Food is everywhere in Delhi: in the old city where Dilliwale (Delhi locals) and tourists stream past flaming kebabs and stacks of rotis fresh from tandoors, in bustling immigrant neighborhoods, in plush new restaurants where young chefs challenge traditions in a city full of them. For every beloved restaurant there is a family, an origin myth behind a time-honored dish, a feud with a rival eatery, or a crowd of loyal customers proclaiming their affection.
“The city moves in terrifying, rapid technicolor, pausing only to eat, so a plate of food is arguably the best way to understand Delhi,” says Sharanya Deepak, a local food writer from the city. Meals can last minutes or whole days. Many well-known spots are in the grand, crumbling old city, but surprising meals can be found in every corner. “If a smell beckons from a side street or small storefront, abandon your plans and follow your instincts,” Deepak says.
It’s impossible in one list to completely summarize a city that defies linearity, but these 38 essential restaurants should get you started. They are spaces of comfort, labs of experimentation, and far-flung destinations that inspire pilgrimages. Many are stuffed in bustling lanes or shoved into tight buildings, so you may need to ask a local for directions once you get close.
A note on getting around: It’s a mistake to take a taxi into Old Delhi. Instead, use the metro, then walk or take a rickshaw the rest of the way. Use Uber to reach places in Delhi’s Central, East, South, and West districts.
Editor’s Note: Eater is not updating international maps at this time given disruptions to global travel during the COVID-19 crisis.
Price key per person:
$ = Less than RS 300 (under $4.20 USD)
$$ = RS 300 - 800 ($4.20 - 11.20 USD)
$$$ = RS 800 - 1500 ($11.20 - 21 USD)
$$$$ = RS 1500 - 3000 ($21 - 42 USD)
$$$$$ = RS 3000 - 5000 ($42 - 70 USD)