Chennai’s tryst with food is no secret. We really do love our local delights, and let’s say it’s a bit of a mess-y affair. Whether its chowing down hot crispy bhajjis out of a window (literally) or licking up delicious peppery rasam with white rice, we love our budget eateries that are small in size and big on flavour. And when you want to eat home-style food without burning a hole in your pocket and get a sense of community dining and quick service, here’s where you can turn to. Chennai’s little eateries are absolutely charming and we truly heart them. Check these iconic messes out (especially in Chennai’s cultural hub of Mylapore), if you haven’t been already!
These Are Some Of Chennai's Iconic Messes. How Many Have You Been To?
Literally a hole in the wall, this iconic tiny mess has just a couple of benches, plastic stools, and tables. The menu is limited but so cheap. You get crispy vadas for INR 10, adai for INR 20 and sweets of the day for INR 15 (we tried the jalebi and it was yum). Wash it all down with a hot, strong tumbler of filter coffee for INR 20 and you’re set.
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Mylai Karpagambal Mess
For quick service and big breakfasts, drop by this Mylapore mess that’s been around since 1953, close to the famous Kapaleeshwarar Temple! It’s a small mess dotted with a few steel chairs and tables and walls are adorned with Hindu gods and goddesses. Slightly more expensive where some dishes hover over INR 100 (but come on guys, that isn’t too bad) we hear that the podi dosai, kheera vadai and filter kaapi are hot sellers.
Mami Tiffen Stall
We fell in love with the steamed rice dumplings with jaggery and coconut filling, the humble kutti kozhukattais (just INR 8 per piece, peeps!) at this place. It started off as a tiffin stall where the owners’ amma was popularly known as maami by the locals and would serve evening snacks but now they even offer brekkie and lunch, where you can feast on spinach rice, beetroot rice, and even rasam saadam. All under INR 50. What we also loved is the friendly, cheerful young staff who were so happy to feed us.
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Can we call this place a mess? Hmm, there are no chairs and you get served out a window! But there’s always a huge crowd of people around this special hole in the wall in Mylapore and such a strong sense of a bhajji-loving community. The crispy vazzhakai bhajjis (plantain fritters) are to die for just make sure to come in by 5.30pm and get it fresh otherwise it can get soggy. And these cost just INR 30 for three! They also serve dosa and idlies for breakfast.
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Tucked away in Triplicane is this popular mess named after poet, writer and activist Subramania Bharati. Expect books and portraits of the revolutionary man at this joint but also lots of food. And it’s pretty healthy too. They don’t use any preservatives and avoid sugar and focus on serving millets and jaggery. Get everything from pongal and sambhar to wheat upma, ragi puttu, coconut milk idiyappam, and podi dosai all under INR 50!
Sambar, rasam, poriyal, appalam, and curd. Or how about adding some delicious paruppu and buttery ghee? If that sounds like your favourite comfort food head on down to this popular mess also in Triplicane. Small tables and stools (around 40) are available and the menu here is fixed. They have a token system in place and you pay in advance. And lunch time it does get pretty crowded so drop by sooner for and don’t let your tummy rumble! Meals cost about INR 70 and curd and ghee come at additional costs at INR 10 and INR 5.
Ah, meat eaters, this one is for you. Get South Indian (not necessarily Kerala food guys, don’t get confused by the name) meaty delicacies at pocket-friendly prices at this popular joint near Chepauk Stadium. And do go a bit early around lunchtime as the place gets packed quickly. Not as worn down as the other places, this has more of a small restaurant vibe but you can get meals served here served with either mutton or fish curry that costs less than INR 100. We hear they also serve prawns but if you want something lighter you can even ask for fluffy omelets!
Did we miss your favourite mess? Let us know in the comments!