October 10, 2017

For Old Time's Sake - Lahore's Most Nostalgic Hot-Spots

Remember Polka Parlor? I do, but not because the ice cream was OMG. Those back-lit photo-boards mounted high behind the counters featured my naughtiest frozen dairy dreams — a perfect Peach Melba, a beautiful banana split, a classic triple-scoop sundae topped with a cloud of whipped cream and a neon red maraschino cherry, and my holy grail, a huge watermelon, hollowed, carved, and filled with a million tiny scoops of ice cream — all a bunch of cruel lies. Dude, my frickin’ fantasy monster-melon wasn’t even on the menu...

Still, mention the name and I can’t help smiling, because, really, disappointing dessert was but a trivial detail, an annoying distraction, if you will, in a day that included a trip to the holy land of extreme 90’s-kid fun, Amusement Arcade!

You know the one I’m talking about — that musty basement that offered a grand total of 3 thrilling fun-time activities, including the iconic heart-thumping dodge-em cars with dubious brakes and long, bendy antennas that crackled and sparked against that wire-cage roofing. That lingering smell of hot metal was oddly satisfying. The mechanical horse-race felt as intense as the Kentucky Derby, beads of sweat forming on our foreheads as we screamed our lungs sore until the shrill buzzer finally ended the game. A mix of excited shrieks and disappointed groans always followed. And the pièce de résistance — the mildly shady and definitely moldy room known as the “Shooting Gallery.” Nobody ever won the game,but we all played anyway, just to get the creepy old cowboy to half-rise out of his creaky rocking chair and lift his lame shotgun to squirt water at us. 

After an hour of so of this daredevil awesomeness, the gang of cousins, and whichever Khala had been conned into watching the kids for the afternoon, descended on Polka Parlor and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Food is a powerful, emotional affair, folks. Not convinced? Hit up these five nostalgic Lahori hotspots and we guarantee some serious feels!


Literally, eat ANY of Gino’s pizzas and it’ll take you straight back to every cool kid’s childhood birthday or last-day-of-school party you’ve ever been to. Yes, the dough is still thick and bread-y and the sauce is still oddly sweet and, no, there’s no epic stringiness to the cheese — it sits in one waxy, congealed sheet on the top, just like always — and it’s still so, so delicious. Nothing beats kick-butt kiddie party food.

Café Zouk 

Where myths, legends, and drama were born, this place wasn’t just a restaurant — it was the definition of an era. You didn’t go to Zouk. You went “Zouking’ — to a land where cK One and Polo Sport hung thick in the air and hormones raged while Truly, Madly, Deeply and BSB blared at a deafening volume, speaking straight from your soul to bae’s. This was where you nibbled on the planet’s BEST salsa and chips before platter after platter of Chicken Chili Mint, Thai Special Noodles, and Cashew Chicken arrived at your crammed table. And, of course, this was also where the parking lot doubled as a lunchtime entertainment arena, showcasing lame groups of badmaash boys getting into even lamer phaddas, while the rest of us munched on our meals and lived our best lives. Ah, the perfect Saturday afternoons. 

Salt 'n Pepper

Words probably can’t do justice to an institution so loved and cherished by generation after generation of Lahoris, but to borrow from one S&P poet, “lives and families are built on those chicken cheese burgers.” Tack the Stuffed Chicken Breast on to that list and, seriously, truer words have probably never been spoken.

Copper Kettle (CK2)

Zouk’s pubescent predecessor was a cultural groundbreaker. Those song dedications, huskily read out by mysterious DJ’s locked away in that elevated booths, only launched a thousand young romances. The rest were initiated by pelting one another with scraps of napkins scrawled with phone numbers, while pretending to casually eat that Copper Chicken and those too-good-to-be-real battered fries. By the time the Caked Alaska came out, you were practically in a committed relationship.

Hsin Kuang

Everything from the kitschy grandeur of the exterior, to the ginormous round tables, and even those up-sized Lazy Susans, heaving under the weight of massive servings of Chicken Chow Mein, Egg Fried Rice, and Chicken Manchurian presented on sizzling platters, made Hsin Kuang exciting, exotic, epic. They handed out chopsticks, for crying out loud! But everyone knows it was one humble, motley soup that put this place on the map — the legendary 19B. Sadly, Hsin Kuang closed down recently, but the good news is, our favorite soup lives on in the city’s hearts and minds and on the menu of almost every Chinese place in town. Rest in peace, H.K, it was a hell of a run! 

Finally, for more trips down memory lane, pop over to these unforgettable eateries - at least those that are still open - and give them a round of applause!

Honorable Mentions


  1. Well written certainly a trip down to memory lane

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.


  3. Keep in mind Polka Parlor? I do, yet not on account of the dessert was OMG. Those illuminated photograph sheets mounted high behind the counters highlighted my naughtiest solidified dairy dreams — an impeccable Peach Melba, a delightful banana split, a great triple-scoop sundae finished with a billow of whipped cream and a neon red maraschino cherry, and my sacred chalice, an immense watermelon, emptied, cut, and loaded up with a million minor scoops of frozen yogurt — each of the a cluster of remorseless falsehoods. Fella, my frickin' dream creature melon wasn't even on the menu...

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    OMG the grouchy cowboy who squirted water. Looked kind of scary. There was the 'float' in polka parlour with 7 up and icecream. almost always boiled over. There was this Burger 11 as well, in Liberty Market. had the most amazing burgers. thanks for the nostalgia

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