When you think of the perfect restaurant, what comes to mind? An affordable and vast menu, a vibrant atmosphere and mouthwatering culture-filled food are all qualities that come up. But this is a triple threat that is not easily found in food today. After almost a semester of searching, I have finally found the perfect place to go for an Indian meal that falls right under this category.
I can’t be the only South Asian who has walked into Vik’s and been hit by a wave of nostalgia. The expansive menu and the market, stocked with some of India’s best spices, snacks and well-known products such as Parle-G cookies, Gits desserts and spicy chips, reminded me of home.
One of the best thing about Vik’s is that it embraces cuisine from both the northern and southern regions of India, something that is quite difficult to do considering the immense differences between the dishes.
The restaurant’s North Indian dishes include the traditional chaat, Indian street food such as dahi papdi chaat (fried dough wafers, or papdi, with beans, potatoes, yogurt and chutneys) and bhel puri (papdis served with potatoes, onions, chutneys, Sev and, occasionally, raw mangoes). Vik’s weekend menu also includes every North Indian child’s favorite weekend meal, chicken biryani (clay-pot chicken rice).
North Indian cuisine is typically centered on dairy products, whether by incorporating cream into lentils to make dal or by cooking cottage cheese in gravy. A typical North Indian diet usually revolves around three staples: dal (lentils), roti (wheat-based bread) and subzi (vegetables).
South Indian cuisine, on the other hand, does not use as many forms of dairy. Although there is definitely a vast number of vegetarian options in North Indian cuisine, South Indian dishes are typically the most vegetarian friendly. South Indian cuisine is centered more on the staple grain of rice.
Vik’s weekend menu expands to include dishes from Southern India, such as dosas (savory crepes) and uttapams (crispy pancakes with tomatoes and onions), which will probably be best suited for those who are not the biggest fans of spicier foods (trust me — that chaat can bring even the most avid fans of spices to tears).
If you somehow still have space in your stomach, then Vik’s dessert counter is waiting for you, fully stocked with an array of barfis, rasgulla and other sweet dishes, perfect for those with relentless sweet tooths.
Opened in 1989, Vik’s Chaat Corner started as a small retail store in a warehouse in Berkeley. Thanks to its growing popularity, the business was able to expand in 2004 to a larger establishment that consisted of both a market and a restaurant. A family business, Vik’s prioritizes the incorporation of fresh ingredients, including freshly chopped vegetables and dough kneaded daily, into its traditional recipes from regions in both the north and south of India.
With more than 2,000 dishes served every day, Vik’s is a hub for residents of Berkeley, and even the Bay Area, who crave a good Indian meal. Although the restaurant is located a bit far away from campus (on Fourth Street, two blocks away from the last 51B stop), the trip is worth it. You’ll spend your entire bus ride back dreaming of the next time you get to go there.
Contact Spandana Singh at [email protected].