The Gullu Butt Dhaba is the vision of three diverse individuals – the owner of a production house, an art director, and a commercial pilot. Their friendship and their love for food is precisely the glue that holds the trio together. What gave birth to this roadside dhaba was the need to have a place where one can sit and talk with friends over a hearty meal and a great cup of chai.
|The Gullu Butt Dhaba's pink sign became very popular on social media.|
One of the proud owners, Akhlaque (who coincidentally sports a Gullu Butt-esque moustache) shares that venturing into the restaurant industry he felt there was no better way to understand the business than a humble roadside dhaba. Gullu Butt aims to be a Pakistani local café, bringing people together from all walks of life.
Though the name makes it sound controversial, the Gullu Butt Dhaba is anything but – in fact, the choice of name is only a marketing gimmick to attract customers. The menu carries the political satire forward with items like Inqalibi Parathas (their take on the aaloo paratha), Shahbaz Shareef Special (Half-Fry) and Nawaz Special Special (Full-Fry).
|Chicken Green Boti with Lache Walay Parathay|
Did the strategy succeed?
The owner claims it has: "Considering the amount of cars lined up to just get a picture at the dhaba, it definitely did exactly what we had hoped."
People can have some Azaadi Chai, take a ‘selfie’ with the cafe's bright pink signboard at the back and check in via the free WiFi.
The thing with using any fad or gimmick is that no matter how clever it initially sounds, it fails if the product (or the food) isn’t good enough. In this case, Gullu Butt Dhaba delivers on its promises. Situated opposite Chatkharay in Karachi's main Khadda market, the dhaba operates round the clock. It offers the traditional breakfast of Anda Paratha in the morning, and after 7 pm, the grill begins to sizzle for BBQ items to be served in the evening.
|The dhaba starts serving BBQ items in the evening.|
Their specialties include the parathas, with the Inqalibi (aaloo) Cheese Paratha deserving a special mention due to the crisp layers, ample stuffing of both potatoes and melted cheese and the white chutney and salad served alongside.
|Aaloo Cheese Paratha.|
In the BBQ items list, the specials are the Beef Bihari & the Green Chicken Boti – nicely marinated and grilled perfectly for that melt in the mouth taste. The serving size is generous for prices ranging from Rs300 – Rs450 for all BBQ items. On the side, one can order the traditional lachay/warqi parathay or the Malwari Parathay – both were served crisp and had minimal oil.
|Beef Bihari Boti|
To go to a dhaba and not have karak chai would be a travesty. From the basic Doodh Patti (also available with malai) to kahwa and green tea, Gullu Butt has a range of options. Kashmiri Chai, a welcome winter addition, is also on the menu.
|Azaadi Chai/Doodh Patti.|
Gullu Butt is all set to make its mark on the city, especially in an area where there are relatively few places serving a good Anda Paratha & Chai. The placement of net screens at one end creates a make-shift family enclosure so people can enjoy reasonable privacy. With generous servings and reasonable prices, the cafe caters to all socio-economic classes thus having a diverse range of people all enjoying the food.
With the successful launch of their first foray into the food business, the owners have lofty plans for this dhaba. Menu expansions and options for delivery are the basics with plans for possible international expansion. Soon, the brand might turn towards merchandising and souvenirs as well. Just like the fine-print on the menu, the founders have no plans of doing anything simple: “If you are out of cash, don’t worry. We are accepting jewellery, watches, cars, traveller cheques because dish-washing is so mainstream.”
Kiran Afzal is a researcher by profession, who enjoys food blogging and reading on the side.
All photographs have been taken by the author.