Anyone looking to have a quick bite while passing through Nungambakkam High Road is spoilt for choice, says Vipasha Sinha
For the little spaces they occupy on Nungambakkam High Road, they boast an incredible patronage. At any given time, they have a mixed crowd.
People arriving in swanky cars, their Guccis and Versaces doing them little good as they end up rubbing shoulders with college students and people like me, who can afford to binge only in places like these when the month tails off.
Variety is the middle name of these delis and food kiosks, found amidst the high-end brand showrooms on Nungambakkam High Road. From pani puri and Benarasi paan and sugarcane juice to shawarmas and momos, they offer much and draw a wide section of people.
Let’s take a closer look at these roadside eateries. Places such as Karishma pani puri stall and the Calcutta Pan Shop have been around for years but the train of different fast-food kiosks that begin from the Park Avenue showroom and stretches all the way to the Sterling Road signal has popped up in the recent past.
The chaat stall outside Karishma showroom attracts customers from areas as far as Anna Nagar. “My family comes here almost every second weekend. There are days when one has to wait for 45 minutes, but we don’t mind that,” says Deepti Jain, a resident of Anna Nagar West.
Harsh Mittal, a partner at Karishma, explains how an ‘inbred tradition’ sparked the business enterprise. “It is a culture in Kolkata to open a small pani puri (phuchka as they call it there) stall outside every clothing showroom. When we opened a showroom here twelve years ago, we continued this tradition and brought people from there to make and sell pani puri. Now the stall is as famous as the showroom.”
A cluster of people can be seen outside this shop at most times during the week and it is jam-packed during weekends. “Earlier, most of our customers were only North Indians but now we have others coming in too. During weekends, we do not even have time to breathe as the queue never ends. People come with friends and family and patiently wait for their turn,” says 50-year-old Ramesh Parida, who manages the shop along with four others.
Another kiosk that draws crowds is the Calcutta Pan Shop. Located near the foot over bridge, it has remained unchanged since 1972. S. Hari, the shop’s owner, claims the shop has retained all of its customers. “Apart from a variety of pans, we sell local and international cigarette brands and pan masalas. Along with my two sons, I manage the shop, which is open from 9.30 am to past midnight,” he says.
A few meters down the road, opposite the ICICI bank, sits a series of stalls that sell burgers, cane juice, more pani puri, shawarma, momos, and what not.
Rollz and Rice, a petite closure that specializes in Indian and Chinese food opened their second branch in Nungambakam hoping to cater to the fast-moving crowd of the area. “Thanks to intense competition, the business is not as we expected. People have choices and they do not go to the same joint daily,” says Sheikh Shahabbudin, an employee of Rollz and Rice. There is choice, clearly, and food lovers lobe it.
The residents have nothing to complain, except for the increase in traffic as a result of these eateries. Pradeep Bothra, who lives on Nungambakkam High Road, says, “Lack of parking arrangements means often cars are parked in front of our gates ane we are barred from entering our own houses.”