Though in recent years Bangalore has transformed from a quiet garden city to a bustling IT hub, some vital aspects of the old remain. The city is still full of wonderful traditional restaurants; all vegetarian and all South Indian, they have been around for decades, and in some cases, have become famous not just for their food, but the entire experience. Here are some of the best traditional South Indian restaurants in Bangalore that you must visit.
These eateries don’t have vast marketing budgets, nor do they boast long pages of items on their menus. There’s no gleaming silverware or sleek decor in sight, and yet they thrive though loyal patrons and word-of-mouth recommendations. Simple menus virtually unchanged for decades, quick service, and freshly made and authentic food is the name of the game here, and in this case, it’s more than enough.
1Brahmin’s Coffee Bar
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Located in the Basavanagudi area, Brahmin’s Coffee Bar was set up in the 1960s by Narasimha Rao. Initially famous for its coffee, the tiny restaurant (now run by Rao’s son, Radhakrishna Adiga) slowly added crispy vadas, soft idlis, delicious khara bhath, and sweet kesari bhath, all served with excellent and unchanging coconut chutney. The story goes that Rao’s late wife, K. N. Saraswathi supervised the making of this chutney herself since the restaurant’s opening, and also oversaw the preparation of the batters used to make the idlis and vadas. Even to this day, they are prepared each morning in the family home and taken to the restaurant.
Though the menu here is small, the amazing and consistent quality of the food available definitely makes up for it. Just remember that the restaurant has absolutely no-frills, and only standing space. Brahmin’s Coffee Bar is open from Monday through Saturday, from 6 am to 12 pm and is closed on Sundays.
Ranga Rao Road, Near Shankar Mutt, Shankarapuram Bengaluru, 560004
2S.L.V. Coffee Bar
Just near Brahmin’s Coffee Bar lies a much lesser-known gem. SLV Coffee Bar in Chamarajpet is also run by Radhakrishna Adiga (since 2017). The restaurant was opened in the 1980s by Purushottam Aithal and his son Gopal. Fond of literature, he had made the place a hub for writers, scholars, and theatre professionals. The walls were even decorated with portraits of Jnanpith Award winners, such as Kuvenpu and DR Bendre. However, the restaurant shifted to its current premises in the 1990s and changed management in 2017.
Those in the know regularly visit this small restaurant to have some of the excellent masala dosa, idli-sambar, and kesari bhath served here. Some even return for lunch to try the delicious bisibele bhath and the lemon rice. It is open every day from 6 am to 8 pm (and up to 12pm on Sundays).
1st Cross, 5th Main Rd, Chamrajpet, Bengaluru, 560011
This iconic restaurant lies at the heart of Gandhi Bazaar and is flanked on either side by colourful flower stalls. It was started in 1943 by Parameshwara Ural as a cheap canteen for the young student community of the surrounding Basavanagudi area. The restaurant was later sold to Ramakrishna Adiga in 1970, who currently runs it with his son Arun Kumar Adiga. Since then, it has become an iconic destination and an indispensable part of Bangalore heritage.
The restaurant is most famous for its masala dosa, which is brought to your (shared) table by a server carrying 10-15 plates lined on his arm. The legendary dosas themselves are dripping with butter and ghee, and manage to be crispy on the outside yet soft in the centre. Other must-tries are the khara bhath and the wonderfully frothy filter coffee. The restaurant is open between 6:30 to 11:30 am and 2 to 8 pm Monday through Thursday, and from 6:30 am to 12 pm and 2:30 to 8 pm on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays; it remains closed on Fridays. Remember that it gets extremely crowded, so go in early to get a table.
4Mavalli Tiffin Rooms
Mavalli Tiffin Rooms, or MTR, is another equally iconic Bangalore institution. It opened in 1924, when three brothers (Parameshwara, Ganappayya, and Yagnanarayana Maiya) decided to make and serve South Indian comfort food. It moved to its present location on Lalbagh Road in 1960, and since then has become the go-to place for those who go for morning walks in the park. All their dishes, from the idli to the dosa and even the sweets like chandrahara and halwas are served with a generous helping of ghee. You must also try the gulab jamuns and the filter coffee, which is still served piping hot in sterling silver cups.
MTR is said to be the place where the rava idli was invented during World War II when rice was scarce. Also, head here for lunch and try the vast South Indian thali. Served on shiny, steel plates, you’ll get hot pooris, served with a vegetable sagu (or curry) and a dry vegetable palya; this is followed by mini-masala dosas, sweet pongal, vangi bhath, rice, sambar, curd rice, and fruit salad. The meal is “unlimited,” which means that you can ask for as many servings as you’d like. If you have the room, also try the bisibele bhath, also with lashings of pure ghee, is another signature dish that’s worth a try.
MTR is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 6:30 to 11 am and from 12:30 to 9 pm. Like Vidyarthi Bhavan, it fills up extremely fast, so be sure to get there early.
Initially located near the BMS College of Engineering on Bull Temple Road, this restaurant was relocated to its present location in NR Colony. It is most famous for its thick, soft, and fluffy khaali dosa (similar to the set dosa served in Chennai and Tamil Nadu). They are served with unlimited helpings of coconut chutney and a large dollop of butter, as well as a great potato palya.
If you have the time (and the appetite) try some of the excellent rava vada and the bisibele bhath. Finish off your meal with a cup of strong filter coffee. While there are tables to sit (or stand at) remember that this is a self-service restaurant. It is open from 6:30 to 11:30 am and from 4 to 9 pm from Wednesday to Monday, and is closed on Tuesdays.
7th Cross Rd, NR Colony, Basavanagudi, Bengaluru, 560019
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Namma SLN (also known as Muddanna Hotel) lies hidden amongst the many shops in Gandhi Bazaar. It is known for its flavourful sabsige dosas and thatte idlis. These unusual (yet delicious) green-tinged dishes are flavoured with dill leaves which are mixed into the batter. They are served with divine white coconut chutney on banana leaves (there are no plates here at Namma SLN).
If you come later in the day, try the wonderful and lightly spiced pulav made with short-grain rice and vegetables and of ghee, or the “trimurti,” an unexpected and surprisingly harmonious combination of pulav, khara bhath and lemon rice. The restaurant is open from 7 am to 4 pm and again from 5 to 9 pm.
Gandhi Bazaar, Basavanagudi, Bengaluru, 560004
7Mahalakshmi Tiffin Room
Mahalakshmi Tiffin Room, or MLTR, is often overshadowed by its more famous neighbour − Vidyarthi Bhavan. Opened in 1926, it is one of the oldest food joints of Bangalore and is still full of old-world charm. Through the double-doored entrance, you will see wooden benches and tables, with a separate “family area,” and the limited menu written on a chalkboard. It is usually crowded, and much like the other restaurants on this list, you’re encouraged to share tables with the other patrons.
The restaurant is famous for its benne masala dosa (served with lots of white butter) and its vada sambar (where the sambar is made in the Karnataka-style, with a touch of sweetness), as well as the khaali dosa (served with sagu). If you visit in the evenings try their popular snacks such as bonda soup and Managaluru bhajji. Those with a sweet tooth should definitely also taste the gulab jamun (where the syrup is flavoured with rose water), and the carrot halwa.
Though it may be blasphemous to say so, MLTR can certainly give Vidyarthi Bhavan a run for its money. It is open from 8 am to 10 pm and is closed on Saturdays.
85/1, Dr DVG Road, Gandhi Bazaar, Basavanagudi, Bengaluru, 560004
Located in VV Puram (or Vishweshwarapuram), Bangalore’s Thindi Beedi (or “Food Street”) is the place to try the city’s best vegetarian street food. The kiosks, carts, and small hole-in-the-wall shops here sell everything from masala dosas to potato twisters, bajjis, bondas, holigae and badam milk. And it’s not just South Indian fare, you can also find dabelis, chaats, pav bhaji, and even pasta.
However, Thindi Beedi is most famous for its annual Avarekalu Mela which takes place during the winter (usually in January). Avarekai are hyacinth beans or flat beans that are used in all kinds of foods during this fair. Don’t miss the avarekai rotis, the sambhar, dosas, idlis, upma, vada, and even the sweets, such as jalebi, jamun and holige. The shops here are usually open around 7 pm and close at 12 am (though on Thursdays the timings are 12 am to 5 pm
Old Market Road, Vishweshwarapuram, Basavanagudi, Bengaluru
Though it is often considered a part of the bustling Thindi Beedi, VB Bakery deserves its own entry. Founded in 1953 by K Tirumalachar, VB Bakery (short for Visvesvarapuram Brahmin Bakery) was one of the earliest of Bangalore’s now-famous Iyengar Bakeries and has now become a household name in the area. Most of the menu has not changed much over the years when it was passed down to his son KT Srinivas, and the recipes themselves have also been preserved.
Best selling items here include the sweet and khara buns as well as the special buns (with raisins) and the potato buns, vegetable puffs, butter biscuits, rusk and dumrot. You also must try their congress buns (also known as KBC or khara bun with congress), where a savoury bun is sliced horizontally, buttered, and stuffed with skinned and fried congress peanuts). The bakery opens at 6 am and closes at 11 pm but can get quite crowded in the mornings and evenings. Head here in the afternoon to buy baked goods just out of the oven!
No.20, Sajjan Rao Circle, Vishweshwarapura, Shankarapura, Bengaluru, 560004
10New Modern Hotel
New Modern Hotel, or NMH as it is popularly known, is far from new or modern. Opened in 1959 by Lakshminarayana Rao, the restaurant (and the lodge above) soon became a popular haunt for writers, politicians, and theatre personalities. Now run by Narasimha Adiga and his brother Padmanabha Adiga, the hotel is still known for its vintage charm. Try the excellent masala dosa or the idlis and vadas, all of which come with steaming bowls of the restaurant’s unique sambar (a mix of the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka styles) and a healthy spoonful of ghee. Also, try their pooris, and their mosaru vada – or crispy vadas dunked in fresh curd and topped off with crunchy fried boondi.
Those looking for something different can also try the “bread toast” (spread with ghee in lieu of butter) and served with sagu and freshly made pineapple jam. If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss the rich and creamy badam halwa (also laden with ghee) and the pheni. If you’re planning to come here in the afternoon, do try the excellent South Indian thalis. NMH is open Friday through Wednesday from 7 am to 9 pm, and is closed on Thursdays.
When you visit the no-frills, no-nonsense Veena Stores in Malleshwaram, it’s the food that does the talking. This iconic place is known for its South Indian breakfast and is almost always crowded. The restaurant opens directly onto the footpath, so don’t expect to have place to sit (or even much place to stand), but it’s definitely worth a visit for the food. The menu is quite limited, as they serve just idlis, vada, khara bhath, kesari bhath, khara pongal, sweet pongal, shavige bhath, bisibele bhath, and puliyogare.
However, each of these is almost perfect. The idlis are soft and fluffy, the vadas crispy, and the shavige bhath melts in your mouth. Everything is served with unlimited chutney (there is no sambar here, and no dosas either) and must be washed down with a glass of filter coffee or strong and sweet tea. Veena Stores is open, Monday through Saturday, from 6:30 am to 12 pm and again from 3:30 to 9:00 pm. However, on Sundays, it closes at noon. If you want to avoid the crowds and the long lines, go early, as early as 6:15 am, to get fresh and hot food.
187, Margosa Rd, Malleshwaram, Malleshwaram, Bengaluru, 560003
12Shri Sagar (formerly Central Tiffin Room)
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Previously known as Central Tiffin Room (or CTR) Shri Sagar is another old-Bangalore institution in Malleshwaram. Opened by Y.V. Subramanyam and brothers in the 1920s, this restaurant soon became a favourite meeting point for writers and poets in the 1940s and 50s. It was eventually bought by Sanjeeva Pujari in 1992 and renamed Shri Sagar, though the quality of the food remained much the same.
The restaurant is still full of old-world charm, which is evident in the old paintings and the beautiful vintage wall clock above the cash counter. Famous for its benne masala dosa, which is both thick and crispy, Shri Sagar is also known for its Maddur vada, kesari bhath and poori-sagu. Their wonderfully aromatic filter coffee is a must-try and is a great start to the day. Shri Sagar opens at 7:30 am and closes at 12:30 pm before reopening between 4 to 9 pm.
While there are lots of restaurants with the name “Hotel Janatha” in Bangalore today, there’s only one that matters. Wedged in the middle of a row of shops on the busy 8th Main Road in Malleshwaram, this hotel opened in 1971 and has amassed a small but staunchly loyal following over the years. There are two sections − self-service and serviced, but the ambience remains basic in both, as it remains much as it did decades ago. However, it is often overshadowed by its more famous neighbours, nearby Shri Sagar and Veena Stores.
Start off your meal here with plates of crisp vada and pillowy idlis or bright yellow kesari bhath; follow this with a glistening brown masala dosa, soft Mangaluru bajjis, and finish off with a bowl of gulab jamuns and badam halwa, and wash it all down with frothy cups of excellent filter coffee. The restaurant is open between 7:30 am to 12:45 pm and from 3:45 pm to 8:45 pm, and is closed on Wednesdays.
27, 8th Cross Road, Malleshwaram, Bengaluru, 560003
14Indian Coffee House
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Unlike the rest of the places on this list, Indian Coffee House is part of a famous Indian restaurant chain run by co-operative societies. The famous Coffee House at College Street in Kolkata is also a part of this chain. The 50-year-old Indian Coffee House in Bangalore originally opened on MG Road, and only shifted to its present location Church Street in 2009. This coffee shop has become an iconic and nostalgic Bangalore institution, known for its simple vintage decor and its laid-back atmosphere. Its blue walls, wooden benches, and uniformed waiters (complete with signature turbans) looks like it stepped straight out of the 50s.
While Indian Coffee House serves all kinds of snacks, such as crisp and thin masala dosas, bread and omelettes, sandwiches, and cutlets, it is most famous for its filter coffee. Come here for a quiet respite from the busy Church Street, just remember that cards are not accepted here so carry some cash with you. The restaurant is open from 8:00 am to 8:30 pm.
Popular among old Bangaloreans, Airlines Hotel is truly a gem. Once home to the Indian Airlines Bangalore office, the hotel opened in 1968 and quickly became a city favourite. In 2014, the hotel temporarily shut down, due to an ownership/land dispute; but it quickly reopened after great support from patrons. It is located on a quiet corner of Lavelle Road and has both indoor and outdoor seating under a canopy of shady banyan trees. If you manage to find parking space, they’ll even serve you in your car!
The local South Indian fare here is what most people come here for. Try the akki rotis, served with ghee and chutney, the crispy vadas with sambar, the button idlis, or the rava masala dosas that are crisp and buttery. If you want something different, have some of the equally excellent North Indian food; the chana bhatura is especially good. Your food can either be followed by a hot cup of tea or coffee or a refreshing glass of fruit juice. You can also get an ice cream from an outlet of the famous Bangalorean ice cream parlour, Corner House. The hotel is open from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm
#4, State Bank of India Road, Off Lavelle Road, Shanthala Nagar, Ashok Nagar, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560001
Have you been to any of these legendary South Indian restaurants in Bangalore? Or do you think we’ve missed any of your favourites? If so do share your thoughts in the comments below.