Have a taste of history and heritage: Check out Kozhikode’s oldest running eateries

The iconic dishes that enriched Malayalam literature
Biryani. Photo: Shutterstock/IBRAHEEM CHALLAGALI

Kozhikode is often hailed as the cultural capital of the Malabar region. As this region had trade relations with various countries, the culinary heritage of those faraway lands had influenced the rich cuisine of Kozhikode. The city has been touted as a culinary haven where foodies throng to enjoy myriad dishes and flavours. Incredible varieties of dishes that reflect the unique cultural heritage of Kozhikode are the highlights of this coastal district of Kerala. The vibrant culture of Kozhikode is what adds flavours to these unique dishes. Moreover, the fabulous hospitality of Kozhikode adds another charm to it as people here love serving good food with always a smile on their faces.

Historical view from the 16th century of the Indian city Kozhikode, also known as Calicut. During classical antiquity and the Middle Ages, Kozhikode was dubbed the City of Spices for its role as the major trading point of Indian spices. Wood engraving, published in 1888. Photo: iStock/ZU_09

Gastronomes have been thronging the city for decades in search of the perfect biryani, and probably the best baked goodies. Onmanorama Food here is giving a sneak peek into the oldest running eateries in Kozhikode which were quintessential in shaping the city's culinary history.

Bombay Hotel

A place that has become synonymous with dum biryani since 1949 – there is no better way to describe Bombay Hotel. From early morning patrons reach the seven-decades-old restaurant, situated near the beach on the corner of the road that leads from Corporation Office to Big Bazaar. Narrow steps lead to the serving area. The place is a favourite among morning walkers on the beach. Youngsters arriving on the beach for a game of football also make it a point to reach Bombay Hotel for a ‘tea and bite’. There are also autorickshaw drivers and traders heading to Big Bazaar to open their shops. The menu is tea, sukhiyan and tea cake.

Bombay Hotel was the realisation of the dream of Edakkad Kunhahammed, an expert chef hailing from Thalasseri, to open his own restaurant. Recently, Bombay Hotel had a change of guard. A new generation of owners, Kunhahammed’s son Muhammed Najib and siblings, took over.

Aside from biryani, classic Kozhikode snacks like chattippathiri, elanchi, mutton cutlet etc are the most sought-after items at Bombay Hotel.

Hotel Rahmath

If you are a beef lover and looking for the best beef biryani (or any biryani for that matter), every food expert you would come across in Kerala would recommend one place: Hotel Rahmath.

When Manorama visited the Bombay Hotel in search of a good lunch, Najib, who runs the place, had offered us the chicken and mutton variants. When asked why they don't have beef, he simply said "It's Rahmath that is known for beef biryani. We don't have it. There is no need for competition there. If we serve good food, customers will come searching for us."

Hotel Rahmath, in its current form, was established on AG Road, near Mathrubhumi Office at Mananchira, five decades ago. The forerunner to this place was an eatery founded by Kunjahammed Haji, a native of Tirur’s Alathiyur, in 1961. The restaurant at AG Road underwent many renovations over the years, but one thing remained unchanged all these years - the mouthwatering aroma of beef biryani wafting through the street by noon.

Fair warning, if you are planning to head there for lunch, you need wait a long, long time as there is heavy rush every single day!

Paragon Restaurant

Those who travel to Kozhikode are advised by friends to try their biryani and vellappams. Really? Are vellappams and fish curry such a big deal? That would be their counter-question! But the minute they taste the soft white vellappams and coconut-roasted fish curry at the Paragon Hotel in the city, all their doubts will be instantly squashed. Pair that with Kozhikode’s own ‘ammayithava’ and your day instantly gets brighter.

The iconic restaurant has been operating since 1939. Located on the Kozhikode-Kannur road near CH Overbridge, the place is almost always packed. Despite having branches across Kerala and the Middle East, the branch here, fondly called Calicut Paragon, is deemed the best.

Sagar Restaurant

Sagar Restaurant on Mavoor Road was established in 1978. It may not be that old when compared to the other entries on this list, but its legacy goes back further in time. A small restaurant founded by a man named Hamza Haji in 1956 later evolved into Parivar Hotel in 1972, the predecessor of the Sagar chain. Ever since Sagar was launched in 1978, its promoters did not have to look back.

The place is now a foodie paradise where meat and fish lovers throng to grab a bite of some rich, spicy and flavoursome curries. Pair them with their flaky yet soft porottas and you have a winner. The gravies are to die for. If you are craving fish, go for their Ayila Mulakittathu. The thoroughly flavoured fish swimming in a spicy gravy guarantees a burst of flavours. Finish off your meal with a piping hot tea.

We are not conveniently forgetting SM Street’s Arya Bhavan or the quaint ‘Sreedharettante Puttukada’ as we wrap up this list. But like every food enthusiast knows, it would take more than a small article to list down the culinary heritage of this city.

Let us know which of these are your favourite snacking spots!

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