Got Sajjige Bajil! Vintage Hotel Indra Bhavan finds a New Location
Got Sajjige Bajil! After 64 years located at the same address near Balmatta, Vintage Hotel Indra Bhavan has moved to a New Location just a few meters away from its original spot- and customers are still pouring in to patronize this “Cheap and Best” restaurant.
Mangaluru: When I am lazy to prepare my own breakfast early morning, one restaurant that comes to my rescue is the decades old Indra Bhavan restaurant which is just a few blocks away from where I live, where I can buy my favorites goodies like “Sajjige Bajil”, “Goli Bajje”, “Masala Dosa”, “Vada or Ambade” “Buns” and many other items. Since the premises where Hotel Indra Bhavan has been serving customers for the last 64 years has been brought by a builder to set up a commercial complex, there was no other choice for Indra Bhavan to relocate- but after extreme search for a ideal place in and around Balmatta area, the management had finally decided on a place very close to their earlier address.
The new location of this favorite vegetarian restaurant which has won the hearts of food is at “Dwaraka Complex, very adjacent to Agarwal Agencies, Balmatta-Mangaluru. The inauguration of “Hotel Indra Bhavan” at the new location was done by Sarojini Udupa, the wife of the restaurant owner Late Raghuram Udupa, along with Yashoda Bhat, owner of the restaurant building, and other family members of Udupa dynasty. Until a couple of days ago when the management decided to close, to get ready for the ‘big-bang’ opening at a different location, it stood like an anomaly of sorts. Amidst plush looking buildings standing tall all around it, stepping into this hotel, felt like entering a time machine, going back to the retro age of 50s and 60s. That’s the very popular Indra Bhavan, which turned 64 years recently, and still a favorite eatery joint for many foodies.
Late Raghuram Udupa – Founder of Hotel Indra Bhavan
It’s not just the interiors and the furniture that have remained unchanged for decades in Hotel Indra Bhavan until today, it’s also the amazing quality of their food meticulously prepared by experienced cooks who have been with the restaurants for decades. In fact, all these years people from all walks of life, from rich to the poor, from politicians to entrepreneurs, builders to architects, religious folks to non-religious folks and others have patronized this restaurant- which is the proof that Indra Bhavan carried the tasty and quality dishes at very affordable prices. Where else would you find a delicious snack within Rs 10-12 or a coffee or tea within Rs 12- and even though this restaurant has moved to a different location where their rent and operating cost is high, the management has still kept the same prices, except for a couple of items raised by two bucks. A local radio station has even judged Indra Bhavan “Goli Baje” – the best in town.
Prakash Udupa and Vishnu Prasad Udupa – Present Managing Partners
Speaking to Mangalorean.com, Prakash Udupa, the Managing Director of Hotel Indra Bhavan said, “My father Raghuram Udupa, a native of Attur near Kinnigoli once worked at Hotel Das Prakash in Chennai. Following his return to his hometown Kudla during the Second World War, he joined as a manager in Jaya Café (now Vishwa Bhavan) in 1949. He took over Indra Bhavan from Babu Shetty in 1952. Although I am a Engineer by profession, and since I wanted to continue the restaurant business started by my my dad, I joined with him in running the Indra Bhavan and Vishwa Bhavan since 1996. But after my dad passed away in the year 2002, I took full responsibility of both the restaurants with my Managing Partners namely my wife-Bhagyalakshmi Udupa, and my two sons, Vishnu Prasad Udupa and Vishwajith Udupa, and with the blessings of God we have been successful all these years”.
The consistency in the taste of the dishes at Hotel Indra Bhavan, Prakash Udupa says, is a result of the devolution of techniques from the senior cooks to youngsters and the use of quality food products. “Those aged 18 and above come to work as cleaners during vacations. If they show interest towards cooking, they are initiated into frying puris, flipping dosas and buns. Then they move on to making Goli Baje’s, dosas and other regular items. If the senior cook feels confident, the youngsters are given the whole responsibility. At present, we have around 18 employees, and I treat them all like my family members. They are all trustworthy, dedicated to work and can manage the duties on their own – so we haven’t hired a manager. Apart from good salary, our employees are covered under pension and the Employees State Insurance schemes. Also, youngsters, who come to work during vacations, are given financial assistance to carry out their studies” added Prakash.
Most of the workers at Indra Bhavan have been there for decades, among whom is cashier P.G. Balakrishna who joined the hotel at age 17, and has 53 years of service until now. Sudatta Jain, an activist who has been fighting for the improvement of ESI facilities in the city, has also been associated with the two hotels managed by the Udupa’s for a long time, and today during the launching ceremony of Indra Bhavan at the new location he was providing good hospitality to the clients. Even after 64 years nothing has changed for this hotel, including some of the old faces, familiar faces of employees glancing at their customers. What remains unchanged along with the look of the hotel is the popularity of the hotel and the taste of the food served here.
When asked how come the hotel has not raised the price when the commodities prices have gone up, for which Prakash Udupa said, ” We control our expenses to the best of our ability. For cooking for a long time we have been using firewood, which is very cheap than using gas. Recently we have been also using Cashew husk, which is also cheaper than gas. While we save on these expenditure costs, we are able to keep the cost of our food items low. Even at this new location, we will be using cashew husk, but if our neighbors complain about smoke we will discontinue using it. We want to be good with our neighbors without creating any problems”.
Speaking to Mangalorean.com, senior cashier PG Balakrishna said, “Most of our customers are regulars who have been patronizing the hotels since decades. Although I can’t remember the names of all the customers, but I still address most of them by their names. Our customers range from seniors, middle-aged to youngsters, and they are all happy with the service and food that we provide them. I have noticed some of our customers who move abroad, but when they come down to their hometown, they pack our tasty ‘Avalakki’, ‘Buns’, and few sweets. Many of our customers keep coming back no matter where they are settled. Our fast selling food items are, ‘Upittu Avalakki’, ‘Mosaru-Avalakki’, ‘Goli Baje’, ‘Podi’, ‘Dosas’ and ‘Sajige Rotti’. We feature dosa of the day during weekday evenings, like Tomato Omlette, Special Dosa, Uthappa etc. It’s nice to note that the customers continue to come to this hotel, on time, to relish their favourite delicacies “.
The hotel also have on their menu varieties of sweet items which are only Rs 10 each. Refreshing cold drinks like lime juice and rose-milk quench customers thirst during this scorching weather. Even to this day, from morning to evening, hundreds of people throng to relish the Pulao, ‘Uppittu’, ‘tomato omlette’, ‘Ambade/Idli sambar’, varieties of dosas, sweets like ‘Saat’, ‘Halwa’ and various other lip-smacking delicacies neatly displayed. Among the many veg restaurants in town, The Indra Bhavan is the best place to dine during mornings and evenings for the cheapest and best quality food services in this area. It offers dishes like Veg, and some others mouth watering dishes that make you feel delighted.
Ruchir Agarwal, a regular customer and now a close-by neighbor to the restaurant said, ” I have been patronizing this hotel for the past so many years that except for a single instance, there has not been any instance of the dishes going wrong. Every food item that I have tried here are delicious and very reasonable in prices. I love their dosas, goli baje, podi, sheera and quite other things. I am happy that they didn’t relocate to a distance place since many of their regular customers are from in and around Balmatta and nearby locations.” Yet another regular customer, Peter Vaz said, ” Never have I complained about food gone bad nor complained about service. Most of the servers know me very well and they treat me with respect and with courtesy. Above all, you can’t beat the price of the food items when compared to the food prices at other hotels. I am happy that they found a good location very close to their earlier spot”. Yet another old-timer said, “The taste of the dosas here has remained the same since my school days. I started coming here as a school and college student. I have seen the hotel grow old and the hotel has seen me cross phases in my life. There is a bond that silently builds between customers and the hotel. It is this bond that makes me and many others like me come back to Indra Bhavan every morning, and sometimes in the evening”.
So, whether you are of the opinion that the world needs more vegetarian human beings or not, this veg restaurant in Mangaluru is certainly worth checking out. Who knows, if you are a hard-core non-vegetarian, this eatery place just might persuade you to reconsider your stand! Long Live Indra Bhavan, the Hotel, which had retained its original look for 64 years until few days ago, even when the city was witnessing metamorphosis of culture.
Hotel Indra Bhavan
Dwaraka Complex, Near Agarwal Agencies
Open from 6:30 am – 1:00 pm; 3:00 pm – 7:15 pm.
Closed on Sundays