An Ode to Insti’s Eateries

Design by: G Rohit Reddy

Wilting away in isolation while simultaneously getting buried under assignments, the memories of the egg sandwiches of Usha Cafe always gives me solace. It is also a haunting memory, reminding me of a time that words won’t suffice to describe, while my taste buds yearn for its past comforts.

I still wonder what Usha put in those egg sandwiches to make them so amazingly tasty, refusing to leave my memories and drawing me back every time. I used to have them every evening; sometimes thrice a day, but always one in the evening. So much so that the anna already knew my order even before I ordered it.

I am usually a generous person until it comes to my egg sandwich. In addition to the prized egg sandwiches, Usha was also the noodles’ abode when we missed breakfast; it had coffee when we had to beat sleep and egg puffs when the library made us hungry. 

But we can’t talk about Usha without talking about Cool Biz, which always welcomed us with a comforting array of juices and shakes. Nothing beat our exhaustion like Cool Biz’s juices did and the mango juice we got after hours of waiting is, in my opinion, one of the greatest things on earth. Being in Sharav and being lazy, I loved it when we used to hang out at the SFC – dodging monkeys while drinking Oreo milkshakes and munching on egg puffs was a great pastime.

When the mess food wasn’t enough, there used to be Stud Dosa (I still haven’t come to terms with the fact that it is gone) to curb our hunger with its innumerable variety of dosas. Where else in Chennai could we get such tasty paneer dosas with ample amounts of paneer, and at such a cheap rate?

Again, I wonder what they put in those paneer masala dosas. Of course, Krishna Vilasam came to replace it, but I don’t think it had the same feels, or we left before we could catch the feels.

Any discussions about the Sharav eateries are incomplete without CCD. The air-conditioned heaven where it was almost always difficult to find seats, especially during quiz week. The cafe latte always came to our aid when we had to spend a sleepless night, and the garlic bread was heavenly. At one point, my friend spent weeks being addicted to the Tropical Iceberg until her allowance ran out.



Another place which used to share our sleepless nights was Suprabha. Sitting in Suprabha and eating the Masala Dosa was the first thing that I did when I came to Insti for the first time during my orientation. Sharing stories while getting bitten to death by mosquitoes, and willing sleep to come (or not come), Suprabha was always there to fulfil our odd-hour cravings. 

Another lost hero and maybe the most missed would be Ramu. Ramu was definitely something else, and its shutdown is surely one of the saddest moments in Insti history. In addition to being our 24-hour companion, it was also a place where we made excuses to be at. Even though Ramu came back, occupying a place in Quark, nothing beats the old Ramu nestled beside Himalaya where we met people, made friends, shared gossip and got fundaes. 

Another fallen hero who will never be forgotten would be Zaitoon. Thinking about Zaitoon and its Al Faham still makes my mouth water. To fulfil our meat cravings or to have an impromptu rendezvous, Zaitoon was always there. To satisfy our pastry and cake cravings, we had Leo. Leo has shared many birthdays with us, and many other people of insti. Sometimes, my friend and I used to go there to fulfil our midnight cake cravings, and Leo never disappointed us.



After the closure of many cherished open eating places, the Himalaya food court in its present glory came into being. Gathering together at Himalaya with its numerous food courts was so much fun, and it always fed us late into the night. One of the last things I did before leaving insti was to eat there with my friends. Corona also robbed us from thoroughly enjoying the newly opened Anjappar. I hope I will come to love it as much as I loved Zaitoon, but I probably won’t. Sorry, I am still sulky. 

Another place where we could gather, sit down and eat together was Campus Cafe. Honestly, the Campus Cafe is so underrated. Where else could we get such amazing crispy fried cauliflower? Furthermore, it had many food courts of its own on its first floor. 

Now that I think about it, I think we were spoiled with too many options, adding to the present misery. The eateries in insti with their amazing food were also places where all of us could hang out, meet new people, share experiences and just unwind. I believe that each of us who has been and gone through insti has their own stories and special memories with each and every eatery.

However, this piece cannot be complete without a special mention to Krishna Gate’s black coffee and Sulaimani. Even though it was not inside the campus, it was very much part of it. Hidden among the bubbling hot coffee are also many stories and secrets. Stories and secrets I miss and wish to return to. 


Images from (a better time): Navigating Insti: A Concise Guide for Newcomers

Edited by: Amrita Mahesh

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