My early impressions of Goa were that of a place of churches, sea and meat in various forms. But, over the last 3 years that I’ve been figuring the place some more, I’ve had to alter many of my earlier beliefs. Now the one about food is that not only are there many vegetarian items on any restaurant menu in Goa, there are many strictly-vegetarian food places around. On our last stay this June, we even found a brand new, beautifully laid out resort near Vagator that was completely vegetarian. Then, on a walk of Baga, we came across at least 4 ‘100% pure vegetarian’ restaurants that I’m still to check out.
Even though I’m generally a carnivore, there are days I prefer vegetables over meat and I’m happy enough eating vegetarian food in a regular restaurant. It was for some members in the family that I’d once gone seeking strictly-vegetarian places, and now have the following recommendations for others looking for vegetarian restaurants in Goa:
Sharanam Green on Candolim
About the best place for North Indian vegetarian food. Dishes look and smell good and probably have some UP influence in cooking. They seem loaded with oil/ghee but the restaurant does have dry, vegetarian tandoori items that show less fat in them. I’ve found this restaurant open all year round.
Navtara in Mapusa/Panjim/Porvorim
A mixed cuisine with shades of North Indian, Maharashtrian, Gujarati, ubiquitious idli-dosas and even Indian Chinese preparations. Only vegetarian though. A new branch in Porvorim looked glitzy from outside on our visit in June but we’ve only eaten at the other two. The Panjim branch has poor airconditioning and disinterested staff but Mapusa has been okay in our experience. This branch has thali in 2 modes: the airconditioned area on the first floor has an expensive version and the fan-cooled ground floor has it cheaper without yellow biryani and the dessert. Both thalis are fine but in May-June when I’m usually there, I prefer airconditioning to saving a few bucks. The restaurants are open all year round.
Rajdhani in Panjim
It is part of a chain of vegetarian restaurants all over the country that offers Rajasthani food in eat-as-much-as-you-can-thali format. The restaurant is on the Ist floor, small in size but easy to locate and offers a great eating experience.
Shravan in Panjim
Only Gujarati thali in this basement restaurant that tasted better than that was eaten at the more famous Gujarati thali place in Hotel Fidalgo (below). But Shravan appears to be a seasonal restaurant and wasn’t open even by October last year. On our only visit to it, it wasn’t airconditioned but its cool chaach and polite servers sort of made up for that shortcoming.
Bhojan, Hotel Fidalgo in Panjim
A Gujarati thali restaurant inside a hotel, Bhojan is popular for its food and has long waiting on weekends. Between Shravan and Bhojan, I’d prefer the former for its food but latter for its airconditioning. Bhojan’s thali costs more too.
Kamat Hotel, Church Square, Panjim
I avoided this place on a couple of visits to Goa as it looked so uninviting. But once I took the advice of another part-time Goa settler, went up to its Ist floor restaurant and wasn’t disappointed with its rava dosas, filter coffee and thali. It’s open the whole year round.
Spicy Idli, Arpora Road
On the last visit, we were pleasantly surprised to spot this tiny eatery on our drives up and down the Arpora-Calangute road. Its idlis, dosas, upma, dosas and chutneys tasted fresh and authentic in their flavor. Its smiley and friendly owner, Ramesh Iyer, said that he’d keep the place open the whole year now that he’s got an encouraging response from people. We hope to see him on our next visit.
Then, there are some places I’d suggest avoiding:
Hotel Rajdhani’s ground floor restaurant in Panjim: Shouldn’t be confused with Rajdhani restaurant mentioned above. This is a different vegetarian thali and snack restaurant on the ground floor of ‘Hotel Rajdhani’ on Atmaram Borkar Road in Panjim. It’s kind of more visible but less worthy of one’s time and money.
Anand Sagar on Calangute: If you must eat there, please avoid their dense idlis.