12 hour round trip to Vijayawada – I – Babai Hotel – The iconic Idly !

Road trips – what’s your excuse? Excuse # 175 – Spending quality time with best friend visiting from US !

So, when our best friend was planning an India visit in the 2nd week of August and was looking at options to drive him from Hyderabad to his hometown near Rajahmundry, none of which seemed to work out, we came up with a “brilliant” idea ! We decided we would pick him up from the airport and drive him all the way to Vijayawada from where his people could in turn pick him up and take him home ! That way we could spend some time with him, because there is no better time for bonding than when you are on a road trip. That was a nice way of saying we just needed an excuse to hit the road ! We also had a pending visit to the Kanaka Durga Temple at Vijayawada.

No road is long with good company  

We were supposed to pick up our friend at 4.30 AM to coincide with this landing and immigration checks, turns out that particular day, all the checks were done within 20 minutes and our friend was waiting for us close to 30 minutes, well, anything is pardonable in Hyderabad Standard Time ! From the time we picked him up, it was a super cool drive on NH9 peppered with our non-stop banter, some serious discussions on life and some trips down the memory lane. We stopped at our all time favourite Highway resto 7 at Suryapet for a strong cup of coffee at 7 AM. It was a pleasant morning and their super strong coffee was perfect complement.

It took us less than 4 hours to reach Vijayawada but when your drive is fun filled it feels like 4 minutes ! We dropped off our friend with his family and had the whole day ahead of us, it was only 8.15 AM. A visit to the Kanaka Durga Temple was next. With a Rs.100 special darshan ticket, our temple visit was over in 30 minutes !

The legendary hotel of Vijayawada 

Our next thought was breakfast and immediately the the bulbs in our heads lit up – Babai Hotel ! This 72 year old hotel is the birthplace of the famous Babai Hotel Idly. Despite several trips to Vijayawada, we never got a chance to go to this hotel, we weren’t giving it a miss this time. We drove to Gandhi Nagar where the hotel is located and spotted it finally after going around in circles because we don’t bother to stop and ask !

For all its popularity, you will be surprised to see a small eating joint.

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Started in the 1942 by Patruni Syama Murthi, who was fondly called “Babai” (uncle), Babai Hotel is the oldest eatery in Vijayawada. History says the hotel was a favourite of NTR, ANR and other film stalwarts.

Not much has changed about the hotel since Babai’s times, the small eatery has a few tables for seating and platforms to stand and eat. The menu is simple Andhra tiffins like Idly, Dosa, Pesarattu, Upma, Pongal, it seems no new items have been added on the menu ever since the hotel started !  Yet, every morning, people throng the place for a bite of their melt-in-your-mouth Idly, known the world over as the “Babai Hotel Idly” ! We, of course, ordered almost everything on the menu !

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Ignore the hazy picture, that’s the best we could do with our mobile while the entire hotel kept giving us amused looks wondering why we were clicking pictures of idlies and dosa?

So what’s special about the Babai Hotel Idly? More than an Idly, we would say it is butter under the disguise of an Idly ! The idlies come soaked in ghee with a dollop of butter on top accompanied by Karam Podi (spicy powder) and chutney. You wouldn’t have to take the trouble of chewing your idly, it simply melts in your mouth and you are left savouring the divine flavour of idly, ghee, butter and the podi !

The ghee doesn’t come from some random wholesalers, the pure ghee is made from the cows owned by the people at Babai Hotel, so says a write up on the hotel that featured in a leading newspaper a few years back.

It took only a few minutes to wipe our plates clean, the Dosa and Upma could give the idlies a decent competition but the idlies are the clear winners hands down !

We topped our breakfast with filter coffee, remember to have a cup of filter coffee after a South Indian breakfast, you will then know how heaven tastes !

Babai Hotel is usually crowded at breakfast time, so you might have to wait for your turn even if it is self-service only. The hotel is open only in the mornings and evening, they do not serve lunch. The hygiene standards are quite decent too.

Chutneys restaurant in Hyderabad also has Babai Hotel Idly on their menu but having the authentic one at the place of its origin is something else.

So, we now have we must visit places every time we visit Vijayawada, Sri Ramayya Mess and Babai Hotel !

Before we left Vijayawada, we had to pick up a packet for our friend in Hyderabad, when we told his person who was supposed to hand over the packet that we were near Babai Hotel, he asked us to wait there, now that we had mentioned the hotel, he too wanted to have something there ! Long live food lovers !

We picked up the packet and headed back to Hyderabad at 10.30 AM, thoughts already on reaching Suryapet for lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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