Bengaluru has a reputed drinking culture a good one at that. In fact, locals and visitors to the city often brag about the weather and the endless options of watering-holes. And more often than not, Bengalureans recommends a bar -not a franchise-driven-club or brewery. When it comes to the masses, the fancy pubs with the loud music that charge for entry because you’re a single-male are never on the top of the priority list. It’s the local bars that make their way on this list. Why? Because those badly lit, rickety-stool housing establishments have nurtured the culture of good conversations and progressive alcoholism for decades in the city.
It really doesn’t matter what area you are, there is a bar for you wherever you go in Bengaluru. There are Shalimar and Sarathi in Indiranagar. Satyas, and FillnChill in Koramangala. Ginger Green in Kammanhalli. Olivers in Whitefield… Literally, every area has its local favorites. In fact, its harder to find a table at Satya’s than at most microbrews. Some of these bars date back at least 50 years and now serve as landmarks across the city. “Downtown Pub” on Residency Road is one such case.
These bars aren’t extravagant. There’s no pizzazz about them. But there’s a legacy. They don’t shout for attention and beg you to come in These bars are old-school. The focus is always simple decors, functional lighting, and comfortable seating. The only attention they want you to pay is on your table with your drink, not on things like expensive wall murals, pop-culture posters or the shape and size of the object your liquor comes in
Bar snacks are supposed to complement your drinks not fill you up while draining your pockets. “Snacks beka?” (do you want some snacks), ask the waiters after which they clear their throats, and narrate a long list of dishes which hardly charge from bar-to-bar.The list goes a little like this “Peanut Masala, Masala Papad, Masala Cucumber, Congress Mixture, Aloo Bonda, Onion Pakoda, Egg-burji, Lemon Chicken, Pepper Chicken, Chilli Chicken, Tandoori Chicken & Karmi Kebab” What else do you need anyway? The best part these are always served in generous quantities.
There’s always a big question mark drawn about the food in such bars. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why. The food in smaller bars is always more hygienic because they cater to regulars. And bad food here doesn’t just mean a night’s loss, it’s the loss of a regular business. Best of all, you can depend on the waiters to tell you what to order depending on what’s fresh.
Some of my friends refer to these bars as “uncle bars”. For some reason, these places apparently give out the impression of being a club for chauvinistic men. Which brings up the question: Are these bars safe for women? To which I’d like to say, there have been many times at Shalimar, (the rooftop bar in Indiranagar) where women have outnumbered men.
The recently opened Bob’s Bar in Bengaluru is recreating the essence of these old-bars while adding a few modern tweaks. Since it’s opening night, the bar attracted long queues of people . Some even willing to wait 30 minutes to drink at Bob’s.. Friendly pricing and a simple menu, that is what a Bengaluru bar is meant to be and the owners of Bob really seem to have embodied that at the venue. Food like soondall (a chick-pea savory) and Malnad-pork with Akki roti, at cheap rates, has helped Bob’s revive the bar snacks of the city. In fact, you cannot get a plate of fries or a pizza at Bob’s. But you can get great Jackfruit Pepper Masala and I recommend giving it a try!
Image: Bob’s Bar Indirangar (Facebook page)
All this said, I’d like to explicitly say that I’m not against the big establishments. Those have their own set of perks that you cannot get at a local bar. But a local bar is where you get to experience the local drinking culture and the local drinking snacks, not an establishment. So head out, and experience Bengaluru’s real drinking culture… like it meant to be.