Located in a quiet street in Triplicane, this quaint little place, which can seat 38 people at the most, has been serving traditional Tamil style meals to patrons, some of whom have been visiting the establishment for a long time. Started in 1971, the Kasivinayaga Mess has been serving delicious, homecooked food for the past 49 years.
Mr. Vasudevan, 70, started the mess along with a friend after working in Victoria Hostel for two years. From founding the company, everyday Vasudevan has been personally going to the market to buy the vegetables and other ingredients. Per day, the restaurant consumes around 250-300 kgs of vegetables and 50 kgs of rice. Another interesting fact about the Kasivinayagar mess is that the workers are the first to eat the food, the reason being that once the service finishes, a lot of the dishes have already been consumed by the diners.
Despite having been around for almost five decades, the prices of the food have not been hiked. “Most of our customers are from middle-class families, so it’s not fair to them,” says Vasudevan. When the mess was first opened, with 18 seats and a grand total of 8 workers, each meal would cost the customer only 1Re and 45 paise. Right now, meals cost between 60 to 75 rupees, which is still extremely well priced. The price rise was very gradual, around 10-20 paise each time. Diners are given two differently colored tokens, with each color being assigned two rows to sit at. A batch is called in to eat when the previous batch has finished. Once a batch finishes their meal, those seats are immediately cleaned and readied for the next set of diners.
Kasivinayagar Mess also tried serving breakfast for around 7-8 months since their opening, but since the hours didn’t suit them, so they discontinued their breakfast and went ahead with their lunch and dinner service. Parcel service was initially available too but as they wanted to concentrate on their dining more, they discontinued it as well in 1994. It was after this that they had increased their seating capacity from 18 to 38. Now Kasivinayagar mess only has lunch and dinner.
Despite its relatively small size and almost zero advertising, the mess continues to attract a steady stream of customers from the State guest house in Chepauk and the Secretariat. Members of the US Consulate, including the Consulate General, have visited the mess.
Another interesting aspect of the mess is that they very rarely have any wastage. And on the rare days that they do, the mess feeds any leftovers to cows from a shed nearby, which is also where they send the banana leaves that are used as plates.
When we asked Mr. Vasudevan if he had any intentions of expanding his restaurant or opening any new branches, he said,
“my intentions are to serve good tasty food. I think it’s better to continue maintaining this place well than to open up new branches and dilute the quality of the food we serve.”vasudevan
“How I was 50 years ago, I think I still am the same way,” he laughs.