Cafes With A Difference

We share a selection of cafes in India that have left a big impression on us. These are run by specially abled people and yes they leave no stone unturned to make you feel special and your day out memorable.

All Photographs: Ayandrali Dutta

Echoes, DELHI

The bustling Satyaniketan market in Delhi is always buzzing with students thronging it. As you enter Echoes, the cafe, through a single blue door on the first floor, the walls catch your attention. One has interesting motivational posters on display, while another has alphabet sign language. At the first look it seems like any another quirky eatery, till you place your order. The café is run and managed completely by deaf and mute staff.

This is the brainchild of six friends from Delhi, Gaurav, Kshitij, Shivansh, Sahil, Sahib and Prateek. In their words: “we have taken special care that the café is more of a comfort for our staff as they are special.

So they have taken care of minute details …  be it as small a thing as a customer asking for water how to go about the same. We only plan to hire the differently abled for all our upcoming ventures.” For ordering you have to write down the code of your dish, the quantity, and any specification and hand it over to the server. Each table sees stack of cards with notes written like ‘water’, ‘fork please’ ‘bill please”, “call the manager” and not to forget the “Thank you” note.

MUST TRY: While here don’t miss their Non Wine Sangria, the Pizza Cones, Peri Peri Chicken, Makhani Pizza and on a sweeter note their Choco Death Shake.

Price for two: Rs 500

Sheroes Hangout Café, AGRA

While in Agra, the Taj is not the only thing that one should visit. Do stop by at Sheroes Hangout Café situated at the Fatehabad Road opposite the Taj Mahal Gateway. This is a café run by the acid attack victims. Sounds amazing right! Run five women who decided to get going and fight the world, instead of succumbing to victimhood and hide.

With help and support from an NGO called Chaanv Foundation,  Sheroes was started with just Rs 3 lakhs in hand. In the words of Neetu Mahour, one of the acid attack victims, “this café has given me confidence to face the world again.

I turned blind with the attack but with the help of my sisters from Sheroes, I am back to face the world again”. For Rupa, Neetu, Ritu, Geeta and Chanchal now Sheroes is their home now.

These girls do all the work themselves– be it managing accounts to cooking to waiting tables and cleaning up. The boutique café also offers a reading section which very popular with both tourists and locals. Apart from being run by these real life heroes, the food at the café too will not leave you disappointed.

MUST TRY: Singaporean noodles and honey chilly potatoes.

Price for two:  Rs 500

Shuktara, KOLKATA

How about ordering your next cake from Suktara bakery, and if you want to know what’s special about this place – it is run completely by the specially abled. Started by David and Pappu Mishra, Suktara runs under the special supervision of French restaurateur Alain Cojean and the Executive Pastry Chef of Fauchon in Paris, Fabien Rouillard. And, the entire staff has been imparted training by him, in accordance with their abilities.

Somnath Sardar, the manager of Shuktara Cakes says, “our boys have picked up the skill very well and now they are no less than seasoned bakers.

Somnath Sardar, the manager of Shuktara Cakes says, “our boys have picked up the skill very well and now they are no less than seasoned bakers. We have taken to delivery also, but we make sure that we don’t overload ourselves with orders. It’s all about the welfare of our staff after all”. Working 5- 6 hours a day, these boys get salaries that make them self sufficient.

MUST TRY: Those looking to order don’t miss their chocolate cake, fruit cake, ginger walnut and cinnamon cake or the orange and poppy seed cake along with their very French Madeleine, Financiers.

Price for two:  Rs 700

Mirchi & Mime, MUMBAI

Mirchi & Mime is not this name self-explanatory? For those who don’t get it yet, this place runs on “sign language”. No frills or fancy attached, no gimmicks to attract customers, the servers here are hearing and speech impaired. Located at Powai, this place is co-owned by Prashant Issar and Anuj Shah.

According to Prashant Issar “We made the effort to learn the sign language ourselves and then we recruited the staff from Rochiram T. Thadani High School for Hearing Handicapped. We have taken care to sensitize rest of the staff towards our special hires. In fact that was one of our main reasons to choose Indian cuisine for our restaurant as that’s most relatable by one and all”.

The place sees a glossary of sign gestures like cutlery, salt, pepper, spices and more. The food that is served comes with tiny signboards indicating the dish. The waiter’s uniform reads “I know sign language. What’s your superpower. Quirky mix and match décor with culinary utensils hanging on the walls give this place a different charm. With all the jazz around Mirchi & Mime scores high on their food ratings too.

MUST TRY: Their Pomegranate gratin, lobster nihari and the of duck seekh kebabs are a real show stopper. For that sweet something dig into some Nutella and toffee tart.

Price for two-  Rs 1,500