Wimpy’s Snacks -BBQ Specialist

Wimpy’s is one of the oldest players of Muhammad Ali Society food street specializing in barbeque items. Along with Kaybees it was a force to be reckoned with in the 80s and early 90s. It packs a punch even today but has lost most of its luster owing to winds of change as well as more competitive entrants in the arena like Pizza Hut and KFC. Then there is its arch rival Kaybees which has gone far ahead of it in terms of brand image and promotion.

On top of everything, Wimpy’s does not have the most enviable of locations, standing deep in one of the by-lanes. And yet the place keeps buzzing on weekends.

It’s not that it hasn’t tried to reposition itself, creating better seating arrangement and ambiance and adding further depth to the menu by including snacks. However, it’s forte remains its barbeque items, some even better than its foe Kaybees.

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The one competitive advantage that Wimpy’s has on that entire street is that it has chicken lever on its menu, in fact the best bbq chicken lever in town although it also offers the option of fried lever.  The fried version is in the form of katakat and is delectable as well. Both versions cost a reasonable Rs.100 and the katakat version is more than sufficient for two persons.

It’s parathas are disappointing though, so crispy that they literally crumble in your hands. Kaybees parathas are the complete opposite with just the right balance of crispiness and firmness to be enjoyed with a meal.

Other bbq items of Wimpy’s are good, but with so many bbq walas operating in the city, Wimpy’s just doesn’t have that clout it used to have anymore.

Coming to its fast food items, we tried the grilled chicken sandwich. Priced at Rs.165, quantity-wise it scored high with ample serving of fries and coleslaw, but the sandwich itself wasn’t up to the mark. It was deep-fried to the point of being burnt and the taste was pretty much bland.

The beef burger priced Rs.125 was a major disappointment. The beef patty tasted like it had been cooked in prehistoric times. The bun wasn’t fresh. What’s left to report? At least the fries and coleslaw quantity was sufficient enough.

The club sandwich priced Rs.135,however, fares much better than both the beef burger and the grilled sandwich. It is much more palatable with just the right balance of chicken,egg and salad. And it will fill your stomach nicely.

Wimpy’s has tried to emulate Kaybees by adding lots of seating space. However, it has failed to match the ambiance provided by its rival. In other words, the sort of gentry that comes to Kaybees won’t end up at Wimpy’s. The best place to consume Wimpy’s delicacies is still outside in the fresh air where it has put up chairs and tables.

Ponderosa – The Ultimate in South Indian Cuisine

Ponderosa is one of the oldest restaurants and the only one serving South Indian cuisine even now. It opened way back in the 80s and instantly became a raging success. People used to throng the place to try out what they perceived to be exotic dishes like Masala Dossa, Itli Sambar, Paun Bhaji and the venerable Thali.

This infatuation was fuelled by the arrival of the VCR in every household making Indian movies the staple diet of every Pakistani which showcased this cuisine in favorable light.

Although people in this part of the world are predominantly ‘carnivorous’ at least when it comes to eating out, they were in awe of these all-veg dishes from across the border which were nowhere to be found here except Ponderosa.

The location of Ponderosa also helped matters, situated at a major junction near the National Stadium.   Then it moved from that prime location and things have never been the same for them since then.

Ponderosa first moved to the building at Sea View which now houses the KFC. Didn’t work out although they had managed to create a pleasing ambiance there.

Finally Ponderosa moved to the Muhammad Ali Society food street where it now stands in a corner near the old Kaybees away from the limelight.

The place gives the impression of a restaurant that has seen better days. It’s still modeled on the 80s style so don’t expect the ambiance you would expect from a Zamzama café.

Taste-wise it’s still right up there where it was 20 years ago. South Indian food is basically Madrasi cuisine, and Ponderosa aptly captures the spirit of that cuisine. I would know that since I’ve had the opportunity to taste what the Madrasi people themselves cook, and it’s not farther from what Ponderosa has come up with.

The Dossa culture was introduced by Ponderosa which has been adopted by many other restaurants and small time cafes. Initially there was only the Masala Dossa which  basically comprises of Aalo ki bhujia. However, many variants have been created including Qeema Dossa, Chicken dossa, Paneer Dossa and even Onion Dossa.

We tried the paneer and the chicken version, having consumed the masala one many times before. Both were equally delectable, but at Rs. 200 and 260 respectively, they are definitely pricey.

The paneer version was filled with cubes of paneer with a healthy dose of onion and tomato. We felt that these two items were a bit too much compared to the paneer cubes. Overall the dish was delicious.

The other specialty of Ponderosa is the Thali, specifically the Madrasi special thali. It comprises of a big circular thal in the centre of which is placed plain white rice with three puris and a paapar on top. Along the circumference of the circle are seven small katoris (steel cups) having an assortment of dishes including halwa,daal, bhaji achar and the likes.

If you only go for the meat when eating out, this is one dish definitely trying out. Although not every item on the thali is sumptuous, most of them are, and at Rs. 210 per thali, a single person just won’t be able to devour it completely even if he’s famished. That’s how large the thali is. On top of everything, you get a glass of namkeen lassi with the thali.

Ponderosa has also come up with a Mughlai version of the thali. It costs Rs. 280 and pales in comparison with the Madrasi counterpart. To begin with, it has just five dishes on the thal two of which are omelet (very strange) and achar. The other three dishes on this day were chicken qorma, qeema and halwa. It just doesn’t offer you anything unique which can be had anywhere else. Better avoid it.

You can order extra puris which cost Rs. 60 for four purees. Very expensive indeed, but they are top-notch quality. They aren’t your halwa puri wali purees or bbq paratha wali, but a unique breed. They are neither soaked in oil nor do they crumble at the slightest touch.

With the city offering a plethora of diverse cuisines, south Indian cuisine has lost its allure. But if you’re stuck by a bout of herbivorous craving that won’t put a dent in your wallet, Ponderosa is definitely the place to hit.

Zeenan Snacks-80s Star

Zeenan is one of those ancient restaurants that have survived the winds of change. Located on a strategic corner of Muhammad Ali Society Food Street opposite the ever-green Kaybees, it’s past its glorious days of the 80s and early 90s when the street was famous for everything barbeque. Then the wave of fast food swept the city and Kaybees was the first one to leverage it and go way past the compet

ition.

Zeenan just waded the water of the snack category instead of taking the plunge. In the end it manages to be specialist of neither. However, it’s still standing unlike it’s neighboring restaurant Spinzer which was part of the raging success along with Kaybees and Vimpy’s in the good old days.

On a weekend night, Zeenan manages to get quite a few customers but for the rest of the week it’s mostly deserted.

Part of the reason it manages to survive is its enviable position on a corner of a famous food street. The other part has got to do with its offerings. The best dish we have tasted so far is the Grilled Chicken Cheese Sandwich which is the best in this category. Most of the grilled sandwiches you will try in the same category of restaurants are either too well-done or just filled with chunks of chicken pieces with no real taste. Zeenan on the other hand has a definite taste, and its sumptuous factor is comparable to that of the Kaybees’ grilled sandwich.

The other good thing about Zeenan’s offering is the coleslaw. Very few cafes and restaurants are able to prepare the perfect coleslaw. Zeenan apparently has mastered this ability. On the face of it may not appear that big a deal but the way this salad has seeped imperceptibly into the hearts of the Karachiites, no snack is complete without it. And the better the taste of this sideline, the more appealing the meal. Even the compulsory fries were better than most snack bars.

Their beef burger, however, is no match for the grilled sandwich. Which is surprising considering that the sidelines are the same good ones. We found that the patty was a bit rubbery although taste-wise it wasn’t that bad. And the size of the burger was way too small considering its price of Rs.100 +.

The brain masala wasn’t much to write home about either.

The biggest reason Zeenan hasn’t met with the sort of success Kaybees has enjoyed is its lack of presentation and an aesthetically pleasing ambiance. While Kaybees has piled on the bells and whistles to its brand positioning, Zeenan offers a bland picture reminiscent of the scene in the 80s.

Zeenan Snacks could be a whole lot more if only it invests shrewdly into its presentation. While going head-on against Kaybees may not be the cleverest thing to do, emulating some of their tactics especially the aesthetics part would work wonders for it.