About Me

Monday, January 05, 2015

Cantonment Street Food, Bangalore

Being away from Bangalore for 6 months now, has kicked off the craving season. A craving for the city's fine weather and for the eat-outs that I used to frequent with the wife. To get over the craving, I couldn't think of a better way than to write about the places and food I miss, specifically around the Cantonment, where I grew up.

Feel free to add to the list in the comments section. No list about food can be exhaustive.

1) Butter Brothers of the Benne Dosa fame, Jewelers Street
That's not really what they call themselves. What do they call themselves? Nothing! There is no board indicating their identity. I've seen them at the same place for about 25 yrs + now. On Commercial Street look for the lane opposite the police station, just preceding it. Walk down and stop at the second intersection of narrow roads. With some luck, you'd notice a benne dosa cart attached to a tiny nook with ancient green doors. The older of the brothers, hands out the dosas and collects cash, and the younger brother plays magician. 3 stoves and pans on them are his arsenal, relics of thousands of dosas over the years. 2 lids move between the 3 pans at a consistent speed, punctuated by dollops of butter hitting the batter. In the monsoons, you could go singing 'butter, batter, rain drops'.

By far the best butter dosas I've had across the city, and that includes the Vidyarthi Bhavans and CTRs. Don't get there before 5 30 pm or after 8 30 pm. Mondays are closed and ensure you carry sufficient patience along with hard currency. If you are queasy about large crowds walking by staring at you while you eat, this may not be your place. Learn to adjust to them and make them a part of the experience (without offering them a bite).

2) Thom's Cafe, Frazer Town
No school year was done until it was truly finished gorging into the best Pineapple Pastry this side of the city. Thom's like its counterpart Koshy's, is as old as the Anglo-Indian community in Cantonment. I still remember running back from school, waiting for the special days for which the pastry was reserved. From a small bakery with the best smells of fresh baked bread, to a full fledged supermarket, its come a long way. Yet, nothing has changed - right from the out-of-circulation 1 and 2 Rs. notes under the massive glass at the cash counter to the most amazing puffs and pastries.

Best time to visit them - anytime. Be willing to walk through really narrow aisles. Parking is not an issue and time permitting soak in some divine essence at the St. Aloysius Cathedral, a short walk away. Christmas or not, they have the freshest dark plum cakes in the city - don't miss them either.

3) Shankar Chats, Wheeler's Road 
Just down the road from Thom's Cafe, is what is reputed to be the oldest chat center in Bangalore. Tough to validate that claim considering no one keeps a census of such things. But then again, census' are for the boring folks. Shankar Chats is on Wheeler's road. Follow Kamaraj Road from Thom's Cafe into Wheeler's and stop at the second road that leads off to the right. At the entrance you will find a significant crowd thronging a cash counter with patrons filling up every bit of standing and walking space of the lane next to it. They also deliver to the car if you can find a spot to stop by and are thick-skinned enough to let the honking cars not bother you. Tough luck if the traffic cops are around. May I recommend the Mixed Chat for 40 bucks please!! :) The menu is minimal and the spices are liberal. Get your own bottle of water I'd suggest.

4) Chowpaty Kulfi, MM Road
Especially for the Mumbaikars away from Mumbai. If you ever feel like popping in one of those amazing kulfis with falooda, this is the place to be. And come the hour of breaking fast during Ramzan and riseth the glory of Mosque road. Drive down Mosque Road heading north. Enter MM Road on the left, at the junction after Hotel Empire and look out for the break in the divider. To the right is Bombay Chowpatty. A u-turn and some deft parking would help at this point. If you are worried about the pani in pani puri, find the nearest bin and drop your worries in. Corn flour puris greet you with smiles breaking on their delicate tops as they are filled with peas and you with peace. The pani is hygienic and not once has it given me reason to worry. Wash it down with said falooda and kulfi.

5) Rawal Jalebi Center, Veerapillai Street
Not so much a center as a 10 ft. x 6 ft. room with the stove jutting onto the road, calling out patrons in blazing orange. Rawal is a one-man operation. About 8 months ago he shifted from the tiniest of cubby holes where only Rawal could stand to a place where 5 people can be seated. If you are around Commercial Street shopping, put that reminder on the phone to get some hot jalebis. From the main entrance of Commercial Street, head down along Kamaraj Road. About 100m later at the Vithoba temple, take a left and enter Veerapillai Street. In case you want to bring your car along, forget the jalebis. Enter V street and 100 feet into the street, on the right is Rawal's jalebi shop. Opens only around 6 pm and runs until 9 30 to 10 00 pm most nights. Don't forget to say a hearty thank you to Rawal uncle. Get repaid by a reaction that suggests Rawal doesn't care 2 drops of sugar syrup about you. All the sweetness of his life is in the jalebi.

6) Ebrahim Sahib Street, Ebrahim Sahib Street
or Ibrahim Sahib Street if you go by municipal records. Only one lane away from and parallel to Commercial Street with multiple narrower lanes connecting the two. Most of the street is full of food carts, many which lend their origins to the ChIndi cuisine of Gobi Manchurian and Noodles. The place is more diversified now with South Indian and other North Indian options available. Its lost its sheen over time, though remnants of the Chinese invasion remain in parts, slowly giving way to garments by the pavements. This one's just to see what a hungry horde can do to a street if given enough options to eat.

I could mention a few more but heh! 6 is a good start as any. Many of these places have heart-clogging options for the meat-lovers I gather (Siddique's). But cannot vouch for! And along the yawning potholes and 'tar'nished roads are many more places one could spend a day eating. Its winter time and what better way to warm up the insides than this, especially if you are around the Cantonment in Bangalore.