HYDERABAD:The demand for Telugu thali meals at an affordable rate has always been high in this city, with students, professionals and even families flocking to the local eateries better known messes. A few decades ago, places like Rajdoot, Abhiruchi and Indu Deluxe messes had made a name for themselves drawing in a large number of customers every day and providing them with flavourful and spicy Telugu food. Though some of these have closed down, they have inspired many others, and today there are large numbers of these messes all over the city operating as the lifeline for many.
The business model of the Telugu messes is simple. They offer good quality meals prices as little at Rs 50 to Rs 120. Typically, a sit-down meal on a shared table will have dal, sambar, rasam, a few of vegetable items, curd and papad along with rice and the quantities are unlimited. A range of chutneys, pickles, and podis are available to enrich the taste, and you can also ask for some ghee to add to the dal. Those serving food inside the mess are quick on their feet, you get an immediate replenishment of any item you desire. While eating, do not be surprised if you find someone standing next to you breathing down your neck, waiting for you to vacate the place so that he can occupy the seat and have his lunch. The meals are usually vegetarian, in most places few non-vegetarian items mostly chicken and mutton, are available to be ordered on a-la-carte basis. Most of the messes follow a coupon system, where you have to prepay for your meals. It is a tough business which works on high volumes and thin margins, every year many places close down while new places try their luck.
Each area in the city has its favourite mess bustling with activity, but there are some which have a reputation all across the city. Kakatiya Deluxe Mess at Ameerpet possibly has the largest number of fans. Operating from 1992, the mess serves really tasty food, and you can see a steady stream of customers trooping in for their meals. Though Kakatiya meals use a fair amount of chillies, I have never found the heat overwhelming the other spices in the taste. Each is traditional and delicious. The pickles and podis kept on the table are special attractions for any customer. According to Rakesh Uppalapati ofKakatiya Mess, the establishment works hard to source good ingredients so that they can provide a quality experience to countless students, workers and office-goers who rely on them for good food. They have also renovated the place to make it air-conditioned. A meal here costs Rs 120, while a nicely packed take-away meal is Rs 130. They always have some non-vegetarian a-la-carte dishes like Natu Kodi Curry, Mutton Fry or Prawns Fry as add-ons to the meal.
Harsha Mess in Ameerpet, Indu Deluxe in Lakdi-Ka-Pool, Sairam Mess in Begumpet and Abhiruchi in Madhapur are some more popular Telugu messes where you can relish some really good local meals in Hyderabad.
Sabyasachi is a food enthusiast and blogs at www.foodaholix.in