It’s believed that sambhar was first created in Thanjavur in the kitchens of the Marathas who ruled over the region for nearly two centuries. Sadly, none of the restaurants here seem to serve traditional Thanjavur Maratha food anymore, but everything else is so good, you won’t even mind.
ANBU MILK BAR
This blink-and-you-miss-it stall has been around for over 40 years. Come here in the morning and you’ll be greeted by a line of people standing in front of it. Wait and you’ll earn yourself a glass of thick, frothy ‘Bombay lassi‘. Return at night for the badam milk. The server scoops out a glassful of the fragrant stuff and makes a great show of pouring it into a glass, topping it off with a dollop of cream.
Dhivya Sweets might otherwise go unnoticed, but, come evening, you’ll find pretty much everyone returning from work heading straight here. While the 30-year-old eatery serves everything from sweets to packaged snacks, it’s the freshly-made fare that keeps people coming back for more. Ask for the delicious masala sandwiches, or the piping-hot samosas. Don’t go too late – they run out pretty quick.
The meals at this restaurant will have you asking for a second (or third) helping of rice. The thali comes with sambhar, vathal kuzhambu (berry curry), poriyal (dry veggies) and kootu (gravy veggies), among others. If you’re breaking for lunch, this is a good place at which to fuel up.
This vegetarian restaurant is a Thanjavur institution. Enjoy a hearty South Indian breakfast- pick the masala dosa, with a flavourful potato filling, or the ghee roast dosa – fried to crispy perfection. The menu features North Indian and ‘Chindian’ dinner favourites too, but stick to southern staples.
SRI VENKATA LODGE
Reportedly one of South film star Sivaji Ganeshan’s favourite places at which to eat in town, this eatery does only vegetarian fare. The owner’s a friendly chap and will regale you with interesting tales if you show interest. Try the puli sadam (tamarind rice) in which the mustard-and-chilli tempering smoothly cuts the tanginess of the tamarind.
This upscale multi-cuisine restaurant inside the well-known Sangam Hotel has a good selection of South Indian dishes, but of the kind you won’t find gracing the menu of many eateries in the area. Try the meen poondu kozhambu, a delicately-flavoured Chettinad-style fish curry, or the Malabar chemmeen curry, which is a north Kerala specialty featuring prawn in a mildly-spiced coconut curry.