There are two things that most Indians associate with Mumbai; one is Bollywood, and the other is the vada pav. One is cheap, sickening, mass produced, thoroughly saturated, poisons millions every day and is so tasteless it needs ridiculous amounts of masala just to be palatable. And the other is a deep fried potato patty served in bread. If there’s one thing we Mumbaikars are passionate about, it’s vada pav. We don’t really care about our roads, parks, water, air and civil liberties, but don’t you dare insult our favourite vada pav to our face.
The problem with coming up with a list of the best vada pavs in the city is that it’s a Herculean task and is very unlikely to be fair simply because of the all the variables involved, not to mention the fact that there’s more than three billion stalls that sell vada pav in Dadar alone, not to mention the high likelihood of at least one of our team members catching some strain of dysentery. So what we did instead was open it up to vote where we had people send us their favourite vada pav stalls in the Western Suburbs, 10 of which we actually visited.
To be fair, most vada pavs taste rather similar; what really differentiates the stalls we finally picked is the fact that each of them brought something unique to the table, which made our vada pav experience a whole lot better. So after eight hours in the field (quite literally when we went to Borivali) and losing two interns to the weather, here’s a list of what we think are the 10 best vada pav stalls in the Western Suburbs, in no particular order:
1) Kunj Vihar: Bandra West, next to Bandra Station.
Why they’re amazing: Their Chilly Garlic Chutney
Price: Rs. 15
Kunj Vihar is every vada pav enthusiast’s delight, it’s just a thirty second walk from Bandra station and has all the things most rational people look for in a vada pav stall, not least a roof that doesn’t leak every time it starts to drizzle. The vada pavs they serve are fresher than a Bel Air prince but what really makes them a place worth visiting is the spicy green garlic chutney they serve, it takes an already pretty good vada pav and makes it sublime.
2) Anand Stall: Vile Parle West, right opposite Mithibai College.
Why they’re amazing: Because Everyone Kept Recommending It
Price: Rs. 20
Let me be frank, Anand Stall wasn’t bad, it was actually pretty decent, but we only reviewed it because it was highly recommended to us. We would’ve enjoyed a vada pav from Anand any other time, but after sampling some of the other contenders on this list, we were a little disappointed. The pav was slightly soggy and the vada colder that the angry comments Mithibai students will inevitably post on this article. We’d still consider Anand Stall great by virtue of its location and to appease the people who strongly recommended it.
3) Babu Vada Pav: Vile Parle East, right in front of Parle Tilak Vidhyalai School.
Why they’re amazing: Just the right temperature
Price: Rs. 15
Getting the temperature right on a vada is a much bigger deal than it seems. The proprietors of the thirty year old establishment Babu Vada Pav have somehow perfected the art of serving a vada pav that doesn’t burn your mouth every time you take a bite, but isn’t cold and unappetising either. The fact that you get to watch adorable school kids chase each around other while you’re eating definitely enhances the experience. Their chutney isn’t too shabby either.
4) Vada Pav Samrat: Vile Parle East, right next to Vile Parle Station.
Why they’re amazing: Soft buns, spiced vada
Price: Rs. 15
Vile Parle pretty much rules the Western Suburban vada pav scene, and Vada Pav Samrat is one of the reasons. Despite it being the fifth consecutive vada pav stall our team reviewed, we were absolutely blown what we were served. The buns were soft, almost suspiciously soft, and the vada had a slight tinge of ginger, something we aren’t usually a big fans of. In a city where everyone sells the exact same thing, Vada Pav Samrat managed to differentiate themselves so subtly, yet so marvellously.
5) Asha Parekh Vada Pav: Santa Cruz West, opposite Asha Parekh Hospital.
Why they’re amazing: Their red chilli paste
Price: Rs. 10
Looks can be deceiving. When we first came across Asha Parekh Vada Pav we were rather unimpressed, it was little more than an elderly man behind a small metal box overlooking a dilapidated hospital. It didn’t even have a sign. It wasn’t the vada pav which we fell in love with (even though it was excellent) but rather their secret ingredient, a delightful red chilli paste that was unlike anything we’d ever tasted before or since (in a vada pav).
6) Maharashtra: Pali Naka, Bandra West, right next to Janata Restaurant And Bar.
Why they’re amazing: Their flavourful vada
Price: Rs. 12
When you’re bold enough to call your vada pav shop Maharashtra, you have the added burden of an ancient legacy to protect. A vada pav stall called Maharashtra which sold even slightly unsatisfactory vada pavs would be burnt down within a week, and justifiably so. Fortunately, Maharashtra delivers beautifully. Just a bite will overwhelm you with a million different flavours from mustard to cashew to chilli, each of which complements the other perfectly. Also, it’s like five metres from Janata, so you can head right back in in a drunken imli-chutney fuelled stupor.
7) Mangesh Vada Pav: Borival West, right opposite the middle of nowhere.
Why they’re amazing: An unbelievably crispy vada
Price: Rs. 15
Our travels in search for the finest vada pav in the West took us to a magical kingdom called Borivali, where we were told of a stall that sold the finest vada pav in all the land. And lo and behold! ’twas so! Mangesh Vada Pav was absolutely worth the one hour train ride and the prospect of being ingested by a leopard for a crispier vada you never will find. Only vada pav purists such as ourselves would understand how important nuance is when it comes to the science of vada pav crispiness. Mangesh Vada Pav certainly does; maybe it’s the batter they use, maybe the oil. All we can say is they didn’t tell us.
8) Nitin Vada Pav: IC Colony, Borival West, opposite IC Church.
Why they’re amazing: A soft vada with a buttery filling
Price: Rs. 12
Nitin Vada Pav comes as a complete surprise, it’s not particularly very well known in the vada pav circles, even our visit to it was a complete accident, as are most visits to IC Colony. Nitin Vada Pav’s vada was like something completely alien to us, it was soft, melt in your mouth soft, with a centre that was almost buttery, not the fatty disgusting kind, but rather the kind you’d associate with childhood and happiness, a taste we find almost incomprehensible. The great thing about going to a vada pav stall in a place as far off as Borivali is that you leave with a memorable, (though not necessarily good) story every single time. You must go eat this Vada Pav.
9) MM Mithaiwala Vada Pav: Malad West, parallel to Malad Station.
Why they’re amazing: Their sweet chutney
Price: Rs. 15
M M Mithaiwala is your typical local, small town, multimillion dollar business empire. While the store itself is impossible not to see from Malad Station, (or the moon for that matter), the vada pav stall that that operates inside it is a bit tricky to find. Once you manage to get past the lassi counter and infinite selection of mithai without lingering, you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise. The vada pav is by no means not excellent, but what really makes MM Mithaiwala stand out is its selection of chutney, out of which their meetha chutney is nothing short of brilliant.
Conclusion: If you ever feel the sudden uncontrollable urge to consume the sacred vada pav, we strongly recommend you visit one or all of these fine establishments. We understand that we’ll get attacked for not including certain stalls and/or suburbs, so if you feel strongly about our assessment, please send your angry feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you know where to get Mumbai’s best vada pav? Tell us in the comments and we’ll check it out!