Everyone is always talking about cool things to do in places. Going off the beaten path, finding that unique thing that no one has done before, that scintillating experience that the general tourist can’t lay their hands on. While I agree with all of this and more, some places still have me revisiting the tried and tested because a. it is still fun b. pretty awesome and c. clearly ‘timeless’. So I’m giving you the list of clichéd things that you can do (ok eat!) in Mysore (that pretty much the rest of the world does) but still have an amazing time! We’ll save the offbeat experiences for another post. Ready? Set. Go.
Stop for Thatte Idli in Bidadi
Shree Shivasagar Bidadi Bisi Thatte Idly Hotel, Bidadi
This is not in Mysore, but on the way to Mysore and essential to the roadtrip experience. Located at a distance of 35 kms or 1 hr from Bangalore, Bidadi is an ideal stop to get your breakfast fix. And Bidadi is famous for their Thatte Idli’s. Thatte means plate in Kannada and that’s exactly how large the idli’s are. Soft, fluffly and the size of a quarter plate, these idli’s are served with a lovely thin coconut chutney and piping hot sambhar. Some hotels on the stretch serve the idli’s with a vegetable sagoo but I prefer the Udupi style sambhar combination anyday. You immediately know you are in thatte idli vicinity when you start seeing a pile up of cars on the roadside next to small eateries advertising in big bold signages that they serve the local specialty. My personal favourite (and looks like the crowds agree) is Shree Shivasagar. Most of the other eateries are not even darshinis, let alone proper restaurants, but that should not deter you from sampling their wares. You can’t really fault a filling plate of two thatte idli’s, vada, sambhar and a piping hot cup of coffee for under 80 bucks, can you?
Paya Soup for breakfast?!
Vaishali Hotel, Channapatna.
If you are up for adventurous food early in the morning, then Vaishali Hotel close to Channapatna, is your best bet. The food at Vaishali is authentic Kannadiga-Gowdru cuisine and you will be hard pressed to find this anywhere other than Military hotels in South East Karnataka. The menu still lists idli, vada and khara bath but we all know what the specialties are – Paya Soup, Kheema Gojju and Kurmas. I’m also partial to the Akki Roti and the Ragi Roti here, but it would be wise to check the availability before you start salivating over them. Egg and Kheema Dosas are all the rage in the evening, so consider stopping by for a luxurious treat with your coffee. The space is large and airy and the old courtyard style restaurant offers a lovely space to park and stretch your legs.
Lunch in a ballroom and a horse-drawn carriage
Lalith Mahal Palace, Lalith Mahal Nagar, Mysore.
OK, lets get the facts straight. I’m clearly not suggesting this place for their mediocre lunch buffet. But eating lunch there is a fantastic way to spend some time exploring the palace grounds and a good way to redeem the 500 INR charge that you pay at the gate to enter the premise. Fashioned on the lines of the St.Paul’s Cathedral in London, this gorgeous structure is situated on the foothills of the Chamundi Betta. The Grand Ballroom now converted to the dining hall is decked in baby blue, white and gold. Fill up your plate, sit in the regal space and admire the walls and ceilings. Then get a cup of coffee or tea and relax in the mini garden adjacent to the dining hall. There’s also a horse drawn carriage that allows you to go on a mini ride around the palace gardens. No better way to feel truly royal, at least for one afternoon!
Beer, classical music and swapping stories
Parklane Hotel, Devraj Urs Road, Mysore
You can’t miss Parklane on Devraj Urs road even if you tried. A popular watering hole close to the Mysore Palace, this restaurant, beer garden and hotel has been on my love list for many years. The décor is jungle-rustic-kitchsy-confused, but the vibe is always warm and entertaining. The fun starts the moment you enter the place. A photo booth set up with traditional petas (hats), malas (garlands) and vests that you can dress up in and click cheesy pictures. The restaurant and beer garden on the 1st floor offers a relaxed setting to enjoy no-frills old-school pub grub (think Chilli Chicken, French fries, Masala papad) along with pitchers of chilled beer. The food is passable but honestly, it’s a fantastic place for travelers to catch up and share stories. To bait the unsuspecting international tourist (and myself) there is also a performance of live classical music every evening.
Bisi bisi Dosa and what’s the deal with not serving anything else?!
Mylari Hotel, Nazarbad Main Road, Mysore.
It’s a one way road and the legendary Mylari Hotel (hole-in-the-wall, smaller than a darshini, like seriously how small is this place?) is on the right side of the road. But every time I go to Mysore, it’s obligatory that I pay my obeisance to this place. Even if it means waiting in a serpentine line to get a seat, or holding out my banana leaf adorned plate while the waiter casually throws a hot dosa on it. You don’t even have the luxury of a table to yourself and they don’t serve anything other than their trademark dosas – but it’s still worth all the effort. The buttery, crispy on the outside, melting on the inside dosa is served with an onion sago (not the typical potato palya common in the south) and a fantastic coconut chutney that you can get multiple helpings of. If you finish your dosa and want another one, just raise your hand. The waitstaff will arrive with a tray of piping hot dosas and start distributing them. Vacate your seat for the next hungry diner and stand to finish your meal with a hot coffee. No one said getting a good dosa was easy business 😛
To the source of the Mysore Pak
Guru Sweet Mart, Devaraja Market, Sayyaji Rao Road junction, Mysore.
I love myself a place steeped in history. In this case it is also a place steeped in Ghee and Sugar – Guru Sweet Mart. Located at Devaraja Market at the junction of Sayyaji Rao Road, this 100 sqft. shop is your mecca for Mysore Pak as it was made in the kitchens of the Wodeyar of Mysore. A family run business, the current owners have kept true to the original recipe created by their grand uncle for the king. The place needs no advertising and you will probably be hard pressed to find it, if it wasn’t for the long queues outside the shop. They make a variety of sweet and savory items, but it will always be the Special Mysore Pak that people line up for. The ghee soaked besan flour sweet is quickly packaged in foil bags, boxed and billed all under 5 mins to cater to the pressing crowds. I suggest you just get your fix right there and ask for 100 gms of the sweet (anymore and you might induce a heart attack). It comes meltingly soft and ghee soaked on a piece of newspaper and there is great joy in devouring it standing on the street!
Going seafood crazy in the hinterland
Poojari’s Fishland, SH17, Mysore.
You will see the bright orange board on your right 15 km before you enter the city of Mysore on SH17. I generally save the indulgence for my return journey to Bangalore, strategically timing it to coincide with lunch. The restaurant which serves Mangalore style food, is open from 11 AM to 11 PM but be warned that the day’s specials like Kane (Lady Fish) and Whole Pomfret run out soon. The earlier restaurant was conceptualized to be a Dhaba, but has now expanded to cater to the masses that descend on it on the way to Mysore, Coorg or Mangalore. Ask the waiters for the catch of the day and then proceed to tell them how you would like it cooked – Tawa Fry, Rawa Fry, Masala Fry or Ghee Roast. My favourties include the Kane Rawa Fry, Whole Pomfret Tawa Fry and the Sole Masala fry. They serve Neer Dosas and curries (fish, chicken and prawn) but I rate the Chicken Gassi and Kori Rotti higher than the rest. Most prawn dishes are mediocre here, except for the tandoori prawns (even though the size could use a boost). Everything is spicy, so ask for a fresh lime soda or a chilled beer to keep you hydrated. The atmosphere is lively – almost like eating at a crazy Indian wedding, so be prepared to wait for a table and enjoy the boisterous crowds.
So here’s my saucy seven for 2017. Happy New Year folks!