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A guide to eating out in Anna Nagar, Chennai

Anna Nagar West, Chennai - 40: The very first address that acquainted me with the city I’ve called home since 2013. 



I have a faint memory of being driven under two huge arches, abutting the naked pillars of a half-finished flyover. Barring this eyesore, Anna Nagar is unusually well laid out for an Indian locality with wide Avenues, leafy Main Roads, and logical nomenclature for the streets. My only gripe with Anna Nagar was its seemingly drab offerings for dining out.

While Mylapore and Triplicane had classic Madras Tiffen centres and Messes, ECR had the chic, eclectic eating spots. Besant Nagar of course, had the foodies’ beach and by now Sowcarpet’s halwais were legendary. However, I did not despair. Setting out on pedantic food recces, I ate my way through Anna Nagar’s neat streets and obscure markets. I asked everyone I knew in the neighborhood, for their go-to eats. Slowly, but surely Anna Nagar revealed its hidden gems. These are places worthy of putting it on Chennai’s culinary map. Here are my picks in Anna Nagar that are worth driving across the city for:


As any good Anna Nagar resident, you must begin your day with a circumambulation of the monolith that might have sparked the neighborhood. Built to commemorate the International Trade Fair in 1968, the Tower Park is the Anna Nagar’s very own monument. Perhaps equally monumental is the Ayappan Temple next door, but that’s another story. What’s common between both though, is where the devotees of the almighty and the god-of-6-pack-abs usually head after paying their obeisance - Srivari Sweets. Everyone seems to swear by Srivari’s dabara of coffee; heady and robust, it’s the best filter coffee in the neighbourhood.

Cross the Second Avenue and walk past Sarvana Bhavan, there’s a new breakfast king in the ‘hood. Sree Akshayam has quickly become a landmark on the Shanthi Colony ever since it opened a couple of years ago. Residents and visitors alike throng to the eatery for its offering of consistently good South Indian meals in a clean, modern space. The most popular dish remains the Mini Tiffin and the llam Dosa with Garlic Kuzhambu, apart from the variety of breakfast staples. However, if you would rather have a more cosmopolitan breakfast, then pop into another crowd favorite - Pantry D’or, near the K4 Police Station.  Much vaunted for their breakfast platters, smoothies and pancakes, Pantry D’or is arguably, the hippest spot in Anna Nagar at the moment.  You could while away your morning over coffee and some inventive bakes, like the Lamb Pides and Pita Parcels .Remember to pick up some freshly baked loaves on your way out.


Do save your appetite for lunch though, Shree Rajasthani Dhaba is quite the neighborhood gem. Accessible though a decrepit staircase or a boxy little lift, this is the real deal for Rajasthani food. The restaurant itself quite expansive, and also has a small handicraft stall. Regulars flood the eatery during lunch time, and this is the place where I take friends from Rajasthan to get a taste of home. Go for their Thalis to evoke a taste of the Thar, or better yet drop by the weekends, for your share of Daal-Baati-Chruma. If you would rather gorge on some fiery Andhra meals, then head to Sankranti, on 6th Street, off the Anna Arch Road. With a strong presence in Singapore, Sankranti has steadily been drawing fans of authentic Andhra food, despite the tricky navigation. Ignore the North Indian and Chinese sections of the menu and choose from a variety of Andhra classics like Mamasam Vepudu, Chepa Pulusu and Gongura Kodi. I prefer to go for their Sankranti Special (albeit limited) Bhojanam and order side dishes.

Biryani is as agreeable as it gets for lunch in the city, and while the Thalpakattis and Stars from Dindigul and Ambur seemingly dominate the scene, Anna Nagar has a Biryani legend of its own. Sanabel, opposite Aminjikarai Police Station, is the place to go. While patrons often lament the inexorable decline in quality over the decades, Sanabel still makes a mean, subtly spiced Biryani; the fact that their Mutton Biryani is often sold out within hours is a testament to Sanabel’s unflinching loyalists. If all this talk of Biryani is biting your conscience, then head to Veganer in Shanthi Colony, touted to be Chennai’s first Vegan Restaurant. Veganer adds a bit of twist to everyday menu staples, balancing familiarity with Veganism. Try the interesting Weekday lunch buffet with dishes like Thayir Saadam made with peanut curd.

There’s nigh a better pastime for a sultry afternoon, than relaxing over a cup of tea; you are spoilt for choice at Kettle (opposite the Anna Nagar Post Office); one of the few tea-focused cafes in the city. Pick from a variety of leaves to go with your scones and clotted cream. I’m partial to their ever-popular Blackcurrant Tea, and often indulge with neat selection of desserts.  Evenings are when the district really comes alive, with shoppers flooding the avenues. It’s also a great time to pique your taste buds with some Chaat. Shankar Chaat Bhandar, opposite Jessie Moses School, is impossible to spot (or miss) amidst the throng, that seem to entirely engulf the cubbyhole. Three men, hard at work, will dish out Chaat as close as you can get to the streets of Uttar Pradesh in Chennai. Folks pour in to grab their share of Dahi Puris and Samosa Chaat. There’s no seating available - you’ll have to stand or perch yourself somewhere, and do wash it down with some of the best kadak Chai in the neighbourhood. If you’d prefer some protein in your evening snack then rush down to Al Kababish, behind Nilgiris, off the 1st Avenue. Do note that when I say rush, I sincerely mean that you should hasten your jaunt. The Shawarmas and Grilled Chicken here have the notorious cachet of being sold out in a blink. A posher option for chilling in the evening is the cheery Coco Jaunt 1728, on 3rd Avenue. Hang out over their signature Hot Chcolate or maybe indulge your appetite with the Bunny Chow, a product of Indian innovation, born in South Africa - it’s a hollowed bread bowl, filled with curry. Another haunt is Brick House Bistro, on the 6th Avenue - quite literally situated inside a renovated house, it has become a beacon for burger aficionados in Anna Nagar. If you take your burgers as seriously as they do, then try out the humongous BHB Burger - loaded with twin beef patties, sausages, salamis and an egg!



Dinner ready? - It’s time to reveal yet another neighborhood secret, the Amala Chettinadu Mess. Almost impossible to find on your own, it is tucked away in a quiet by lane behind the 2nd Avenue, and is accessible via the 11th Main road. The homely little eatery has a vehemently proud clientele who’ll assert it as one of the best in the city. Admittedly, the claim is hard to content once you have sampled a portion of their Nattu Kozhi Roast or Kaadai Fry (only available on Wednesdays). Gorge on some Kalakki, Nethili Fry or Attukal Paya in the spartan dining room or climb up to the air conditioned environs if you are dining with family. I am to yet to meet someone who doesn't like the idea of Chinese dinner, and Anna Nagar has you covered with Kim Ling, opposite the Ayappan Temple. This basement restaurant leans slightly towards the Sino-Ludhianvi school of cooking, but does an admirable job with Mai Mein Noodles and Sliced Roast Pork, when you ask for it. Another great option is the neighborhood outpost of the popular Jonah’s chain - Jonah’s goes to west coast, behind Yesesi supermarket. While they serve a great variety of food, from and far beyond the country’s west coast, my picks are their Malayali dishes. Solid Karimeen Pollichathhu and Prawns Biryani here. If you just want a quick, cheap meal before heading home, Karthick Tiffen Center (at 12th & 3rd Main Road, Off 2nd Avenue) is a popular destination. Their Gobi Manj(ch)urians and Butter Dosas go around swiftly  till about midnight. Finally, bursting the sleepy-hood bubble is Shaack, at Chintamani, which above all else has the distinction of being a fully operational restaurant till 3 AM! 

Comments

  1. Anna Nagar has become a foodie paradise. The Arjun Chat Bhandar opposite Sundaram Medical Centre (old bldg.) offers one of the best samosa, given the price. It has a thin outer layer which is not deeply fired, thus it has a light brown hue. There used to be a great panipuri walla near Santhosh but no longer now. His fare was more tilted to a Cal style fuchka which fuchka addicts would swear by. Eyeing Sanabel for long and wish to taste its variety some day. Hope Anna Nagar soon has a Cal/Lucknowi biriyani joint.

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    Replies
    1. Absolutely right about Arjun, I ought to write about him..Arjun is from UP - the mecca of Chaat.
      You could try Al Maza, they've got an Awadhi Biryani.

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