Sidewalk Café, Koramangala


Sidewalk CafeThe other day, I was driving down an obscure little lane near home, and saw a sign that said “Sidewalk Cafe”.

Having made a mental note to check it out, I was pleasantly surprised when a friend informed me that the scrumptious chocolate-frosted cake we were consuming had been obtained from there. It was rich, gooey with frosting, and sinful enough to warrant at least a dozen Hail Marys.

The Café

Sidewalk Cafe

Carefully cluttered 🙂

The first time I visited Sidewalk Café, I was charmed by its homely simplicity.

An oddly charming mishmash of unmatched chairs, tables, and tablecloths fit cozily into a narrow space that was probably once someone’s driveway. At the far end of the space is a counter; the area before it is a pleasant seating area with casual furniture that just begs you to sit down and read a book or have a long natter with a friend. Artfully placed vintage tins, jars, and odds and ends present the kind of organized clutter that takes hours to get just right.

The Food

Over several visits, the blackboard menu remained mostly the same. Like the decor, it’s a bit of a mishmash: chicken, fish, or vegetable “pies” (not pies, really, baked dishes); vegetarian or non-vegetarian pasta; chicken or vegetable biriyani; vegetarian or chicken burger; chapati or ghee rice with chicken, egg, or vegetable curry, channa masala or palak paneer. You may also order reasonably priced grilled or cold sandwiches, and (if you want a breakfast or brunch) waffles, pancakes, and egg-sausage type breakfast combos. Tea, coffee, bottled drinks and a few packaged juices round out the menu.

I have tried the chicken “pie”, the fish “pie”, the non-vegetarian burger, the pasta, the chicken biriyani, and the aforementioned chocolate cake.

Chicken "pie"

Both “pies” are hearty and filling. The ingredients are very fresh (just look at those colors!) and overall, they are tasty. My grouse is that the breadcrumb topping – which, for some reason, sits atop a thin layer of egg white – often overwhelms a forkful of the pie. To the best of my knowledge, a traditional British fish pie (the only kind that’s crustless) is topped with mashed potato, much like a shepherd’s pie. While I have sampled a potato crust, a cheese crust, a cheese-and-breadcrumbs crust,  I have never come across an egg-white-topped-with breadcrumbs crust – and in my opinion, it ruins an otherwise perfect dish. When I asked about it, one of the owners, Rajini Reddy, told me “that’s the recipe”. I, however, feel that recipes are meant only as a starting point. They’re meant to be questioned, to be tweaked and refined. My suggestion would be to either use cheese and breadcrumbs or switch to a conventional mashed potato crust.

The biriyani is satisfying in the way that only home-cooked biriyani can be. It contains a decent amount of chicken, and is neither too “wet” nor too “dry”. It’s not outstanding, not even close – but this is definitely what you’d choose when you’re craving the taste of home-cooked food.

Sidewalk Cafe pasta

Independence Day pasta!

Fresh ingredients make the pasta unexpectedly good. While it is (predicatably) overcooked to please the Indian palate, it isn’t the usual limp, soggy mess that passes for pasta in many eateries – I’d describe it as firm, but nowhere near al dente. When I visited on Independence Day, the pasta was served with spinach puree and tomato concasse in homage to our flag: classy and creative. Delicious too.

As for the burger. Well. To me, this is a big, fat no-no. It isn’t at all what I would call a burger (for starters, it’s made of chicken). The patty is a) stodgy with “filler” and b) coated in breadcrumbs (gasp!) The burger bun was very fresh, but the good folks at Sidewalk Cafe do not seem to know the cardinal rule of burger assembly – never put the mayonnaise or ketchup directly on the bun! Soggy burger bun = yuck. This overly desi-fied representation of a burger – complete with raw onions and cucumber (cucumber? really?) fails to impress. However, at Rs. 75, it holds its own quite well when stacked up against a MacDonald’s burger…  although I must add that in my opinion, even cardboard tastes better than a MacDonald’s burger.
Sidewalk Cafe chocolate cake

Mmmmmmm!

The desserts consist of the home-baked cakes on display at the counter. Again, these are not “fancy” desserts. Plain ol’ chocolate cake with homemade frosting. Basic lemon cake. Frosted cupcakes. Delicious in a nostalgic kind of way.

At lunchtime, Sidewalk Cafe is packed tight with the (mostly migrant?) young BPO crowd that seems to appreciate its homely fare and ambience. However, if you visit any time outside of the 1pm to 2pm lunch rush, it offers an uncrowded and refreshingly charming alternative to any of the generic chain cafes. The food, while mediocre, is fresh and wholesome, and the general vibe is cozy and  warm.

The Verdict

Overall, I actually like this little gem. There’s certainly no haute cuisine here… just simple, home-cooked food like mama used to make – even if mama’s version of a certain dish wasn’t quite “authentic” or always up to scratch. Comforting in its predictability and unambiguity, unpretentious in flavor and presentation, Sidewalk Cafe’s fare is tasty, but does not aspire to culinary brilliance. And sometimes, that kind of simple honesty is just the thing I’m looking for.

Sidewalk Cafe

No. 3, SBI Colony,
3rd Block, 7th B Main,
Koramangala, Bangalore
Phone: 080 25530426, +919886144902

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4 thoughts on “Sidewalk Café, Koramangala

  1. Excellent review! In the penultimate paragraph you say the “food is mediocre” while in the ending para you write the “fare is tasty”. i dont think mediocre= tasty no matter what spin anybody puts on it! And why cant good burgers have chicken? even outside the homeland,i’ve had excellent chicken burgers with cucumbers in tow!

    • In use the word “mediocre” to mean “ordinary, neutral, run-of-the-mill”. By that definition and in my opinion, “mediocre” food can indeed be tasty. By definition, a “burger” consists of a patty of ground meat placed on a sliced bun, so I’ll grant that technically, yes, a “chicken burger” could be accorded “burger status”. In the US and UK, they are most often called “chicken sandwiches,” and consist of a piece of batter-fried, boneless chicken breast on a sliced bun (as also fish sandwiches). Those, I have no issue with. When a ground chicken patty is batter fried, however – that’s the kind of neither-here-nor-there that I cannot abide!

  2. went there finally (for a late brekkie) and tried the waffles. was pretty disappointed… I like my waffles nicely browned with butter and a generous amount of (even fake) maple syrup. this one was not at all crisp and came with no butter and a very tiny amount of generic breakfast syrup which didn’t have any, any hint of maple. (trust me – i love the real stuff – but i still can totally drown my pancakes and waffles with the synthetic stuff that comes in those gigantic bottles). i asked for extra syrup, but that didnt do it for me either. the “fruit” topping turned out to be yelakki banana slices and that’s all. the filter coffee was very whatever too… saved me a headache, but nah, didn’t have that fresh brewed quality at all. overall, would like to give them a few more chances as the place is so damn cute… will try a generic pasta and cake next time.

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