Masala Dosas @ Airlines Hotel, Bangalore’s Only Drive-In Restaurant
When my mate TT suggested that we hire a taxi to “go to a restaurant that is quite far away to go eat breakfast in the car” I wasn’t completely convinced about this great plan but it was something different to do so…bring it on! I was promised a rockin’ masala dosa at one of Bangalore’s landmark spots and boy-oh-boy did he deliver!
Although our taxi sadly had no music I think we scored because it did have super tinted windows. From my point of view, if we were going to be eating in the car, with our hands, at the crack of dawn…well,I thought tinted windows seemed like a great thing. The 7 kilometer trip took us about 15-20 minutes with TT giving me a mini guided tour as we made our way from Frazer Town. I love that my core group of friends are locals, born and raised in Bangalore. I love the stories that they tell about life “before” things changed. And I especially like the fact that they seem to know EVERYONE whenever we’re out, which makes meeting new people really easy for me here.
So in my head I was envisioning either a drive through fast food restaurant or I thought maybe that we were headed to a small kiosk to order something to go. I mean eating in the car to me would mean one of those two options, right? Wrong! TT was taking me to the restaurant at the Airlines Hotel, just a couple of blocks away from Cubbon Park. From the moment we turned onto the property I was captivated by the HUGE banyan tree growing there. It’s amazing, sitting just alongside the outdoor seating area shading guests from the sun and giving the place a feeling that it’s been around for centuries. The long dangling vines from the tree hang down in such a unique way, I love these trees. Did you know that the largest one in the world is located here in Kolkata?
Mmmmm I love masala dosas! The sauces are yummy but kick my ass with their spicy kick though 🙂
We pulled into a parking spot close to one of the smaller trees and as I started to open the door to get out TT stopped me. Turns out we weren’t going to a kiosk or a drive-thru at all, we were at an old fashioned drive-in restaurant. I know from Hollywood films that drive-ins were really popular around the time my parents were in high school. Often times the waitresses served the guests on roller skates. Well, it’s a dirt parking lot where we are, so no roller skates. And of course there are no female employees serving guests because this is India. I find it quite curious how the U.S. has more waitresses than waiters and in Bangalore I think there are zero – or close to zero – waitresses.
Anyway, the place is very cool and very old-school. I was told that in the past that every car had at least one window rolled down with a silver tray clamped onto it to hold food and drinks. But it appears that the tray companies haven’t innovated the tray enough and owners of nicer cars don’t want to risk scratching their paint so waiters bring individual meals on large silver round plates instead. The service is great, really fast actually, and lots of these guys have been working there for years so TT knew our waiter. We both ordered masala dosa, which is essentially a thick crepe made of ground rice flour wrapped around crude mash potato with onion and spices (see here: http://moourl.com/aiqh3). I asked for mine without chili powder, which really helped me to be able to enjoy it. I can’t believe how spicy even breakfasts are here. Very different from the chocolate croissants and pastries I ate in Spain.
So as you would expect if you know me, even without the chili powder the potato was super spicy so my mouth was on fire by the end of it. To combat that, we ordered a Kesari Bath which is basically like a sweet “Cream of Wheat” type cereal with cashews and pineapple, see here: http://moourl.com/nqn40. It was so good. I think it’s supposed to be a dessert here but I think I just found my new favorite breakfast!
Now onto the more fun stuff. The diversity of the people at the Airlines Hotel is incredible. I was the only foreigner I could see. We were there around 7:30 or 8:00 and already the parking lot was close to full and there were probably 30 people in the seated area. There was a 5 series BMW, next to a beater Tata, alongside taxis and Jeeps. There were three groups of really cool looking high school or young university kids, one of which was in the smoking area and had drinks in plastic cups that surely held booze from their after party that night. There was a table of what looked like intellectuals having a stimulating conversation, others with families and even the random scrappy guy here and there. My favorite person was a 50ish year old man who wore a bling-bling super tight track suit and just leaned up against his car for 20 minutes enjoying his morning coffee. On top of all of that, TT knew different people there so I was given a little background on this guy, some news on that one’s father, etc. It was a little bit like watching the local Bangalore version of E! news or opening up Hello magazine, hehe.
Anyway, we gobbled up our masala dosas and then moved outside to lean up against our taxi and take in some air and also tea for me and coffee for TT (at least I think you drank coffee, TT!!). They make delicious tea and coffee FYI, and the cups are nice and big.
I love this place. The background and the novelty of it, of course, are fun but the venue is fantastic. And I like the fact that previous generations of Bangaloreans have enjoyed it just the way I did today.
XOXO from Bangalore
© Angela Carson and Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore blog and photos, 2011