While Karachiites are spoilt for choice when it comes to stuffed parathas, it seems that naan is all the rage in Islamabad.
Inspired by Lahori venture Maro Naan by LUMS students, four young graduates from NUST University and Lahore School of Economics pooled in their ideas and money into Naan Stop, a Tandoori café/dhaba in the capital.
Where to go
Naan Stop is a small eatery squeezed into a 15x12 corner plot in the first block of F-10 Markaz.
You may have no need for landmarks, as Naan Stop's vibrant truck art theme is sure to catch your eye. Everything from the cafe's furthest wall to its cutlery and decor (brought in from Taxila) bears the rich colours and designs painted on the nation's trucks.
While their dine-in area can seat up to 20 customers at a time, Naan Stop takes full advantage of the ample parking space surrounding it, and easily accommodates a large number of foodies who prefer to be served in their cars.
When to go
Naan Stop opens for lunch at 1pm and closes shop at 2am.
Its busiest hours last during lunch time from 1pm-3pm and in the evenings from 6pm-9pm. “We cater to 50 to 60 customers per hour during peak time,” claims Ahmed, one of the four partners of this food venture.
At peak hours, the waiting period can even exceed 30 minutes. At all other times, customers should come prepared for at least a 20-minute waiting period.
“We have one tandoor (clay oven) which can bake 25 naans at a time. While customers wait, their naan's dough is filled, baked and served on their plate,” explains Ahmed.
After 10pm, the young owners are seen serving university students out on a study break or bachelors from the nearby room sharing apartments hungry for an affordable bite.
What to order
Ten different varieties of naan compete for your attention on Naan Stop's handwritten menu.
Chicken Cheese Naan, Beef Naan, Aalo Cheese Naan, Achari Naan and Besan Naan are some of the items on offer.
But what piques one's curiosity are the out-of-the-box options, like Dry Fruit Naan, Flavored Olive Naan and Nutella Naan.
All naans can be cut into 8-inch slices, except for the 6-inch Nutella Naan and Cheese Naan, which are stuffed with more filling, making it difficult to manage in the tandoor.
I ordered the Chicken Cheese Naan with Jalapeno as add-on. (The option of Add-On for a price tag of Rs50 and Make You Own Naan is also available at the eatery.)
The 8-inch naan, sprinkled with sesame seeds and oregano, was served on a white disposable plate, accompanied by chutney made with paste of green and black olive, chili flakes and homemade sauce.
It had arrived piping hot from the oven, and its first bite took seconds rather than minutes to melt in the mouth. Evenly spread chicken, thinly sliced jalapenos and oozing cheddar cheese makes every bite close to divine.
I polished off my plate in a jiffy, but a cup of doodh patti would have upped the value for money of the naan.
However, it’s the Nutella Naan that has become a customer favourite.
The eatery hit a jackpot on the fourth day of its opening when a union council ordered 400 Nutella Naans as takeaway, sending the young entrepreneurs were all over the moon.
“We were buying Nutella from wherever we could get our hands on it,” tells Ahmad, "And we went nuts."
Nutella Naan's popularity is understandable as it can be eaten as both a midnight snack and dessert.
The party of four keeps experimenting with different combinations like Mushroom Cheese Naan, Nutella Nuts, Cheese Cabbage Naan, so you never known what you might find on the Specials menu!
Damage on the Pocket
The average naan costs around Rs 200-Rs250 per head, along with a cup of dooth patti.
However, the priciest naan is the Dry Fruit Naan for Rs400. Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews are crushed together to make a fine paste with cream, and once the paste is settled on the base of the dough, another round of dry fruit chucks are sprinkled before the naan is good to go in the clay fire.
Cheaper options include Besan Naan for Rs110, Aalo Naan for Rs 120 and Chicken Naan for Rs 180.