Vidyarthi Bhavan, known worldwide for its masala dosas, is celebrating its platinum jubilee this week.
Located in the heart of Gandhi Bazaar in Basavangudi, Vidyarthi Bhavan was established by Venkataramana Ural in 1943, initially to cater to school children (hence the name). Parameshwara Ural, who later took over, sold it to the present owner Ramakrishna Adiga in 1970.
“Back then, as I have been told, students of Acharya Pathashala and National College never missed their daily attendance at Vidyarthi Bhavan,” says Arun Adiga, Ramakrishna Adiga’s son, who also runs the business.
For many like Kailash, 73, the restaurant has been a haunt for decades. “The taste remains the same. The warmth of the staff gives me a homely feeling. Their butter masala dosa is my favourite,” he says, sipping on his filter coffee.
The thick dosa, served with a signature chutney, has brought many writers, artists, and film stars to the doors of Vidyarthi Bhavan. Movie celebrities Rajkumar and Vishnuvardhan, former chief minister S M Krishna, and P Lankesh, well-known writer and editor, have stopped by here for breakfast.
The place has also served much loved Kannada poets and writers D V Gundappa, K S Nissar Ahmed, Gopalakrishna Adiga, and Masthi Venkatesa Iyengar.
“We used to sell 300-400 dosas a day back in 1970s. Now it is 1,500,” says Arun Adiga.
The restaurant retains its old world charm, and is not interested in changing the decor. “We don’t want to disturb the traditional look,” he says.
Vidyarthi Bhavan has 30 employees, and Arun Adiga credits its success to the hard work put in by “each and every one of them.” A majority have been with the restaurant for at least 20 years.
“We work as a family. In the end, it all comes down to the trust we have in one another,” he muses.
The menu has remained unchanged over the years, although the chutney and palya served with the dosas has seen subtle modifications.
On weekdays, Vidyarthi Bhavan is crowded with officials catching breakfast before heading out to work. Weekends are when families throng the place, often waiting outside for their turn.
“Many tourists who come to India keep Vidyarthi Bhavan on their itinerary. They make sure to visit the place and taste authentic Karnataka fare, especially our dosas,” says Adiga.
When Metrolife visited the restaurant on Tuesday, foodies were clicking pictures against an Instagram frame marking the 75th anniversary.
Gallery of writers
Pencil sketches of writers and artistes adorn the walls of Vidyarthi Bhavan. Literary giants Kuvempu, D V Gundappa, V K Gokak, T P Kailasam are among the many distinguished people featured here. Musicians are featured too.
“All those who make Kannadigas proud are up there. We started with 25 portraits. It has grown to 50 now,” says proprietor Arun Adiga.
All sketches are by S V Murthy, who worked as a supervisor at Vidyarthi Bhavan for 25 years.
Vidyarthi Bhavan works from 6 to 11.30 am, and again from 2 to 8 pm. It only serves snacks, and not lunch. It remains closed on Friday. It is also shut on Gowri-Ganesha, Ugadi and Deepavali festive days.
Platinum jubilee event
The Amrutha Mahotsava event to mark 75 years of Vidyarthi Bhavan is slated for Friday, October 26, at Ravindra Kalakshetra. The celebrations begin at 5.30 pm.
Former Chief Justice of India M N Venkatachalaiah, scientist C N R Rao, Kannada poet K S Nissar Ahmed, restaurateur P Sadanand Maiya, writer and Infosys co-founder Sudha Murthy and Chief Postmaster General of Karnataka Charles Lobo are the chief guests.
A coffee-table book documenting 75 years of the restaurant will be released at the event. “We want to rededicate ourselves to society, now that we have completed 75 years,” says proprietor Arun Adiga.