With years the city has evolved into experimenting with different cuisines from around the world. In 2014, Nat Geo ranked Chennai second on the Top Food Cities in the world. We have decided to compile a list of some of our most favourite eateries, which are also considered iconic. But this is in no way an exhaustive list, so don’t come after us if we didn’t end up including your favourite restaurant.
From Biryanis To Seafood, Have You Checked Out The Most Iconic Restaurants Of Chennai
Saravana Bhavan started with a stand-alone store in 1981 in Chennai. Ever since then, there has been no looking back. It is now one of the largest vegetarian restaurant chains in the world. When people think South Indian, they think Saravana. Their ghee roast dosas and meals are to die for! Many other South Indian chains might have come up in Chennai later but this was truly the restaurant chain that put the South Indian cuisine on the world map.
Price For Two - INR 500
Buhari has been around for more than half a century. Started in 1951, it is a pioneer in the non-vegetarian world, with many feathers in its cap. Apart from serving fragrant biryani, it gave India what buffalo wings are to America, the Chicken 65. It was even featured in the National Geographic for this iconic dish. Although the Mount Road Buhari is the most famous, newer restaurants like the ones in Chetpet and Egmore have better ambience. While Chicken 65 still remains the most favourite dish of the restaurant, you can always try out so much more.
Price For Two - INR 800
Started in 1948 in Triplicane, one of the oldest parts of the city, Ratna Cafe has gone on to become one of the most renowned south Indian joints of Chennai. Although it serves some great kothu parottas and filter coffee, loyalists go gaga over the joint’s idli and sambar combination. The cafe is also known for the generous quantities of sambar it serves with hot and soft idlis. Although Ratna cafe has spread its wings to different parts of Chennai like Kilpauk and Velachery, the flagship location, Triplicane, will always be our favourite.
Price For Two - INR 400
If you are looking for a fancy South Indian dining experience, then look no further than Southern Spice at The Taj Coromandel in Nungambakkam. The restaurant does everything from the Kerala Kareemeen Polichadhu (pearl spot and shallots wrapped in banana leaf and grilled) to Kori Ghee Roast, a Bunt community speciality spicy chicken dish doused in loads of ghee. Southern Spice’s lunch thalis are a must try, especially their Light Meals (vegetarian, meat and fish options available). They serve alcohol as well!
Price For Two - INR 3000
One of the most celebrated non-vegetarian joints in Chennai, Nair Mess in Triplicane has created a name for itself in Chennai’s foodscape. Known for its thalis and seafood, it is popular amongst locals and travellers. The food here is so good that when the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, MG Ramachandran was in power, he used to visit this joint often. Their most popular dish is the Vanjaram fish fry. The mess has a very humble ambience and gives us old Madras vibes. You can have a meal for just INR 100. We recommend you to have the Nair meals, which comprises of a combination of various seafood and mutton dishes. To know more about iconic messes in the city, click here.
Price For Two - INR 200
Although located in Mahabalipuram which is a few kilometres off Chennai, Moonrakers on ECR has won the heart of Chennaiites. It serves the fresh fish catch of the day due to its close proximity to the sea. Although it is a bit low on ambience, it has got Chennaiites driving down to Mahabalipuram just for one seafood filled meal, all the way. The prices are quite competitive, and the quality is great. You have to try their mixed grilled calamari and prawn curry!
Price For Two - INR 700
Serving Pan-Asian, with a focus on Thai food, Benjarong has been around for quite a while now. The decor of the place, although simple, is pretty authentically Thai. Although it is a bit heavy on the pocket, it is still surely one of the best places to go for Thai food in Chennai. Their speciality dishes are the Goong Tod Samunpai (crispy fried prawns tossed with tamarind sauce) and Gai Hor Baitey (succulent morsels of chicken wrapped in pandanus leaves) and are totally recommended to try out.
Price For Two - INR 2000
Dindugal Thalappakkatti has gone on to become one of Chennai’s most favourite biryani joints over the years. Started in 1956 in Dindugal, Thalappakkati, the biryani spot, now operates over 40 outlets spread across Tamil Nadu and even in countries like France and UAE. It operates in most of the popular areas of Chennai like Besant Nagar, Nungambakkam and more, and is one of the biggest trendsetters amongst biryani outlets due to its legacy. The mutton biryani is Thalappakkatti’s most celebrated dish but we love their mutton pepper fry and chicken curry. To know more about the best biryanis in town, click here.
Price For Two - INR 900
Sangeetha Restaurant has become one of the first places people go to for South-Indian food. From their piping hot sambar to crunchy appalam, what's not to love at this iconic eatery? Oh, and the filter kaapi is divine, so tuck into the best Chennai food here.
Price For Two - INR 500
Murugan Idli Shop
Started almost half a century ago as a coffee and tiffin centre, Murugan Idli Shop has come a long way from that. As the name suggests, it specialises in Idlis and may we say, one of the best in town. It might have started in Madhurai but Chennaites love it equally. We recommend you to try their podi idlis and podi dosa. The best idea for a breakfast is to down your tiffin with the sip of their steaming cup of filter coffee.
Price For Two - INR 200
Anandam - Hotel Maris
Opened as a quaint corner in the 80s serving morning tiffins, Anandam in Hotel Maris has come a long way from that. Open from breakfast till dinner, the perfect way to start your day would be with their medhu vadas dunked in hot sambar and down it with a cup of coffee. Or if you are planning lunch, don't even think twice and just go for their meals. Along with unlimited rice, they give puris and rotis as well which are limited though along with different vegetarian dishes. Best yet, their appalam is equal to the size of your plate!
Price For Two - INR 400
With their menu featuring all-you-can-eat options along with desserts, Mathsya is there to serve you Udupi food and has been a favourite among the locals for years. They have one of city's best breakfast serves. Go for their traditional masala dosa or rasam vada. They even have an unlimited thali option! If you are feeling adventurous, then we recommend you to try their Rocket Masala Dosai which is 4 feet long! If you are searching for some toasts for kids, their chilli cheese toast is a must-try.
Price for two - INR 800
Take a ride back into the past with authentic southern flavours from Thambi Vilas. Started in 1964, this has gone on to become one of our favourites when it comes to Madras dum biryani and non-veg meals. They are known for their usage of fresh ingredients from local farm vendors. Be it Kothu parottas, podi idlis or mutton and chicken roast, it will keep your satisfaction level up. End your meal with a sweet paan covered with chocolate!
Price For Two - INR 600
Being over 70 years old, Vrindavan Restaurant at New Woodlands in Mylapore takes you back in time to the early 90s with their flavoursome sambhar and interiors. They may be strictly vegetarian but their idlis, puffed up pooris and Kerela style parottas along with their sambhar and rasam will do magic in your mouth. We totally recommend you to try out their poori masala paired up with a cup of coffee.
Price Of Two - INR 500
Seena Bhai 1977 Dosa Centre
What started of as a pushcart selling idlies and oothapams is now a household name! Seena Bhai 1977 Dosa Centre offers all kinds of yummy sandwiches and shakes along with dosas now. They even have kathi rolls and pizzas, but their podi idly and oothappams with onion-mint chutney still makes people drool. You can find it on N.S.C Bose Road and Kellys.
Price for two - INR 200
Adyar Ananda Bhavan
One of the oldest chain of sweets and snacks joints in Chennai, Adyar Ananda Bhavan needs no introduction. Medhu vada, curd vada, rava kesari, ghee pongal - you can find the ultimate South Indian comfort food here.
Price for two - INR 550.
The National Lodge
Located in George Town, this vegetarian kitchen has been serving drool-worthy Andhra meals for years now. While the place looks like a run of the mill mess, the flavours are simply on point. You can also order in on a Sunday and have a hearty meal in the comforts of your home.
Price for two - INR 300
Located on Purusawakkam High Road, this restaurant is most popular for its no-fuss sambhar and Pongal. The decor is far from fancy, but the food will have you coming back for more. Their desi Chinese is good too (if you don't mind the bright colours)! Whether you're in Purusawakkam for some shopping or are simply looking to have a good old South Indian meal, head to Welcome hotel. You won't be disappointed.
Price for two - INR 200.
Rayar's Mess has been around since the pre-independence era and has seen a lot of famous footfalls over the years. Although serving only a limited vegetarian menu, they serve one of the best South Indian breakfasts in the city! A plate of idli or dosa would cost you hardly INR 40, and we swear by their delicious Pongal, which comes at a mere INR 50. Wash it all down with a tumbler of filter coffee for just INR 30!
Price for two: INR 100
Mylai Karpagambal Mess
Another iconic mess, Mylai Karpagambal Mess has been around since 1953 and is close to the famous Kapaleeshwarar Temple! Dotted with a few steel chairs and tables and walls are adorned with Hindu gods and goddesses, this place is perfect for quick service and big breakfasts. Podi dosai, kheera vadai and filter kaapi are their hot sellers.Price for two: INR 200
If you’ve lived in Chennai long enough, you’ve been to Eden. The restaurant has retained its status as the ultimate destination for family outings, friends’ gatherings or a simple, quiet meal even as fancier, newer places bloom in the city. Whether it’s their baked Italian dishes or tandoori delights, Eden continues to keep its loyalists lured. Paneer dishes, Garden Style Vegetable Bake, Lasagne and Au gratin are its specialities.
Price for two: INR 850
Be it unlimited South Indian meals, tandoori roti sabzi or hot-selling appetisers like spring rolls and spicy corn masala, Mathura has its fan base only increasing every day. One visit to the restaurant and you will feel like you're back to the '90s. The vintage wooden decor, only paintings and run-of-the-mill vibe of the place serve as a reminder that some things are best left unchanged.
Price for two: INR 500
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