Food

Junior Kuppana has launched its first 24-hour drive-in restaurant in Chennai

 A family having dinner seated in their car at Junior Kuppanna drive-in restaurant

A family having dinner seated in their car at Junior Kuppanna drive-in restaurant | Photo Credit: VELANKANNI RAJ

At 11.45 pm, most restaurants normally shut shop and begin scrubbing the kitchen clean. But it is a different scenario at the newly launched Junior Kuppanna at Urban Square, a newly created retailing space underneath Kathipara Flyover in Alandur. Here at this late hour, proprietor K. Murthy and his wife Vidya Murthy are in the kitchen, checking every batch of idly, dosa and parotta being prepared and overseeing their team as it shuttles between kitchen and the dining area simultaneously with menu cards and food. 

K. Murthy proprietor of Junior Kuppanna making parotta attheir newly launched 24-hour drive-in restaurant at thUrban Square in Kathipara.

K. Murthy proprietor of Junior Kuppanna making parotta attheir newly launched 24-hour drive-in restaurant at thUrban Square in Kathipara. | Photo Credit: VELANKANNI RAJ

The place is so busy that it takes us 30 minutes to get a seat. We are handed the special midnight menu (12 a.m. to 5 a.m.).

“We are known for our seeraga samba biryani, but we have consciously modified the midnight menu. We will of course we will be serving freshly made piping hot Kuppanna biriyani round the clock apart from items mentioned in the menu,” chuckles Murthy, the son of Kuppanna, who made the shift from accountant to restaurateur with the Kuppanan Hotel in Erode in 1960, 60 years ago.

Kuppanna’s wife K. Rukmini, who was a passionate cook, played a significant role in his venture. “It was her recipes and masalas that turned out to be a crowd-puller. Since then, the women of our household have played an important role in ensuring the quality and taste are not compromised,” says Murthy. 

 A view of the Junior Kuppanna 24-hour drive-in  at Urban Square, underneath the Kathipara flyover

A view of the Junior Kuppanna 24-hour drive-in at Urban Square, underneath the Kathipara flyover | Photo Credit: VELANKANNI RAJ

The Kuppanna legacy
In 1960, the Government of Tamil Nadu named the road where the first restaurant stands as Kuppanna Street, in Erode.
In 1983, Kuppanna brought his son Murthy into the business and opened a separate restaurant for his son, which his mother named Junior Kuppanna.
Junior Kuppana has a factory in Erode where spices and masalas are made. This is completely run by the women in the family and employs only women.
Murthy developed Pallipalayam chicken recipe from a local rooster fight tradition in Erode, where the winner gets the rooster of his opponent to cook on the spot, using minimal ingredients and absolutely no oil 

We ordered coin parotta (compact size layered flaky flatbread), veechu parotta (thin, multi-layered big size flatbread) and chicken Chettinad gravy. And then we shift our attention to the Salem mutta dosa — dosa batter is spread into a thick pancake, an egg is broken and gently spread over it, with a sprinkle of salt and cooked on a tawa.

“This is our special item and right from my father’s days, it was made no bigger than seven inches in circumference. Only then will you get the taste and spongy consistency. We also have nice mutta dosa, where the batter is spread thin and bigger,” explains Murthy.  

 The indoor dining area

The indoor dining area | Photo Credit: VELANKANNI RAJ

Though Murthy and his team were initially apprehensive about launching a new branch, that too as a 24-hour restaurant, a look at the location convinced them to go ahead. “It can be accessed from all areas in 25 minutes, has excellent lighting and a well-made outdoor space, most conducive,” says Balachander, director, Junior Kuppanna.

Idiyappam and Aattukaal payaa at Junior Kuppanna

Idiyappam and Aattukaal payaa at Junior Kuppanna | Photo Credit: special arrangement

The IT park in the vicinity, guests travelling to and from the airport, and those returning after pub night and movies are their target diners. “We have a seating capacity of 60 in the dining area, and also we have guests who prefer to sit in the car and eat. For them, we serve the food outdoors on a high stool. For large groups or private parties, we also have a special lawn area,” says Balachandar.

Diners enjoying late night dinner at the outdoor dining at the Junior Kuppanna 24-hour drive-in

Diners enjoying late night dinner at the outdoor dining at the Junior Kuppanna 24-hour drive-in | Photo Credit: VELANKANNI RAJ

We are tempted by piping hot mutton biryani, but we overcame the temptation and order the newly-introduced midnight kuska with egg curry instead. “I had developed this mildly flavoured kuska as a purely vegetarian dish exclusively for night menu, as eating heavily at this hour may not be preferred,” says Murthy. The dish, white in colour with minimal spices, and exudes aroma of ghee and flavours of ginger-garlic and clove — we ended up ordering one more. For  aattukal (lamb trotters) fans, they serve a midnight  aatukaal paya with idiyappam (string hoppers), served from midnight till 7 am.

With staff working in three shifts, the restaurant has five different menus: an 8 am to 11 am breakfast menu, 11 am to 4 pm lunch menu, 4 pm to 7 pm evening menu, a dinner menu and the midnight menu. The restaurant is bustling most of the time. “Chennaiites were used to the drive-in concept when the Woodlands Drive-in was functioning. Now again they seem to be happy to revisit that concept. Moreover, we realised that group of friends and families like to drive out for late night dinner and which is why we have extended the working hours until 1 am at four other of our outlets in the city,” says Balachander. 

At Junior Kuppanna 24-hour drive-in

At Junior Kuppanna 24-hour drive-in | Photo Credit: VELANKANNI RAJ

With flood lights on, traffic on the flyover above, and cheerful families dining with toddlers, we hardly realise it when it turns 1 am “The public seems to be excited by the possibility of fresh food during the wee hours and we will not disappoint them,” says Murthy.

Junior Kuppanna 24-hour Drive-In Restaurant is located at Uptown Urban Square (underneath Kathipara Flyover). Call 7540077749. For online orders, log on to www.kuppanna.com

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2022 12:30:47 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/junior-kuppana-has-launched-its-first-24-hour-drive-in-restaurant-in-chennai/article65710368.ece