blue Poppy Thakali, the restaurant serves food from Wang’s home in the Himalayas, a mix of Tibetan and Nepali dishes with a few Chinese favorites thrown in. While her pork kothay (pot stickers) and delicate-skinned momos stuffed with juicy mincemeat have a cult following, old-timers swear by her chile pork. Also look out for meat-filled Tibetan pies called phalay, fortifying bowls of thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup), Nepal’s famed sel roti (ring-shaped fried bread made of rice flour), sungur ko masu with rai saag (pork cooked with mustard greens), and regional condiments like gundruk, or fermented radish leaves.

Sorano, a glamorous new Italian joint in town, occupies a 4,500-square-foot spot on the first floor of the century-old Harrington Residency, a mansion turned hotel that also houses the iconic Harrington Street Art Centre. Within months of its inception, the restaurant built a glittering reputation on the strength of its Neapolitan-style pizzas, hand-rolled pasta, and funky cocktails. Sorano is named after a small town in Tuscany, and the menu explores different regions of Italy. But the kitchen sources ingredients from select vendors and farms outside of Kolkata to make fresh pastas, breads, and cheeses in-house. When they’re not busy admiring the large mosaic-clad wood-fired oven next to the bar, guests can watch their pasta being kneaded, rolled, and shaped through the “Pasta Fresca” window.

From above, a pizza topped with greens, olives, and other vegetables.
Sorano’s signature pizza.
Sorano

Royal Vega

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Royal Vega, the vegetarian luxury dining restaurant at the ITC Royal Bengal hotel, serves the hyperlocal cuisine of Bengal’s Sheherwali Jains, a community of wealthy Oswal Jain merchants from Rajasthan who migrated to Bengal in the early 18th century and settled near Murshidabad, then the capital of the Nawabs of Bengal. Royal Vega’s special Sheherwali menu features classic recipes sourced from the community’s home kitchens, like fragrant pulao perked up with water chestnut, crusty kachoris (deep-fried pastries) stuffed with spiced cucumber and yogurt, and a luscious wet pudding made of tart raw mangoes.

Golden Joy Restaurant

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The city’s second and newer Chinatown, in Tangra, is dotted with sauce factories, tanneries, and restaurants that serve spicy, saucy Tangra-style Chinese food, a jumble of Hakka, Sichuan, and Cantonese styles with distinct local inflections. Golden Joy is one of Tangra’s biggest crowd-pullers. Drop by for a meal of the restaurant’s most-ordered dishes, like mixed fried rice loaded with shredded chicken, prawns, and scrambled eggs; Hakka noodles (springy noodles tossed with vegetables and soy sauce); chicken sheathed in a soy-based gravy crammed with green chiles; and golden-fried prawns.

Ah Yung

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The much-hyped Chinese breakfast in Tiretti Bazaar is only a shadow of what it once was. Skip it, and head instead to Ah Yung across town in Tangra (Kolkata’s second Chinatown). The restaurant serves a filling breakfast of the curiously christened singara chow: steamed pork wontons (resembling samosas, or “singara” in the local lingo), nestled in a bed of noodles topped with Chinese greens and shreds of pork. It’s served with a savory broth fortified with pork lard and some fiery chile sauce made in-house.

A plate of noodles topped with wontons, meat, and greens.
Singara chow.
Rajarshi Chakraborti

The Salt House

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With chic interiors, an open-air courtyard (particularly crowded during winter) that hosts live music, a well-stocked bar, and an elegant menu, the Salt House is one of Kolkata’s most popular spots. The restaurant serves a largely European menu with a bit of Mediterranean and regional Indian cuisines stirred into the mix. Some of the dishes come with quirky twists. The roasted pork belly is dressed in vindaloo jus and served with a side of zesty fried rice tossed with fiery Goan sausage, while the Bengali prawn malaikari (a satiny curry of prawns cooked in coconut milk) is folded into al dente risotto.

A large hunk of stuffed meat beside roastead carrots.
A dish at the Salt House.
The Salt House

Zam Zam Restaurant Pvt Ltd

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Zam Zam started out as a utilitarian working-class eatery in a narrow, obscure lane in central Kolkata’s Entally area. A few years ago, the restaurant launched a swanky family-friendly outpost in the Park Circus area. Most people go to Zam Zam for the gently spiced beef biryani (typically found at Muslim weddings in Kolkata) served with a spicy yogurt drink called borhani, and the luscious beef malai in which chunks of beef float in a pool of cream-laden gravy best mopped up with parathas. The beef rolls, crammed with smoky nuggets of chargrilled beef, are immensely popular too.

6 Ballygunge Place

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This much-loved specialty Bengali restaurant inhabits a pretty, vintage townhouse in a posh south Kolkata neighborhood. The setting, with its chessboard floor, ornate chandeliers, and period furniture, is reminiscent of aristocratic mansions of 19th-century Calcutta. The menu features a luxurious selection of Bengali classics like daab chingri (prawns cooked in tender, cream-laden coconut shells), kosha mangsho (dryish mutton curry), and chital macher muitha (fish dumplings in red gravy). There are also a smattering of lesser-known delicacies culled from Bengali cookbooks and the kitchens of old Calcutta’s patrician households. Well-heeled locals book tables here for celebratory meals and often bring out-of-towners for an introductory course on Bengali food.

Prawns overflow from a coconut shell in front of decorative plates on display.
Daab chingri.
6 Ballygunge Place

Apanjan

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A glass display box showcases the crumb-coated dainties on offer at this matchbox-size shop in a humble south Kolkata neighborhood. There are spicy croquettes of boiled eggs sheathed in minced meat, thick slabs of breaded fish, and more. The fish fry is legendary, but the standout dish here is the fish roll: plump paupiettes of bhetki stuffed with a sprightly mixture of minced fish and prawns, rolled in crumbs, and fried to a crisp. Apanjan opens in the afternoon and closes at 9 p.m., but the best items sell out early.

Sienna Store & Cafe

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This charming cafe started out as an adjunct of Sienna, the retail outlet of a Shantiniketan-based ceramics workshop run by a mother-daughter duo. But over time, the food side of the business has established its own identity with a crisp, straightforward menu focused on global comfort food: robust burgers, perfectly cooked omelets, toasts with assorted toppings, and creamy risottos made with local varieties of rice. Chef Auroni Mookerjee champions all things local and sustainable. His more adventurous weekend menus use only fresh, seasonal produce that can be sourced that day — foraged greens, wild mushrooms, duck eggs, varieties of small fish that usually don’t make it to restaurant tables — in a style Mookerjee calls bazaar-to-table.

Punjabee Rasoi

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Kolkata loves its Punjabi food. The city is dotted with dhaba-style eateries (roadside pit stops in North India) and other casual restaurants that serve a standard fare of dal makhani, malai paneer, and chicken butter masala. For more than a decade now, Punjabee Rasoi, run by husband-and-wife duo PV and Preeti Raju, has been quietly turning out some of the best Punjabi food in the city. The menu features a panoply of spirited curries, stuffed breads, and tandoor specialties, but the one dish everyone orders is the adrak ke panje: smoky, chargrilled goat ribs flavored with ginger and spices.

A small metal tin of dal makhani streaked with cream.
Dal makhani.
Punjabee Rasoi

Ramakrishna Lunch Home

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South Kolkata’s Lake Market area is home to the city’s South Indian population. Among the neighborhood’s eateries, you’ll find Sree Ramakrishna Lunch Home, housed on the ground floor of Bhupendra Mansion, which dates back to 1955. The place is particularly popular with morning walkers and joggers, who come for a filling and relatively healthy breakfast of pillowy, soft idlis, served with fiery podi or fresh coconut chutney, the latter crowned with a mound of fried lentils, mustard seeds, chiles, and curry leaves. There are also soft medu vadas (doughnut-shaped fritters), a variety of dosas, and decent filter coffee.

Manzilat’s

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It is widely believed that the dum pukht-style biryani traveled to colonial Calcutta with the entourage of Wajid Ali Shah, the nawab of Awadh, who was exiled to Calcutta by the British in 1858. The nawab’s cooks are often credited for adding potatoes to the rice-and-meat dish that gave Kolkata biryani its singular identity. Manzilat Fatimah (Manzi to her friends and patrons), a direct descendant of the nawab, serves up her family’s signature biryani cooked in pungent mustard oil at a small eatery she runs from her home’s terrace. But her menu goes beyond the popular rice-and-meat dish to include other Awadhi specialties that are more likely to have appeared on the nawab’s table: elegant yakhni pulao, melty galawati kebabs, gossamer parathas cooked on an upended tawa, pasanda (thin slivers of spiced meat), and shahi phirni, a custard-like pudding made with ground rice, milk, and nuts.

Mitra Cafe

One of the most iconic cafes of old Calcutta, the century-old Mitra Cafe now has several outposts in the city. People queue up for the signature diamond-cut fish fry (made from filets of Kolkata bhetki) and kabiraji cutlet (scalloped fish or meat in a filigreed mesh of whisked eggs). Offal lovers come especially for the brain chop: breaded croquettes made with spiced goat brain.

A tin dish of breaded cutlet with sliced raw salad and small side of sauce.
Kabiraji cutlet.
Priyadarshini Chatterjee

Girish Chandra Dey & Nakur Chandra Nandy

In his book Sweet Invention, historian Michael Krondl calls Nakur the prince among Bengal’s moira, or traditional confectioners. The 177-year-old shop, located in a quiet north Kolkata neighborhood, is revered in the city for its sandesh, a genre of Bengali artisanal sweetmeat made with fresh chhana. The shop has innovated and expanded its repertoire of sandesh to include a mind-boggling variety of flavors, including mango, dark chocolate, mulberry, black currant, butterscotch, and so many more.

A box of sandesh in a variety of shapes and colors.
A variety of sandesh.
Priyadarshini Chatterjee

Badri Ki Kachori

It isn’t easy navigating the complex maze of congested streets, teeming with people and vehicles, that make up Burra Bazar. The area is Calcutta’s busiest commercial district and one of the country’s largest wholesale and retail market complexes. It’s also a hub for the city’s Marwari community, which started migrating to Calcutta from Rajasthan in the 18th century. Naturally, the lanes and alleys are strewn with shops selling the community’s favorite snacks and sweets, including one favorite, Badri ki Kachori. The stand serves Rajasthani khasta kachoris (flattened balls of crusty pastry stuffed with lentils), topped with sev (thick strands of fried gram flour) and ladles of a creamy, spicy curry of diced potatoes and gram flour. The kachoris are finished with a swirl of chile-infused oil and some freshly chopped coriander leaves.

Putiram

Putiram Sweets, more than 150 years old, is famous for its Bengali jolkhabar, a variety of sweets and savory snacks. People flock to Putiram for hearty breakfasts of asafoetida-scented kachoris, served with sweet-and-spicy cholar dal (split Bengal gram), followed by nutmeg-scented darbesh, soft spheres of syrup-soaked boondi held together with khoya cheese, nuts, and raisins. The shingara, Bengali-style samosa, is also legendary.

From above, a tray of items including amriti, darbesh, and lentils.
A platter of treats at Putiram.
Priyadarshini Chatterjee

Royal Indian Restaurant

At the turn of the 20th century, Ahmed Hussain migrated to Calcutta from Lucknow and set up a small eatery with only three items on the menu: khuska (a light dish of turmeric-tinged rice), lightly spiced qaliya made with chunks of goat meat, and mutton chaap (slices of goat meat braised with a rich blend of alliums and spices and pan-roasted in clarified butter). More than a century later, Royal is one of the luminaries of Kolkata’s fabled Mughlai cuisine. The menu has expanded over time, but the place is still synonymous with chaap (now also made with whole chicken legs). The signature, crowd-favorite biryani doesn’t include potatoes, in keeping with the tradition of Hussain’s native Lucknow; instead, big chunks of meat and a few tiny meatballs nestle in a bed of fragrant, fluffy grains of long-grain rice. Note: A few years ago, the restaurant opened a glitzy outlet in Park Circus where it serves Kolkata-style biryani, complete with a glistening orange potato.

Swadhin Bharat Hindu Hotel

The history of this nonagenarian pice hotel is closely associated with India’s struggle for freedom. In addition to serving homey, budget meals to students and workers, in the pre-independence era the eatery doubled as a hideout for revolutionaries. The menu is studded with pescatarian favorites like fish roe fritters — unctuous paves of katla cooked in chile-red gravy — and jumbo prawns simmered in coconut milk, though the array of vegetarian dishes also challenges the notion that Bengali cuisine depends entirely on fish and meat. The pui chorchori — malabar spinach cooked with assorted vegetables and fried fish head — has been the best-selling item for nine decades now.

Fish and side dishes arrayed on a table, some served on a large leaf.
An array of fishy favorites at Swadhin Bharat Hindu Hotel.
Priyadarshini Chatterjee

Sufia Restaurant

A small, working-class Muslim eatery that stands in the shadow of the majestic Nakhoda Mosque in Chitpur, Sufia offers a meaty spread featuring dishes like beef bhuna (spiced meat pan-roasted to a dark burnished brown) and daal gosht (lentils and beef cooked together with a host of spices), along with breads to mop up the gravies. The restaurant is best known for wintertime breakfasts of steaming bowls of nihari, beef shanks in spiced broth enriched with bone marrow, simmered on a mellow flame all night. In North India and Pakistan, where nihari is wildly popular, it is typically paired with soft khameeri rotis baked in a tandoor, but at Sufia try it with crusty dal puri, a combination that’s classic Kolkata.

A crowd waits on the street at night outside a crowded restaurant.
Lining up for Sufia.
Arindam Sarkar

Adam’s Kabab Shop

This century-old kebab shop is tucked away inside a warren of narrow lanes in a bustling central Kolkata neighborhood. Adam’s is famous for sutli kebab, spiced mince skillfully skewered and grilled on glowing embers. The kebab gets its name from sutli, cotton thread that is deftly twined around the skewer so it doesn’t disintegrate. Once the kebab is done, the thread is pulled out, and the moist, smoky meat crumbles onto the plate. The melt-in-your-mouth meat, textured with bits of charred crust, is served with slivers of raw onions and a wedge of lime. Adam’s is one of the most popular stops for those who visit the area during Ramadan, when the neighborhood morphs into an Iftar bazaar every evening.

Paramount Cold Drinks & Syrups

This sliver of a shop in the heart of Kolkata’s historic college district is especially popular with students, who crowd in among the Italian marble-topped tables and walls adorned with sepia-toned photographs, framed newspaper clippings, and trophy mounts. They come especially on hot, sultry afternoons to cool off over their favorite sharbats: milk- or water-based beverages flavored with house-made syrups (rose, green mango, passionfruit, lemon, banana), enlivened with dried fruits and nuts, dollops of thick cream, or luscious rabdi (sweetened, reduced milk). The 104-year-old shop was conceived as a cover for anti-colonial activities and served as a hideout for Indian revolutionaries fighting the British regime. Paramount’s most celebrated drink, the daab sharbat — a refreshing blend of coconut water, crushed ice, syrup, and shreds of soft, tender coconut flesh — is said to be the brainchild of world-renowned Indian chemist Acharya Sir Prafulla Chandra Ray.

A bright pink beverage served in a sundae glass, topped with nuts and cream.
A sweet concoction at Paramount.
Priyadarshini Chatterjee

Tung Nam Eating House

Many Chinese immigrants migrated to Bengal in the 1800s to work in trader Tong Atchew’s sugar mill and British tea plantations, creating a historic Chinatown. Tung Nam is an unpretentious eatery tucked in an alley in the heart of the area. Inside, the Hsieh family dishes out treasured family recipes: shreds of pork simmered in an umami-rich broth with salt-cured Chinese greens, silken wantons, kaptai mei fun (pig offal on rice noodles), and pork in hamei sauce that purportedly gets its distinct flavor from fermented shrimp paste.

A restaurant exterior, as seen through passersby from across the street, with a Coca-Cola ad above the entrance.
Outside Tung Nam.
Shreya Goswami

Hotel Sidheshwari Ashram

Hotel Siddheswari Ashram is one of the city’s few surviving pice hotels. Inside the unassuming dining hall, men in bright orange shirts scurry among the marble-top tables with quiet urgency, taking orders, pouring water into earthen pots, or swiftly plunking wedges of lime and blobs of salt onto plates lined with banana leaves. In pice hotel tradition, the menu is handwritten on a blackboard; the spread, and the prices, depend largely on what’s best at the bazaar that day. You can usually take your pick from dishes like shukto (a bitter stew of assorted vegetables), lentils cooked with fried fish head, a robust mutton curry that everyone praises, or a light stew of fish and vegetables called kabiraji jhol, a typical sick-day meal in Bengali homes.

Nahoum and Sons Private Limited Confectioners

By the late 19th century, Calcutta was home to a sizable community of Baghdadi Jews who came to the thriving city in search of economic opportunities. Among them was Nahoum Israel Mordecai, who opened a confectionery inside the city’s historic Hogg Market (New Market to locals) in 1902. Only a fraction of the Jewish community remains in the city today, but 120 years on, Nahoum’s popularity is intact. Everything hearkens back to another era: antique teak furniture, huge glass display cases, the century-old cash register, and age-old recipes. The shop is best known for its classic macaroons, spicy rum balls, jam tarts, almond pastries, and — surprisingly — Christmas specials like mincemeat pies and rich fruitcakes. There are also other global Jewish specialties like challah and caraway-studded savory cookies called kaka.

Kasturi

Situated in the bustling New Market area, Kasturi is packed most days. The kitchen serves Bangladesh’s Dhakai food, distinguished by robust flavors and the bold use of mustard and chiles. The menu features different kinds of bhorta (various ingredients spiced and mashed) and shile bata (spiced chicken or dried fish, ground into a paste on a grinding stone), Dhaka’s famed morog (cock) pulao, and a rich bhetki bhapa (thick slabs of sea bass slathered with a mustard-based marinade and baked in foil boxes). But the star dish is kochupata chingri, taro leaves and tiny prawns cooked together in pungent mustard paste and finished with lashings of sharp mustard oil.

Kusum Rolls

Few things are as ubiquitous on the streets of Kolkata as kathi rolls: chunks of spiced, grilled meat, topped with shards of onions, chopped green chiles, and a squeeze of lime, all rolled up in flaky parathas and fried on a griddle. Sold out of pushcarts, street stalls, and restaurants, the kathi roll is Kolkata’s favorite grub on the go. Even if loyalties are divided among the city’s many roll joints, 51-year-old Kusum, a takeaway counter that occupies a prime spot on Park Street, is among the top contenders. For a truly indulgent treat, ask for a double portion of meat in your roll.

A hand holds a kathi roll in a paper wrapping.
A kathi roll from Kusum Rolls.
Priyadarshini Chatterjee

Mocambo Restaurant and Bar

One of Park Street’s ever-popular dining addresses, Mocambo is among the last bastions of colonial Calcutta’s storied Continental food, a quirky jumble of dishes of European and American lineage distinguished by heavy use of butter, cream, and cheese. When Mocambo opened its doors in the 1950s, on the city’s erstwhile cabaret row, patrons came as much for English Indian chanteuse Pam Crain’s jazz renditions as for the restaurant’s legendary deviled crabs and mayonnaise-laced prawn cocktail. The jazz is long gone, but Mocambo has preserved some of its old charm in its liveried servers and shiny red vinyl banquettes. Crowd-favorite dishes include chicken a la Kiev, loaded with melted butter; chateaubriand; and the signature fish a la Diana, an extravagant dish of bhetki (sea bass) stuffed with prawns and cooked in a silken cream sauce. Note: A few years ago the restaurant added an additional section of 70 seats to ease the long queues and hours-long wait times — but you should still be prepared to wait.

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Russell Street Puchkawala

A stretch of bustling Russell Street, just off Park Street, is occupied by street food vendors dishing out smoking-hot ghugni (curried yellow peas topped with puckeringly tart tamarind chutney and finely chopped onions) and tossing crisp puffed rice in aluminum tins with peanuts, chopped onions and chiles, bits of coconut, gram flour crispies, and pungent mustard oil. The biggest crowd gathers around the phuchkawala, who has been serving here for decades. The cook deftly pokes holes into crisp phuchka shells (hollow crisp spheres of fried wheat dough) with his thumb, stuffs them with blobs of spiced mashed potatoes, and dips them into a pot of fragrant tamarind water.

Flurys

This iconic Park Street tearoom and bakery was established in 1927 by Swiss expats Joseph and Freida Flury and their compatriot Quinto Cinzio Trinca. It has become one of Kolkata’s most iconic eateries and continues to do brisk business with heritage platters of baked beans on toast and English breakfast. Flurys has expanded its menu over the years, but the original items, marked on the menu, are still the best. Come Christmas, the place is swamped with patrons who queue up for the bakery’s rich, spiced plum cakes. Other must-trys are the inimitable chicken patties (flaky domes of puff pastry packed with minced meat stuffing) and strawberry cubes (crumby sponge layered with buttercream beneath a sugary crust of pink strawberry icing).

A cube of cake topped with pink icing.
The must-try strawberry cube.
Flurys

Balaram Mullick & Radharaman Mullick

With multiple outlets in the city, this dessert giant has been a pioneer in giving Bengali mishti (sweets) a contemporary makeover. The chain excels at fusion mishti, which combine traditional Bengali flavors with elements of European desserts. The most famous creation is the house take on roshogolla: The spongy cheese balls are usually boiled in syrup, but here they’re doused in thick, sweetened milk, topped with condensed milk, and baked in foil boxes until a delicious golden brown crust forms. There are other innovative offerings too, like seasonal mango lava sandesh, which imitate a lava cake, or sitaphal souffle that consists of a layer of grainy sandesh studded with custard apples and topped with a layer of airy custard apple mousse.

The Blue Poppy Thakali

Tibetan momos are easily among Kolkata’s favorite snacks, and restaurateur Doma Wang is often dubbed the city’s momo queen. A native of Kalimpong, Wang has been running a restaurant inside Kolkata’s Sikkim House for more than two decades. Now called Blue Poppy Thakali, the restaurant serves food from Wang’s home in the Himalayas, a mix of Tibetan and Nepali dishes with a few Chinese favorites thrown in. While her pork kothay (pot stickers) and delicate-skinned momos stuffed with juicy mincemeat have a cult following, old-timers swear by her chile pork. Also look out for meat-filled Tibetan pies called phalay, fortifying bowls of thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup), Nepal’s famed sel roti (ring-shaped fried bread made of rice flour), sungur ko masu with rai saag (pork cooked with mustard greens), and regional condiments like gundruk, or fermented radish leaves.

Sorano

Sorano, a glamorous new Italian joint in town, occupies a 4,500-square-foot spot on the first floor of the century-old Harrington Residency, a mansion turned hotel that also houses the iconic Harrington Street Art Centre. Within months of its inception, the restaurant built a glittering reputation on the strength of its Neapolitan-style pizzas, hand-rolled pasta, and funky cocktails. Sorano is named after a small town in Tuscany, and the menu explores different regions of Italy. But the kitchen sources ingredients from select vendors and farms outside of Kolkata to make fresh pastas, breads, and cheeses in-house. When they’re not busy admiring the large mosaic-clad wood-fired oven next to the bar, guests can watch their pasta being kneaded, rolled, and shaped through the “Pasta Fresca” window.

From above, a pizza topped with greens, olives, and other vegetables.
Sorano’s signature pizza.
Sorano

Royal Vega

Royal Vega, the vegetarian luxury dining restaurant at the ITC Royal Bengal hotel, serves the hyperlocal cuisine of Bengal’s Sheherwali Jains, a community of wealthy Oswal Jain merchants from Rajasthan who migrated to Bengal in the early 18th century and settled near Murshidabad, then the capital of the Nawabs of Bengal. Royal Vega’s special Sheherwali menu features classic recipes sourced from the community’s home kitchens, like fragrant pulao perked up with water chestnut, crusty kachoris (deep-fried pastries) stuffed with spiced cucumber and yogurt, and a luscious wet pudding made of tart raw mangoes.

Golden Joy Restaurant

The city’s second and newer Chinatown, in Tangra, is dotted with sauce factories, tanneries, and restaurants that serve spicy, saucy Tangra-style Chinese food, a jumble of Hakka, Sichuan, and Cantonese styles with distinct local inflections. Golden Joy is one of Tangra’s biggest crowd-pullers. Drop by for a meal of the restaurant’s most-ordered dishes, like mixed fried rice loaded with shredded chicken, prawns, and scrambled eggs; Hakka noodles (springy noodles tossed with vegetables and soy sauce); chicken sheathed in a soy-based gravy crammed with green chiles; and golden-fried prawns.

Ah Yung

The much-hyped Chinese breakfast in Tiretti Bazaar is only a shadow of what it once was. Skip it, and head instead to Ah Yung across town in Tangra (Kolkata’s second Chinatown). The restaurant serves a filling breakfast of the curiously christened singara chow: steamed pork wontons (resembling samosas, or “singara” in the local lingo), nestled in a bed of noodles topped with Chinese greens and shreds of pork. It’s served with a savory broth fortified with pork lard and some fiery chile sauce made in-house.

A plate of noodles topped with wontons, meat, and greens.
Singara chow.
Rajarshi Chakraborti

The Salt House

With chic interiors, an open-air courtyard (particularly crowded during winter) that hosts live music, a well-stocked bar, and an elegant menu, the Salt House is one of Kolkata’s most popular spots. The restaurant serves a largely European menu with a bit of Mediterranean and regional Indian cuisines stirred into the mix. Some of the dishes come with quirky twists. The roasted pork belly is dressed in vindaloo jus and served with a side of zesty fried rice tossed with fiery Goan sausage, while the Bengali prawn malaikari (a satiny curry of prawns cooked in coconut milk) is folded into al dente risotto.

A large hunk of stuffed meat beside roastead carrots.
A dish at the Salt House.
The Salt House

Zam Zam Restaurant Pvt Ltd

Zam Zam started out as a utilitarian working-class eatery in a narrow, obscure lane in central Kolkata’s Entally area. A few years ago, the restaurant launched a swanky family-friendly outpost in the Park Circus area. Most people go to Zam Zam for the gently spiced beef biryani (typically found at Muslim weddings in Kolkata) served with a spicy yogurt drink called borhani, and the luscious beef malai in which chunks of beef float in a pool of cream-laden gravy best mopped up with parathas. The beef rolls, crammed with smoky nuggets of chargrilled beef, are immensely popular too.

6 Ballygunge Place

This much-loved specialty Bengali restaurant inhabits a pretty, vintage townhouse in a posh south Kolkata neighborhood. The setting, with its chessboard floor, ornate chandeliers, and period furniture, is reminiscent of aristocratic mansions of 19th-century Calcutta. The menu features a luxurious selection of Bengali classics like daab chingri (prawns cooked in tender, cream-laden coconut shells), kosha mangsho (dryish mutton curry), and chital macher muitha (fish dumplings in red gravy). There are also a smattering of lesser-known delicacies culled from Bengali cookbooks and the kitchens of old Calcutta’s patrician households. Well-heeled locals book tables here for celebratory meals and often bring out-of-towners for an introductory course on Bengali food.

Prawns overflow from a coconut shell in front of decorative plates on display.
Daab chingri.
6 Ballygunge Place

Apanjan

A glass display box showcases the crumb-coated dainties on offer at this matchbox-size shop in a humble south Kolkata neighborhood. There are spicy croquettes of boiled eggs sheathed in minced meat, thick slabs of breaded fish, and more. The fish fry is legendary, but the standout dish here is the fish roll: plump paupiettes of bhetki stuffed with a sprightly mixture of minced fish and prawns, rolled in crumbs, and fried to a crisp. Apanjan opens in the afternoon and closes at 9 p.m., but the best items sell out early.

Sienna Store & Cafe

This charming cafe started out as an adjunct of Sienna, the retail outlet of a Shantiniketan-based ceramics workshop run by a mother-daughter duo. But over time, the food side of the business has established its own identity with a crisp, straightforward menu focused on global comfort food: robust burgers, perfectly cooked omelets, toasts with assorted toppings, and creamy risottos made with local varieties of rice. Chef Auroni Mookerjee champions all things local and sustainable. His more adventurous weekend menus use only fresh, seasonal produce that can be sourced that day — foraged greens, wild mushrooms, duck eggs, varieties of small fish that usually don’t make it to restaurant tables — in a style Mookerjee calls bazaar-to-table.

Punjabee Rasoi

Kolkata loves its Punjabi food. The city is dotted with dhaba-style eateries (roadside pit stops in North India) and other casual restaurants that serve a standard fare of dal makhani, malai paneer, and chicken butter masala. For more than a decade now, Punjabee Rasoi, run by husband-and-wife duo PV and Preeti Raju, has been quietly turning out some of the best Punjabi food in the city. The menu features a panoply of spirited curries, stuffed breads, and tandoor specialties, but the one dish everyone orders is the adrak ke panje: smoky, chargrilled goat ribs flavored with ginger and spices.

A small metal tin of dal makhani streaked with cream.
Dal makhani.
Punjabee Rasoi

Ramakrishna Lunch Home

South Kolkata’s Lake Market area is home to the city’s South Indian population. Among the neighborhood’s eateries, you’ll find Sree Ramakrishna Lunch Home, housed on the ground floor of Bhupendra Mansion, which dates back to 1955. The place is particularly popular with morning walkers and joggers, who come for a filling and relatively healthy breakfast of pillowy, soft idlis, served with fiery podi or fresh coconut chutney, the latter crowned with a mound of fried lentils, mustard seeds, chiles, and curry leaves. There are also soft medu vadas (doughnut-shaped fritters), a variety of dosas, and decent filter coffee.