Situated roughly a kilometer to the left from Panchgaon Crossing (direction IMT Manesar / Gurgaon) – on the main highway – we stopped at Gollu Rao Hotel and Dhaba while returning from an afternoon spent at the Heritage Transport Museum.
The closest and one of the most popular Dhabas in the vicinity of Gollu Rao is the Old Rao Dhaba which is roughly 15 minutes away (by car) towards Jaipur. On the lookout for a new establishment, and a more rustic experience, we decide on the former.
Gollu Rao is a road side Dhaba in the truest sense; A few trucks stationed outside, the odd car with weary travelers taking a break from their journey, and us, city dwellers out for the day and now tempted to stop, dreaming of having some homegrown simple and hopefully tasty food.
Gollu Rao gives you proper Dhaba feels; No unnecessary commercialization, no lights and bells, simple plastic tables and chairs, relatively clean, and the kind of quick service that is quintessential Dhaba to the extent that there were no menus and the server recited the dishes at a speed that reminded me of my high school chemistry teacher who would whiz past everything left in the course during last few days before the final exams.
Keeping it simple, we ordered Dal Makhani, Shahi Paneer and a couple of Tandoori Paranthas. On arrival, the quantities of the gravies proved to be enough for 3-4 hungry adults with both the Gobhi and Plain Tandoori Paranthas being freshly made, perfectly warm for an early winter evening, and of a good enough size that an adult could do with about one and a half to have a satisfying meal.
However, the paranthas were a little thick as compared to my favorites at Chhabra Hotel, yet, tasty, nicely filled, and sans dripping butter (you could ask for more if that is your guilty pleasure).
The Dal Makhani had a rather “raw” feel to it (it was cooked, only lacking smoothness) and unlike the ones you’d eat at any city restaurant – but then that’s the point of going to a roadside eatery. The same can also be said for the Shahi Paneer that came submerged in thick gravy and while acceptable, lacked a little in the flavour department.
When on the Delhi-Jaipur Highway, and in-search of a Dhaba, Gollu Ram will give you the kind of rural and genuine atmosphere that you’re looking for. It’s pure vegetarian with just the right number of food options – not trying to please everyone – but requires a few tweaks to make the food memorable. In comparison, the food at Old Rao supersedes that at Gollu Rao but the blatant commercialization can be a turn off if you are searching for a bona fide dhaba experience.
There has been a rise in Dhabas on this stretch of road over the last couple of years and while its popularity in general has a long way to go before it reaches some of the other prime dhaba locations of the country – Murthal for example – the available options provide temporary food-centric abodes to the tired and often hungry travelers, and a chance of a long-drive to experience local food to city inhabitant on the lookout for any excuse to escape everyday madness.