In February this year, I crashed on a friend’s couch in Goa for 5 days. Naturally, given that he’s a local, he steered me towards some of his favourite haunts- as well as those of other locals and tourists around town. When comparing eventually, I found that Lonely Planet pretty much had these places down pat as well, but validated by someone who already lives there helped me zero down on the ones I really wanted to visit- and some lesser expected ones. Here are my favourite four- March 2019 Edition, as I’d like to call it.
1. Lazy Dog:
This is one of those places where you can spend an entire day, true to its name, lazing around and being a do-nothing beach bum. You can transition from spending the day by their in-house pool (open to all visitors at a minor fee) to walking up to the beach at sunset. It’s located right at the beach, and true to it’s name, gives out a very lazy vibe that is more like a full-blown beach house than just a cafe. The cafe is out at the porch area, with the beach right in front, with a beautiful bridge to get there. It’s at Manderim beach, one of the slowest and laziest around, but also one of the most peaceful beaches. The beach is frequented more by foreign tourists than by Indian tourists, so if you’re looking to step away from the crowds, this is the ideal place to spend the day. The food at Lazy Dog is good- specially the Nutella- Banana waffles, of which I am a fan. The service is infuriatingly slow sometimes though. They also offer beach beds and towels, that are usually manned by their staff, so you can leave your stuff around and head into the water. I witnessed one of the prettiest sunsets at Manderim beach, an almost-entirely pink sky with an orange-rose gradient almost spilling over into the ocean upon reflection.
2. Cafe Bodega:
Nestled inside the verandah of an art gallery up the hill in Panjim, this Portuguese-style open cafe offers delicious European fusion food. Expect typical cafe food, including pastas, pizzas and the sort, along with desserts baked in-house. Though the portions are small, and in some cases far from filling, the food is delicious. Service is prompt as well. Given that it’s inside the open verandah section, the cafe has a few fans placed in the corners, but no air-conditioning. True to its Goan roots, the decor is simple but gives out the beach-town vibe we so adore, with its open ceiling and sea breeze wafting through.
3. Joseph’s or Joseph Bar:
Located in one of the cutest and most movie-esque locales in Goa, Joseph’s is the true local haunt. It’s as hole-in-the-wall as it gets, and a very matter-of-fact watering hole. But that’s what makes it so adorable. There’s hardly any seating space, and once you’ve gotten your drink, the norm dictates you loiter on the street with the rest of the crowd, mingling and making conversation over beer and basic finger food. It’s fuss-free and in our country where drinking on the street is only an idea we cherish and crave to put into action, a truly enjoyable experience. Don’t go looking for food, you likely won’t find any. It’s the ideal spot for some pre-gaming or to simply get a couple beers and light conversation before you head home to hit the sack.
4. Black Sheep Bistro:
Another cafe in the main Panjim area, located next to the fancy boutique store called Sacha’s Shop. While the cafe itself isn’t much of a looker, the food is exceptional. I dare say, it’s a little dark inside, even during peak hours, but its almost always packed during lunch time: even on a weekday. It isn’t so much a fine dining restaurant as it strives to be, for its service and decor could be far better. They specialise in cocktails, and while you’re there, I’d also recommend trying the Spice Roasted Chicken with Penne Alfredo.