If the Parsis and Iranis contributed to the foodie map of Mumbai with their unique cafes, a section of the South Indian population supplied the Udipi, the city’s first fast-food joints. As you walk out of Matunga station, you are in for a culinary experience that involves all five fingers, and occasionally your wrist to relish your meal. Course through the sambhars in the Tam-Brahm dominated Mini Madras, as we give you a lowdown of the best of the best of vegetarian food.

A Rama Nayak’s Udipi restaurant is just a stone’s throw away from the station. The entrance is opposite to the building’s façade, much like the idol in the Sri Krishna Temple, Udupi. Established in 1942, it serves sumptuous home cooking, served in thalis (Rs 65) or on a plantain leaf, where you can have unlimited quantities of every item. (Rs 150) During the pre-independence era, their feast was frequented by customers who would pay a monthly coupon, paying approximately 2 annas per meal, and the menu has changed little since. Ideal for hungry diners, this place meets all your dietary requirements with puris, papaddams, pickles, unlimited sambhar and rasam, rice, sweets like payasam and aamrakhand and freshly picked vegetables from Byculla’s markets.
If you’re looking for idlis and dosas, your next door bet is Sharda Bhavan, just opposite the road. You won’t find menu cards in here, but every dish is worth its salt. Their Mysore sada dosa comes with a unique layer of spicy green chutney, but our favourite would be the red garlic paste that coats the Mysore sada at Ram Ashraya. Established 70 years ago by Shyambabu Shetty, who came from Mangalore to Mumbai to open an Udipi eatery, this place has seen refurbishments in the decor as well as the menu. The younger generation, keen to add a fresh feel to their menu of bisibelle and curd rice, upma-sheera, and the like have introduced 21 new flavours of this semolina based sweet dish. Look out for the pineapple, chocolate and guava flavours.

Amba Bhavan is replete with traditional wooden furniture and old world charm where good food is one of the accompaniments. You won’t find Schezwan Idlis or Noodle Dosas on the menu, the lungi clad waiters bussing tables assure you, but you must come before the clock strikes eight, as they adhere diligently to the closing hours.

A whiff of freshly ground coffee beans and Coimbatore butter fills the footpath laden with second hand books around Mysore Concerns. Tucked in a corner at King’s Circle, it is a coffee lover’s haven.
Madras Café, run by the Kamaths, sees crowds from South Bombay, flocking in every Sunday for brunch, as they wait patiently for their name to be announced after a couple of hours just to get in a bite of wada sambhar or neer dosai. In close proximity lie the air conditioned Rama Nayak’s Udipi, famous for its signature Paper dosa, and Mysore Café, the oldest of the lot, prides itself on King Coffee, without which your visit is incomplete. Their potato wafers, sold outside along with other packaged snacks are a good place to put your money.

Last, but not the least, when in Matunga, you must visit Idli House. It offers about twenty varieties of idlis, each served with unlimited sambhar, fresh coconut chutney, and Malaga pudi. An idli costs just twenty rupees, and flashing your I-card entitles you to a further concession.
Amidst beautifully sculpted Hindu temples and ornately carved Jain tirthankaras, the area also has its fair share of crazy fans, who have installed a sixty feet Ranjikanth poster from the movie Robot at Aurora cinema, a hub for Telegu and Tamil films. They say that it isn’t going down until their idol comes to see it. Till then, feast on the pocket friendly delights this place has to offer.

– Mr. Adit

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