Big Eateries That Started Small

Some of the biggest names in South Indian cuisine in Chennai began as hole-in-the-wall eateries that were started by families hoping to make ends meet.

Published: 01st March 2016 04:45 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st March 2016 04:45 AM   |  A+A-


CHENNAI: Decades ago, a small family opened a restaurant somewhere for the purpose of making a living and also for their passion to cook good food. Over the years, due to the efforts of the family members across generations, what was once a hole-in-the-wall eatery becomes a brand that eventually becomes a household name all across Tamil Nadu. The names are synonymous with quality, consistency, uniqueness in taste and of course, cleanliness. We’re talking about Dindigul Thalappakatti, Madurai Saradha Mess, Junior Kupanna (Erode), Murugan Idli Shop (Madurai) and Madurai Kumar Mess, among others.

The sweet pongal at Murugan Idli, the nattu koli chops at Kumar Mess or the veechu parotta at Junior Kuppanna and the biryani from Thalapakkatti…mouth-watering dishes take us back to these restaurants often but have you wondered why they came to our city? Or how was the food when it was first established? City Express sought out to find the common factors that led to their popularity.

First off, the food. The taste and flavours of your favourite dishes that have you blessed out each time you taste them have been carefully pre-planned. The creator of Thalappakatti Biryani, Nagasamy Naidu always emphasised on great taste by a meticulous selection of ingredients prepared from quality masala products. The biryani was prepared using superior quality seeragasamba rice, known as parakkum sittu and meat obtained from breeds of cattle particularly found in the famous cattle-markets of Kannivadi and Paramathi.  “Our forefathers have introduced their own varieties into ancient flavours, but at the same time we have protected our kalacharam (tradition),” says Subburaj, CEO, Thalappakatti Biriyani.  “Right from the beginning, our founder Kuppanna always emphasised on taste and ensured that the food made at the hotel was both delicious and unique. We specialise in Kongu recipe which is found in places like Salem, Erode and Coimbatore from where we source our ingredients,” says the manager of one of the Junior Kupanna branch.


Okay, we agree their food is great, but what made them choose Chennai? We all know that namma ooru makkal requested Murugan Idli shop to open a branch here. So let’s talk about Saradha Mess. Though it downed its shutters near the Chepauk Stadium three years ago, it has opened a branch at CIT Nagar.

“The only reason I decided to reopen was for all those people who loved my food, especially Ayira meen (a local fish from Madurai). When I was selling it at Chepauk for more than a decade, every day almost 200 customers would come to our mess to eat the fish which I buy fresh every morning, all the way from Madurai in a truck. When the people love your food, you are always forced to serve them the best!” smiles L Rajasekeran, owner, Madurai Saradha Mess, who also has branches in Madurai and Kuttralam.

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