CombatCritic QandA: (McLeod Ganj, H.P, India) Are there places to stay with kitchenettes?


Q:

las habitaciones tienen kitchenette? (Are there places to stay with kitchenettes?)
CLAUDIAGESELL  
villa gesell

A:
 
There are apartments with kitchens/kitchenettes available, but you’re going to have to look once you get there. Stay in a hotel for a day or two and ask locals. You’ll find something fairly quickly at a low price if you like. Gandhi House (below Pink House) has rooms with kitchenettes, but may require a long-term stay (one month or more. Ask the staff at Mountain Lion Cafe, they may know.  Tell them CombatCritic sent you.  Hope this helps!
 

Title:  McLeod Ganj, H.P, India: Are there places to stay with kitchenettes?

Key Words: McLeod Ganj, mcleod, ganj, kitchenette, kitchen, hotel, apartment, dharmasala, dharamshala, India, travel, doubts, concern, question, answer, CombatCritic. TravelValue, travel, value
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CombatCritic QandA: McLeod Ganj, India) Solo Female Has Doubts And Questions About Travel


Q:

Hey there,
 
Want to visit Mcloedganj and Dharamshala solo. i have some doubts.
 
1. which place is more appropriate to stay ? Mcleodganj and Dharamshala ?
 
2. Does your hotel provide taxi or cab facility to roam around the city or to go tourist attractions.
 
3. Is it safe to travel alone?
 
4. Any other thing i need to cautious about ?
 
Thanks.
 
Nehadixit, New Delhi, India

A:

Dear Nehadixit,
 
Want to visit Mcloedganj and Dharamshala solo … have no doubts!
 
1. which place is more appropriate to stay ? Mcleodganj and Dharamshala ?
 
Dharamsala has little to offer. McLeod Ganj is where all the action is … the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan people, monasteries, yoga, meditation, NGOs, restaurants, hiking/trekking, clean air, beautiful scenery
 
2. Does your hotel provide taxi or cab facility to roam around the city or to go tourist attractions.
 
You don’t need a cab unless you want to travel outside of town. Everything is within walking distance of McLeod Ganj … Bhagsu Village, St Johns, Dharamkot, the Library of Tibetan Works and Archive, etc … or a short, cheap bus ride away
 
3. Is it safe to travel alone?
 
McLeod Ganj is extremely safe for men and women, being inhabited by Tibetans primarily. Partly because of their Buddhist beliefs, they are very compassionate, peaceful, and kind people.
 
4. Any other thing i need to cautious about ?
 
Not really, but pick a hotel wisely. There are many to choose from, ranging from 200 to 3,000+ rupees per night depending on your tastes. The Tse Chok Ling Monastery sits on a hill overlooking the valley, is extremely peaceful, and a great value at 600 rupees per night. You can read reviews of hotels, restaurants, and attractions on my blog and watch videos orienting you to McLeod Ganj on my YouTube channel, so feel free to contact me for details.
 
Good luck!
 
CombatCritic

Key Words: McLeod Ganj, mcleod, ganj, dharmasala, dharamshala, India, travel, doubts, concern, question, answer, CombatCritic. TravelValue, travel, value

Seven Hills … A Taste of Korea In McLeod Ganj


Seven Hills of Dokkaebi
Jogiwara Road
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, H.P. India
Prices: $$$$$

I had heard there was a good Korean restaurant in McLeod Ganj and it turned out that when I moved to a new hotel, Hotel Ekant Lodge, Seven Hills of Dokkaebi was right nextdoor.

The restaurant is situated down some stairs and around a corner just north of Ekant Lodge, so ask if you have trouble finding it. The dining room is nicely decorated and has a large fireplace which unfortunately was not lit on the cold evening of my first visit. The menu is large, but I came for the bulgogi, so it did not take long to order.

I ordered a pot of ginger lemon honey (100 rupees/$1.60) which turned out to be a good value compared to a cup (50 rupees/80 cents), having refilled my cup at least four times throughout my meal.

The full dinners are not cheap by Indian standards, but are an outstanding value considering the quality and quantity of the food. My pork bulgogi dinner (380 rupees/$6.15) was nearly enough for two and one of the best meals I have had since arriving in India. Unlike western meals, everything came at once, including assorted cold vegetables, kimchi (spicy, fermented cabbage), rice, a bowl of soup, and close to a pound of bulgogi. Although not the best bulgogi I have had, including meals in Korea and made by Korean friends, it was very good. The flavor was excellent and I was completely stuffed by the time I finished.

My entire meal set me back 500 rupees ($8.00), including tip, an expensive meal in India when you are used to paying $3 for dinner. However, a meal of this caliber in the U.S. would run $15 to $20 minimum, so it was an outstanding value which is what this blog is all about!

CombatCritic Gives Seven Hills of Dokkaebi 9 Bombs Out Of 10 … BOMBS ARE GOOD!


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Key Words: Seven Hills of Dokkaebi, Jogiwara Road, McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, India, seven, hills, dokkaebi, restaurant, Korea, Korean, travel, value, food, menu

One Two, Buckle My "Brew"


One Two Café
Temple Road (Across from Dalai Lama Temple)
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, HP, India 
Prices: $$$$$

I have to admit that I have not ordered a full meal here because it appears that is not their forté. The first time I visited One Two Café was for a quick bite to eat and a coffee while waiting for my Buddhist philosophy class upstairs. While enjoying my caffe latte and spinach quiche (more to follow), a friend of an employee brought in a meal (that looked like thenthuk) from another restaurant. Not a good sign, particularly considering that they have thenthuk on the menu.

However, my spinach quiche was quite large for the price (100 rupees/$1.60) and very good although the crust was a bit difficult to cut through and the filling not all that rich, both likely due to a lack of egg and cheese in the recipe. Still, it was very enjoyable and savory.


I have returned for their caffe latte, made from espresso on an Italian espresso machine, which is very well done and an outstanding value at 60 rupees (95 cents) for a regular and 90 rupees ($1.50) for a doppio (large).


If you want an excellent coffee, tea, or light snack while visiting the Dalai Lama’s Temple, then One Two Cafe is an excellent choice.

CombatCritic Gives One Two Café 7 Bombs Out Of 10 … BOMBS ARE GOOD!

Key Words: caffe, café, coffee, CombatCritic, dessert, Dharamsala, Dharamshala, food, Ganj, India, McLeod, McLeod Ganj, menu, one, One Two Café, quiche, restaurant, tea

Excellent Latte, Mediocre Sandwich, Moderate Prices


Moonpeak Espresso (Café)
Temple Road
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, HP, India
Prices: $$$$$

I have been to Moonpeak a few times for a coffee and pastry, once for lunch, and have been relatively happy even though it is not anywhere close to being the best value in town.

They have decent, free wi-fi, an excellent latte (70 rupees/$1.15), and a modern, “Western” feel (if that is something you are after). Beside the requisite coffees, teas, lassis, and juices, their menu includes breakfast, pastries, sandwiches, and light (small portions) local lunch and dinner options.

I tried the chicken and vegetable (toasted) sandwich and was not the least impressed. The white toast with a few chunks of chicken, some veggies, and a little cheese was underwhelming and barely made a dent in my appetite. My vegetarian companion had the veg Thali which looked decent for the price, including pappadum, naan, curry, paneer, and rice.

There are better “value” options in town, but if you are transiting Temple Road coming from or going to the Dalai Lama Temple, it is definitely worth a stop if nothing more than for a good latte and to check email. 

CombatCritic Gives Moonpeak Espresso 6 Bombs Out Of 10 in Terms of “Relative Value”… MORE BOMBS ARE BETTER!






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Key Words: café, coffee, coffeehouse, food, free, latte, menu, Moonpeak, pastry, sandwich, tart, tea, wi-fi, espresso, caffe, Moonpeak Espresso, moon, peak, Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj, Temple, road, 

Woeser Bakery Lives Up To The Hype … Scrummy Pastries, Good Coffee, Excellent Service


Woeser Bakery

Jogiwara Road – Below Black Magic Restaurant- 

McLeod GanjDharamsala 176219India

Prices: $$$$$
Woeser Bakery is not easy to find as it sits down the stairs in the basement under Black Magic (restaurant, bar, and disco) on Jogiwara Road (“market” area) in McLeod Ganj and just south of the large Buddhist temple (stupa). The sign is easy to miss, so look for Black Magic on the east side of the road and the staircase down to the basement.

Small is an understatement, with just two tables and three barstools, 11 patrons and two employees can cram into the tiny space no bigger than a bedroom. The owner and pastry chef busily prepares her sweet delights as patrons come and go. There are a selection of 17 or so pastries, coffees, teas, and assorted cold drinks available in addition to a small menu of breakfast and lunch items (eggs, cereal, bread, and one sandwich).

Chocolate Crisp
I had a Chocolate Crisp (40 rupees/65 cents) and a Café Latte (70 rupees/$1.10) on my first visit. The chocolate crisp was crispy as advertised with chocolate covered corn flakes decadently shaped into a ball half the size of a billiard ball. It was rich and flavorful. The café latte was made from a French press and served in s large cup with a foamy milk topping and a swirl of chocolate. The coffee was not as strong as an espresso-based drink, but was very good and an excellent value. I even got the remaining coffee from the French press to top off my latte!

Panino
I can see why Woeser Bakery is THE top choice on TripAdvisor in McLeod Ganj and only wish that they remained open later than 7pm, had a few more savory options, AND A LITTLE HEAT on a chilly late-Autumn day.


CombatCritic Gives Woeser Bakery An Initial 9 Bombs Out Of 10 and a promise to return again … MORE BOMBS ARE BETTER!




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Key Words: Woeser Bakery, Woeser, bakery, pastry, pastries, cake, cookie, coffee, café, caffe, latte, tea, McLeod Ganj, McLeod, Ganj, Dharamsala, Dharamshala, India, travel, value

Dal Lake? More Like A Big, Dirty Pond!


Dal Lake
Adjacent To Upper TCV Complex
Dharamsala Bus Road
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, H.P. India

When I first heard about Dal Lake, I pictured a “sacred” and serene mountain lake as advertized. But when I arrived, what I saw was a large pond contained by concrete, so murky that you cannot see the bottom through six inches of water. 

There are a couple of small “cafés” (shacks that sell instant coffee and tea), but you probably do not want to spend more than a few minutes here. The auto-rickshaw (chuk-chuk) ride from McLeod Ganj Main Square is 90 rupees ($1.45) each way, so I recommend saving your $3 and having a nice lunch instead.

The only reason I gave Dal Lake 2 Bombs (and not 1) is because of the lovely mountain setting, but you can experience that anywhere in the area without spending another 180 rupees.


CombatCritic Gives Dal (Pond) Lake 2 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!



Key Words: Dal Lake, Dal, lake, pond, attraction, TripAdvisor, Yelp, McLeod Ganj, McLeod, Ganj, Dharamsala, Dharamshala, India, Dalai Lama, bus, road, TCV, CombatCritic, travel, value

Just Like Momo Used To Make


Momo Café
TIPA (Dharankot) Road – Just West of Main Square
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, H.P. India

Prices: $$$$$


Entrance – Dalai Lama Temple (Dharamsala, India)
I have tried to eat at Momo Café since reading the great reviews on TripAdvisor, but until today I was unsuccessful. With just three tables, seating 10 people max, you must be lucky or persistent to score a meal here.
They have all of the standard Tibetan fare … momos of course (Tibetan dumplings, steamed or fried, filled with veggies, cheese, potato, meat, or a combo thereof), thupka (long noodles in a broth with assorted veggies), and my favorite thenthuk. 

Momo Café Looks Dicey, But Is A Great Find!

As I sit waiting for my vegetable thenthuk (homemade sliced noodles in a broth chock full of vegetables – 80 rupees/$1.30), I glance at the young Tibetan women at the next table enjoying theirs and it looks pretty darn good!

Twenty five minutes later and no sign of my lunch, I am wondering if I will make it to Rinpoche’s teaching at 2 pm near the Dalai Lama Temple. Just as the ladies leave, food appears from the tiny kitchen, but alas it is for the three young men at the only other table in the place. I hear chopping from behind the curtain, obviously coming from the preparation of my thenthuk. The good news … my meal will be freshly made … the bad … I will almost surely be late for the second day in a row to my Buddhist philosophy class.

Vegetable Thenthuk – 80 Rupees ($1.30)

When the thenthuk finally arrived 40 minutes after arrival, it was in-fact fresh, hot and delicious, one of the best I have had since arriving in Dharamsala. At 105 rupees ($1.70) including a liter of mineral water, it was also one of the BEST VALUES in India so far!



CombatCritic Gives Momo Café 9 Bombs Out Of 10 … BOMBS ARE GOOD!



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Stairway To Heaven … NOT!


Pink House Hotel
Jogiwara Road – Below and Across From Yongling School
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, H.P., India
Prices: $$$$$

Balcony View – Room 204

Javid, the owner of Pink House, was very helpful and friendly, answering questions about my reservation and upcoming visit to Dharamsala. He arranged for a ride from the airport in Gogol for 700 rupees ($11.35) upon arrival, which I thought was a decent price by US standards for a 10-mile taxi ride. Considering that the taxi from my hotel in Delhi (where everything is more expensive than in Dharamsala) to the airport was just 400 rupees ($6.50 for a 13-mile journey), it turned out not to be such a great deal after all. The driver dropped me on the street and pointed to some extremely long, very steep, dangerous looking stairs in varying degrees of disrepair (note to self #1 … is this the only access point?”) and said “look for the sign”.

Second Floor Room (Corner – Room 204)
The hotel is nice enough, not swank and not a dive, with many rooms having balconies and views of the foothills and Himalayas. Javid was updating many of the rooms during my stay, making them more comfortable, but also causing noise problems and clutter while the repairs were being made. The rooms have differing views depending on which direction you are facing and which floor you are on (1st floor rooms have poor views), but all have cable TVs (old CRTs), balconies, large beds, cabinet (no closet or wardrobe), bath with western-style toilet, sink, and a shower with no enclosure (your bathroom is your shower in India), but no heating system in sight (note to self #2 … “it seems awful chilly in here”). There is also Wi-Fi throughout the hotel (note to self #3 … “I hope the Wi-Fi isn’t as slow as it was in Delhi!”), with a router on each floor, so the signal is strong everywhere … WOO-HOO!
Balcony
The first few days I had breakfast at the “rooftop café”, which is just barely that, a roof with a couple plastic tables and chairs, no roof, no cover, and no heat on cold November mornings. Still recovering from jet lag, I was up early each morning watching the gorgeous sunrises and noticed that the servers first arrived to take orders at varying hours, sometimes 7:30 am, other times well after 8:00 am (note to self #4 … “I wonder what time they start serving breakfast?”). The Tibetan bread, which became my morning staple, with locally made peanut butter (70 rupees/$1.15) was tasty and a pot of milk coffee (warm milk with varying degrees of instant coffee added) set me back another 80 rupees/$1.30, so $2.50 seemed fair enough (note to self #5) for a decent, not great breakfast.

Steps – View From Street (Top)
I quickly became exhausted by and very concerned (see note to self #1) about the hundreds of stairs from Pink House up to Jogiwara Road. Being a disabled Veteran with very bad knees and back, the stairs, which are extremely dangerous by day and treacherous by night (very little light), vary widely in height, have loose or missing rocks and bricks (many steps are crumbling), and many are constantly soaked with the water escaping from the numerous pipes crisscrossing the steps (another tripping hazard). I stumbled on several occasions due to varying heights and uneven surfaces, twisting my knee on one occasion and nearly tumbling head over heel down the steep incline on a few others. Having made a commitment to stay long-term (I was visiting for 7 weeks and received a small discount on my room), I decided to stick it out until I felt my health or life was in danger.
Pink House staff are very friendly and helpful most of the time. Rooms can be cleaned if you make the journey to floor number 4 to drop off your key in the morning and inexpensive laundry services are also available ($1.00 to $2.50 for a few shirts, pants, socks, and undies), dropping items off (again on the 4th floor) in the morning and picking them up the same evening.
Steps – View From Bottom
Being November and at an altitude of over 5,750 feet (1,750 meters), days were very comfortable when in the sun (plentiful this time of year) and a bit chilly in the shade, but nights dipped into the 30s and 40s and the rooms quickly became very cold (see note to self #2). In-fact, I had not seen a heater anywhere in India since my arrival, including restaurants, other businesses, and hotels, which may not have been an issue in Delhi, but made for some mildly uncomfortable experiences in the mountains. After a nearly two weeks of freezing my bum off in the middle of the night when I had to use the toilet (loo) and in the morning, I asked about the possibility of getting a heater in my room, but was told “you have two blankets don’t you?”. I decided to suffer a little rather than make an issue out of it because the steps were making it likely I would not be there much longer anyway.

The Wi-Fi signals were great due to the routers on each floor, but unfortunately the internet was extremely slow (note to self #3). Being an avid blogger, TripAdvisor “Top Contributor”, and wanting to upload reviews and photos, as well as keep in contact with my family and friends via Skype and Facetime, the Wi-Fi was woefully inadequate. Beside the numerous and frequent power outages in McLeod Ganj which resulted in no Wi-Fi (or TV), the Wi-Fi quickly became an issue due to the inordinate amount of time it took to do anything and the frustration caused by Skype and Facetime calls home where I could only hear every fifth word being said.

Again, after the first few days, I decided to move indoors to the “relative” warmth of my room for breakfast, not knowing when the servers would arrive on the roof each morning (note to self #4). I asked when breakfast was available each morning and was told 7:30 am, but I found that the staff in general do not seem to awake early because when I called at 7:30 sharp each morning I either spoke to someone who had obviously been awakened by my call (staff sleep in the reception office, which is not on the ground floor, but on the 4th floor next to the rooftop café) or someone else who barely spoke English. Most of the time, my breakfast arrived within 15 minutes and the young men delivering it were friendly and helpful. However, on a few occasions my order did not arrive after 45 minutes to an hour, causing frustration and late arrival to my 9:00 am (not including the nearly 30 minute walk UP THE HUNDREDS OF STEPS and down Jogiwara Road from McLeod Ganj) Buddhist Philosophy class at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archive. I also inquired about an early breakfast during the Dalai Lama’s teachings (November 11-13 2014 – 8am – 12pm daily with arrival NLT 7:30am), but was told “the kitchen opens at 7:30am” … maybe), so I ordered my breakfast the night before and drank cold coffee and ate stale Tibetan bread for three days. After 20 years in the Air Force, I have experienced worse conditions.
I never ate anything at Pink House other than breakfast because I avoided navigating the dreaded steps except for a trip up each morning and one down each night. The menu was extensive and from what I saw the food looked pretty good, but the value is questionable based on my breakfast costs and comparable meals in town. Having paid $2.50 for a small pot of weak coffee, a piece of local bread that can be purchased for 10 rupees (16 cents) in town, and a tablespoon of peanut butter, in comparison to the wonderful $3.00 dinners I regularly ate, the food did not seem like such a great value after all.
After 3 weeks, I had enough of the treacherous stairs, painful knees, and risk to my existence on Earth, the widely varying and undependable breakfast hours (they probably got tired of me waking them up every morning at 7:30), and the very slow Wi-Fi, so I decided to find a place closer to the road, the Tibetan Library, town, and my yoga instructor … mostly the deadly stairs … finding a comparable room and view at less than half of the price (333 rupees per night or $5.35), being centrally located between destinations WITH NO STEPS!
At first glance and in terms of western standards and prices, Pink House appears to be an exceptional value at $10-$20 per night, but comparatively speaking in McLeod Ganj and Dharamsala, that did not necessarily turn out to be the case. The longer I stayed in the area and the more people I spoke to, the more I realized that Pink House was one of the more expensive and isolated places in town. A Buddhist monk friend paid 2,00o rupees per month ($32.00) for his centrally located room, a basic but clean room with shared bath, and another was paying 300 rupees ($4.85) per night for a double room at a monastery just off the main market with a private bath, so $15 per night was quite expensive in this neck of the woods.
Like Jessica1100 (TripAdvisor), my 880 rupee ($14) deposit was not applied to my bill at check-out even though it was meticulously itemized down to the rupee, taking close to 20 minutes even though I told them I would be checking out that morning. I am not saying that it was done intentionally, but considering that they do not accept reservations without a deposit equaling one night’s stay, it should be a standard inclusion in the billing process.
If Pink House where in the U.S., Europe, Japan, or Korea (among other more expensive destinations), they would get 8 or 9 Bombs Out Of 10. But in terms of other local (India in general, Dharamsala in particular) establishments, on which I base my “VALUE” determinations, Pink House is very middle of the road. Therefore, if you have great knees, do not mind the cold or paying a bit extra for the convenience of eating in your room, and enjoy beautiful views, fair service, and in-house laundry services, then Pink House is a fair choice. But be warned, there are better values out there, particularly for those visiting for extended periods where significant discounts of 50% to 70% can be had over nightly lodging prices … and make sure your deposit is applied to your bill!

CombatCritic Gives Pink House Hotel 4 Bombs Out Of 10Deductions for Dangerous Stairs, Slow Internet, Varying Restaurant Hours, No Heat, and Missing Deposit … More Bombs Are Better









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Good, Reasonably Priced Fare In A Country Not Well Known For Great Italian


Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen
Jogiwara Road, Market Area (Upstairs)
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, H.P. India 176219
Prices: $$$$$
Dining Room
Jimmy’s is the only restaurant in town that serves only Italian food … bruschetta (learn how to pronounce it Americans), pasta, pizza, main courses with actual meat and more! You have to look up and on the right as you walk up Jogiwara Road (from the direction of the Dalai Lama’s Temple) about halfway through the McLeod Ganj “market” (shopping area) on the way to the Main Square to see Jimmy’s neon sign up on the third floor.

TV and Asian Style Seating Area
The restaurant is large by Dharamsala standards and nicely appointed with marble-top tables, nice modern colors, plenty of windows, and movie posters on the walls. They have a large screen LCD TV, which happened to be televising a cricket game while I was there. There are two small areas, one in the front as you walk in and another in the back near the TV, where those with good knees can sit at a low table on mats Asian style. Being an old military retiree and disabled Veteran, I went for a table and chairs.
The menu is large with numerous antipasti (appetizers), both veg (vegetarian) and non-veg as they are referred to here, several primi (first courses), including pizza and pasta dishes, as well as homemade ravioli, lasagna and gnocchi, and, finally, secondi (second courses – think meat) where you can choose from chicken, mutton, or pork prepared in a variety of ways. They also have many drinks, including milk shakes and lassi (a yogurt-based drink found throughout India similar to a milk shake, but without the ice cream).
Veggie Bruschetta
For my antipasto, I decided to try the mixed grilled vegetable “bruchetta” (90 Rupees/$1.46 – spelled “bruschetta” in Italy and unlike the pronunciation used by most Americans, pronounced “brew-sket-a”, not brew-shet-a, as the “sch” in Italy is pronounced like “sk” is in English). What I received was four large toasted slices of the best Italian-style bread I have had in India to date with an abundance of tasty grilled veggies (eggplant, mushrooms, onion, and bell peppers) with melted mozzarella cheese on top. Normally, bruschetta is served with cold vegetables (tomato, vegetables) on top and no cheese, but I was quite pleased with the taste. Bravo!
Gnocchi in Pesto Cream Soup, I Mean Sauce
For my primo, I chose the handmade gnocchi with ham in a pesto cream sauce (190 Rupees/$3.10). The gnocchi was excellent and perfectly cooked, not too chewy and not falling apart in my mouth, and the sauce was flavorful, not requiring salt, pepper, or added cheese as is the case with most pasta dishes I have had in India, but with a touch too much garlic (and I love garlic). My only complaint, and I shared this with the owner before leaving, was the same as at many restaurants in the U.S., and that is that there was far too much sauce. Proper pasta is served “al dente” and lightly basted in the sauce just prior to serving by flipping the pasta in the pan containing the heated sauce, but many restaurants outside of Italy overdo the sauce and mine was more like a thick soup with the gnocchi and ham being overwhelmed by the sauce. The owner shared with me the reason it is served this way and that is because his Indian customers are used to thick sauces (think curry, jalfraizi, and vindaloo) and believe that al dente pasta is undercooked, so he is catering to the majority of his clientele. Fair enough.
Chocolate Milk Shake
Feeling hungry and decadent, I also ordered a chocolate milk shake with ice cream (120 Rupees/$1.95) because I had read that they had an excellent peanut butter milk shake (not on the menu) on TripAdvisor. If you order a milk shake in India, do not expect what you normally think of a shake in western countries as they do not contain ice cream unless so stated. Drinks in India are routinely lukewarm as refrigeration is not great and ice is not a good idea because of potential water-born illnesses, so your milk shake will likely not be cold and frosty as you would expect. Mine tasted good enough, but the ice cream was not fully blended and at nearly $2 it was probably one of the worst values in my restaurant experiences here in India.

I spent Thanksgiving in Dharamsala, so because there was no turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, or pumpkin pie, I decided to have the next best thing … ITALIAN FOOD! Normally eating a bowl of thupka or thenthuk (Tibetan noodle and vegetable soup), I splurged and ordered Jimmy’s Tomato and Mozzarella Salad (“Insalata Caprese” – Salad From Capri In Italian – 120 Rupees/$1.95), an order of garlic bread (40 Rupees/65 cents), and the Penne Romano (al dente penne, olive oil, garlic, chili pepper flakes, and parmesan cheese – 150 Rupees/$2.40).

Penne Romano
The insalata Caprese was actually very good with an abundance of fresh, sliced tomato, slices of mozzarella cheese, a little lettuce, and drizzled with an light olive oil and vinegar dressing. The mozzarella was sliced a bit too thin compared to the Italian equivalent and you would normally have fresh basil (instead of lettuce) on top with extra virgin olive oil (no vinegar), but it was excellent nonetheless. The garlic bread (the bread is made fresh and in-house) was perfectly seasoned and toasted, and the perfect accompaniment to the tomato salad. The penne Romano, although arriving far too soon and shortly after my antipasto had arrived, was al dente just the way I like it and the olive oil and garlic sauce tasty although a little too dry. A bit more olive oil would have helped, but it was delicious in any case.

CombatCritic Gives Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen 8 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!


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Palaco Handmade Crafts: Beautiful, Ornate, Handmade Crafts … Reasonable Prices … Outstanding Service!


Palaco Handmade Crafts
Shop #5 Temple Road (Behind State Bank ATM)
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, HP, India 176219
Phone: +91 97364 86748
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/PalacoCrafts

I would have missed Palaco Handmade Crafts if i had not started talking to the owner Taj while waiting in line for the ATM. The shop is behind the State Bank ATM on Temple Road about 125 meters from the Main Square, heading toward the Dalai Lama’s Temple, and just 50 meters from the Buddhist Stuba (Buddhist Temple with prayer wheels) in the middle of town (same direction).

The shop is in the back on the left and is small, but filled with beautiful treasures from Tibetan, Kashmiri, and Indian craft makers, normally small families and individuals and not the mass produced garbage you find in many shops.

Silk and Kashmiri (Cashmere if you are American) woolen scarves, bedspreads and carpets, intricate inlaid wood trays, bowls, lamps and other small furnishings and knick-knacks, brass “chakra” bowls, Buddhist “tangas”, purses and bags, and many other crafts are avaialble at very fair prices.

Taj is a wonderful person, inviting me for a cup of saffron tea made from VERY EXPENSIVE kashmiri saffron on my first visit, he is truly a warm and friendly person. Their prices are so low that you do not need to haggle like most stores in India, knowing that you are getting a good deal and an outstanding value.

CombatCritic Gives Palaco Handmade Crafts A Rare 10 Out of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GOOD!

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Key Words: Palaco Handmade Crafts, Palaco, handmade, crafts, Tibetan, Kashmiri, India, Indian, McLeod Ganj, mcleod, ganj, Dharamsala, Dharmsala, silk, wool, Taj, purses, inlaid, wood, Temple Road, Shop #5

Mediocre Service, Non-Existent WiFi … Superb Thai Curry


“Mediocre Service, Non-Existent WiFi … Superb Thai Curry

The Clay Oven

McLeod Ganj, Himachal PradeshDharamsala 176219India

The restaurant sits just off the main square on the TIPA (Dharamkot) road and looks nicer than most in McLeod Ganj with wood beam ceilings, earth tones, and a nice terrace. 

The free WiFi was nearly non-existent, so don’t bother if you need to get anything done while waiting to be seated, get your menu or your food.


I stood at the counter waiting for a table for nearly 5 minutes while employees danced around me saying nothing and with just three parties in a place that seats 50. I finally got my menus another 5 minutes after the grumpy guy (owner?) at the register ignored me and I sat myself.


I ordered the green chicken (Thai) curry (200 rupees – $3.20) and waited close to 30 minutes … but IT WAS WORTH THE WAIT! Accompanied by white rice, the curry came in a clay pot, was generous in size, and hot, not scalding. The flavor was as good as any green curry I have had stateside and I have had quite a few. Spicy, but not overly hot, there were chunks of white meat chicken, mushrooms, and onion with just the right curry to rice ratio. Good stuff and at $3+ it was definitely the best value in terms of curry I have experienced!


The food quality and value alone would rate 9 BOMBS, but deducting 1 BOMB for lousy internet and another for mediocre service …


CombatCritic Gives The Clay Oven 7 Bombs Out Of 10 … MORE BOMBS ARE BETTER!








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Key Words: The Clay Oven, clay, oven, Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj, Mcleod, Ganj, India, Thai, Tibetan, Indian, curry, coffee, Italian, pizza, pasta, menu, travel, value, CombatCritic

Snow Lion Restaurant ROARS … Good Food, Excellent Value!


Snow Lion Restaurant
Jogiwara Road (Opposite Buddhist Temple – Stuba)
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala 176213, India
Phone: +91-1892-221289

Prices: $$$$$

The “snow lion” is a mythical creature featured on the Tibetan flag and I had seen the Snow Lion Restaurant while walking by on the busy main market street in McLeod Ganj, but had not entered because there were normally no free tables. I sauntered in one evening after seeing that the popular table by the front window was free.


No sooner had I sat down than two young Russian girls asked if they could join me, a common practice here in Himachel Pradesh. They were mildly friendly and soon went about their conversation while lounging on the couch opposite me. Many of the tables have double cushioned seats, so many of the young bohemians with unwashed dreadlocks and tattered clothes make themselves at home while surfing the internet (not just here, but in many cafés), feet on the seats and all. The restaurant is clean and comfortable with semi-bright lighting and the staff is very friendly and inviting.

The food is strictly vegetarian and the menu offers a wide variety of appetizers, entrees, drinks, and desserts. Momos are a Tibetan specialty, a savory pastry filled with vegetables, potato, cheese, meat or a combination thereof and served either steamed or fried. I tried the fried potato and cheese momos (80 rupees – $1.30), consisting of eight large pieces with soy and chili sauces available for dipping. Fresh and flavorful, Snow Lion’s momos are very good and an excellent value.

I had seen “sizzlers” on several menus around town, so I decided to try the vegetable sizzler as an entree, adding some crispy-spicy potatoes and the lemon-ginger-honey tea (40 rupees – 65 cents) I have come to love. The potatoes arrived first, very thin French fries with a tasty seasoning and some VERY HOT slices of red and green chili intermixed. I decided to save most of them to accompany my entrée. The sizzler, aptly named because it is served on an iron skillet, much like fajitas would be served at a Mexican restaurant stateside, sizzling and steaming. The assorted vegetables, including

green beans, carrots, tomatoes, onion, cauliflower, and squash (I think) sat upon large cabbage leaves and was tasty although not well seasoned. I added some chili sauce, a condiment used like catsup here, and tossed the rest of my spicy French fries in for good measure. I have to say that for an all vegetable meal, I was quite full, but not so full that I could not resist the wonderful dessert options.


I asked if they had vanilla ice cream because the “eggless” apple pie looked scrumpdidiliumptious. They did, so I ordered a hot apple pie with vanilla ice cream. The pie was lukewarm, not hot, but it was very good as was the ice cream. The crust was crisp and delicious and the filling sweet, but not overly so. A nice finish to a very good, well-priced meal.


The WiFi is moderatley fast, the environment comfortable and inviting, and the service efficient and very friendly, and I understand that they open fairly early, by Indian standards, for breakfast. The only drawback is that the loo (toilet) is upstairs and is NOT the “western” variety, so be prepared to squat and bring your own TP as it is rarely found in public toilets, including this one. Snow Lion also offers rooms above the restaurant, so if and when I have a look, I will update this review.

CombatCritic Gives Snow Lion Restaurant 9 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!




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Key Words: Snow Lion Restaurant, snow, lion, restaurant, McLeod Ganj, McLeod, Ganj, Dharamsala, India, cafe, coffee, free wifi, wifi, Tibetan, momo, menu, travel, value

Carpe Diem: Sieze the "Lait" … "Cafe au" That Is!


Carpe Diem Restaurant and Pizzeria
Jogiwara Road – Above Cinema
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, H.P. India
+91-988-219-2294

Cuisine: Breakfast, Coffee/Tea/Beer, Indian, Italian, Thai

Prices: $$$$$

Rooftop Terrace

I heard good things about the pizza, understanding that they have a wood-fire oven. The place is not easy to find unless to look up to the third floor of the building above the cinema on Jogiwara Road. The indoor restaurant is up one flight of stairs, but the rooftop terrace is quite nice if the weather permits.


The indoor restaurant was empty at 8PM on a Sunday night, but the terrace was packed, leaving one table for me. The crowd seemed to be young, American/European/Australian bohemians dressed in baggy clothes with dreadlocks, which is extremely common in McLeod Ganj at least. There are six or seven tables with chairs and a sitting area with low tables and mats to sit on (do not forget to take off your shoes).

Mutton (Lamb) Pepperoni Pizza – 210 Rupees ($3.40)

The menu is eclectic, but I had to try the “excellent pizza” I had heard so much about. I ordered the non-vegetarian pepperoni pizza (210 rupees – $3.45), thinking that it would be the standard spicy, greasy, pork variety we American expect (“pepperoni” in Italy is green bell peppers). The pizza came rather quickly and looked quite good actually. Not huge, it was thin and crispy, much like the pizzas you get in Rome and the flavor was also decent … until I got my first bite of pepperoni. I actually like lamb from time to time, but not on my pizza. The pepperoni was obviously made of lamb (mutton here) and although not disgusting by any stretch, it was a little off-putting because it was not expected. Beside the taste of lamb sausage, the pizza was good, but next time I think I will order a vegetarian option or go with a Thai green curry or Indian dish.


One of the few restaurants that serves beer (you better like Kingfisher), the menu is huge and the prices are fair, a little higher than many places around town. The service was fast and friendly.


CombatCritic Gives Carpe Diem An Initial 6 Bombs Out of 10 … MORE BOMBS ARE GOOD!

Key Words: CarpeDiem, carpe, diem, Jogiwara Road, breakfast, café, Thai, pizza, Dharamsala, food, Ganj, restaurant, beer, India, internet, Italian, McLeod, McLeod Ganj, menu, restaurant, Thai, Indian, terrace, travel, value, CombatCritic

Himalayan Café and Restaurant: Fast (Free) Internet, Nice View, Tasty Food, Excellent Prices


Himalayan Café and Restaurant
Bhagsu Road (100 meters east of Main Square)
McLeod Ganj, India

Cuisine: Breakfast, Coffee/Tea, Tibetan, Chinese (Italian and Thai Available High Season)

Prices: $$$$$

Terrace and View of McLeod Ganj

I literally stumbled upon the Himalayan Cafe and Restaurant (the streets here are rough, rough, rough) while walking on Bhagsu Road, heading from the main square in McLeod Ganj toward Bhagsu Village (heading east). I might have missed it had I not seen the sign advertising “High Speed Internet”, so I walked up the steel staircase to the terrace (right).


Terrace
The covered terrace at the top of the stairs has several tables with a few overlooking the valley below and all have a nice view of the Himalayan foothills. The indoor café below has just a few tables, but is warm and inviting with a few western-style tables and one large table with Asian-style seating (pads).

Chicken Thenthuk and Tibetan Butter Tea
The menu (see photos below) is varied and the prices reasonable. They have breakfast, Tibetan and Chinese dishes year round with Italian and Thai selections during the high season. I had Tibetan butter tea (40 rupee – 65 cents) and the chicken thenthuk (100 rupee – $1.60), a Tibetan dish of handmade noodles (long, wide, and thin, then cut into small pieces) in broth with a variety of fresh vegetables. The butter tea actually has butter in it and is slightly salty, creamy, and rich, an unusual taste that works quite well actually. The chicken thenthuk was warm, delicious, and filling, chock full of veggies and noodles, and just what I needed on a cool Fall day.

Lamb Thukpa
My friend had the mutton (lamb) thukpa, a large bowl of broth with assorted vegetables, and long noodles (that look like spaghetti), topped with fine slices of crispy lamb. Chili sauce is a condiment here and can be added to any dish, making it hot and spicy, but all the dishes I have tried are well seasoned and excellent with or without any additions.

Indoor Café

Easy to miss if you are not looking closely, Himalayan Café and Restaurant is a quiet respite from the hectic pace on the street below, offering free, fast wi-fi and a chance to unwind over a cup of coffee or tea, a light snack, or a full meal. The service is efficient, but even though their English is good, I did not feel quite as welcome as in other local restaurants.

CombatCritic Gives Himalayan Café and Restaurant 8 Bombs Out of 10 … BOMBS ARE GOOD!




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Key Words: Bhagsu Road, breakfast, café, Chinese, Dharamsala, food, Ganj, Himalayan, Himalayan Café and Restaurant, India, internet, Italian, McLeod, McLeod Ganj, menu, restaurant, Thai, tibetan, view, travel, value


Nick’s Italian Kitchen … Fair Pizza, Disappointing Cheesecake, Decent Value and GREAT COMPANY!


Nick’s Italian Kitchen
Bhagsu Road
McLeod Ganj, Himachel Pradesh, India

Cuisine: Italian, Tibetan, Chinese

Price: $$$$$

I stumbled upon Nick’s my first night in McLeod Ganj. The restaurant is situated in the Kunga Guest House less than 100 meters from the main square (going east) and has a large terrace overlooking the valley below with views of the Himalayan foothills.


I saw a young woman with a pizza that looked pretty darn good, so I ordered the vegetarian combo (bell peppers, mushrooms, onion, etc – 175 rupee – $2.85), a diet coke (40 rupee – 65 cents), and a liter of bottled water (25 rupee – 40 cents). Their desserts looked tempting and are apparently a specialty, so I completed my meal with a piece of lemon cheesecake.

The pizza crust was very good, not too thick, not too thin, crispy not burnt, but it became a little soggy (not too bad) from the liquid of one or more ingredients. The flavor of the pizza was bland and did not taste Italian, missing oregano and/or basil with an added spice I could not put my finger (or tongue for that matter) on. It was filling and tasted “OK”, but was disappointing after having looked so tempting.

The lemon cheesecake, although well done, did not taste like any cheesecake I have ever had in the US. It was thin and also somewhat bland, with little lemon taste or cheesiness. It was also “OK”, but not something I would order again as I am a cheesecake lover.

The highlight of the evening was Bargdo, a Buddhist monk from Tibet I was fortunate enough to have dinner with on this, my first evening in Dharamsala. He had been imprisoned by the Chinese in 1988 for protesting in Lhasa in favor of the Dalai Lama and a free Tibet and tortured for 4 years before the Dalai Lama arranged (paid the Chinese) for his release. 

Bargdo has not seen his family in close to 25 years and has only spoken to them twice in that time, not being allowed to phone, write, or otherwise communicate with his parents, siblings, and extended family still in Chinese controlled Tibet.

He has written 14 books and traveled the world speaking on the Tibetan dilemma, having met heads of state and countless celebrities. He is an extremely happy and jovial person, considering his extremely difficult experiences, and was a delight to spend the evening with.

Bargdo aside …


CombatCritic Gives Nick’s Italian Kitchen 6 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!







Key Words: Nick’s Italian Kitchen, Nick, Nicks, Nick’s, Italian, Kitchen, menu, restaurant, pizza, pasta, Bargdo, monk, Tibet, McLeod Ganj, mcleod, ganj, dharmsala, dharamsala, India, travel, value

Four Seasons Cafe (McLeod Ganj, India): little place … BIG VALUE!


Four Seasons Cafe 
Jogiwara Road
McLeod Ganj, India

Cuisine: Tibetan, Italian

Price: $$$$$

I was actually walking to another restaurant I found on TripAdvisor when I came across Four Seasons Cafe. It is a small, unassuming place on Jogiwara Road on the opposite end of the market from the main square (closer to the Dalai Lama Temple). There are only about seven tables and the walls and floors are wood, giving the dining area a rich, warm, inviting feel. I quickly looked them up on my TripAdvisor App and saw they were ranked number 12 out of 43 with 4 1/2 stars, so I went in.


Momos in Soup

The menu has many options including Tibetan and Italian, and the prices are very, very reasonable. I ordered a Tibetan herbal tea (30 rupee – 50 cents) and the vegetable and cheese momos in soup (80 rupee – $1.30), a large bowl of broth with sliced cabbage and carrot topped with six large momos (a Tibetan dumpling filled with cheese and veggies). It was delicious and filling! I was pretty hungry, so I also ordered an egg fried rice (also 80 rupee). It was not as massive as a similar dish back stateside, but was more than enough for me and also extremely good.


Fried Rice
My tab came to a whopping 190 rupee ($3.10) for an excellent, filling meal in a comfortable and friendly environment. The staff speak decent English and are efficient, warm, and spontaneous, making me feel most welcome.

On my next visit, I tried the pasta, ordering the penne “Quatro Fromaggi” (formaggio in Italian – 170 Rupees/$2.75) and garlic bread (40 Rupees – 65 cents). The pasta was perfectly “al dente” and the sauce cheesy and gooey. It was good enough, but lacking an “Italian” flavor, needing some oregano, parsley, or basil and definitely more parmigiano (parmesan for Americans) due to the noticeable absence of salt. I ended up adding salt and freshly cracked pepper to give the dish some added flavor. The garlic bread was perfectly toasted, crispy, and well seasoned.

Chicken Soutsemen

Having become somewhat of a regular, my next adventure was Chicken Soutsemen (120 Rupees – $1.95), crispy, pan fried noodles covered in a gravy-like sauce chock full of vegetables and small chunks of chicken. It was savory, tasty, and very filling.

CombatCritic Gives Four Seasons Cafe 9 Out of 10 Bombs (Based on VALUE) … MORE BOMBS ARE BETTER!




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Key Words: Four Seasons Cafe, four, seasons, cafe, season, restaurant, tibetan, Italian, pasta, mom, momos, food, menu, McLeod Ganj, McLeod, Ganj, Dharmsala, Dharamsala, India, CombatCritic, travel, value