First of all, the term K-Town doesn’t refer to a Korea Town, in some western metropolis. No. K-town is a colloquial term used by many Karachites as a term of endearment for their beloved “City of Lights”. I mean we use it to show affection, not just to sound cool; totally not why we do it. Anyways, enough of the language lesson. Karachi, like many other sprawling metropolises worldwide, is a melting pot of cultures. People from all over the country come to this city to try their luck and make a better life for themselves. For some, coming here is the only option.
That has been Karachi’s story for decades, if not longer. Karachi doesn’t just draw in Pakistanis though. Being the largest city in the country, the commercial/financial hub, it also draws in its fair share of expats. With a staggering (and disputed) population of over 22 million. And with each group of people bringing their own unique histories and cultures. One thing is absolutely assured; the food is amazing!
You know how your vi-desi cousins claim that you can get everything in their city? Like you’ll find something to eat for everyone. However, each time you go, you end up at the nukkar wala Afghani halal? Well, when you bring them home, you can actually show them what having everything truly means. Just make sure to talk over their protests against the unimportant things. “Hygiene’ and “spice” and the lack of sparkling water, that is.
5 (ish) Eateries to Try
Hey, you look confused. I get it, I get it completely. We Kararchites are so spoilt for choice, and the London-return cousin is due to return in 5 days. How can we condense the full, robust Karachi food scene in just 5 days? Well, worry not brothers and sisters, I have you covered.
Welcome, welcome, mention not.
So without further delay, here are five of the best eateries in Karachi…
Well actually there’s a small problem with that statement. While researching this article, talking to various people and visiting and revisiting some of these places, I came to a dilemma. A fork in the road, if you will. Not only is it insanely difficult to pick just five, as any true Karachi-wala would understand. Eating out in Karachi always goes one of two ways. Either we end up indulging in the incredibly shi-shi or the exact opposite. There’s no middle ground. I mean there’s McDonald’s. But chances are your ABCD cousin will pick out hygiene issues and be like “yaar, so tacky”.
Wait, I’m thinking of fat-Rohan from K3G, but same principle.
Anyways, I then managed to pull out a solution from what I’m calling the idea cave at the very last moment, inches away from losing my usually wicked flow. Why not do two lists in one? This way, I can cater to both moods, and I can let my inner Baaghi out for a bit, break the mold a bit, be how the young people (younger than me) call edgy.
So anyways, here are both your lists. Alternating fancy and otherwise. Though I’m not going to give you ten names. I’m writing an article, not an epic. Three each is what you’re getting. However, either way, I promise you, the food is so worth it. Regardless of which way you go!
Alright, so I’m starting this list with probably the most recent addition of the K-town food scene. And I know what you’re thinking, ‘Nusair, Friday to Friday it’s not even been a week. How can you classify this as a must try?’
Two reasons. First it’s my list. And second, the food is mind-blowingly good! Obviously, the food is the more important reason. I mean the prices overall (overall is a keyword, as you’ll see soon) aren’t much higher than the average. One thing I’ve learned is that you can pay the same amount for drastically different experiences in this city. (As you’ll see soon too).
The Marcel’s experience highlights one thing above all else; the food. As it should be. Unlike many places which use the same base to make 70,000 different dishes, because variety sells, here the menu is limited. But, these are a few dishes done incredibly well. If you’ll order a burger, it will likely be the best burger you have had in recent times. If not your whole life. The cozy yet busy restaurant also boasts a proper Parisian style Patisserie and Boulangerie.
The icing on the cake though, pun wholly and solemnly intended, is the bank and internet-breaking Rs. 25,000 Valrhonna Chocolate Royal Crunch Cake.
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No that’s not type, it actually is priced at that. Or Rs. 3,125 per serving. Whether or not you go for it is up to you, either way, it’s not something you’ll soon forget. Neither is the rest of the food at Marcel’s
NON-FANCY: Waheed Kabab House
Self-respecting Karachites know the following to be fact: Burns Road is the heart of the Karachi, no Pakistani, food scene. Now let me add on to that. Waheed Kabab House is the heart of Burns Road. While yes, this ‘road’ is by all definitions a food street, packed with some of the best food imaginable. But as your cousin hastily reminds you, in their increasingly pretentious accent, ‘Mere pass sirif paanch din hain’. You can’t cram a full street in five days. Meaning, you must choose. And if you must choose, choose this!
The one thing I have had most is their Butter Fried Dagha removed Kabab. You’ve got mince so tender you don’t even need to chew, with a very typical Karachi level of spice. All topped off with copious amounts of melted butter. What’s are a few clogged arteries compared to the sheer euphoric pleasure that is eating a few plates of this. I mean who eats just one. They also specialise in other forms of barbecue; it is a kabab house after all. Their Dhaga not removed kabab is also amazing. When taking your cousin there, just make sure they can take the heat.
From the new and fancy, to the established and oh so fancy. Many Karachites consider Sakura to be the pinnacle of fine dining in the city. Located at the top of the Pearl Continental Hotel. It is definitely one of the oldest and most consistently successful places for a night out in Karachi. It is also the benchmark against which all Japanese and Sushi restaurants are measured. I’m not kidding. I have seen multiple posts in the Karachi food forums asking how good a certain place is on a scale from 1 to Sakura. It’s just that good.
I mean I have been to a lot of sushi places, worldwide. Put me at an all-you-can-eat and I will eat enough sushi to last me a week. It was the best meal I had, in a tiny restaurant in London, that was nothing short of life changing. So I know what good sushi is. While Sakura isn’t life-changing or existential crisis inducing. But it is still the best place for fresh and authentic sushi and Japanese food the city. Just imagine yourself eating lobster teppanyaki while overlooking panoramic views of Karachi’s skyline. Putting up with the annoying cousin would be a relatively small price to pay.
NON-FANCY: Ghausia Food Centre and Qadri Food Centre
So your snooty cousin’s come from abroad. They wanted to be proactive about their trip. Plus they knew you’d be forced into showing them around town. Knowing better than to rely on you, they joined a hundred Facebook groups. And asked everyone ‘Going to Karachi for a few days, what to try?’
You of course unfortunately have them added as a friend. And so you got notifications of their posts. And you watched with horror, as thousands and thousands of people recommended ‘Nalli wali Biryani from Ghausia’. ‘But, like Qadri’s is way better’, others were saying.
Either way, you have only heard of this mythical biryani served with bone marrow in your older foodie uncle’s reminiscences on Sunday evenings. When they’ve had a bit too much to eat. You didn’t realise that it was actually real, and now you have to go search it out.
And search it out you shall! Why? Because the Nalli Biryani at these two is indeed the stuff of legends. How do I explain this? Let’s see. You have biryani, which is already amazing. Now imagine that getting a hundred times richer.
Eating it is the sort of thing that reawakens your taste buds from a deep slumber induced by the mundane and every day. The aftermath is one of the best food comas you’ll ever experience. You can go to either of these, though. Just don’t think you’re part of some exclusive club because you’re reading about it here. Written by a hip yet relatively unknown author. They’ve been here long before social media made them ‘kewl’.
I trust your memory doesn’t fail you at the best of times. So I’m sure you’ll remember me mentioning how many people in Karachi swear by Sakura. Well, many more people swear by Okra. This is one cozy little restaurant with a massive reputation. A well-earned one too. Touting itself as a purveyor of modern European cuisine, it boasts a constantly evolving menu. Where Sakura is the benchmark for all Japanese cuisine in the city. Okra is the gold standard that every restaurant, regardless of cuisine, aims to achieve.
It’s a testament to the proprietor’s passion for food and hospitality, that a restaurant has not only managed to maintain its impeccable quality for over a decade. But also gone about to outdo itself. In my teenage years, Okra was known for its steaks and breads. Today it has fresh mozzarella and a new signature dish, the Meethi Roti.
All while you’ve gone out with your cousin, they’ve done nothing but complain. About the food being too oily or spicy, about the heat. About everything that breathes. Bring them here and I guarantee you, they’ll shut up.
What! They’re still complaining? Well, the food isn’t the problem. Too bad you can’t change people’s internal cassette tapes.
I’m pretty sure you’ve gathered by now that I’m a very proud Karachi-wala. Yes I assumed your level of understanding, bite me. Anyways. No self-respecting Karachi-wala would round off such a list without mentioning our pride and joy; Do Darya. Most cities just have the one food street. Karachi has two, Burns Road, which we’ve already talked about and this. This place didn’t even exist till about ten years ago. And if you believe the rumors, it may not last the year either. Yet it’s near impossible to imagine Karachi without this set of restaurants, located where the two seas meet. And it’s crowning glory? Well there are two that have withstood the tests of time, Kolachi and Kababjee’s. For me personally, Kababjee’s edges out just the bit more.
We Karachites love our barbecue joints. I mean look at B.B.Q. Tonight. That place has been around for over twenty years. Why isn’t it on this list then? Well Kababjee’s not only has better food, but also has the sea view. You know, the other thing we Karachites are incredibly proud of. (Get it, Sea View, because you know. Ugh never mind!).
Kababjee’s wouldn’t be on this list if the food wasn’t to die for though. The Paneer Reshmi Handi, the Peshawari Karahi, the Gola Kabab, the Seekh Kabab. The choices are endless and all of them surprisingly good. To top it off, and silence your cousin who’s still complaining, they also serve burgers, steaks and even Chinese Food.
Beyond that, there are a lot of benefits of being by the sea. So two birds one stone when coming to Kababjee’s.
My top list
And there you have it, the 6 must-try eateries in Karachi. This was insanely hard, as I keep reminding you. Given how many good eateries there are in the city. Yet, I, for the love of my readers, took the plunge and gave you the six best.
Now before you get up in arms against me for not including any chai wala’s on this list. It’s because chia wala’s deserve their own list. There are countless, amazing tea spots in the city now (Westeros is my favorite though). And it would be grossly unfair to skip any of them. Plus, you wouldn’t want to take the London-return there. We have to preserve the sanctity of a few places, at least.