Best Cafés in Manali

Best Cafés in Manali

Mushroom Sandwich at Rocky's Cafe, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, Himalayas, India
There comes a day in your life when waiting anymore feels like a waste of time. Euro Trip was just that for me. There came a time when I decided to take the plunge all by myself. Sounds like m talking about getting married or some bigger decision in my life? It was big to me. Introvert by birth, in this trip, I was like a panda trying to learn kungfu. But just like in the movie, I started to enjoy every minute of it.
Now that I had decided to fly solo, I decided to put myself in self created experiment by not only travelling alone but also making sure that I am surrounded by more and more strangers – instead of cozy hotels, I decided to crash at hostels sharing room with other travelers and I purposely did not carry any internet or phone with me when I was out on roads.
How did it feel? On the first day, it felt like I was a self torture trip but as days passed by, I became more comfortable with choosing my own path, deciding my own routes, and dealing with last minute gate changes at airport, finding my way around the cities while taking directions from strangers, and meeting some great people on the way. All in all, the trip changed my opinion about myself. I, quite literally, surprised myself.
As promised, here is the post on some awesome cafés in Manali.
Cafés are an integral part of experiencing Manali, especially Old Manali, and they were lot more than just cafés to me. They were my work place, place to relax, place to meet new people and place for introspection. These cafés serve cuisines from across the globe as they cater to travellers from all parts of the world.
This article won’t cover the best cafés as I don’t think we can rate them on one single parameter. Every café has its own character and makes you live a different experience. Yes one thing was common – very hospitable staff. Do carry cash with you as most places and shops in Manali do not accept card payments. After living in places like Mumbai and Delhi, Manali didn’t seem too expensive given the fresh flavours and ambience.
Ok so I will start from the top:
Rocky's Cafe, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, Himalayas, India
View from Rocky's Cafe, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, Himalayas, India

Rocky’s Café

Quite literally at the top, Road ends at Rocky’s. Located on the hill top ahead of Manu Temple, Rocky’s café has fantastic view of snow clad mountains and wonderful relaxing ambience. Food was decently good, but cheese and spinach momos with green chutney were amazing, emphasis on green chutney. We practically asked for it with everything else we ordered. This was my workplace with best view till date. I sat there from 11am till 5pm while working on my project and embracing the Himalayan range. This café should be on your must visit places in Manali. Go to Rocky’s during day time to enjoy the views. They also have rooms for stay, so if you want to spend a night at this pretty place, just book in advance online or ask at the reception.

The Lazy Dog

It is a café cum lounge with outdoor seating right next to the river, Minalsu. A mountain side acts as a side wall to the outdoor seating while river flows on the side. Sound of waves in backdrop of mighty mountains of Himalayan range makes your experience serene and your food tastier. Snacks at The Lazy dog are really nice. You can also ask for sheesha here. My suggestion is to go here in the evenings while the sun is still out and enjoy the lights coming out while sun sets and candles on the table come to life.

The Lazy Dog, Manali, Himachal, Himalayas, India
Dylan’s Toasted and Roasted, Manali, Himachal, Himalayas, India

Dylan’s Toasted and Roasted Coffee House

Run by Rajan Dylan Nalwa, Dylan’s is the place to go for best chocolate cookies ever and amazing coffee shake. As I was staying at Zostel which is about 1 km uphill from Dylan’s, the calories in the cookie were well deserved after a walk up and down the hill. I went there 4 days in a row only for those “infamous cookies”; additional calorie intake was just collateral damage. Do try these cookies if you are in Manali. Dylan’s also has an outlet in Goa.

Johnson’s Café

This café is part of a hotel which has preserved its timeless charm. The Café is the first trout fish specialty restaurant in Manali. Being a vegetarian, I did not try that but I tried their pasta and homemade garlic bread and they were mouth watering. It started drizzling when I reached Johnson and the environment was perfect for a calm lunch. One thing which I enjoyed most here was clicking pictures of those oh so beautiful pink roses. If you want to try Manali’s favourite trout fish, I would suggest come to the place where it all started.
Pasta at Johnsons Cafe, Manali, Himachal, Himalayas, India
Johnsons Cafe, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India
Mall Road, Manali, Himachal, Himalayas, India

Cornerhouse Manali

Cornerhouse Manali gave me a special lunch time with Pavane, who has been a traveller all her life and is now running a homestay and a café in Manali. Although I couldn’t visit her café, I will always remember this lunch with her. Her stories are no less than an inspiration to any traveller. I will write a separate post about people I met in Manali. For now, lets come back to food at Cornerhouse. I ordered Veg Hakka Noodle and they were delicious. Although the service was slow, but the corner seat with a view and Pavane’s company compensated for it.

Rasta Café at Vashist Temple Road

This is a café near Vashisht Temple, famous for natural hot water springs. Although the temple was under renovation, my breakfast at Rasta café was amazing. Spinach omelette with hot coffee and sautéed veggies on the side made my day. I penned down my thoughts in my journal while I waited for my meal and had a wholesome start to my day. I walked my way back to Manali alongside the river. Although the walk was scenic smoke from vehicles played spoiler.
Spinach omelette at Rasta Cafe, Manali, Himachal, Himalayas, India
Rende-Vouz Café, Manali, Himachal, Himalayas, India

Rende-Vouz Café

This one again has a branch in Goa. Days are quiter and the evenings are soulful with live music and amazing food at Rende-vouz Cafe. I spent a nice quite time with my book here during the day while I came back again (with my hostel roommate) for an awesome fresh pizza baked in front of us and live music played by a local band.

Café 1947

This one is one of the most famous cafes in Manali. You can find a nice place to sit by the riverside and enjoy your meals. I visited Café 1947 twice during my stay and food was fresh and flavourful.
Pizza at Café 1947, Manali, Himachal, Himalayas, India
Drifters Café, Manali, Himachal, Himalayas, India

Drifters Café

This was close to my hostel and had a rooftop deck seating as well. I preferred the deck but a storm made me go back in. It had decent food but the ambience was nice with many travellers just sitting and chit chatting.

German Bakery in Old Manali

This was a very small café in one of the bylanes of Old Manali and we visited this at night. They did not have any amazing views or any frills of a café but you can meet some really nice travellers from different parts of the world. Menu had basic stuff and food was decently good but people you meet here are fun.

Café Zostel

Café in my hostel was really great, food was really tasty and when you share it with like minded travellers and people, it becomes even more delicious. My stay at hostels in Manali was my first stint with Hostels in India and Zostel Manali gave me many memories to cherish. Do try set breakfasts and biryani here.
Zostel Manali, Himachal, Himalayas, India
Do comment if you have any additions to my list, I would love to go back and try more cafés in Manali.

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