Goutam’s on EM Bypass
♦ Where: EM Bypass, at the landing of Ultadanga-VIP Road flyover
♦ How it works: This must be the original car service counter of the neighbourhood. “I first started a tiny coffee counter here in 1995. The Bypass was narrow then, lighting was poor and traffic was scanty,” says founder Goutam Karmakar. Now his counters sell everything from tandoori to Chinese and the eat-street is packed with cars till wee hours of the dawn.
“It’s common to see people celebrating their birthdays here, with a cake and food on their car’s boot,” says Rajesh Chowdhury who works there.
Karmakar is about to open his first air-conditioned restaurant in New Town and will tie up with Swiggy to cater to the rising demand for home deliveries but believes the drive-in concept will stay alive. “We have people coming in Porsches and BMWs because they enjoy the ambience of standing on the road and eating,” he says confidently.
♦ Timings: 5pm to 2am. After 11pm, cars may park outside the joint but before that, when the volume of vehicular traffic is high, they must park on the other side of the Bypass. Waiters eagerly run across the road taking and delivering orders.
♦ Food faves: Cold Coffee at Rs 40, Chicken Chowmein Rs 100, egg roll Rs 30
♦ Foodie bite: “We live in Camac Street but love coming here,” said Gaurav Jhunjhunwala, taking a bite out of the tray of noodles his wife was holding outside their car. “It’s a unique experience eating like this.”
♦ Where: DB Block, opposite Bidhannagar Government College
♦ How it works: They have a small sitting space but the thrust is on drive-ins. They even have flexes put up saying: “Drive your car and let Pappu serve you”.
“Calcutta badly needs drive-ins,” says Manish Jaiswal, who runs the outlet. “And one where you get everything from tea and snacks to dinner.” Cars come and park under the Metro viaduct and the waiters run to take and deliver orders, under umbrellas if it need be. “We are also arranging for raincoats for the waiters this season.”
♦ Timings: 7am to 11pm
♦ Food faves: Jhaal Muri Rs 50, Oreo Cookie Shake Rs 100, Chicken Keema Pao Rs 145
♦ Foodie bite: “It’s quite pleasant going for a drive in the rains and eating Chicken Keema Pao and Masala Cheese Omelette here,” said Shubhayu Ghosh, a Class VI student of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan who had come with his family after school.
Fillers near the swimming pool
♦ Where: CF Block, swimming pool area
♦ How it works: Again, one of the oldest drive-in restaurants of the township. “We have a couple of tables laid out but 80 per cent of our clientele is drive-in,” says branch manager Asit Pal. “In fact, more people seem to come for the experience in the rains.”
♦ Timings: 11am to 10pm
♦ Food faves: Cheese Pizza Rs 150, Veg Burger Rs 70
♦ Foodie bite: “Sometimes we don’t want to sit in the formal ambience of a restaurant. At Filler’s, we can munch standing outside, leaning against our bikes. We get to see others passing by and enjoy that ambience too,” says Tanmoy Das, a Sector V employee who lives in AE Block.
Sharma Tea in CF Block
♦ Where: CF Block, opposite BF Park
♦ How it works: “We have provision for 50 chairs but still have 20 cars parked outside round the clock,” says Kamal Sharma from behind the counter. The restaurant doesn’t have a menu card but the waiters know the menu by heart and run to any car that slows down approaching them. “People spend Rs 150 on petrol to come here and have a Rs 20 cup of tea.”
♦ Timings: 6am to 10.30pm but tea is available from 5am.
♦ Food faves: Tea Rs 20, Kesar Tea
Rs 30, Club Kachori Rs 30
♦ Foodie bite: “We come here twice a day, five times a week, come rain or shine,” smiled Soma Chatterjee, who had come yet again on Monday afternoon with her family. “We don’t even get out of the car. They serve us tea in trays and it’s quite cosy and convenient having it seated inside.”
A waiter carries an order outdoor at Gangotri in CF Block. (Shubham Paul)
♦ Where: CF Block
♦ How it works: “While our restaurant is 25 years old we got it air-conditioned only about 10 years back. So initially some customers would prefer eating in the AC cars,” says manager Rajesh Singh. “But the practice is still popular. Now we have a big umbrella to serve food without getting it wet. We also have plates with compartments so the samber and other dishes don’t spill in the car.”
♦ Timings: 7am to 10pm
♦ Food faves: Masala Dosa Rs 85, Pao Bhaji Rs 100
♦ Foodie bite: “Gangotri is an old favourite and sometimes it’s faster to eat in the car than to wait for a table inside,” said Rohit Gupta, a resident of FE Block.
A customer being served in front of Azad Hind Dhaba in Sector V. (Shubham Paul)
Azad Hind Dhaba
♦ Where: Sector V
♦ How it works: Office goers of Sector V as well as residents from Salt Lake flock to this restaurant and then decide whether to eat inside or out.
“We’re ready with our umbrellas to serve food outside too. For small orders people eat inside the car and for large orders they turn their car’s boot into a make-shift table,” said cashier Kazi Anarul.
♦ Timings: Noon to 1am
♦ Food faves: Husain’s Special Chicken Rs 185. A version of Chicken Bharta, this item was a favourite of the late artist M.F. Husain’s when he would visit the Ballygunge outlet of Azad Hind Dhaba. The dish got renamed after Husain, who also gifted a painting to the outlet that is now on the cover of their menu card.
♦ Foodie bite: “Sometimes the weather, ambience and people outside are such fun that you’d rather eat there than go inside a formal restaurant,” said Pankaj Jadhav, who was eating pulao that had been served on his car’s boot.
♦ Where: On the footpath outside Udayachal Tourist Lodge, DG Block (Mishra’s Island)
♦ How it works: “We had some chairs but had to introduce car-service on public demand,” says Roumen Kanda, a partner of the food joint that opened in 2014. “We just ensure the drivers and passengers of the cars here are not drinking, following an order from the police.”
On foot, the approach to the counter has become difficult since a flank of the road outside is getting dug up for the water pipe line construction from New Town. So the focus all the more is on drive-ins now.
♦ Timings: 11am-11pm
♦ Food faves: Chicken Steamed Momos Rs 30, Mixed Noodles Rs 120
♦ Foodie bite: “Sometimes we feel like going for a drive in the rains. And if we’re not too hungry we stop at Munchew for a plate of momos,” said Arundhati Dutta of Ultadanga.
Do you like eating out in the car?
Write to The Telegraph Salt Lake, 6, Prafulla Sarkar Street, Calcutta 700001.