For all those frustrated with a semester of mess food that has ranged from plain to horrid to just absurd. For those who want to give their taste buds something new to chew on, but just don’t have the finances to do that often enough. For those who never understood the concept of ‘paying for good ambience’. For all those who want the Chennai street food experience and aren’t too snooty to actually try it, T5E presents a series of food crawls – an area-wise assessment of the top five push carts and mobile stalls and the quintessential ‘potti kadais’.
(For those who want reviews of more sophisticated places — donations are always welcome.)
Walk out of the main gate and you’ll find yourself in Kasturba Nagar. It’s a well-connected area, served by the Madhya Kailash bus stand and the Kasturba Nagar MRTS station. Being one of the posh areas of the city, it has quite a few high-end restaurants and cafes. However, that’s not what we’re exploring today…
(The titles link to the Google Maps locations of the respective places.)
#1. Name: Bangalore Iyengar’s Bakery
Location: Down the road from Ambika Appalam Depot (to your left, if you’re coming from insti).
Tucked away amidst a milieu of everyday grocery stores, tea stalls and the sorts, this oft-unnoticed little bakery is nevertheless a very familiar name to most of us. With luscious cream buns and jam buns and deliciously fried egg and veg puffs up for grabs at a mere ten rupees each, this pocket friendly snack stall has all the perfect accompaniments to your evening tea.
#2. Name: Tibbs FRANKIE
Location: Down the road from Ambika Appalam Depot (to your right if you’re coming from insti); opposite the KFC and in front of Nilgiris grocery store.
We’ve all been to one of these carts unable to stop ourselves as the smell of onions frying in spicy chutneys wafts across the road into our nostrils. The difficulty thus lies in finding one of them right when a Frankie craving seizes us. Luckily for us, one of these stalls has comfortably settled down right down the road. With frankies priced between Rs 50 and Rs 100, made and handed out in front of your eyes, a quick and filling option is now just down the road. Warning – Though they claim to be open from 4:00pm, your best bet would be to show up only post 5:30pm or 6:00pm
#3. Name: Express Kitchen
Location: Down the road from Ambika Appalam Depot (to your right). Opposite the KFC and in front of Nilgiris grocery store.
With an array of snacks, breads, side dishes and Chinese tidbits neatly packed and waiting to be microwaved and served, Express Kitchen is a venture that pushes the meaning of the word ‘takeaway’ across new boundaries. Though you’d probably do well to stay away from the samosas, this well portioned out and reasonably priced option makes for an interesting evening meal. Do try the Gobi Manchurian the next time you whizz by there.
Location: Down Sardar Patel Road (to your right if you’re coming from insti) past Adyar Bakery.
Perhaps the least impressive of the lot in terms of ambience, this nameless little haunt with its colossal open pan filled with delicious smells has been incredibly popular among school kids in adyar. With perfectly fried cutlets and bajjis and a decent selection of sweets all priced in tens and twenties, each dish you try will leave you tempted to try *just* one more.
#5. Name: Cool Biz
Location: Down Sardar Patel Road (to your right) past Adyar CD world.
All your misgivings at the sight of the peeling plastic menu (and the need for your inner Grammar Nazi to whip out a red pen and slash out spelling errors) will vanish the second you take a sip of their frothy chocolate milkshake. With an array of juices (Tip: Try the Watermelon) and shakes all priced under Rs 50, served in fairly generous portions, chilled enough to take on the Chennai heat, Cool Biz is a solid option on any sultry evening.
The next two stalls aren’t in the top five, but almost made the cut:
#6. Name: Sangeetha Chat Centre
Location: Right next to Adyar Bus Stand, usually located opposite Woodlands.
Bravely selling Chaat right outside Gangotree with a tiny menu of interesting recipes (like Mushroom Masala with Cornflakes?) a snack at Sangeetha Chat Centre is a quirky experience for under Rs 30. Unorthodox and surprisingly tasty, it probably isn’t a place one would go back to often, however.
#7. Name: Royal Bakery
Location: To the right of Sardar Patel Road near the ascent of the bridge.
Mostly making money from sale of the largest variety of chips (both branded and unbranded), this tiny bakery nevertheless has some of the BEST jam buns for under Rs 10. Worth the walk, if you crave them, but it isn’t a particularly good idea to try most of the other creamy confections.