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Pinto Bar, Vasco Square & Kamlabai: When In Goa, Eat Where Goans Do

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    If holidays in Goa usually mean you try out the hippest restaurants and bars that are recommended by travellers and have raked up glowing reviews, well, that’s too bad. You’re missing out on fabulous dining spots that serve traditional, lip-smacking Goan flavours.

    So, the next time you stop by Goa, ignore the fancy names and dive into these hole-in-the-wall joints that serve up everything from fish thalis to pork vindaloo.

    George Bar & Restaurant

    Near the Immaculate Conception Church, at the heart of Panjim, stands this Goan favourite. George’s vast menu has plenty to offer, but it’s their beef and pork treats that take the cake. The Beef Xacuti, the Pork Sausage Fry, and the Pork Balchao will particularly impress you.

    Their seafood offerings come recommended too, especially their rustic fish thali and their spicy Recheado Mackerel.

    Pinto Bar & Restaurant

    A great place to try authentic Goan flavours, Pinto is a household name in Panjim. It’s a hole-in-the-wall establishment whose busy kitchen churns out stellar food. Grab your mug of beer (or your choice in tipple) and settle in for a feast.

    Their beef stew is top notch, as is their Sausage Pulao, Chicken Cafreal, and the Tongue Roast. The warm service is something to look forward to as well.

    Bhatti Village

    Run by a husband and wife duo (with their kids assisting), Bhatti Village is tucked into a small hamlet in Nerul. The restaurant operates out of the family home and the menu changes on a daily basis, depending on what the family feels like dishing out.

    The fried fish, prawns and the mussels are a must try. So are their pork dishes. However, locals say that their Ox Tongue preparation is simply out of this world!

    Vasco Square

    Staying in Vasco? Don’t miss out on this place. While they do serve north Indian and Continental dishes, we recommend that you solely focus on the Goan offerings.

    Start off with their delicious fish thali, and then ramp up your meal with their excellent Red Snapper, Crispy Chicken, and their squid preparations. The budget prices are an added bonus.

    Star Light

    This is a great bet if you are in north Goa. Easy on the pocket, this compact restaurant has the locals going ga-ga over their fish thali. You can choose between the seer fish (the better one) or pomfret versions.

    If you’re not keen on the thali, try their spice-packed Prawn Biryani instead. The squid masala, Surmai Masala Fry, and gravy-doused crab are must-trys too.

    Kamlabai

    One of the most loved restaurants in busy Mapusa, Kamlabai is located near the town’s market and bus stand. The service tends to be on the slower side, but the food more than makes up for it.

    Seafood reigns supreme here so make sure you have plenty of it. You can’t go wrong with the fish thali nor with the humble Goan fish curry paired with steamed rice. Add slices of the King Fish Fry or Pomfret Fry to your order and you are sorted.

    Florentine

    Passing through Candolim and Calangute? Then, do stop by this tiny restaurant. Their speciality is the Chicken Cafreal that pairs excellently with poi (the traditional Goan bread).

    The fish curry and the beef chilli are also great picks. Don’t leave without trying their fluffy custard.

    La Fayette

    Hop onto to the picturesque island of Chorao and swing by this hidden gem. The restaurant is part of the owner’s home and you can sample Goan delicacies here.

    There’s Goan Sausage Biryani, the Chicken Cafreal, and the Fried Mackerel. Pair these with a chilled beer and you’ll have a memorable meal. Vegetarians might not have much to choose from though. 

    Blue Bird

    This family-run restaurant is one of Little Vagator’s best kept secrets. Run by a husband-wife duo, Blue Bird does the usual touristy dishes, but avoid that and instead dig deep into their Goan menu.

    Sip on a few beers and order up the Crab Xacuti, Goan Beef Chilli Fry, and the Pomfret Recheado. They also do some great Goan vegetarian food such as the excellent Chonaco Malgor, brown chickpeas cooked with raw bananas, coconut and caramelised onions, or the Okra Fugat cooked with lots of coconut and kokum. These need to be eaten with copious amounts of steamed rice. 

    MumMai

    If quality home-style food is what you are seeking, straight from a mother’s kitchen, head to this small, but clean and comfortable eatery. Chef Elvis runs this with his mother and grandmother’s traditional recipes. The food is finger-licking good, affordable and high on flavours and quality. The Pork Sorpotel, Chicken Cafreal and Pulao, are a delight for the taste buds. If some quick meals and snacks, is what you are after, don’t miss the Ros Omelette and Pork Roast Bread or the Beef Roast or Mushroom Xacuti meal. The Caramel custard simply melts in your mouth. 

    Fernando’s Nostalgia

    In the sleepy and laidback village of Raia lies this quaint family-run restaurant famed for its Goan-Portuguese fare. The quality and flavours of the food where ingredients are the hero have remained intact over the years. The Feijoada, is a rare treat and must not be missed. The Ukade xit and kodi, sausage pulao, Fish o clock, are other must-try dishes on their menu. The flavours of these dishes actually take you back in time and the experience here is a memorable one.

    Spice Goa

    A small cosy place, this one is known for its fresh and delectable sea food dishes and the local cuisine, is the raison d’etre for gourmands to flock here. Their Xacuti, Ambotik, Rawa Fry, boasts authentic flavours and are well-balanced. The food is extremely affordable, of top notch quality and yet, simple. The thalis here are not-to-be-missed.