by Carol Johnson
In the spirit of welcoming people back for the 2014-2015 winter season, we named a couple of our favorite restaurants in this recent post. Some readers felt that there were other restaurants worth mentioning. So we give below a more complete list of eateries in town.
Over the years since we’ve been living here, some restaurants that were very popular have become less so, as new ones have opened and offered more dining choices. We know that there are other restaurants than those listed here, so if anyone has other favorites, please mention them in the comments section.
Vegetarian, Western style
This relatively new café, in its third year now, has become a favorite place for Westerners. It’s set on the lovely covered rooftop of a three-story building on the road to Shiva Shakti Ashram. The menu has some interesting choices, with tastes you don’t find elsewhere. A favorite of ours is the Moroccan Eggs. They have daily specials that are often quite good. During “the season” they occasionally host various musical entertainers, and they have begun to use their wall space to showcase local artists.
Another favorite place to hang out over various coffee drinks and wi-fi. Their limited menu offers omelets, sandwiches, vegetable and fruit salads, and nice cakes. Our absolute favorite here are the croissants and baguettes that are delivered daily from Pondicherry. Carol has a scrumptious sandwich made of cream cheese on a croissant, and Richard loves the baguette sandwich with egg. These come on a plate with a really nice salad, and make a satisfying meal, especially paired with their now-famous Iced Lemon Mint drink.
We haven’t been there in years, but on our very first trip to Tiru, the warm hospitality at this place made us know that we wanted to live here. They used to have things like hummus, veggie burgers and french fries, as well as decent salads.
Another one of our old hangouts, down the road from Ramanasramam, across from Sheshedri Ashram. Our favorite rickshaw drivers park in front here. Usha offers some Indian dishes as well as Western-style omelets, fried rice, potato dishes, and some Italian-flavored items. During the winter they offer a very nice lunch and dinner buffet with a great array of dishes, both Indian and Western. One of our all-time favorites there is the banana pancake.
Up the street from the Agni Lingam, on the rooftop of the Hilltop Residency. It used to be a favorite meeting place for all meals, but last year they remodeled the dining space and installed bamboo walls where you used to be able to look out onto Arunachala and the surrounding streets. The now-darkened space is a lot less inviting than it used to be. They did make a fabulous veggie lasagna, and their breads and cakes were famous.
Pumpernickel-The German Bakery
Across the street from Tasty Café. This place is run by Nepalese cooks, and the menu has some items that you won’t find elsewhere, such as momos and unusual salads and pasta dishes. We have really liked the varieties of lentil soup. They have, as their name implies, good baked goods.
Diagonally across the street from Dreaming Tree. Another “fusion” menu with some Western foods like veggie burgers and french fries. The first time we went there we thought it very promising. On our second visit, we had a really bad experience with the service. The food was OK, though.
On Perumbakkam Road. Over the last eight years, Satya’s Café became known for a good and very reasonably priced self-serve Indian breakfast, as well as a hearty and less-spicy-than-most thali lunch. Now their business has become known as the go-to place for their special nights of wood-fired pizza, on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the winter. Someone once called it “The best pizza south of Kathmandu.” They also offer smoothies and fresh vegetable juices. A great reason to eat at Sathya’s is that a portion of their profits goes to maintaining the Quality of Life Trust, a charitable organization that provides housing, food, and medical care to abandoned elders living in the village.
Please note that, in seven years, we have never, not even once, gotten sick from eating salad at any of these places.
Vegetarian, Indian style
The main restaurant at this boutique hotel is clean and attractive. It’s reached from Chengam/Bangalore Road, with a left turn just past the sign for Arunai Anantha. They offer the usual food items. It’s a good place for quality food.
The restaurant at the new Aakash Hotel, next to Nilgiri’s, up the street from Ramanashram. Nice and clean, good lighting, typical South Indian menu. Good thali for lunch.
On the “other side” of Arunachala, at the intersection of the road to Vellore. Owned by the same family that runs Akaash, with the same menu. Very nice environment, and a good breakfast buffet on weekends. A good choice for a celebratory meal after completing the walk on the Inner Path. They offer the same good thali as Akaash.
The most upscale restaurant in town. The menu has some unusual South Indian items that don’t appear on the typical menu around here. They often have a buffet setup for breakfast and dinner. On a recent visit we appreciated the kolu set up for Navarathri, but felt uncomfortably cold in the exaggerated air conditioning. Sparsa is on a small road (known as AHAM Road or, earlier, Chicken Farm Road) on the west side of Arunachala. The hotel itself is in a beautiful setting, and has won awards for being “Green.”
A sentimental favorite of ours. Also located near the Vellore Road intersection, near Arpanaa. In the “old days,” we always went there after completing the Inner Path, and there were often other Westerners doing the same. At one point they changed chefs and their food was too spicy, but we’ve gone there recently and now it’s fine again. During their “too-spicy” phase, Arpanaa opened up, so we went there instead after coming down from Panchiaman Koil at the end of the Inner Path. The dining room is a little dark and cave-like, but it always makes us nostalgic, since we had our very first meal in Tiru there.
They have several restaurants, but we always go to the one close to the main (East) entrance gate of the Big Temple. It’s a local favorite, and gets quite crowded at peak breakfast and lunch times. We love their ghee dosas for breakfast, and we think their lunch thali is the best in town. (Except we are sad that they recently discontinued the small cup of ice cream at the end.)
We used to refer to this place as “The Hole in the Wall,” because we never knew its name. But recently they installed a new sign outside, so we now know what to call it. It’s on the main street, Big Street, before you come to the west side of the Big Temple. Their breakfast items are delicious, and different than anywhere else. We particularly like the uttapam and puri there. Served with sambar and chutneys that taste different that the expected. It’s a tiny place where you sit on benches and share tables with the business men, party men, and rickshaw drivers who frequent the place. You need to be a little aggressive in getting a seat, because the “regulars” will push you out of the way. After breakfast, you take your leaf and throw it out yourself. They serve a lunch meal with lots of rice and two or three other dishes. It’s very inexpensive, and an adventure to go there.
Off Perumbakkam Road, turn down the dirt road towards the Rice Mill, where Mooji held his satsangs. It’s in the back of a house, whose owner, Edwin, was a professional chef in Bangalore. Edwin is a congenial host who will cook to your order if you give him advance notice. We haven’t been there in a while, but are assured that Edwin is still cooking lunch and dinner.
To find this restaurant, you go down the road that goes past The Dreaming Tree and Shiva Shakti Ashram, and turn left where the road ends. We’ve only been there once, many years ago, but some readers really like it.
This was one of the “legendary” lunch spots when we first arrived in Tiru. Last year they re-located to a street off Perambakkam Road. We only went once when it was at the old location off Post Office Road. They served a set lunch meal with rice and a few vegetable dishes. We sat on the floor and felt a little strange as newcomers when everyone else seemed to know one another. So we never went back, and haven’t tried the meal at the new location. It is known as a good, inexpensive lunch place, and now they serve red rice instead of white.
A2B—Adyar Ananda Bhavan
A relatively new entry to the restaurant scene, located in the Shiva Residency hotel on the Vellore Road. This is a part of a chain that has locations in cities such as Chennai and Bangalore. It’s a nice, bright atmosphere and the food is good. They have an attached sweets counter with some very tempting offerings.
Ashreya Hotel’s Tangam Bar
We have a soft spot for this place, since we were its very first customers when it opened three years ago. They offer the “typical” Indian non-veg menu, with lots of chicken dishes, a few mutton ones, and the Chinese-ish rice and noodle dishes. When you go there for a beer or liquor drink, they serve you nice snacks for free. The indoor bar/restaurant is smoke-free, and they enforce it, but there’s a smoking patio outside, with a pleasant seating area. Last year they created a lovely eating and drinking space on the rooftop of the main hotel. We never explore the menu too much, because we are so very fond of the chicken lollypops, mixed fried noodles, and onion pakoda. Plus we get full from the pre-food nibbles they give us. If you go there, ask for Dinesh, and tell him we sent you. (No, we don’t get a kick-back!)
Located on Chengam Road on the way to Bangalore, this “resort” has both veg and non-veg restaurants. We’ve eaten in the veg restaurant and it was slightly too spicy. (The icon on their sign is, after all, a red pepper, even though it could easily be mistaken for a strawberry.) We haven’t eaten in the non-veg restaurant yet, but were told about it as we recently were there waiting to board the luxury Volvo bus to Bangalore. They told us they were hoping for a liquor license, too.
Oh, Trishul, we remain nostalgic for your authentic Indian bar atmosphere. Seven years ago it was the only bar/restaurant in town. Carol was always the only woman in the dark inner seating area, and, especially when wearing a saree, she enjoyed saluting the (mostly drunken) Indian men with her beer glass. The place was heavy with cigarette smoke at first, but it has moderated a bit since the no-smoking law passed several years ago. They have the usual non-veg items, including, after 7pm, tandoori items, like Tandoori Chicken. Before the other places opened up we would go there to satisfy our craving for meat, but we always ended up thinking the best thing that they served was the vegetarian cashewnut noodles, which are to die for.
A new non-veg restaurant on the road to Vellore, on the right side of the road just past the LifeStyle store. Like the other non-veg places, they offer a similar mixture of Indian and “Chinese” dishes, featuring chicken, mutton, fish, and prawns. We’ve enjoyed the food there, but we are mostly in awe of the pink/orange/purple décor, which is such a welcome change from the dark cave-like atmosphere of some of the other eateries on this list. They don’t serve beer or liquor, however.
Tiruvannamalai’s answer to Kentucky “Fried” Chicken. You can order a “bucket” of nine pieces, or a “meal” with a couple of side dishes. You can “eat in” or take out. The chicken is spicier than the American-inspired product, but it satisfies that yen for fried chicken, even though, like KFC, it’s baked, not actually fried. You get there by going toward the railway station on the way out of town toward Chennai. Look for the very large round tank-like structure on the right side, and turn there. In a couple of blocks there’s a left turn and it’s down that street.
Arunai Anantha Hotel
We had enjoyed several meals at this “resort” facility. However, we had a very disturbing experience there several years ago, which left us with a bad feeling about the place. We ordered our food and then waited over forty-five minutes for it to arrive. Other diners, all Indian, came and ate and left during the time we sat there. We couldn’t help but thinking there was some discrimination against white people going on. So we’ve never been back since.
As we said above, this is not an exhaustive list. We’ve heard about one other non-veg place, a Halal establishment that doesn’t serve alcohol, across the street from Chickens City. There’s another bar in the Hotel Tamil Nadu, across the street from Arpanaa. We poked our heads in there a few years ago and decided that if we wanted the dark, smoky, Indian bar experience we’d opt for Trishul’s.
Tags: visiting tiruvannamalai