Street Foods of Chennai: An Unparalleled Experience

Street Foods of Chennai: An Unparalleled Experience
I used to marvel at the eating habits that made them enjoy breakfast so early in the day.  Jokingly, I used to remark to my nephew – you guys eat idlis at home, go to restaurants and order idlis, come back home and have more idlis. Just how much do you love idlis? Actually, I can relate to the love for idlis. Undoubtedly, it is one of my go-to foods whenever available, and there is no other dish that satiates me more than a couple of soft, fluffy idlis.
The Idli-Vada Combo: South India’s favorite breakfast
But there is more to the street foods of Chennai than just idlis or dosas. Let me give you an instance that gives you an idea of Chennai’s enduring love affair with food. In a busy market called Pondy Bazaar, there are three restaurants or “hotels” as they are called locally– all in the space of about 500 meters. They are:

Geetha Cafe

Of all the eating joints on the Pondy Bazaar road, Geetha Café is the one with least frills and modestly priced. The food is as good as you would get elsewhere in Chennai. The place also has an air-conditioned hall that serves food at a marked up price.
Pic Credit: Raghav Sivaramakrishnan
  • Cuisine: South Indian predominantly.
  • Location: Pondy Bazar, near T Nagar, Chennai
  • Recommended dishes:  Breakfast: Sambhar Idly (Idly immersed in a bowl of Sambhar), Pongal
    •   Lunch: Brinji Kurma, Sambhar Rice
    •                 Dinner: Cashewnut Rava Dosa, Parotta Kurma
    •                 Snacks: Aloo Bonda, Palak Vada           

Shri Balajee Bhavan

Shri Balaajee Bhawan offers dishes for a steal. Clearly, the best part about them is that it’s a high quality and reasonably priced restaurant. There are two dining halls here. One is non-AC and the other has air-conditioning. The AC hall, of course, is priced higher. Unlike Geetha Café, Balajee Bhavan offers North Indian fare as well, which is pretty decent for someone who is from Chennai.
Shri Balajee Bhavan, Pic Courtesy: Raghav Sivaramakrishnan
But for people from the North, who are looking to have North Indian dishes here, you might find the taste very South Indian – I suspect due to the masalas used. My recommendation: When In South, eat like a South Indian!
  • Cuisine: South Indian, and North Indian
  • Location: Pondy Bazar, near T Nagar, Chennai
  • Recommended dishes: Breakfast: Idiyappam-Kurma, Idli-Vadacurry
    • Lunch:   Meals, a full feast available only at Rs. 90
    • Snacks: Mini Tiffin, Kothu Curry Parota
    • Dinner: Pesarattu,, Rasa Idly (Idly dunked in a bowlful of Rasam)

Adyar Ananda Bhavan  – A2B

Adyar Ananda Bhavan is a franchise available in many cities in India and abroad, including the U.S. Importantly, like the famous Saravana Bhavan, they have standardized the taste of their dishes across franchises.
Pic Credit: Raghav Sivaramakrishnan
  • Cuisine: Although Adyar Ananda Bhavan has a restaurant, the place is really more known for the packaged snacks, sweets, and savory items
  • Recommended Dishes:
    1. Butter Murukku
    2. Mullu Thengozhal
    3. Ribbon Pakoda
    4. Mysore Pak
    5. Wheat Halwa
    6. Thirattipal and many others.
In fact, you will notice that the packaged snacks counter is more buzzing than the restaurant. It even has a decent Chaat counter.

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