Shanbhag Fastfood

During one of our trips through Karnataka, we visited Hampi to see the ancient city of Vijayanagar. What a fascinating city! Under a UNESCO mandate, extensive restorations are ongoing. The temples are awe inspiring! But for M, the best part of the trip was our stay in the nearby town of Hospet. A busy, dusty town at the crossroads of the Manganese ore trade. Here we made camp at the “Shanbhag International.” There was nothing international about this place. Even by Indian standards, it was an average “Hotel,” but importantly it had a few air-conditioned rooms.

And before you wonder, the Shanbhags here were no relatives of ours. But the owner was a Konkani and hovered around the front lobby in his uniform white munda, white jhabba with a pocket stuffed with a diary and a stack of folded paper, slicked hair and heavy black framed glasses. Could have been one of my uncles, and I referred to him as maam. Quite an entrepreneur. He owned two hotels diagonally across a busy intersection called “Shanbhag Circle,” about a block from the bus-stand. While we stayed at the “International,” the one across the street was Shanbhag Lodge with the Shanbhag Restaurant, catering to the middle class.

Here in the “International”, he had a Bar plus Non-veg Restaurant and our favorite, the “Shanbhag Fastfood.” The fastfood catered to poor laborers. Only high tables and no seating – you stand and eat. So folks are encouraged to eat and move-on. You pay first and get coupons, which you exchange for food at the counters. All snacks (dosas, idli, vada, etc) were 5 Rs and chai or coffee were 3 Rs. Really! M and I had our fill for under 25 Rs (slightly over 50 cents).

It was not the money, it was the experience of eating here. The spectacle of buying coupons, getting the food, standing and enjoying the delicious fare. During lunch he also served sambar-rice for 8 Rs. The place was packed as laborers crowded for a filling meal. For dinner (10 Rs) he served a simple thali and I saw entire families eating here. You could feed a family of five for about a dollar!

We were in Hospet for about four days, ate at all Shanbhag restaurants and had a gala time. Highly recommend if you are visiting Hampi. There is a western touristy hotel nearby, but what fun would that be!

Before the pics, I share an anecdote. Taking a break from the blazing sun, M took a nap in the room, while I wandered the local bazaar and came back to the room with a couple of mangoes and some grapes.

I said: “Heh, the lady who sold me these fruits was very nice.”

She groggily replied: “Of course they love you; you never bargain!”

I said: “M, let me explain and then you tell me if I should have bargained”:

“I saw this push cart with fruits tended by an elderly lady. In my basic Kannada, I asked her the prices and got two types of mangoes and some grapes. She tallied and it came to 60 Rs. So I give her 60 Rs. Then she looks at me again, nods and hands 25 Rs back to me, saying “saaku” (enough). I insisted she take the entire amount, but she refused.”

I asked: “So tell me, what should I have bargained with her for?”

At the Shanbhag Fastfood, dosas are made right in front of you. We salivated watching these brown!

M pursing her lips in anticipation!

A nice dosa was chased by hot kaapi!

Today, she doesn’t remember the temples we visited, or the palaces we were wow-ed by. But ask her where she would like to go and without hesitation she will say: Lets go back to Shanbhag International and eat dosas at Shanbhag Fastfood.

On this visit to India, we won’t actually go to Hospet, but we will certainly scour the South to find great places to eat, which steal our hearts and make us want to come back.

We will be in Mumbai for a few days, so if any of you want to go for an early morning run along Chowpatty, drop me a line.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

47 thoughts on “Shanbhag Fastfood

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  1. Nice post. Just back from Bangalore and enjoyed 10 days of eating at Adigas. Your post brings back fond memories.

  2. Kannan:
    Thank you for your enthusiastic appreciation of Krishna. That is truly a beautiful work of art and I strongly feel that “Krishna” lives in our home!
    … and I never tire of gazing at it.

    Regarding getting a similar statue, that may be difficult since the artist who sculpted this statue, passed away about 4 years ago.

    Anyways, I have sent you an email.

    Best Wishes and thanks

  3. Hi Arun,

    My name is Kannan krishna. I am located in mississauga canada. I saw the krishna statue in sandal in your website. I am krishna devotee. I was literally crying when I saw krishna like this details. It would be really greatful if you could tell me where can I find exact one like this. I like to buy the same from india and searching for it. couldn’t find. If you could provide the information it will really helpful as you helped krishna itself.

    Thank you,
    Kannan Krishna

  4. During my last stay in India, Hampi was on the top of my list for places to visit. Sadly, I never made it. Thanks for taking me there through your site! Now I know where to eat when I finaly do make it to Hampi. I will even try to embarass myself with a greeting to the owner with the few words I know in Konkani. The Dosas lppk great. Looks like a dry masala, like podi, sprinkled on the dosas before the filleng? Can’t believe the dosa was only 5rs.

  5. That was a beautiful description of your trip Arun. I can’t see your photographs here at the office, but your words do a wonderful job πŸ™‚ Can’t wait to go home and have a look at those scrumptious dosa’s everyone here is wow’ing !

  6. Hey Arun! Was thinking of you…..great pictures…this is great…to see your pics on your travel. Take care and say Hello to M….. πŸ™‚

  7. VegeYum / Jennifer – Thanks!
    nicely done dosas are the best!
    Enjoy your travels

    I agree; making dosas can be a bit messy. especially with blending and fermenting the batter and else.
    Anyway, mom-made dosas are the bestest! Enjoy! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

  8. Oh yes ! The food is tasty and easy on our purse in some fast food joints! They actually serve sumptuous tiffins. I was reminded of the adigas reading your description of the fast food joint! πŸ™‚

  9. arun, i cant stop smiling when i saw M’s pic. atleast she posed for 1st pic which would be impossible with me πŸ˜‰
    its small hotels like this which makes wonderful food. i always prefer small joints than eating in any star hotels. and where u can have ur heart’s fill for so little money?
    i can see u hogging in each and every hotels in nook and corner πŸ˜‰ will look forward to ur wonderful photo essay of bharat yaatra.

  10. Oy I’m craving dosas. Thankfully I’m at home, so my mom is making dosas, knowing how much I like them!

    I need to learn how to make them, unfortunately college is not the best setting to make dosas, given the time involved.

  11. Thanks Rachna:
    i am constantly reminded of the wonderful people I meet during our travels. In a way, writing these posts, immortalizes these folks and I can share them with the rest of you all.

    Have a wonderful day!

  12. I don’t know if the places are open anymore;
    Shanthala at TC for coffee and snacks;
    Annapurna (Canteen) for the chapattis and sabzi;
    Diana in Udupi was the standard;
    Generally ate in the NIV or SIV Mess.

    Where did you eat most frequently?

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