As with many of the towns popular with tourists, McLeod Ganj is disproportionately restaurant-heavy. There's also a huge emphasis on vegetarian dining, thanks to the presence of the Dalai Lama. By far the best place to eat is Chonor House, which specializes in Tibetan cuisine . Other Tibetan restaurants worth highlighting are Green Restaurant (Bhagsunag Rd.; tel. 01892/22-1200), which uses only organic produce, and the newly opened Tibet Kitchen on Jogibara Road, very close to the town square. Also on Jogibara, look for the lovely Tibetan women selling homemade vegetable momos out on the street just outside the Norling Café -- they're extremely cheap, piping hot, and delicious. You can ask for them either steamed or fried, and eat them right there on the small bench provided, watching the world go by as you debate whether or not to order a second helping. You won't regret it if you do, but be cautious with the hot sauce.

A personal favorite, though, is the Namgyal Café (Namgyal Monastery; tel. 98-1615-0562; daily 10am-9:30pm) in the same complex as the Tsuglakhang or Main Temple. It's a wonderfully vibey haunt, where cool young Tibetans serve various tasty dishes and indulgences amid a tidy collection of books, plastic flowers, and hip jazzy lounge tunes. Market fresh ingredients are used to prepare traditional Tibetan thukpa, scrumptious salads, and exquisite thin-crust pizzas (which really have been improving over the past few years -- look for the daily specials). Try the tofu stroganoff or tsampa (roasted flour) crepes; if you're not feeling too experimental, stick to noodles, momos, or you can try out the international vegetarian dishes ranging from Indonesian gado-gado to Cuban arroz a la cubana. There's no alcohol, but this is a great place to try Tibetan herbal tea or a refreshing lassi. They also serve butter tea and some great cakes to go with it.

While Tibetan fare would appear to be the way to go, you'll pretty much find something for everyone -- from falafels to focaccia, momos (dumplings) to tempura. At least four German bakeries and as many pizzerias also cater to the large number of foreigners who come to McLeod Ganj. There's even a nifty grub-'n'-pub-style restaurant called Mc'Llo (at the top of Temple Rd.; tel. 01892/22-1280), an extremely popular hangout for travelers that prides itself on having once entertained Pierce Brosnan (celebrity culture having few geographical boundaries). If you want Japanese, Lung Ta is an intimate diner with meat-free dishes that includes a small floor-seating area with traditional low tables (Jogibara Rd.; tel. 01892/22-0689). Daily set meals feature a curious mix of Japanese vegetarian dishes; all meals a real steal at under Rs 100.


For Italian, head to Nick's Italian Kitchen (in the Kunga Guesthouse, Bhagsu Rd., McLeod Ganj; tel. 01892/22-1180), which is something of a local institution, as much for the surprisingly good meals as for the views from its massive terrace. Gnocchi, cannelloni, and ravioli are prepared fresh every morning. The eggplant, spinach, and cheese lasagnas are star attractions, as is the aptly named "Pizza Everything." Nick's has the edge, but if you're passing The Pizzeria (past Tushita into Dharamkot village -- ask anyone), you'll find simple, tasty pizzas prepared by a local Gaddi family, apparently taught how to make wood-fire pizzas by a visiting Italian.

A Taste of Tibet -- Confused by what's available in the Tibetan restaurants of the Indian Himalayan region? Here's a guide: Gyathuk is a traditional egg noodle soup, typically prepared with tofu and black-and-white mushrooms. Thenthuk is a broth made with handmade noodles. Pishi is another name for wontons, often served in a vegetable broth with Tibetan tofu. You'll find Tibetan tofu and dumplings swimming in your mothuk, another traditional Tibetan broth. Shabaklab or shabalay is the Tibetan version of a pie, typically accompanied by broth. Momos are Tibetan dumplings, filled with cheese, vegetables, or meat. Shabri are seasoned meat or vegetable balls. Bobi are Tibetan spring rolls, filled with glass noodles, tofu, and mixed vegetables. Most Tibetan dishes can be served with vegetables, chicken, mutton, or even pork. Bod-jha is the staple Tibetan tea, copious quantities of which are consumed by Tibetans everywhere, and by almost no one else. It tastes nothing like any tea you've ever had -- besides tea and milk, it contains salt and butter.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.