We recently moved to Kochi from Goa where we lived for almost 2 decades! Of the many emails and requests I got as food blogger living in Goa was asking for recommendations for restaurants that served good vegetarian food. Most of the people who visit Goa want to experience the non-vegetarian Indo-Portuguese style of Catholic cooking that Goa is famous for. There is no dearth of restaurants serving this food or other meat, fish and sea food based global cuisines in Goa.
If you are vegetarian, have been to Goa or lived there, you might have noticed that vegetarian food is not very easy to come by unless you eat at one of the Udupi style eateries one might find around town. All of them tend to serve the usual mish-mash of popular South Indian foods like Idlis, Dosas, Vadas and the like, while most of their North Indian style dishes are invariably made with paneer. While a couple of them do serve quite good fare, most of them aren’t worth looking at unless you were desperate for a meal.
I’m a “food tourist”, and if you’re one then an important part of your vacation would include exploring the local food scene whenever you can. There a lot of places in Goa that offer a very good food experience and they’re not restricted to Goan food. There are excellent restaurants that serve everything from Italian, Japanese, Pan Asian, Mediterranean, Greek, to Chinese and more, and a few of them cater to vegetarian tastes as well. However, I must reiterate that Goa is not a vegetarian food tourism destination.
So here’s a random list of restaurants in Panjim/ Panaji for anyone who is looking for recommendations for good vegetarian food there. Please note that when I say vegetarian, I mean ovo-lacto vegetarian. At most of the below mentioned restaurants, there are egg free options available but make sure you mention that before you order. I’m restricting this list to the city of Panjim because we lived there all the years we were in Goa, and know it better than any other part of of the state. You can check these restaurant reviews for some other restaurants around Goa that worth looking at vegetarian food in Goa.
This list is based on the places we have eaten at, our experiences there and our personal tastes, which might be different from yours so please apply due diligence before you make a choice. There are sure to be better places that I’m either unaware of, isn’t on this list because we have haven’t eaten there, or I personally don’t feel are worth listing here. A couple of the places listed below are pure vegetarian restaurants/ eateries. Others serve non-vegetarian food but have a sizeable vegetarian menu as well.
1. Black Sheep Bistro – A restaurant right in Panjim about 15 minutes’ walk from the famous Panjim Church. They serve both Indian and globally inspired dishes with a twist on their menu, and they’re all about sourcing their ingredients locally and seasonally and their menu changes accordingly. They also offer a good selection of wines. They are serious about their food and it shows. Do check my review of this restaurant for more details.
2. Tao – This restaurant is located opposite the Panjim Gymkhahana, right next to the Campal Grounds. Not a bad place for a meal with the family, this restaurant serves Pan Asian style food. During the day, you would be lucky to find a space to park but this shouldn’t be a problem if you’re there for dinner.
3. Legacy of Bombay, Hotel Fidalgo – Fidalgo is hotel located right in the middle of Panjim and has 6 restaurants, each catering to a different food preference. The Legacy of Bombay is a pure vegetarian Udupi style restaurant that’s a notch better than the average restaurant of its kind. Recently renovated, it is quite spacious and serves the usual variety of popular South and North Indian dishes whether tiffin, snacks, or main meals. They also a decent variety of Chaats.
4. Bhojan, Hotel Fidalgo – Bhojan is other restaurant within the Fidalgo Hotel complex and that serves pure vegetarian food but Rajasthani/ Gujrathi style thali meals only. They’re open for lunch and dinner, and their menu keeps changing according to the season and availability of vegetables. Their thali meals are quite filling so go there on an empty tum to do the meal justice.
5. Baba’s Wood Café – Run by two Italian ladies, this trattoria/ restaurant is a short walk from Miramar Beach, in the Bela Goa Annexe. They serve authentic Italian food and their gelato is worth saving space for.
6. Tato’s Café – One of the oldest cafés in Goa and purely vegetarian at that, it has been around since 1913. Situated in the lane opposite the Garcia de Orta (Municipal Garden near Mr. Baker, it is very popular with the locals, so much so that it can be difficult to find a table during their busy hours. A restaurant packed into very little space so you can barely slide into your chair, don’t expect fancy food or service though it can be an experience eating there. They’re well known in particular for their Goan style samosas and pooris with potato bhaji.
7. Café Bhosale – Another of Panjim’s long standing cafés, the Café Bhonsale is situated in the road that goes straight down from Panjim Church past the Church Square, near the crumbling Cine Nacional.it has recently been renovated and become a little more comfortable. Much in the style of Café Tato, it’s another place that’s purely vegetarian and is known for its batter fried green chilli fritters and Goan style chapathis with “mix” bhaji (two different curries, one potato and the other white peas in a spicy coconut gravy).
8. Café Real – One more purely vegetarian Goan café, this one is located adjacent to Azad Maidan, and behind the Mandovi Hotel. Pronounced “reeyaal” in Portuguese style which means royal, this restaurant also serves fare similar to the other two cafés mentioned above. They all also serve an excellent cup of tea.
9. Thai & Wok – This is a Thai restaurant owned and run by a couple of whom the husband is Goan and the wife is Thai. Thai & Wok is situated in Miramar, in the lane that leads to the Marriott. They serve authentic Thai food cooked with vegetables, herbs and greens sourced from their own farm and greenhouse. They have an extensive vegetarian menu.
10. Bay 15 – This restaurant is part of a Justa Resorts property at Dona Paula on the Odxel Beach. They serve globally inspired food and includes a degustation menu with a good number of vegetarian options. Do see my review for more details.
11. Café Alfresco at Bodega, Sunaparanta Centre for Arts at Altinho – This is not really a restaurant but a café located in the courtyard of the Sunaparanta Centre for Arts which is housed in a beautifully renovated Indo-Portuguese style house. Their menu does change from time to time but they serve a variety of hot and cold coffees and tea, iced drinks, quiche, soups, waffles, cupcakes, cakes and pastries among other stuff.
Apart from these places, there are a few other places worth visiting for the food and chance to give your feet a break from walking around if you are close by. They’re not restaurants or places where you lunch but you can pop in to them to buy some food to snack on.
The first of these is hardly a five minute walk from the Panjim Church, opposite the Garcia de Orta and near the Jesuit House is a small store called Mr Bakers (since 1922). They sell freshly baked Goan Portuguese specialty bakes and snacks of excellent quality but almost all their bakes have eggs as who ever heard of Goans baking without them! They also serve coffee and short eats.
Another place in Panjim to head to if you’re looking for egg free bakes is Café Central. They also sell cakes, bakes and other eats with and without egg. Café Central (pronounced “central” as in Portuguese), also walking distance from the Panjim Church, sits right opposite the Panjim Municipality Corporation office and is the oldest bakery in Panjim. They’re particularly known for their batata wadas, samosas, patties, bread toast (rusk) and their chocolate cakes. Their eats fly off the shelves so fast it’s not unusual to reach the shop to find out they’re out of what you wanted to buy!
Heritage Sweets is newly opened store in St. Inez just after the St. Inez Church on the road towards Caranzalem. Housed in the same building as Basilio’s Gym, this store sells mostly Rajasthani sweets and savouries, as well as Chaats in the evenings.
If you know of any other eateries or restaurants you know of in Panjim that are worth paying a visit, please share the information in the comments section below. Thanks.