The Secret guide to eating cheap in Chennai

Chennai, the cosmopolitan capital of Tamil Nadu, keeps many of its riches in its kitchen. With street-side sizzling, hot-plate griddling dining scene, the city which is rightly famous for its elaborate cuisine and spiciness, continues to be the undoubted capital of South Indian dining. But wait a minute!!! With all that said, we all love and long to have great food that doesn’t burn a hole in the pocket. This might seem synonymous to buying food from some random dhabas (no offence), most of us prefer to have them from a budget food outlet. So for those people, the below article will serve as a guide to wallet friendly restaurants from where you can have full plate instead of half (let’s face it, we do it because our wallet gets lighter otherwise).

Though Tamil cooking is mostly meat free which comes with chilies, curry leaves and coconut burst, Chennai also houses top notch non-veg treats to keep the most devoted carnivore happy. Chettinadu restaurants are to look for in this matter, since they pack in the spicy, fiery non-veg flavours.

Let’s start the day!!!

A typical day starts with a kapi- or the coffee. If you are a caffeine freak or a java maniac, you must definitely try the Kumbakonam Degree Coffee joint- the home of tasty filter coffee. Made with milk, sugar and fine chicory, hands down; it is a deliciously addictive brew decanted on every street corner. You will be even delighted to know that it comes at a reasonable price: Rs. 8-Rs. 25. The foodies might want to start with the humble idli- a spongey rice cake dunked into the lentil broth (sambar) or the chutney. Then comes a close second- Dosas; basically crepes made of rice flour. Believe it or not, once you have tasted the spicy masala dosa, stuffed with potato, there is no going back. Uthappam, a close cousin of Dosa, only thicker and choked with coriander, green chilies and onion is also a famous dish here. Finally, who doesn’t adore a deep fried doughnut like Medu Vada? That completes a basic breakfast cycle of a typical Tamilian.

Now, there is Amma Unavagam, where you can get all the above together for a price within Rs.30 and it is definitely worth trying for sure. There is also the trusty budget friendly Saravana Bhavan for those who savor south’s veggie specialties. For city’s best idlies, head right to Ratna Café, whose sambar idly recipe has been one of the most jealously guarded secrets in Chennai.

The morning snack!!!

It’s time to get on feet. A foodie always replenishes his/her tummy and is always ready to eat in the free time he/she gets. The next you might want to take would be Royal Sandwich. The varieties they offer are enough to keep you in awe. But what make them so cool is the price. You might very well take a look at what price sandwiches go these days. Parathas, lassis and chats- who doesn’t like them? These are all many people crave for among the North Indian foods. Well, here is the happy news- Rotiwala to your rescue. You might as well try the Rasoee for North Indian and Chinese dishes at extremely low prices.

Munch your lunch!!!

Time for the real food!! Thalis or simply meals are the soul of lunch in South India. Thalis are made up of sambar, spicy gravies, chutneys, tamarind flavored rasam, a usual ladyfinger or cauliflower veggie and cool curd. Traditionally, they are laid out in a long banana leaf, but nowadays, space constraints have restricted them to be in a plate. Never mind, as long as the flavor is not affected by any constraints. As the spice levels soar high, rice is the key since its lightness and freshness is the benchmark for quality.

Now, if thali is not what you want and you are the mini meals type, then never look back. You have a variety to choose from: Curd, Tomato, Lemon, Tamarind, Mint, Coriander, Brinji etc…. are just the popular ones. For less spicy and less costly Keralan take on the meals, Nair Mess in Chepauk is the best. Since 1961, this shop has not seen a day without crowd. It is so much that people will lunge for your table faster than you can say sambar. Well, if these options still feel like a heavy option, there’s always Amma Unavagam ready to fill your stomach for under Rs.30.

The Evening stroll….

It’s the evening and evenings are always incomplete without snacks. When the sandwiches and rolls in Subway might have left your mouth watering, WOSS (World of Subs and Salads) are bound to give your spicy buds a proper rest. A small kiosk with much more flavors than Subway is what is waiting for you inside a WOSS. Want to go Italian at a reasonable price? Head to Fusilli, Kilpauk and savor a plate of Pasta for just 80 bucks. The Mumbai Café in the OMR is sure to give the feel of a true Mumbai food in your mouth. Chats, Vada Pavs, Misal Pavs and Sabudana Khichdis are not something to be missed. Ok, let’s take a break and try some Tibetan food, shall we? Momos, Thukpa, and other such Asian delights are available at the Kailash Kitchen, Choolaimedu.

Mr. Chapathi- A life saver for all of us, foodies who go broke by the end of the month. And that’s not the best part, their extemely long list of out of the box chappathi varieties is bound to confuse your mind and make your jaw drop in awe. It’s not finished yet. Seena Bhai Tiffin Centre in the NSC Bose Road, Rayars mess in Mylapore prepares food griddled to perfection. The Jannal Kadai or the Window shop in Mylapore, just to the south of Kapaleeswarar temple, serves fresh and fabulous bajjis, bondas and vadas. So take whatever he’s got going.

With all the above food in your tummy, if it still makes you want for more food, then you can always trust the fine dining restaurants for the dinner which includes the Dakshin, of the Sheraton Park Hotel with the only disadvantage is being on the heavier wallet side. But for budget foodies, there are still Saravana Bhavans and Junior Kuppanas flamboyantly serving the exquisite dishes.


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