Understanding Bangalore’s legendary love affair with Dosa

Dosa, dohsa, dosai – in Bangalore, there are many ways to address the south Indian equivalent of ambrosia-but-for-mortals. This piping hot circle of perfectly fried fermented batter that’s equal parts crispy and soft, sometimes offering itself as a warm home for potato palya, while other times performing as a solo artist, has had a certain hold on Bangaloreans, old and new. There is hardly a Bangalorean who doesn’t have a favourite dosa and a favourite dosa joint. In fact, friends have fought friends over which place serves the better dosa!

This brings us to the question – what’s the scene with Bangalore and dosa? And where can one find the best dosa in the city?

Bangalore dosa
Patiently waiting for chutney. Image credits: Nicolas Mirguet

The answer to the first question lies in Bangalore’s decades-long affair with darshinis. A darshini is south India’s take on the American-born-and-bred QSRs (quick service restaurants) like McDonald’s and KFC.

It’s all about factory-precision doling out of hot and fresh vegetarian food items at a darshini. Nonchalant in its customer service, the pay-first-eat-later model was established in 1983 by R. Prabhakar, who began Café Darshini in Yelahanka and has since mentored hundreds of darshini owners across Bangalore. The darshini culture is as important to Bangalore as its pub culture. In fact, darshinis are synonymous with Bangalore’s food culture as they are accessible to people from all walks of life. From the CEO to the daily wage worker to the I’m-saving-up-for-valentines-day college student, everyone can feel at home in a darshini, as long as they’re okay with bidding adieu to privacy and seating.

A regular sight at Brahmin’s Coffee Bar. Image credits: The National News

And while Bangalore’s fondness for dosa precedes darshinis, these humble hotels with their simple menu, affordable prices, quick service and city-wide presence certainly helped seal the deal.

As for the dosas themselves, the age-long battle of which state serves the better south Indian breakfast pancake – Karnataka or Tamil Nadu – may have made Bangaloreans something akin to dosa aficionados. For we can only defend what we’ve experienced. We treat dosa with the same reverence that many reserve for fine wine. And why not! Endless varieties exist and demand to be tasted – masala dosa, Mysore masala, paper dosa, ghee dosa, benne dosa, onion dosa, rava dosa, set dosa, neer dosa, podi dosa – the list goes on. And in the 2010s, entered the 99 Variety Dosa stands – and Bangalore kinda lost its marbles!

Bangalore dosa
Plain dosa may be humble, but it commands a special place in the hearts of those who enjoy its simplicity. Image credits: Avinash Bhat

Every weekend sees a long string of bikers clad in protection armour, crossing city and state borders to hit up another breakfast joint and find their new favourite idli-vada-dosa spot. Within the city, people traverse many kilometres – not a small feat considering Bangalore’s traffic – to authenticate the rave reviews they’ve heard about a dosa joint. There’s no separating a Bangalorean from their dosa. But where are these dosa joints?

Macha, they’re all around you!

Bangalore Dosa
It’s always a busy day at Vidyarthi Bhavan. Image credits: Nicolas Mirguet

VV Puram’s dosa bae is the iconic Vidyarthi Bhavan, while Malleshwaram swears by CTR. Cantonment Bangalore’s Race Course Road has Chalukya Hotel doling out masales and bennes daily, while the original MTR in Lalbagh has south Bangaloreans nostalgic for the yesteryears. R.K Dosa Camp in Wilson Garden is known for its massive family dosas, while Basavanagudi’s Hotel Dwarka will put masales across the city to shame with their famous khali dose. Shiv Sagars, Udupi Upahars and Sukh Sagars feature in every locality, while the many roadside carts add to Bangalore’s street food culture. And how can we forget the new kid on the block, Rameshwaram Café, who’s taken the city by storm, so much so that long queues are a regular feature here, no matter the day or time!

The 4-feet long family dosa at R.K Dosa Camp. Image credits: The Style World

A good dosa is a sure way into a Bangalorean’s heart. No wonder then that many young couples head to Airlines for breakfast dates. And while we can argue over Karnataka sambhar versus Tamil Nadu sambhar some other time, make sure to follow up your favourite dosa, wherever you may eat it, with a glass of frothy filter kaapi.

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