“The South Indian thalis at Dakshin are a great way to explore the culinary repertoire of this restaurant with a three-decade legacy. For me, it’s also probably nostalgia, as this was a preferred venue for family celebrations.” Ashwin Rajagopalan, consultant and lifestyle writer
“You will get one of the best meat thalis in Chennai at Ponnusamy (7, Jaganathan Road, Ponnangipuram, Tirumurthy Nagar, Nungambakkam). This is a traditional Chettinad restaurant, with a great vegetarian and non-vegetarian thali. Their Bahubali thali is an extravagant feature that you cannot ignore. If you walk into their Nungambakkam branch (the only one that serves this) at any given time, you’re sure to find a couple of tables that have ordered this. Consisting of over 50 dishes that include shark, fish, chicken, mutton, prawn, biryani, vegetarian food and dessert. It’s great to experience it at least once, and pre-booking it is a must.” Payal Rajankar, chef and founder, The Gourmet Gig
Erode Amman Mess
“For delicious Tamil food, go to Erode Amman Mess (Multiple branches; Instagram). They offer limited meals with fish curry, fish fry and chicken chukka. They also have one of the best kalakkis in town.” Mathangi Kumar, chef and culinary consultant
Royal Vega, ITC Grand Chola, Guindy
“I would recommend the thali at Royal Vega (63, Anna Salai, Little Mount, Guindy), the restaurant inside ITC Grand Chola, purely for the experience. It’s a proper luxury meal, with great flavours and textures. I especially loved the smoked beetroot patties.” Abbas Shahzad, founder, Urban Gluttony Co.
Pattukottai Kamatchi Mess, T. Nagar
“Pattukottai Kamatchi Mess (4, Singaravelu St, Opposite EB, Pondy Bazaar, Parthasarathi Puram, T. Nagar) is a pure meat lover’s delight. They serve meals with seven non-vegetarian gravies, rice and South Indian staples. The mutton brain is outstanding, and so are the dry fish thokku and the chicken Chettinad. All the food has high spice levels.” Payal Rajankar, chef and founder, The Gourmet Gig
Inti Bhojanam, Alwarpet and New Andhra Meals, T. Nagar
“For Andhra food, head to Inti Bhojanam (67, Kavignar Bharathidasan Road, Seetammal Colony, MIG Colony, Alwarpet; Instagram). Here, you will get simple and decadent pachadi every time you visit. I really like their home-style cooking. Another great option is New Andhra Meals (26RQ+7Q7, Sir Thyagaraya Road, Parthasarathi Puram, T. Nagar). They have excellent podi, pachadi and pulusu.” Mathangi Kumar, chef and culinary consultant
“You must try the famous vegetarian meals at Anandam (Hotel Maris, 11, Cathedral Rd, Parthasarathypuram, Teynampet), which are served on a banana leaf. This is a legendary restaurant that many families go to as a Sunday ritual. They serve it for lunch and dinner every day and the menu changes daily. The old-timers say that nothing has changed over the years and that’s what they love about it most.” Payal Rajankar, chef and founder, The Gourmet Gig
Shri Rajasthani Dhaba, Anna Nagar
“I would also recommend the vegetarian thali at Shri Rajasthani Dhaba (3rd Floor, Shop No. C40, 2nd Ave, Near A2B Veg Restaurant, Anna Nagar). I liked it for the fact that it was a very nice homely meal—not too oily, not too spicy—just pure comfort.” Abbas Shahzad, founder, Urban Gluttony Co.
Sangeetha Veg restaurant, Egmore
“Sangeetha Veg restaurant (No 91, Shivalaya Building, Ethiraj Salai, Egmore) is the one place where the North Indian meals are just as good as the South Indian meals. They also have mini meals with fewer varieties for those that want to eat light. The menu has regular fare, but the food tastes superior.” Payal Rajankar, chef and founder, The Gourmet Gig