This little restaurant in Mangauluru has become one of the city's most popular go-to-spots.

Mangalurus Giri Manjas The tale of fish Tawa Fry served with loveImage source: GIRI Manja's Mangalore/Facebook
Features Food Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 18:20

If you didn't know about it, you'd probably walk past Giri Manjas, a nondescript eatery tucked away in Mangaluru's Car Street.

There's nothing exceptional about how the place looks. There are thousands of such eateries all over the country - a tiny door flanked by giant Pepsi hoardings.

But for the people of Mangaluru and curious tourists, Giri Manjas is a landmark.

So much so that they're willing to park their cars far away and walk to the restaurant which is located in a narrow street with inadequate parking facilities.

A small place with ancient interiors, Giri Manjas is a humble restaurant which has a homely ambiance. However, it has gone on to become one of the city's most popular go-to spots for authentic Mangalurean cuisine. This is not in the least for its most famous dish, the fish Tawa Fry.

Speaking to TNM, Nandini Pai, who now manages the restaurant, recounts the story behind Giri Manjas.

The restaurant was founded by Giri Pai, in 1984. At the time, the restaurant did not even have a name. It was not until ten years ago that Manjunath Pai, Nandini's husband and Giri's son, gave the unnamed mess its name and also introduced the ever popular Tawa Fry. The restaurant's name is a combination of 'Manjunath' and 'Giri'. Both of them are now no more.

Manjanna, as Manjunath was known, took the Tawa Fry, a favourite with Mangalureans, and created his own version of it. A dish that's cooked in almost every household in the city that loves its seafood, the Tawa Fry became an instant hit and business picked up for the restaurant. So much so that the BBC even mentioned the restaurant in a story it did on tiny eateries in India.

After Giri's death in 2002, Manjunath took over the management of the restaurant and introduced the Tawa Fry, wanting to give the crowd something different from the deep fried fish dishes popular in Mangaluru at the time.

When Manjunath passed away in 2015 due to a heart attack, his wife Nandini Pai quit her job as a staff member at the Canara PU College to keep the restaurant running.

"He had worked hard to build the restaurant. He was the kind of person who personally spoke to each customer who came into eat here and when he passed away two years ago,  I decided to quit my job to help manage the restaurant. I thought that his name should live on this way," says Nandini Pai.

The restaurant can seat 40 people at a time and serves up to 200 portions of fish fry every day. Nandini has no plans to shift the restaurant to a bigger location, in spite of its growing popularity.

"We are happy to serve people from here. We opened another restaurant across the road where 40 more people can sit.  We want to provide parking for people since this is a narrow street, but we are happy to see that people still park their cars far away from here and come walking to eat," says Nandini,  who now manages the restaurant's day to day business.

The menu has not changed a lot in the last ten years.

"We now make fifteen varieties of fish fry and the dishes change every day, depending on which fish is available. We also make one chicken dish," she adds.

In spite of the growing demand, the restaurant employs only three cooks, one of whom has been working with the owner's family since the restaurant was started 33 years ago. When asked what is the secret to their fish fry's popularity, Nandini shrugs it off saying, "There is no secret. We cook it with love". 

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