On a gourmet burger and sando trail in Delhi

Chard’s Philly melt burger with tenderloin patty.
Chard’s Philly melt burger with tenderloin patty.


The perfect burgers and sandwiches in Delhi are by chefs who are focusing on meats, breads and sauces that ooze flavour

Away from the overcrowded Hauz Khas Village, Pete’s Deli, started by chef Tushar Alagh a little less than two years ago, is slowly making its mark as one of the best places to enjoy a good sandwich in Delhi.It’s easyto miss the sleek red shop sign in this quiet lane of Hauz Khas Market, which also has the microbrewery Fort City and the hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant Little Saigon with options for pork, chicken and tofu banh mi.

A 15-minute drive from Hauz Khas Market is Priya Market that houses the OG burger place Aku’s—The Burger Co. and the year-old Chard with burgers chased down by light and refreshing clarified cocktails.

The city’s burger and sandwich scene has evolved from mayo-laden contraptions to trained chefs adopting an ingredient focused, gourmet approach with sauces, relishes and breads made from scratch.

Also read: Go on a savoury cocktail trail across India

Delhi-based independent fashion stylist Mahima S. is a bona-fide foodie. She says Aku’s has the juiciest patty, Little Saignon’s banh mi is “bomb" and Chard is excellent. Her go-to delivery kitchens for burgers are Burgerama—(“you can customise your toppings and it’s so good") and Seoul Mate Korean Burger (“their Korean fried chicken burger is yum").

One of the chefs driving the city’s sandwich scene is Alagh of Pete’s Deli. He spent more than a decade in New York earning his culinary chops. He graduated as a chef from the Culinary Institute of America, worked at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and opened two cafés for Meta in New York. He returned to India about three years ago and craved the New York experience of a sandwich with a generous meat stuffing, relishes packed with flavour and the perfect bread.

“Pete’s Deli started as an experiment in 2022 and it took off through word of mouth. I like to play around with my food and every once in a while I will have a secret menu with stuff that’s not on the regular menu," says Alagh, 32. He is a stickler for getting the ingredients right and one of their best-sellers is the pastrami sandwich. Prepping the meat for it takes about six days. Buff meat is slightly hard, so he injects it with brine and lets it rest for about six days. Then it is dried and cooked in the oven for six-eight hours, followed by smoking for close to two hours. The final step is steaming, which gives it the melt-in-the-mouth texture.

Club sandwich at Pete's Deli.
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Club sandwich at Pete's Deli.

This obsession for perfecting ingredients led him to open a small space. Customers can buy all the ingredients needed to make a perfect sandwich—be itmeat,cheeseor hot sauces—or buy the sandwiches. They also have an online store, Artisan Meats, with small-batch sausages, burger patties and double smoked bacon. Alagh says they ship to Mumbai too.

Aku’s Burger is another chef-led brand that upholds this ingredient-focused ethos. It was started by chef Akriti Malhotra in 2018 and her journey is similar to Alagh’s—both went to the same culinary school, worked in New York and opened places because they missed the food there. Malhotra was with the Michelin-starred Daniel in New York and after returning to Delhi in 2015, wanted to open a fine dining place, but life had other plans.

“I missed the quintessential New York burger. It was comfort food, not fast food. People who prepared them paid attention to every little detail," she says of why she introduce gourmet burgers. Their most popular burger is the Meister with a succulent lamb patty, topped with bacon, fried eggs and caramelised onions.

These sandwich shops also offer a sit-down experience. Chard takes it a step further with cocktails. It’s helmed by chefs Hanisha Singh and Jamsheed Bhote of the popular premium restaurant Plats in Malviya Nagar. Chard started as a burger delivery brand in 2021 and became a restaurant last year. They wanted to shift the perspective of a fast food item to something more elevated that requires attention—whether preparing or eating it.

Bhote himself likes a big substantial burger: “I noticed that burgers were getting smaller and often I would eat two to feel full. So, I decided that we need to make something wholesome and filling. Most of our burgers have a double chargrilled patty, which is a generous portion." A burger is incomplete without a drink and they introduced light cocktails with the intention of upgrading the overall experience. Their bigger goal is to have a homegrown burger brand similar to international brands such as Chilli’s.

Apart from standalone burger and sandwich places, there are restaurants which offer an elevated take on burgers such as Tres in Lodhi Colony and Perch in Khan Market. Tres has a fish-based peri peri sandwich with kachampuli vinegar sauce stuffed between pillow soft focaccia bread. Last month the founders of Tres, chefs Jatin Mallik and Julia Carmen Desa, opened the casual dining restaurant Dos. It serves a burger with Kashmir’s kalari cheese, and another in a buttery croissant bun. They look for ingredient substitutes. It isn’t the season for fresh jalapenos and they make do with long local chillies that are used to make bhajias. It is ingredients like these and chefs with creative flair that make Delhi’s dynamic burger and sandwich scene unique.

With inputs from Nitin Sreedhar and Uday Bhatia.

Also read: Eat like a chef

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