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Dishing out the delicious

The phrase `selling like hot cakes' really suits these shops. Some of the famous dishes or items in these outlets will not be available, if you are little late and miss the `fixed' business hours.



An employee of the Nagapattinam Original Mitai Kadai busy weighing a sweet variety.

GOING DOWN memory lane is always a `sweet' pastime and that too recalling food houses is `mouth-watering'.

The Temple City has also got a few of this ilk - Gopi Iyengar Hotel, Nagapattinam Original Mitai Kadai and Modern Restaurant, all are more than 50 years old.

The phrase `selling like hot cakes' really suits these shops. Some of the famous dishes or items in these outlets will not be available, if you are little late and miss the `fixed' business hours.

The Gopi Iyengar Hotel, also popularly known as Moolakadai or Kara Chutney Kadai, was started roughly 75 years ago by R.Gopala Iyengar.



A view of the Modern Restaurant on Dhanappa Mudali Street.

Mr. Gopala Iyengar, who had a humble beginning as a server in one of the hotels in the city then, later started the hotel at the present location. Now the hotel is being run by the son of Gopala Iyengar, R.G .Srinivasan.

The hotel, which caters for 800 to 1000 customers per day functions from 6.30 am to 10.30 am and in the evening the activities start by 3 and closes by 7.30. But by 6 or 6.30, everything gets over. Every week Monday is the holiday.

The most sought after dishes in this outlet are `Chuchi Appam', `Thavalai Adai and Vadai', `Vellai Appam' and `Kara Chutney'. Every day they have a separate menu to give feast to the customers.

"Several VIPs have been regular customers to this hotel. The former Chief Minister K Kamaraj, BJP leader, Jana Krishnamurthy and the Supreme Court Judge A R Lakshmanan eat here whenever they came to the city. Apart from these visitors, the archakas and staff of the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple also eat here regularly.

Except for some items, the same menu, as designed by Gopala Iyengar, is still maintained in the hotel", says Paandi, who helps R.G.Srinivasan in the day-to-day affairs of the hotel.



Customers enjoying their tiffin at the Gopi Iyengar Hotel

There are totally seven workers in this hotel and there are no child labourers at all.

Started by V M Sadasivam in 1947, soon after the Independence, the Modern Restaurant still runs successful and the sons of Sadasivam are running the show now.

Sadasivam, a native of Palakkad, actually came to Madurai in search of job in the late 1930s. As he could not get one, he joined the Rama Cafe run by Rama Iyer then, as a grinder man.

"During the World War II, there was a massive call for use of wheat due to acute scarcity of rice. The Rama Café was allotted space in the railway station to supply wheat items and once the war was over, the Government asked it to vacate the space. Rama Iyer, who became old at that time, handed over the furniture to my father who shifted them to the present shop and started the Modern Café in 1947", says sons of Sadasivam S. Mohanasundaram and S Ramakrishnan.

Located on Nethaji Road, the restaurant still maintains the traditional items that were supplied from the time since its inception. Besides, some new items have been included to suit the taste of present day customers. The price of tiffin ranges from Rs.5.50 (2 idlies) to Rs.25 (ghee roast). Meals (unlimited) is served at a cost of Rs.20, but only in the day. A sweet shop was opened in the 1990s owing to the demand from customers.

"The success of our restaurant is purely owing to the dedication, devotion and involvement of our father and we also follow the same strategy and continue to win the trust of our customers", say the two sons of V M Sadasivam.

"We never `decorate' food and also avoid adding tastemakers as they may spoil the naturality", reasons Mr. Mohanasundaram, a catering diploma holder, for maintaining their customer base.

"South Indian food seems to be choice of a majority of customers", points out Mr. Ramakrishnan.

VVIPs who visited this restaurant included, Sir C V Raman, Jawaharlal Nehru, former Presidents Radha Krishnan and V.V.Giri, the former Prime Minister, Morarji Desai and the list goes on.

Another aspect of the café is that undertaking outdoor catering and takes up marriage contracts. "Our outdoor catering spreads to Bangalore and orders pour in from almost every district of the State. Similar is the trend in marriage contracts too and rates will be as per the customers' needs", says the successful brace Messrs. Ramakrishnan and Mohanasundaram.

"Another notable feature is that our hotel has a national background. Both our golden jubilee and the nation's golden jubilee year of Independence fell on the same year (1997). To mark this occasion, we started the M R International, a state-of-the-art hotel, which is managed by Ashwath Sadasivam, son of Mohan. So, our next generation is also into the field," say the brothers proudly with a big smile on their face.

Though not a hotel, the Original Nagapattinam Mittai Kadai still lures a huge number of sweet lovers of the City.

Started by Viswanatha Iyer, a native of Kumbakonam in 1901, the shop is at present run by V Anantanarayanan, who belongs to the third generation of the family. As his health is not so good, of late, his son A Venkatraman is taking care of the day-to-day affairs now.

Originally established on the Amman Sannadhi Street, the shop was shifted to the present building at 20, Mela Chittrai Street in 1941 by Anantanarayanan. Business starts at 10 in the mornnig and ends by 9 at night. Thursday is the weekly holiday. There are totally four persons working in the shop, including Anantanarayanan.

Though the shop has several mouth-watering and delicious items on its menu, `halwa' and `karasev' seem to be the popular choice followed by `kizhangu pottlam' (a potato product)'. "Other sweets also go well and till date we have not made any changes in the menu. Moreover, by virtue of our rich and long experience, we prepare necessary quantity and see that it is all sold", explains Mr. Anantanarayanan, adding, "the secret behind our success is the quality of items which we are maintaining right from the time of inception".

M.R.ARAVINDAN

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