They may be small and unassuming, but they pack quite a punch when it comes to taste. Metroplus visits some messes in the city that have brought a smile of pleasure to thousands of hungry people over the years

Dhanwanthari Mini Foods/ Bagavathi Catering

Olympus, Ramanathapuram

It is a popular joint for office goers and those travelling to nearby towns or cities. Though it has very limited seating, patrons have been flocking to Dhanwanthari Mini Foods over the last 20 years. Apart from the wheat parottas and dosas, they enjoy the special Chintamani dosas, pepper idlis, podi idlis and the garlic idli fry here. The malli, tomato and egg sevai are also hot favourites. “The mess serves as both a hangout and a good place to brainstorm with colleagues after a hard day’s work. And we get to have fresh food till late into the night,” says G. Rajmohan, who has been eating at the mess for the last 15 years. Bagavathi Catering caters to weddings, birthday and private parties.

USP: Innovative dosas and sevais

Special items: Chintamani dosa, star dosa, podi, pepper, garlic idli fry, tomato and malli sevai

Timings: 6.30 p.m. to 10.45 p.m.

Phone: 98946-10029

Sri Trupthi Mess

Thiruvalluvar Nagar, Ramanathapuram

This mess has built a loyal customer base since it first set shop at Trichy Road, back in 1986 as a low budget place which also provided quality food. Hungry people have greatly appreciated its dosas, idiyappams and butter sevai. An additional tiffin centre was opened in 2010. The family room seats 56 people, and also hosts birthday and private parties. Patrons savour the steaming hot pongal, puris, idli vada and varieties of roast in the mornings. For lunch, they serve carrot rice, beetroot rice, tomato and lemon rice. It is mushroom biriyani on Sundays. Sri Trupthi mess attracts bankers, marketing professionals and also a few college students who stay in lodges nearby. It also provides catering services for weddings, birthdays and private parties.

“We have been eating out as a family at this mess for the past 10 years and specially relish the onion, masala and channa dosas. This mess also serves as a good weekend spot for families on a budget,” says J. Sivakumar, a regular patron.

Special items: Pongal, onion roast, pudina roast, tomato uthappam, butter sevai.

USP: Varieties of dosas and rice

Timings: 7 a.m. to 3.30 p.m., 6.30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Phone: 0422-2318880 / 99445-53086

Achi Mess

Tatabad

Sixty-three years ago, Periyanayagathammal started a small mess near Lakshmi Mills to cater to 11 staffers from the Electricity Board. It was also a means to bring in the much-needed income to run her family. When the EB office shifted to near Power House, the staff found her a building near their new office. Today, Achi Mess on Dr. Rajendraprasad Road serves more than 2,000 people every single day, and sends out about 700 parcels.

It is considered the haven for bachelors. “At one time, the hall used to be full of young company representatives eating their breakfast and lunch,” recalls M. Ganesan, Periyanayagathammal’s son, who now runs the mess with his son G. Hariharasudhan. Evenings are for the family crowd.

The mess uses about 120 kg of vegetables every day for the poriyals, sambar and kootu. And food is cooked only using RO treated water. “Bachelors come here because they don’t have a home to go back to. Which is why our food must taste like what is made at home. It has to be hygienic and nutritious,” says Ganesan.

Specials: Variety rice (12) and dosa varieties (8)

USP: Five side dishes (sundal, poriyal, vadagam, pulikozhambu and thayir pachadi) served with the variety rice.

Timings: 7 a.m. to 10.30 a.m., noon to 3.30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.

Phone: 0422-2491954 and 2495587

Burqat Biryani Centre

Airport Road

The loving brother, Mohammed Ali Jinnah named this restaurant after his sister Burqat. It is a popular hub for anyone, who needs a quick bite. The aroma of steaming chicken biryani fills the air at noon when the shop opens. The lunch time gets over by 2.30 p.m. when the biryani is sold out!

Mohammed makes fluffy, soft parottas in the evening. These are served with mildly spicy kurma curry. Parottas are priced at Rs. 5 and the chicken biryani is priced at Rs.40. Jinnah shares a few secrets about cooking a good biryani. “The rice should be well boiled. The water should be just right, according to the proportion of rice. And the flavours should blend well.”

Mohammed used to be a vendor of plastic and fancy items. “I used to cook a lot at home and it is the only trade I know. So I thought why not start a hotel?” And he cooks biryani just like how he used to cook it at home. “Most of our customers are families. They come here to get that home made taste. There are no artificial ingredients. You feel you are eating biryani, cooked in your own kitchen.”

Specials: Parotta and chicken biryani

USP: Taste of home

Time: Noon to 2.30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.

Phone: 99941-91377

Sri Lakshmi Unavagam and Catering Service

Near Singanallur junction, Trichy Road

Idli, vadai and pongal — that was the menu at Sri Lakshmi Mess on the busy Singanallur Road 15 years ago. Now, you can savour some of the best lemon sevai, tomato sevai, pudina uthappam, crisp ghee roast, variety rice, and fluffy veechu parotta! “We have grown because of quality food and better pricing,” says V. Sampath Kumar, owner. The fresh vegetables come from the neighbouring Uzhavar Sandhai and the rice used is always the best grade of ponni.

His two in-house cooks, from Devakottai and Karaikudi, dish out the variety fare. They serve me pongal with coconut chutney, kaara chutney and sambhar. The pongal is melt in the mouth and less on oil. And the lip-smacking kaara chutney made with mint leaves a refreshing taste. A. Ravi from the kitchen says they sauté channa dal, black urad dhal, garlic, red chillies, tamarind along with pudina leaves, grated coconut and salt, and then grind it.

Sri Lakshmi Unavagam also does catering service for weddings, birthdays, kadhani vizha, and house-warming ceremonies. The onion roast (also made with tomato) is a big hit among his regular customers of office goers, and families. With a budget of Rs. 100, one can have all three meals here.

Specials: Onion, tomato and coriander uthappams

USP: Kaara chutney with pudina

Timing: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Phone: 98947-31199/ 94867-82255.

Amma’s Cafe

SITRA

A year ago, Veluthirumalai decided to quit his executive chef post at Le Meridien, and start a cafe of his own. “I realised it was time I became my own boss,” he says. When he set up Amma’s Cafe, his aim was to turn it into an outlet that provided hygienic and healthy food to people.

They serve tiffin in the mornings, meals at lunch and a range of South Indian dishes, chapatti and parotta for dinner. The parotta is served with soya or veg kurma. “There are nine types of dosas here besides uthappams and puri. For the health conscious, we offer wheat upma, wheat sevai and egg wheat parotta,” says Veluthirumalai.

The affordable rates draw in families and students. A dosa costs Rs. 10 and two idlis cost Rs. 15. Their vegetable biryani is priced at Rs. 30. The egg parotta and kothu parotta sell here like hot cakes. “Instead of desserts, we serve fresh pineapple, apple and mango juice. Meals are priced at Rs. 50,” says Veluthirumalai.

Specials: Kothu parotta and wheat sevai

USP: Hygienic and healthy food

Timing: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Phone: 98422-21048.