Does the high cost of eating out sometimes keep you at home?
One way to stretch your dining dollar is to head to Vancouver’s dosa zone along the southern section of Fraser Street, where it’s possible to gorge on healthy South Indian fare at McDonald’s prices.
By now, most Vancouverites know that dosas are zesty and very lengthy Indian-style crepes made from rice and black gram, a.k.a. mungo bean.
These meals were first made popular in Vancouver by Kerala immigrant Raj Muttavanchery at House of Dosas (1391 Kingsway). He offers a bargain price of $5.95 for all dosas on Mondays, and his success has given rise to many others, including the nearby Dosa Factory (1345 Kingsway).
So what sets each of these Fraser Street joints apart? Like their counterparts in South India, they all offer affordability, stunningly unpretentious service, and a big-screen TV. At Madras Dosa House, a plain dosa is only $4.49 and comes with two chutneys and sambar, which is a hot lentil stew made with tamarind. It’s often used as a dipping sauce.
The most expensive vegetarian option, a potato-filled ghee masala dosa, is $7.99. The only other dosa prices this low along Fraser Street are at Dosa Hut.
Because Madras Dosa House is a Sri Lankan joint, you can also order chicken 65, which is a super-spicy dish commonly eaten in the island nation. Here, you won’t find much North Indian fare.
However, my favourite dosa along Fraser Street is the $8.99 spinach-flavoured beauty at Madras Spice Restaurant. This place is slightly more expensive than the other three.
Black gram is renowned for its health benefits. It’s filled with fibre and packed with protein. According to Ayurvedic tradition, it helps reduce pain and inflammation.
Its high potassium and magnesium levels are associated with better heart health. With some additional spinach, which is seen in the West as a superfood, you can pig out without any feelings of remorse.
In South India, people tend to eat plain or masala dosas, so some might view a spinach dosa or even a chicken dosa as a western bastardization. With sambar, the spinach dosa is enough for lunch, though you might want to add an appetizer for dinner.
Madras Spice Restaurant is in the heart of what’s becoming known as Downtown South Vancouver. The area around Fraser Street and East 49th Avenue is where first-generation immigrants of South Asian, Chinese, and Philippine ancestry shop in each other’s stores and eat in each other’s restaurants. So it’s no surprise that Madras Spice Restaurant has a more extensive menu than the others, including plenty of Chinese-Indian and North Indian dishes.
But if sambar’s your thing, you might prefer Kalai’s Dosa Hut, which is 10 blocks to the south. It’s expertly flavoured, not too spicy but anything but bland. This is a South Indian gathering spot with some of the lowest prices in Vancouver. And its masala dosa, at $10.99, offers the largest serving of potato along the street. It’s delicious.
The southernmost dosa destination, Dosa Corner, isn’t just a dosa joint, though it serves plenty of them every day. And they’re outstanding, especially when dipped into what might be the best coconut chutney in the city.
But what sets Dosa Corner apart is its curries. The chicken korma, in particular, is exquisite. Sure, go ahead and order the dosas if you like. I’ll stick with the dishes that can’t be replicated anywhere else along Fraser Street.