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By now, I’ve visited sufficient Tamil & different South Indian eating places within the San Francisco Bay Space to have some favorites (and not-so-favorites). Listed here are my favorites, “honorable mentions”, footnotes, and disclaimers. Get pleasure from!
Most of those prime eating places are within the South Bay space (Moutain View / Sunnyvale / Milpitas) until in any other case specified.
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- Annachikadai (அண்ணாச்சிக்கடை) – I feel this isn’t solely the most effective Tamil restaurant within the Bay Space, however I’m going to name it and say it’s the most effective within the US. Finest within the US & Canada, ha! While you as much as the entrance door, you’re greeted first by the scent of a kitchen or restaurant in Tamil Nadu. The authenticity is clear within the meals (high quality and style), intention (provide genuine menu objects past the overplayed normal Tamil restaurant fare), and atmosphere (modest digs, and servers racing to deal with buyer calls for). The restaurant solely opened 3 months in the past, and it was a tender launch (no bulletins or promoting in any respect), and even 1.5 months afterwards — when I discovered it — the place is at all times packed. It was onerous to discover a desk throughout off-hours (4pm within the afternoon) on a Saturday. They provide veg & non-veg meals, and have an infinite saapppaadu possibility for $13/$14. Each merchandise on the menu is completed nicely, with out being too spicy or too greasy. Ex: they make paniyaaram (குழிப் பனியாரம்) and achieve this good with out making it greasy / overly oily. They mirror their Southern Tamil Nadu background by providing objects saalnaa (சால்னா), however YMMV. The one factor I would like out of this place is to have it greater — greater menu, extra seating, extra servers, extra conventional grains (சிறுதானியம்) extra deserved acclaim.
- Madras Cafe – This place is the go-to Tamil restaurant within the Bay Space. It’s in all probability the place everybody else would let you know to go first. It’s so busy that their counter-serve model is extra like a necessity to get the turnover to maintain up with the crowds. And the crowds throughout regular meals crowd the little foyer space and spill outdoors the entrance door like a TN bus. The chutneys are all top-notch — they’re the one place that makes couriander/cilantro chutney nicely sufficient to make me neglect that I don’t naturally just like the style of couriander. They make the most effective vadai I’ve had outdoors of Tamil Nadu, by far. All of their meals is vegetarian, however they excel in idli (இட்லி), thosai (தோசை) and vadai (வடை) much less so on pongal (வெண் பொங்கல் / kothu parotta (கொத்து பரோட்டா) They open at 8:30am. For the longest time, this place has been my favourite, and continues to be fairly shut in high quality. Solely within the final yr have I seen some slight drop in sambar (சாம்பார்) high quality (extra watery/oily than I keep in mind) and consuming an onion oothappam (வெங்காயம் ஊத்தப்பம்) made my abdomen not really feel so good afterwards. Costs was the bottom right here, however they solely just lately went up ever so barely. I nonetheless extremely advocate, however in case you go throughout regular hours and dislike ready in strains as a lot as I do, there are different choices that you could find.
- Madurai Fashionable Cafe – I feel this place is new, maybe opened up to now few months, too. From the identify, it appears to be emulating Madras Cafe, and since it’s newer and never in a typical business space, the costs are decrease, the wait is far shorter, however the meals is simply pretty much as good. They’re additionally open 7 days every week, together with Mondays. It’s run by a husband-wife couple with the youngsters hanging round within the evenings, and in case you’re a keen participant, the infant’s mischief is entertaining. All of their meals is strong, though maybe the kuruma is a bit bit oily. Nothing is unhealthy. Additionally notice that they don’t serve parotta, in case you see it on a menu or within the photos within the storefront window.
- Tirupathi Bhimas – This can be a good go-to place. They actually deal with this restaurant like a transplant of a typical restaurant (aka “hotel”) in Tamil Nadu. No frills, loads of seating with quick service and quick turnaround. It’s all in regards to the meals right here. The whole lot is vegetarian and good. The saappaadu meal (சோறு சாப்பாடு aka “thali”) is $10 however not limitless, not like the $13-16 limitless choices elsewhere, however you’ll in all probability be full in case you clear your plate right here. One factor that they do right here higher than most is their thayir vadai (தயிர் வடை – vadai dipped in yogurt) as a result of they put additional stuff within the thayir to make it fascinating, like ginger (இஞ்சி). By comparability, Madras Cafe’s vadai would have the ginger within the vadai, and different locations don’t try ginger in vadai or yogurt, in all probability as a result of it’s onerous to drag off.
- Amaravathi – it is a Telugu (Andhra/Telangana) restaurant, and I discovered it as a result of it’s near Madras Cafe, with related menu objects, a not-too-high degree of chili spice, and has loads of seating each time I am going there. The entire meals is vegetarian. The thosai, idli, sambar, pongal, chutneys, and so on. must be just about the identical because the Tamil model (besides their idli, which isn’t as tender, however oh nicely). The reason being that one in every of their cooks is from Tamil Nadu. Solely their kuruma and parotta are markedly completely different than the Tamil model (and so-so for me). Getting the limitless rice meal (“thali”) is manner an excessive amount of meals to complete even earlier than refills, until you intend to go there after a loopy 30 mile bike journey or intense weight lifting. Their costs are pretty low, and when it comes to worth, it’s in all probability the most effective. You get very full off $10 of meals. Up till now, breakfast was difficult as a result of all objects begin round $5.50-6, so how do you not overeat? Final weekend, I seen that they just lately launched an $8 all you’ll be able to eat breakfast buffet – idli, vadai, pongal, sambar, chutneys (coconut, tomato, peanut, ginger), made-to-order plain thosai, and kesari (கேசரி) candy. That’s the candy spot lacking in breakfast — I could make my very own “combo” order in ways in which the menu wouldn’t simply permit w/o over-ordering, so this is likely to be the brand new go-to for breakfast. They shut on Tuesdays as a substitute of Mondays, and solely open for breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays.
- Didigul Thalaipakatti – That is the most recent in style Tamil Nadu restaurant chain to open a department within the Bay Space. Like the opposite chains, they appear to go for the “Chettinadu” model of meals – a lot of non-veg choices, and spicier than common for Tamil Nadu. The meals right here is spicier than the opposite Tamil eating places above in my record, however not as spicy as a typical Telugu restaurant (wherein class I put Mangoes in addition to the current choices from the native Ananda Bhavan and Saravana Bhavan branches). This place makes a speciality of biriyani (பிரியாணி), which they do nicely, they usually additionally do kothu parotta very well. Their vegetarian choices are good however restricted in seletion. For a modestly priced Tamil restaurant, the decor is absolutely fashionable and the loos are comparatively clear, particularly in comparison with most different comparable eating places. This place can get busy, and is open 7 days every week.
- RASA – The chef who created the menu for the SF stylish thosai-themed restaurant known as Dosa — left Dosa in SF to begin his personal swanky restaurant in Burlingame. The menu is analogous when it comes to “fusion thosai” and different Tamil fusion objects, the situation is compact and super-clean. The entire meals is of top quality. The restaurant earned 1 star from the Michelin information, so you’ll be able to think about that it’s on the marginally costly aspect. When you like a fine-dining expertise, fascinating mixtures like truffle oil thosai, and/or reliably clear, well-maintained loos, there’s no competitors right here.
- Bezawada – This Telugu restaurant, when it comes to meals, is definitely fairly superb. Which explains why they’ve 3 areas already. The fish was superb. My preliminary draw right here is their limitless thali, which is absolutely just like a Tamil Nadu soru saappaadu thali meal when it comes to style. It’s $16 and it’s manner an excessive amount of meals. But it surely’s good whenever you include a gaggle as a result of they only depart the buckets of sambar and rasam in your desk. (The buckets are smaller and cleaner than what you get in a modest restaurant or big day meal line (பந்தி) in Tamil Nadu.) The spice degree is elevated in comparison with Tamil Nadu, as is to be anticipated. My Yelp-level nit-picky gripe is that the service was bafflingly negligent or unusual. Solely the invention of Annachikadai’s model of limitless rice meals supplanted the spot that Bezawada had for me within the record of prime locations.
- Arusuvai – (Be aware: not associated to the Arusuvai eating places on the East Coast, apparently, fwiw) That is an impartial (non-franchise) restaurant becoming into the class of Chettinadu-style non-veg & veg. I actually preferred this place when it opened just a few months in the past, and the non-veg continues to be pretty good, however some components of veg meals have develop into suspect. I nonetheless just like the place, and I ought to in all probability depart them a notice on Yelp in order that they step up their degree of high quality again to what it was.
- the vegetable dosai at Vik’s Chaat Cafe – in case you’re nearer to Berkeley than any of the opposite locations, and also you want idli / thosai and never a lot else, then go right here. In any other case, you’ll discover easy meals with a North Indian flare, as “chaat” implies. The one factor that this place does nicely is that the greens that they put into the vegetable thosai are cooked like a Tamil Nadu-style “poriyal” (பொரியல்) satuee earlier than being put inside, and there are not any starchy potatoes, and so on. used as filler.
- I don’t perceive all of the 4/5 critiques on Yelp for the nice Tamil eating places, however half of them sound like they don’t know what to anticipate (like they’ve by no means eaten in Tamil Nadu earlier than) or they’re simply overly fussy. Who’s extra explicit about meals than SF hipsters writing Yelp critiques? Nearly any South Indian grownup I’ve met who talks about South Indian meals. Besides they’re focus is all in regards to the meals, not about BS demerits for atmosphere and repair.
- Many eating places are closed on Mondays
- Many eating places shut between lunch and dinner hours. Many eating places aren’t open for breakfast.
- I not get pleasure from attempting to eat the spiciest meals attainable. My degree of spice tolerance is maybe common for Tamil Nadu, and positively low by Telugu / Tamil Eelam / Korean requirements.
- There isn’t a lot of a eating-out tradition in India — which may be a mirrored image of economics — however both manner, there at the moment isn’t a tradition round customer support, not to mention hygiene, not to mention rest room cleanliness. I want all of those eating places emphasised that extra
- I prefer it when eating places within the Bay Space put a sink for laundry arms outdoors of the toilet. It makes it simpler for individuals who eat with their arms, and that is normal in properties and plenty of public consuming locations that I’ve seen in Tamil Nadu.