Burns Road: Fostering a Culinary Community
Karachi is known for its love for food, and Karachi’s cuisine has a unique taste that makes it instantly recognizable. It could be the love of spices that give it away, but whatever the reason might be Karachi loves its food. Perhaps that’s why Burns Road is arguably the most famous street in the bustling city because it’s Karachi’s original food street.
The street is named after a British spy-doctor, James Burnes, but this street is as Pakistani as it gets. Different street hawkers and vendors running around, pulling in customers, and shouting orders. Loud, boisterous, and Pakistani indeed. Burns Road is a melting-pot of various ethnicities and, by extension, cuisines.
This food street evolved naturally and became the food center of the city because migrants from India liked to eat out the way they used to back in their native towns. The surge in demand encouraged experienced, as well as inexperienced, venturers from within the migrant community. The restaurants that exist today had humble beginnings. Today, they’re household names and legends in their own right.
Every eatery on Burns Road has a distinct flavor, regular visitors could tell you blindfolded where a specific bun-kebab is from. The secret is in the chutney. One visit to Burns Road will explain why Karachi is called the city of lights, the night-life on this street is unbelievable. Most vendors are serving through the night and Karachiites from every corner come here for a taste of authentic Karachi food. Every visitor leaves Burns Road with a full belly, satisfied taste buds, and fond memories.
The problem with Burns Road is that there are too many options and each of them is worthwhile. All of the biryani shops claim to serve the best biryani in the city and it’s difficult to prove any of them wrong. Culinary powerhouses, like Mazaidar Haleem, Waheed Kebab House, Babu Bhai Bun Kebabs, Fresco Bakery, and Cafe Lazeez compete for your attention. The choice is near impossible and the servers don’t make it any easier as they try to pull customers in. Experiences at Burns Road are a peculiar mixture of delight and horror.
It’s okay, the whole point of being on a food street is sampling various items. Isn’t it? In fact, it’s best to be strategic. I’ve got a mapped out path every time I visit with very little deviation, depending on who is accompanying me. My first stop is always Scholars Pizza; an underrated yet delicious option. Their thick crust pizza is prepared with a housemade sauce and tons of cheese, I consider it the perfect appetizer. Often times, the next stop is Babu Bhai Bun Kebab. Soft and sweet bread, a crispy and spicy cutlet, and a tangy sauce. Heaven. No visit to Burns Road is complete without a visit to Fresco. Their warm gulab jamuns are the perfect end to a meal.
There’s a reason Burns Road is pivotal to a true-blue Karachi experience, it brings together the community regardless of their roots and culture. This food-street defines our city, and you won’t find anyone complaining.