The Many Faces of Lahore Chatkhara
Lahore Chatkhara has two outlets in the city. The first one is in Defence, a few streets away from the famous H-block market, while the second one is situated on the on the roundabout at the end of MM Alam Road and College Road.
I was introduced to the Lahore Chatkhara near H-block market through their Gujrati puri by my uncle a few years ago. Since then my mom and I have been loyal and recurring customers. The Gujrati puri appears to be filled gol gappas. and is essentially a Sindhi delicacy. The tangy, thick tamarind sauce and the heat from the spices make this a delight in summers, when nothing else seems to be going my way. Their papri chaat and samosa chaat are prepared with such utter perfection that they leave one in an awe of how the right spices can elevate otherwise modest ingredients.
In a nutshell:
- Two outlets, two distinct experiences
- Go for the Gujrati puri and the papri chaat
- Nostalgic experiences for bored millennials
- A shoestring budget? No problem
- Explore their chaat menu
- Family friendly
Three tables, in loose and varying arrangements serve as the only sitting space at Defence’s Lahore Chatkhara. By the third table you’re practically inside the kitchen. I prefer having my Gujrati chaat within the comfort of my car, with a medium 7UP. My family loves to gobble down their samosa chaats. It’s one of these intimate car-meals that can rid you of your Sunday blues. I always look forward to dropping by here. I sometimes wonder if the servers are equally happy to see me there.
So naturally, when the sphere of my socialisation shifted to Gulberg, I wanted my chaats to move with me. To my surprise, Lahore Chatkhara was already pretty big on MM Alam. A small, always crowded passageway leads you in, and the space keeps opening up as the stride progresses. There is a middle parting wall that divides the otherwise main dining hall into two differently-sized halls. This Lahore Chatkhara is far more spacious, and has a much larger menu. There are different thaalis that you can order, each carrying a range of desi options. From traditional BBQ to some Afghani varieties, the food here is both delicious and easy on the pocket. I, however, wouldn’t speak too highly of their lamb options.
But when I’m talking about my Gujrati chaat, the Lahore Chatkhara from Defence is the only place that does it right. I don’t think there can ever be any comparison between the two. In Defence, spices, flavour, and generosity prevail. On MM Alam it all stops being so great. Perhaps the difference in location is the root of the problem; these are two separate eateries with fairly similar menus. The Defence Lahore Chatkhara is privately owned by people who have a sophisticated Sindhi palette and always get the same kind of chaat. For someone who hates inconsistencies, I applaud the administration for managing to create the same kind of magic every time.
On behalf of my inner Gujrati, I invite you to make your own decision.