It’s official. A wave of young students, IT professionals, families and friends having fun are taking to the streets again at night. And the twinkling lights of the booming food hub that caters to them now attract commuters and passers-by as well.
Eleven o’clock in the night is the time when many food streets in Chennai start trading. Besides meeting the needs of a populace that goes out for greasy fries and chicken after a night out, Chennai’s food streets, courts and squares are becoming popular haunts, offering an array of options including popcorn, Cubano sandwiches and high-end tea. ,
The Kathipara Urban Square receives around 5,000 visitors on a weekday and doubles that during the weekend. On the other hand, at least 3,000 people are walking in the Kora Food Street of Anna Nagar due to the haze in the sky. Join us as we hop food stalls all night long.
Kathipara Urban Square, Guindy
Kathipara Urban Square | Photo Credit: Shiv Raj S
On days when Abhishek Paul works long hours, the doctor finds himself going to the newly opened 24*7 Chettinad-themed Starbucks in Kathipara Urban Square for coffee and snacks. It’s one of 25 restaurants in this central location hidden between the bends of the Kathipara flyover – an accessible public space that blocks the noise of Chennai traffic.
“We usually end our shift late so we come here for a quick bite to eat. The odd hours help us as the traffic subsides by midnight,” he says as he eats tame corn-flavored popcorn.
While only a few restaurants like Junior Kuppanna and KFC serve overnight food, especially biryani and balti chicken, all 25 restaurants stay open till 2 am. The clientele here includes the late night movie crowd and hungry party goers relaxing after a night out.
What catches our attention is the variety of stalls at the square. E Adhithiyan, manager of Botanic Foods, says that they serve tea made from old black garlic. They say it is one of their best selling products. Another stall that stays busy is the Miso Ramen Cafe. Some notable mentions at Urban Crossroads are Cocofit’s juices and ID’s South Indian food.
A grassroots manager says that Kathipara Urban Square has been hosting flea markets since last year and is expanding its play area for children so that it offers something for everyone. In addition, they keep on adding interesting food items to increase the variety available.
Meal for one person: Rs.100 onwards
Hits: Chicken Biryani, Iced Coffee, Flavored Popcorn, Cotton Candy, Egg, and Chicken Ramen.
Bilal Junction, Chintadripet
Bilal’s dramatic rise in popularity since the pandemic restrictions were lifted is aspirational. The Junction where the restaurant is situated amongst other stalwarts like Buhari’s is now popularly known by the same name because of the crowd sitting on the balcony with jam buns and tea. At night the area is crowded with scooters and cars. The cash counter rings at 2 a.m. and cups of tea keep arriving.
Maska and tea made in Bilal. Photo Credit: Shiv Raj S
Francis Xavier works in a bank on Anna Salai, which is within walking distance of Bilal. This means that by evening, one can find him and his associates eating two maska buns split six ways with sips of strong tea. “I have never missed coming here even for a day,” he says, adding that this is especially convenient when working hours extend late into the night. “Biryani is also good.”
Bilal Junction in the evening | Photo Credit: Shiv Raj S
His friend Anbu Vellaiyan, who accompanies him daily, says, “The soft bun butter jam is unbeatable. The mutton samosas also deserve a special mention. The minced meat inside is excellent.
For those who fancy a coffee break, the iconic Buhari’s Bakery is popular for its tea cakes, cookies and coffee, served late into the night.
The bustling junction also offers the occasional kati roll, chicken and mutton samosas, puffs and rolls as well as the famous Osmania biscuits. The restaurant closes at 2 pm.
Meal for one person: Between ₹20-₹100
Hits: Bun Maska, Chai and Mutton Samosa.
Kora Food Street, Anna Nagar
Kora Food Street, Anna Nagar | Photo Credit: Thamodharan Bharath
Kora Food Street in Anna Nagar is abuzz with light and energy, as the rest of the residential neighborhood has dimmed its lights and gone to sleep. Under one roof, one can enjoy cuisine from around the world, like wood-fired pizza, biriya tacos, noodles, momos and boba tea, round the clock.
Apart from the row of stalls on the façade of the building, the set up opens like a night market as seen in Singapore or China. There is a kiosk right at the entrance where payment cards can be purchased or recharged.
The air-conditioned area features benches and tables for guests to enjoy their meals, while stalls are made from repurposed shipping containers. The food market also houses two air-conditioned restaurants.
Kora Food Street, Anna Nagar | Photo Credit: Shiv Raj S
“Kora Food Street has over 40 outlets and over 5,700 dishes to enjoy and each vendor has been handpicked. They are all Kora brands and some have ventured to open outlets outside this location as well,” says owner Rajasekhar Kora.
In addition to the street-food market feel, vendors and management also focus on visually appealing food or unique-named food to attract a younger crowd. Earlier this year, the ‘Spiderman Dosa’ from the Zam Zam Murtabak outlet, a web-like dosa filled with Jalari Murtabak, keema and paneer, garnered over 17 million views on Instagram.
Roller ice cream at the Roll Away outlet is another popular option for both filming and eating. The ice cream is wrapped on a cold roller and grated and poured into a cup. Or you can try Kolaveri Vodka, another popular favorite, a lemon soda-based, non-alcoholic drink made from whole green chilies.
Burmese Etho at Kora Food Street | Photo Credit: Thamodharan Bharath
Needless to say, the Biryani is a huge hit and is available at various outlets in styles like Bamboo Biryani, Pot Biryani and more.
This food street opened in 2019 and has been witnessing a steady growth in footfall. Rajasekhar says that apart from full CCTV coverage to ensure security, six to seven bouncers are monitoring the venue. “We have noticed that a lot of students and young professionals come late in the evening and at night. Whenever they come in, there is something nutritious to eat and it is easy on the pocket too,” he adds.
“I have visited Kora Food Street twice so far late at night. It is very safe and we can enjoy it without worrying much. I visit this place with my friends and enjoy a hot bowl of ramen or Amritsari Kulcha,” says student Neera Kabilan.
On the first floor, there are gaming facilities and a trampoline park for the little ones. Some tables are also set aside for guests with pets.
Meal for one person: Rs 250 onwards
Hits: Etho and Bejo, Jalari Murtabak, Turkish Ice Cream, Pot Biryani, Roller Ice Cream, Wood Fired Pizza and Kebabs
RTS Food Street, Navalur | Photo Credit: Shiv Raj S
At RTS Food Street in Navalur, A Solomon and his group of techie friends are enjoying laptops, fried rice and a variety of gravies. After their shift at 12 midnight, they choose to rest here.
“We come here at least once every two days. Hanging out as friends is great for us and we can spend as much time together as we want. “Not just regular lunches, dinners and breaks, it’s also our go-to place for birthday parties, farewells and other celebrations,” he says. When asked about his favourite, he points to Malabar Combos’ parottas and says the Madurai Kari Dosa is also popular.
Spread over 15,000 square feet, this food street is one of the biggest in the city. It has more than 70 outlets and can accommodate around 200 cars. “The biggest advantage for us is our proximity to several IT parks and gated communities. We see around 5,000 guests during the evening, mostly in the late evening and around 3,500 on weekdays,” says Praveen Kasmir, whose family owns the establishment.
RTS Food Street, Navalur | Photo Credit: Shiv Raj S
BBQ rides are very popular here: Royal Enfield bikes come with a grill attached. They serve grilled chicken and mutton, kebabs, shawarma and rolls. Cocoa Island, which also serves coconut-based pudding, panna cotta, ice cream and coconut milk cold coffee, sees large crowds daily. High Joint, located deep inside Food Street, is one of the landmark eateries in RTS Food Street. It serves a variety of premium burgers, chicken wings, fries and nuggets.
“We aim to ensure that no two places serve the same dish, except for staple food items like fries or some beverages. “We conduct regular inspections and taste tests to ensure that hygiene and quality are maintained consistently,” says Praveen.
In this food street, most of the stalls close at 11:30 pm and around 10 stalls remain open till 2 am. During the weekend, deadlines are extended to meet demand.
Apart from a wide range of food stalls, there is also a virtual reality game centre, a spa and a flea market.
Meal for one: ₹200 – ₹500
Hits: Chicken Burgers and Wings, Tender Coconut Pudding, Waffle Cone Fried Chicken, Kebabs, Chaat and Biryani