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Story of the “Punjabi” Dhabas on Indian Highways

Road trips in India are synonymous with eating and resting at a Punjabi dhaba. A road trip in India is incomplete without stopping at one of these highway cafés, called a dhaba. Dhabas are said to be  derived from the Hindi word “dabba,” which means “lunch box,” they are simple, no-frills roadside shacks that first appeared in the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana as pit stops for trucks. They are typically located close to gas stations, on the highway, or on the outskirts of towns. The majority of dhabas are open round-the-clock and are typically named after the owners, such as Sharma Dhaba, Sunny da Dhaba, etc. Famous among weary truckers and drivers it is now being used by everyone, including families with young children and travellers.


Eating at a Dhaba is a feeling of nostalgia and homecoming, something which you can hardly feel at a restaurant.

-Sarabjeet Singh


How Punjabi Dhaba Came Into Being

The correct timeline of when dhabas came into being is not been established properly but it is estimated that the Grand Trunk Road, one of Asia’s oldest roads that connects Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent, is thought to have given rise to the first dhabas in the middle of the 20th century. The road begins in Peshawar (present day Pakistan) and ends in Bangladesh, passing through Amritsar, Delhi, and Kolkata. Truck drivers in need looked forward to the comfort meal and rustic warmth associated with dhabas.

Rajinder Da Dhabha (AB-14 , Safdarjung Enclave Market , New Delhi) – yummraj
Image Source: Rajinder Da Dhaba


Present Day Dhabas

Dhabas are now not your typical imagination of a small hut with charpaayis, tandoors and one chotu serving tea or lassis; they have now been transformed to much better eateries with chairs, cooks and better amenities. Dhabas are not yet limited to a small business on a highway, some of the famous dhabas are now opening their ‘dhaba-chains’ over different states. The Dhaba culture was hit hard amidst the covid pandemic which resulted in shutting down of many of them however the Indian dhaba culture has endured despite adverse circumstances thanks to its propensity to reappear and establish itself. What accounts for dhabas’ remarkable success?  Perhaps the special dining experience that combines warm hospitality, an interesting atmosphere, and spiced-up comfort cuisine with a hint of nostalgia is what drives people towards dhabas the most.


How Punjabi Dhaba is the Lifeline of Indian Trucking and Keeps it Together

Dhabas are a thread that is binding the new generation to their old roots. They are not a mere eating junction but act as a stop where truck drivers share their wisdom and discuss their business with each other such as the freight rates, latest regulations, etc. These insights are very useful for not only the truck drivers but also for the dhaba owners. New drivers get to learn a great deal about the local culture and how to deal with the locals. Dhabas are also pit stops where drivers stop to rest, change shifts, and relay with other drivers. Thus a long lasting friendship develops between both parties, if a dhaba owner knows that a particular truck is a regular customer they provide them with discounted meals.

Image Source: Ajay Shukla


Top 5 Punjabi Dhaba That Should Be On Your ‘Must-Visit’ List

1.Sharma Punjabi Dhaba

Anyone wishing to sample real Rajasthani cuisine on the route to Sikar from Jaipur frequently stops at this dhaba.

Location: Rajasthan

2. Amrik Sukhdev

It’s impossible to talk about Indian Highway Dhaba without mentioning Amrik Sukhdev. What started as a small roadside restaurant for truckers is now a popular destination for travelers, young people and couples.

Location: Haryana

3.Sunny ka Punjabi Dhaba

Situated on the Pune- Lonavala road, this dhaba is a hot spot for Mumbaikars and Pune walas looking to binge on some scrumptious food away from the crowded cities.

Location: Lonavla

4.Grand Lassi Shop

The Grand Lassi Shop serves melty lassi and exquisite aloo parathas with melted butter, chana (chickpeas) and homemade yogurt.

Location: Zirakpur-Patiala Road

5. Rajinder Da Dhaba

It is a legendary restaurant in Delhi, India. Beginning as a small roadside “dhaba,” or roadside street food restaurant, Rajinder Da Dhaba has grown to overtake an entire little strip mall shopping center.

Location: Delhi

Image Source: Overdrive


Dhabas have been a lifeline for people traveling from one state to another. Many restaurants are now replicating this dhaba culture to attract more local crowd, this has affected dhabas in many ways, Even yet, delicacies like butter naan, mooli ka paranthe, ande ki bhurji, dal fry, mutton rice curry, and others that are considered dhaba specialities are difficult to recreate.

Muskaan Dimri

Muskaan, a dynamic creative writer, blends her passion for storytelling with an expert command of the global logistics and transportation markets. With a keen eye for industry trends, she writes about the complexities of supply chains and transportation networks, transforming intricate details into engaging narratives.
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