Mess : Short for a ‘Mess Hall’ , a place where food is served, and eaten. The word originated from the French Word ‘Mes’ or ‘Mets’ which meant ‘portion of food’.
Karpagambal Mess, in Mylapore is a legendary stop when you’re in Chennai. Started in 1953, this mess has retained its popularity even as it fed generations of the same family.
We reached the mess at 7:30 am on a Sunday morning, to find a gleaming entrance with fresh flowers and rangoli welcoming patrons. Only 1 table was occupied when we took our seats, though by the time we were done the restaurant was full, with more people patiently waiting outside.
The size of this vertical restaurant is that of a very generous passageway, with a separate air conditioned section on the side and it seats 50. Interestingly, the dishes on the menu are priced higher for the air-conditioned section.
A Banana Leaf is placed before you as soon as you are seated. The specials are rattled off at a dizzying speed, and if you read Tamil you could find them written out in chalk on black boards both inside and outside the restaurant.
As you wait for your food to arrive, do notice how little of the walls you can see. Why? Because all the walls of the restaurant are covered with pictures of Gods and Goddesses, and some very beautiful ones at that!
Because lunch wasn’t served beyond 1 pm a lot of people would miss out on it, so in 1989 this family run restaurant decided to do away with meals altogether . Since 1989 Karpagambal Mess serves breakfast from 7 am to 10 am and ‘Variety Rice’ (Tamarind Rice, Tomato Rice and the like) from 11:30 am.
2010 was the year this mess underwent renovation.
As you walk towards the counter to pay your bill, don’t forget to check out the corner selling home-made condiments. You’ll find a variety of Podi’s (powders) Pickles, Applams (papads) .Some of the podi’s and pickles (like the ones made using curry leaves / ginger etc ) are consumed for better health.
We bought the most delicious Vadu Manga (baby Mango) pickle, a delicious Sesame Seed and Asafoetida based Podi and the most lip smacking Vatha Kuzambu to carry home a bit of Karpagambal with us.
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