My confusion to distinguish between the fluffy piece of Idli and a blob of butter in my plate did not prevent me from gulping them combined in one of Vijayawada’s landmark eateries- Babai Hotel, in Gandhi Nagar. Putting an end to my leisurely breakfast, in spite of myself, I greeted an octogenarian, seems to be an old customer, who was not hesitant to hide his salivary secretion while enjoying the finely chopped ginger in Pesarattu- Upma. I am successfully amiable to make him stroll down his memory lane.
Experience shared by Mr Kanakamedala Narsayya
“It was during 1950s, I still remember the day when I first loitered in the street to find out this Babai Hotel, which was a cock-eyed and unstable shed, hardly to be recognized to be an eatery. Since I had been tempted time after time by my friend, who was almost a ‘slave’ to the taste of Idli here, I found out the tiny restaurant of most mediocre appearance. The proprietor was seemed to be very partial in receiving the customers. In this smallest eating place, where hardly dozen persons were housed, some customers were getting warm welcome and new entrants like me were totally ignored. The proprietor was addressing each and every customer as ‘Babai’ (uncle), irrespective of his age. Because of his rudeness to first-timers like me, I was a bit nervous to have Idli. But, my recurrent visits paid me dividends not only in the form of tasty Idlis and Pesarattu, but also in the form of Babai’s warmth. I used to stay in neighboring village, so, I had to start my run in the twilight, or otherwise I would miss the tiffin at Babai hotel, which was closed sharply by 8 AM. My addiction to Idlis severely hit my budgetary allocations, as Babai hotel was costlier to my level. Now, a couple of items are added into the menu of the hotel, but, earlier unvarying menu comprised only two items: Idli and Pesarattu. However, it has been a shrine for foodies with lesser choices, but adamants of taste,” the grand old-man, Kanakamedala Narsayya said.
Five Exciting Facts about Babai Hotel
- The Inspiration Behind The Name
Babai hotel was established in 1942 by Patruni Samba Murthi. He became popular as ‘Babai’ to one and all. In turn, he used to greet rank and file affectionately with the same salutation- ‘Babai’. Wealthy patrons, in reciprocation to their joy of having lip-smacking food, used to hand over sheaf of notes, irrespective of the actual bill. Babai passed away in 1985, leaving name and fame of the hotel to his adopted nephew, Chanti (Valiveti Lakshmi Narasimha Rao). Running the business was not a bed of roses for Chanti, since it had been a tough task to maintain the consistent quality and taste, which earned paeans to the hotel.
- Babai Hotel – Building of a Brand
In the hands of heirs, the hotel was renovated into a building. The ambiance was completely changed and a few more items, Masala Dosa, Godhumma ravva Upma, Podi Dosa, Pongal were added. But the unchanged part is the ongoing flocking of customers at this door at early hours for the dishes of inexplicable taste. The plate is as sumptuous as it was in Babai times.
- Hot Favorite Among the Celebrities
The bigwigs from the Telugu film industry like NTR, ANR, Savitri, Chandra Mohan and a host of top politicians were frequent visitors to relish the tiffins at the Babi Hotel. This despite the fact that the eatery was small for celebs to come by. They took great liking to the food here as compared to what was served by many five star hotels.
- Signature Recipes Unchanged
Despite passing of years, there is absolutely no change in the recipes including the mouth-watering chutneys of coconut and ginger with chilli powder, along with butter and ghee. “For me the only missing is Babai’s love and affection,” Narsayya recalls, tears rolling down his cheeks.
- NTR’s Special Attachment with the Hotel
Veteran Actor and late Chief Minister Nandamuri Taraka RamaRao (NTR), during Mahanadu in 1988 in Vijayawada, himself served Babai Idlis to the visiting national leaders including Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as confirmed by the the true heirs of Babai.
The walls of this small eatery might be tiny to accommodate appreciation by the patrons, articles and letters, but not their hearts of hospitality. Babai Hotel continues to serve the hungry stomachs and fill up the yearning hearts with great taste.
Do not give it a miss if you are new to Vijayawada.