We continue with our reader-driven series on must-sample restaurants and eating places in India. Foodie Vivek V tells you where to eat when you are cruising down the Bangalore-Mysore highway.
What comes to mind when you see a restaurant in rural Karnataka with tiled roofs, 30-watt electric bulbs hanging over your head, a box radio playing folk songs, cows being milked at a distance, young men in dhotis and Gandhi caps serving hungry travellers everything from tasty akki rotis to raagi dosas with coconut chutney?
R K Narayan's Malgudi Days? Absolutely! And the closest you can get to a fictitious Malgudi-style restaurant is Kamat Lokaruchi, 70 kilometres from Bangalore, on the Bangalore-Mysore highway.
The restaurant is open for breakfast right up to dinner. The cuisine is pure vegetarian, Karnataka style.
For breakfast or a tiffin, the restaurant serves not-so-common akki roti, malanad kadubu (pyramid-shaped idlis wrapped in coconut leaf), raagi dosa, avalakki (beaten rice) bath, and maddur vada along with the common upma, dosas, puri, vada and almost everything you find in a typical south Indian restaurant.
Wash it down with filter coffee, tea or the superb kashaya (hot milk boiled with spices like cardamom, black pepper, dried ginger, and jaggery). There's also fresh sugarcane juice. The cost? Breakfast for two shouldn't cost you more than Rs 140.
Lunch and dinner
This menu boasts an amazing variety of Karnataka cuisine. The North Karnataka meal has hot jowar roti and yangai (curry made from egg plant). The raagi mudde (raagi ball) meal, a favourite of the farming community in the districts of Tumkur, Mandya and Hassan, is also worth trying.
Try the raagi mudde oota (meals) for two reasons. Firstly, rarely do vegetarian restaurants have raagi mudde on their menu. Secondly, it is adventurous to eat raagi balls as you have to perfect the art of swallowing them without having them stick to your teeth! A typical south Indian meal with chappati, puri and rice is also available for the less adventurous.
Lunch per person can cost anywhere between Rs 50 and Rs 100.
The service is relatively fast, so you don't spend precious travel time waiting. And, interestingly, wooden and clay handicrafts are on sale both inside and outside the restaurant. Feel free to bargain.
How to get there
The restaurant is not more than an hour's drive from Bangalore. Huge hoardings after the town of Ramanagara clearly announce its presence, making it difficult for you to miss it. The area is known as Janapada Loka.
So, the next time you drive along the Bangalore-Mysore highway, try Kamat Lokaruchi. You may fall in love with it, the way I have!
Vivek V is a software engineer and lives in Bangalore.
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