Bangalore has many restaurants famous for their delicious ‘dosas’, ‘idlis’, ‘vadas’ and ‘bhats’. People line up for their morning breakfast. Vidyarthi Bhawan is one of the legendary restaurants serving South Indian flavors for decades.
Vidyarthi Bhawan is above all else. It’s not the best restaurant in Bangalore, it’s the feeling! A visit to this ‘Temple of Food’ is a must to gauge my words and the feelings of all its loyal patrons. The restaurant is located in the old and famous Gandhi Market in Basavanagudi.
Started by Mr. Venkatramana Ural in 1943 and later transferred to his brother Mr. Parameshwara Ural, Vidyarthi Bhavan, as the name suggests, was established to meet the demands of the students of National High School and ‘Acharya Pathshala’. In 1954 Vidyarthi was received by Mr. Ramakrishna Adiga. For the past 68 years, the Adiga family has continued the legacy of the famous restaurant, preserving the recipes and flavors of the food. Most of their members have spent their working lives serving the food lovers of Bangalore; hence the care and hospitality provided at Vidyarthi Bhawan is unmatched.
When I visited Vidyarthi Bhavan, I shared a table with a teacher who had been visiting the restaurant since my school days. Realizing my interest in learning about Vidyarthi Bhavan’s food and history, many diners shared their stories and connections with Vidyarthi Bhavan. I was advised to look inside the kitchen where all the magic happens.
The chefs at Vidyarthi Bhawan continue to prepare crispy masala dosa topped with ghee and ghee. There is no need to wait for an order for the chefs to prepare the dosas because there are always more people waiting than the number of dosas being prepared. Each set contains 15-20 doses selected by one server. This unique skill of serving dosas on the table by the experienced and happy staff of Vidyarthi Bhawan is special.
Dosas are served with creamy and spicy coconut chutney. That means patrons will drool over it no matter how many years you’ve been eating it. Deep Vada was the next dish I tried. The crispy fried ‘Vadas’ are dipped in the delicious, spicy and very sour sambhar, absorbing all its flavors and giving the ‘Vadas’ a unique and delightful texture. Deep Vadas and Idlis were the dishes served with sambhar, but the rest of the tiffin items work wonderfully with the wonderful chutney served at Vidyarthi Bhavan.
‘Rava Vade’ – lentil fritters with semolina is a delicious dish. It reminded me of the ‘Rava’ fried starters from the coastal regions of western and southern India (Konkan belt). The ‘Rava Vadas’ is a mix of coriander, peanuts and spices which enhanced the taste of this delicious snack. During my foraging trip to Bangalore, I tried a lot of food. Otherwise, it was difficult to stick to just one part of Vada. I believe it will be difficult for you too.
Cautiously, I saved my appetite for the combination of dishes I wanted to try: a mix of ‘Khara Bhath’ (Savoury) and ‘Kesari Bhath’ (Sweet). ‘Khara Bhath’ is similar to ‘Upma’ and has a beautiful flavor profile that we associate with Karnataka cuisine. Kesari bhat, one of my favorite sweet dishes from the region, is so sweet, tangy and addictive that once served, it goes away in seconds. However, the most exciting part of eating these bhats was the invitation to eat them together. Wow! Half a spoonful of salty and half a spoonful of sweet, this strange combination I tried on the advice of Mr. Arun Kumar Adi, the third generation owner of Vidyarthi Bhavan. I’m glad I tried it this way and was pleasantly surprised by the riot of flavors on my palate. The contrasting flavors are so amazing that it is common in Karnataka to eat Hara Bhat and Kesari Bhat together, calling it ‘Chow-Chow’ Bhat.
Arun Adiga, a hard-working, extremely hard-working, humble and down-to-earth person, heads the operations at Vidyarthi Bhavan. Processes have been developed to a tee and refined over the years. I had the good fortune to have a long chat with Mr. Adiga over a wonderful filter coffee, discussing the life and stories of this culinary marvel called Vidyarthi Bhavan. The walls of this restaurant speak for themselves with pictures of famous personalities including many former Chief Ministers of Karnataka who have dined at Vidyarthi Bhavan over the past 79 years.
Vidyarthi Bhavan opens its doors every morning at 6:30 am and runs till 11:30 am and after a short break reopens at 2 pm and continues till 8 pm. On Saturday and Sunday, the morning session lasts half an hour and runs until noon, opening again at 2:30 p.m. And Vidyarthi Bhavan remains closed on Fridays, so plan your visit accordingly. Not being able to smell the tantalizing aroma of the flower market adorning the road outside the restaurant can only compete with the aromas of freshly baked dosas and vadas wafting from the Vidyarthi Bhavan kitchen.
While you dine at Vidyarthi Bhavan and indulge yourself with the exquisite cuisine served here, look for an opportunity and donate a token of Rs. 25 or Rs. 50 (or more tokens) to help Vidyarthi Bhavan feed the hungry and needy through this NGO called ‘Sanchigondu’. Every token you contribute enables someone to support their family. This is not just a noble cause, but our responsibility to society. No one should go to bed on an empty stomach, and as food lovers this noble cause should be close to our hearts.
Vidyarthi Bhavan is a must visit place for every Indian and food lover from all over the world. It is rare to find such culinary gems that not only satisfy our craving to explore the wonderful cuisine of India, but also strike an emotional chord in our hearts. From now till eternity, I will remain a big fan of Vidyarthi Bhavan and I am sure you will follow after visiting this legendary restaurant.
Sidharth Bhan Gupta is a hospitality/F&B consultant traveling across India exploring regional cuisines.