Sidappa Hotel was started 30 years ago and is thriving with serpentine queues lining up for the tasty fare. Patrons include politicians and film stars

It’s nearly 8.30 in the morning on a weekday. I am ahead in a constantly growing queue in front of a dilapidated, single storey structure between two peepal trees. There’s a slight drizzle but nobody seeks shelter. The doors are open but the morning ‘puja’ is underway. At the stroke of 8.30 a.m. the patriarch and owner emerges waving a couple of incense sticks and ushers us inside. The interiors are dingy with three tiny, separate sections having the capacity to seat around 20. There are no tables. We sit on benches with our backs to the wall. A newspaper with two pieces of banana leaves is distributed. Steaming hot idlis are served. A boy comes and bathes the idlis in chutney and saagu,a mixed vegetable curry. As the idlis melt in your mouth, chitraanna (lemon rice) is served. You have the option of accepting half or full plate. The room with no ventilator is hot. Sweat trickles down your temples. You request a lone table fan perched on the wall to be switched on. You are struggling to keep the saagu from spilling and there’s a round of ‘kaali’ dose. With or without ghee is your choice. In fact, ghee is offered for all the dishes. Saagu and chutney are generously served before you ask. All this is while you’re waiting for the piece de résistance, the masala dose.

Only half the ‘dose’ is served. It’s crisp all over with a thin layer of the potato and onion masala inside. It’s so crisp that you have to break it. An order for a second ‘dose’ is usually discouraged because there’re at least ten people waiting outside constantly. The interesting part is that nobody refuses anything offered till the ‘masala dose’ is served. You crumple the paper, throw it in a huge drum and wash your hands. Facing the entrance which also serves as the exit sits Sidappa — a serious faced, short, stout man with a thick moustache on an elevated stone slab.

There are two steel bowls beside him one with currency and the other with coins. You wipe your hands with strips of newspaper as you tell him what you ate. He calculates loudly and collects the money, I’ve never heard him cross check though. You hear a loud, satisfied burp behind you as you leave. The same numbers of patrons who exit are sent in. Some hang around waiting for the ‘parcel’ they’ve ordered for their family.

Sidappa Hotel is situated in the compound of an old temple in Sampangiramnagar near Hotel Geo. It’s comparatively easy to locate in the byzantine bylanes of the crowded locality. Started 30 years ago to “feed his family” as Sidappa puts it, is a thriving business that keeps his entire family busy.

One son makes the ‘dose’ while the other son serves along with the son-in-law. Sidappa is not greedy. His eatery is open only between 8.30 a.m. and 11.30 a.m. in the morning. “You need time to prepare and serve quality food,” says Sidappa. On Sundays you can see the most luxurious of cars waiting his humble joint. The queue is serpentine and anyone who tries to break it irrespective of financial or social status will get an earful from Sidappa.

Only a few political bigwigs gain speedy entry. People who can’t eat out of the banana leaf bring disposable or even steel plates from home. Why is only half a ‘dose’ served? “The ‘tava’ is small and to ensure uniformity and quality we’ve retained it,” says Sidappa. “I can’t alter or renovate this place because it belongs to a trust who can ask me to vacate.” N. Chandru an actor and producer who grew up in the locality gets privileged treatment since he knows the entire family. Other than being a joint to catch up with childhood friends, he’s also brought stars like Puneet and Darshan who fell in love with the simple and tasty food.

Subramanya, whose office is at M.G. Road, is a regular for the past couple of decades. He sums it up by saying it doesn’t feel like hotel food even though you tend to overeat. “You never have problems like acidity because the ingredients are carefully chosen. The food is served hot and is tasty. You should try the ‘pulau’ he offers on Thursdays,” he suggests. The menu has not changed, the quality has been steady, and the pricing reasonable. If you’re not calorie conscious, don’t mind the ambience or the lack of it, and want to enjoy a sumptuous breakfast, try Sidappa’s. Finding it is easy. Enter the road facing Hotel Geo and ask for Sidappa. Join the queue and please don’t break it and unnecessarily earn Sidappa’s ire. You’ll return. It’s addictive.