Imagine wandering around the city for the sole purpose of finding new places to eat! Pankaja Srinivasan joins in just one such initiative that plans to organise regular food walks in Coimbatore

People in R.S.Puram stare curiously at the straggling group of men, women and children criss-crossing the busy roads, laughing loudly, conversing intently and walking quietly. Who are these people? “Are you from the same apartment? Same office? Guests visiting the city for a wedding?” No, no and no.

They are the food walkers, many of them meeting for the first time, to jointly hunt down places where there street food is good. The idea for the outing comes from Yogita Uchil, a food blogger among other things. She is from Chennai but her husband is from Coimbatore and she says she always felt the lack of comprehensive information about eateries in this city and itched to do something about it. So she invites fellow foodies for a walk that would map food options in Coimbatore.

Twenty enthusiasts converge on A 1 Snack Street on East Venkatswamy Road, introduce themselves to each other and get down to the serious business of checking out the paniyarams – the speciality of Snack Street. “Good” is the verdict and after an uplifting cup of coffee they move on to Shree Kulfi where the kulfi man tries hard not to appear taken aback by the sudden onslaught and manfully handles the orders. The still-getting-to-know-each-other group agrees that there is plenty to be said about sharing kulfi with total strangers!

The next destination is a sandwich place. No more than a hole in the wall, the cooks from Bihar at Ridhi Sidhi swiftly slather butter and chutney on the bread, top it with cucumbers and tomatoes, grate cheese over it and hand over delicious sandwiches. Sadly, the quixotic cheese murukku sandwich is sold out! ‘Next time’, is the promise. “The idea is to unearth these less known food places so that more people can enjoy them,” said Yogita, between bites of Vadaa Paav. She wants to know if they are anything like the ones in Mumbai where she grew up. ‘Good’ is the verdict again.

According to Yogita, Chennai has regular cookouts and food walks. They also have something called ‘Showcase’ where restaurant invite foodbloggers and food photographers to try their food. “It is a very popular concept and the best thing is the restaurant knows that we will not pull our punches. We write like it is.” But the response is immense with restaurants and rookie photographers and bloggers both benefitting from it. “The restaurants get great pictures from these photographers, and the latter have a fantastic platform to hone their skill.”

Food blogging is however a responsible thing, says Yogita who says, it is not uncommon for restaurants to enjoy overnight success after they have been featured on blogs. Of course there is the flip side too when bad reviews have nearly shut them down.

For a first walk, the Coimbatore walkers have done well. There is animated discussion about where one should go the next time. There is a clamour for a biriyani trail. One more cup of tea at GupShup firms up a few more ideas for the forthcoming walks, and a promise of a food walk or a food related event at least once a month.

Yogita plans to open a webpage called Food Walkers that will share information on the city eateries, food experiences of the people, bouquets and brickbats. More importantly, it will keep foodies updated on the upcoming food programmes. There will soon be a page exclusively for Coimbatore, but till then you can keep in touch through http://yogitauchil.wordpress.com/

Watch this space.