As a kid, I was very fond of seeing the zoo. In fact, I still am. So, mom and dad would take me to a trip to Vadodara, where we would go to the zoo at Kamatibaug. This was essentially always preceded by a breakfast at Canara Coffee House at Dandia Bazaar, near the Fire Station at the Sur Sagar tank in the city. I would always have their upma, mom and dad would have their famed poona misal, from which I would rightfully claim the dahi.
Growing up, this forms some of the best memories of mine of this place. Sitting on the larger seating tables towards the roadside, this little eatery remained unchanged for ages. It was the same when I visited it as a 26 year old, as it was when I visited it as a 6 year old. Nothing changed in all these years. Not the interiors, not the seating, not the menu, not the cutlery, not the taste, not even the clock on the wall. Until all of a sudden, a few months ago, I heard Canara Coffee House had shut down. It was no more. The building was seen being demolished in which this iconic legendary coffee house (that served no coffee anymore for many years) stood. Panic sunk in among the Barodians to which Canara Coffee House was a case in itself of how a restaurant, with a basic, no frills menu, very economic pricing, and very simple, basic interiors could become a legend and an icon, an icon of economic and delicious South Indian food that tasted the same no matter when you visited or after how many days you visited.
After an interview, it was found out that Canara Coffee House had closed for renovation. Undoubtedly, all of us were relieved. It was said that they would be closed for a few months and then be back with a bang. A few days before, I heard Canara had opened up at a temp location just behind its original location. There was no way to resist not paying a visit.
So, I drive down to Dandia Bazaar. There is a sign reading that Canara Coffee House has opened in the little lane off the road. I walk through the narrow lane, and there it is, announcing that the Coffee House was here. I climbed the stone step in.
A very, very different experience greeted me. Canara Coffee House holds a very different image of itself in my head, and I had to remind myself that this was mostly a temp location and when they go back to their original location it would be different. There is no peach paint, no shelves lined with pineapple and mango juice tins on the wall all across the cafe. That wooden design clock fashioned in the shape of a watch that I had grown to love and hold as an identification of the Cafe is missing. The glass box with decorative shrubs inside, that I would always take for an aquarium and look for fishes inside is gone. The glasses, held together by the attendants in bundles of four or five, one for each finger are gone. Those steel finish tables with wooden bases, and those really difficult to move chairs are gone. And above all, the attendants that I have seen at Canara for all my life are not there, I loved the guy would recite the menu, I would laugh at it as a kid because I never understood a word, and I would go around with a pen or pencil behind my ear, trying to imitate him.
The new current location has a Bob Marley painting on the wall. Plastic Nilkamal-style tables, wooden benches with tape on them. Steel glasses to serve water in. The plates have changed a bit, the special bowl in which the Poona Misal used to be served has changed. The refrigerator is the same. they have an open kitchen adjoining to the dining area now.
So much has changed. But what has not changed, is the taste. The Poona Misal is still the same. No change at all. I ordered Masala Dosa as well. No change there either. Both of these have remained my top favorites, apart from the upma, of course. The food is still very healthy, good in taste, good value for money.
So many years, the name has achieved a status that it does not need a review anymore. It can be blindly trusted and a meal at Canara can be trusted for comfort food and easy on the pocket at any time, Canara never disappoints.