The world is divided into two types of people. Those who dismiss a proper breakfast and are happy with only cereal or muesli each morning and those who take it very, very seriously. They argue intensely about the mandatory fluffiness for the perfect scrambled eggs, where to buy good sausages, how toasted a toast should really be, the CRISP index to evaluate a good `dosa‘, the ISO specifications for idli batter and all the quality tests filter coffee must go through before it can be officially called `authentic South Indian’.
Bangalore has a breakfast tradition unrivalled by any other city in India. All die hard Bangaloreans have a favourite breakfast place (usually attached to locality or childhood memories) and they will fight tooth and nail to defend its coffee authenticity or chutney consistency if need be. In fact, Breakfast and Tiffin are a citywide obsession. Where ever you go, whatever the time… you will be asked politely if you have had your `thindi ‘.
To pay homage to this time honoured tradition, I asked friends to suggest some iconic old Bangalore breakfast heritage sites where you can cheerfully lay on the `benne -thuppa’ to your hearts content and plough your way through the menu without a care in the world! So here they are, a pick of our famous Bangalore Breakfast Specials, with a little help from Bangalore!
CENTRAL BANGALOREANS ARE FOUND AT :
Bangalore is truly a Ficus lovers delight and at Airlines, you get to eat breakfast sitting out in the open under one. The only drive-in restaurant left in town, it has fond memories for all of us who grew up here. Once upon a time, there were stainless steel trays clamped onto car windows for plates, glasses and cups to rest on. These were un-clamped when done. Today, putting glasses/ plates on the bonnet indicates that it’s all over. I know someone who actually drove all the way home absentmindedly with the coffee glasses still on top). The coffee here is superb (large glasses to boot) and the` Dosa- Khara Bhath ‘ make sure morning walkers head straight here after due diligence at Cubbon Park.
Find it at : #4, Madras Bank Road, Bangalore. Ph : 080 22273783
Indian Coffee House
The Dosas and Veg Cutlets are pretty good but the golden, buttery `Scramled eggs ‘ ( as printed on the menu) perched precariously on top of a floppy fried toast are to die for. The distressed blue walls, Formica tables, dark wood furniture and vintage Coffee Board posters gave the original on MG Road a quaint old charm that still lingers in the corners and under the tables of the new one. Ridiculously low prices allow you to sit there for hours and eat all you want without burning a hole in your pocket. I love the staff in their buckled uniforms and turbans. Both now have solid vintage value. They supply you with endless coffee in semi-washed coffee cups and then repeatedly thump your bill down on the table aggressively if you have overstayed during peak hour.
Find it on : Church Street, Bangalore, diagonally opposite Blossoms Book Store.
Seriously old world Bangalore, Prem’s cheery smile and refusal to `modernise’ has to be given full credit for keeping it that way. (Every now and then, he will also hand you a Mahagony seed to plant and do your bit for the city). Here, smoked out uber-intellectuals rub shoulders with collegians in what has always seemed to me a perfect 1950’s railway waiting room ambience. The Kerala Appams and Mutton Stew is why you need to amble to this iconic spot on a Sunday morning, as are the Masala Omlettes and Scrambled Eggs, tea and toast. If the walls could talk they would tell stories of creative seeds that were sown here – governments brought down, journalistic outputs critiqued ferociously and writer’s blocks resulting in award winning plays. The vintage sugar bowls are often stolen by loving fans and one (says Prem) was even discovered in a chateau in France!
Find it on : # 39, St.Mark’s Road, Bangalore, opposite KC Das.
SOUTH BANGALOREANS SWEAR BY :
Brahmin’s Coffee Bar ,
Since 1965, this original `Coffee Bar’, has been an old time SAE, `stand and eat ‘ joint, like it’s equivalent across town (Veena Stores). The token system tells you it’s also self -service and this you need to achieve without being crushed by all the idli enthusiasts who gathered here religiously each morning. It’s been renovated now, but I prefer to remember it as it once was, a little hole in the wall. They don’t serve sambar but the chutney definitely deserves the culinary equivalent of an Oscar ! It’s also a popular PTW, ` prepare-to-wait ‘ place, so go early or you’ll lose out on all the gastronomic action. In true Bangalore style, it prefers to stay closed on Sundays. Retail theories be * %^&^%$#*& !
Find it at : Ranga Rao Road (Near Shankar Mutt), Shankarpuram, Bangalore.
NMH (New Modern Hotel)
Above the Idli counter is a strict admonition that reads “ No. By Two. Service ! “ So we decided to thwart the system and make our nice strong coffee `By.Three ‘ instead. Ha. Ha. The Vadas are crisp, the Khara Bhath just the right consistency and the Iruli Sambar arrives in not a bowl but a bucket. Now that’s what I call style. NMH (God forbid that you should call it by its full name and expose your `non-Bangaloreaness’ to all) is clean, basic and totally rocks in V VPuram at 8 am in the morning. Ask for the speciality- Thatte Idlis.
Review : ” It’s not pokey and is fairly spacious with a nice old-feel about it. The sambar here is really special… excellent Idlis and Dosas . I love the `Do not wash your hands in tumblers ‘ board they have on display ! “. – SPadaki
Find it at : AN Krishna Rao Road, Near Minerva Circle, VV Puram, Bangalore.
MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Rooms )
The first thing everyone tells you about MTR is `go early or you will never find space to sit, leave alone stand ‘. This is indeed true. When I went at 7.30 am, there was a long line of old regulars gossiping with the manager while waiting for their tables. You must also go here on a visibly empty stomach because the temptation to overeat (while sitting on basic, no fuss steel chairs) will overtake you quite quickly. Long time breakfast favourites include the regular `Chow-Chow Bhath’, Rava Idli’s, Dosas and crisp Vadas. The crowds are a bit intimidating as you squeeeeeze your way in and out on the narrow stairways and so is the staff who want you to quickly squeeze back out. But you cannot leave Bangalore without experiencing this iconic landmark started in 1924.
Find it on : 14, Lal Bagh Road, Bangalore, Ph : 22220022
Sometimes, I really can’t tell what is more intoxicating. The fragrance of tube roses and marigolds outside Vidyarthi Bhavan in Gandhi Bazaar, or the coffee and fresh vadas frying inside. Everyone rushes around here. People rush to tables, waiters rush to take orders and then rush to deliver them stacked one of top of each other to your tables because there’s always a crowd waiting. Be prepared for lots of `benne’ and thuppa’ when there and do take the day off from your virtuous diet so you can really enjoy this place. Ever since it opened in 1943, the Benne Dosas and coffee have been the in-house speciality. So much so that VB was invited by our very own Neeraj Patil, Mayor of Lambeth, to set up shop in London, after his visit here !
Find it at : Gandhi Bazaar Main Road, Basavangudi, Bangalore.
USKB ( Udupi Sri Krishna Bhavan )
Review : One of the first things you will notice as you enter Udupi Sri Krishna Bhavan is the sign at the entrance. It says ‘1926’. I was introduced to USKB several years ago by my Dad who used to go there as a child, with his parents and siblings. It was a sort of family tradition. Just ensure that you start with their Benne Dose. Anything else can follow :-).
I love places that focus on what’s important (in this case, being an out and out Udupi joint ) without getting distracted with all the fluff. Basic interiors. Some pictures that give you a sense of the legend that is USKB. And best of all, quick, no-nonsense service. The last time I was there the waiters all had ‘USKB’ tees, done in the style of the American college tees/ sweatshirts. I had to smile – after all, Udupi Sri Krishna Bhavan IS an institution 🙂 – CPadaki
Find it at : 123/124 , Balepet Main Road, Chickpet (Near Mohan Silk & Sarees). 080-22875378
NORTH BANGALOREANS ARE FANS OF:
CTR ( Central Tiffin Rooms )
I kind of like its rounded, cream painted retro facade and location right at the corner of the street. When here, do try the Dosas which apparently beat Vidyarthi Bhavan in the intensely competitive `Times Dosa – Coffee Contest.’ ( Yes, such a thing exists ! So now you know how we value breakfast in this city ). Established in 1950, CTR makes all its specialities without onions or garlic.
Review : ” I love ( a) The waiters. they’ll let me take a couple of bondas out of a whole bucket and not one word will be uttered. They just smile! (b) The sense of belonging, no matter how many people there are (which can get to you sometimes). (c) – the FOOD !!!! Of course! Always the same, if it tastes a little different, you can send it back and they’ll be ashamed that it came out to you like that ! – N Rao
Find it at : # 154, 7th Cross, 3rd Main, Margosa Road, Malleswaram, Bangalore.
If you’re in North Bangalore between 6am – 11 am, and then again between 4 pm – 8 pm, on any day except Wednesday, you cannot afford to ignore this cheery little SAE ( Stand and Eat) food store right off the footpath, with a crowd gathering swiftly around it at the appointed times. It’s been around since 1977, and is known for its `Idli-Vada’ which purists believe are by far the best in town. If you don’t like to stand and eat, try taking along a portable stool and find a quiet corner on the footpath. But go prepared for a fight to the finish. It’s like a battle zone sometimes to even get to the counter to order them.
Find it at : 183, 15th Cross, Margosa Road, Malleswaram, Bangalore. Ph : 080 23344838
Ever since it opened its doors to Malleswaram in 1971, Janata Hotel has been rewarded with staunch loyalists who will argue relentlessly about its merits. These include the Dosas and Vadas that proudly display just the right shade of crisp brown. Its founder, H Seetharam used to run a canteen at the Linganamakki Dam till the reservoir was built and moved here thereafter. He evidently inherited more than just business secrets from his grandfather H Veerabhadra Upadye in Koteshwar, Udupi, because Janata is still extremely popular 40 years hence and constantly filled with dosa enthusiasts and hungry shoppers from the Malleswaram Market next door.
You can find it at : #27, 8th Cross, Off Margosa Road, Malleswaram. Ph : 23345609.
To sum up why Bangaloreans can get up at insane hours and head out for breakfast while the world sleeps, here are the words of an ardent breakfast fan…
” How can I forget CTR, Janata and Veena Stores? From Mallige Idlis at one end of Margosa Road to the other for Benne Dosa of yore! Veena Stores remains a hole in the wall, Idlis, Kara bath, Pongal and a Kaapi to please all. From a single floor, CTR expanded to the floor above. With Dosas that I simply love. One Dosa will never do, Benna Masala and Benne Plain, you simply have to take two. Janata lies on 8th cross, If you don’t eat its dosas, it’s your loss ! Which ever one you go to, make sure you have Kaapi …. lest people call you a paapi! – SRamanathan
After that rapturous review, there’s nothing left to say except, do a Bangalore Breakfast this weekend. You won’t be disappointed. Victoria Hotel, RIP.
Also recommended :
Siddappa’s Mess or Ranganna’s – Sampangiram Nagar * Dwarka Bhavan, NR Colony * Raghavendra Stores, near Malleswaram Railway Station * SLV, Basavanagudi*Anywhere else you suggest except anything post 1990. Post your nominations here !