Vik’s, how I love thee. Your greasy snacks had me hooked at hello (or the bellowing man’s voice). This was the first place I ever had chaat (without knowing what chaat was) and Kyung was the one who introduced it to me! Apparently in college he used to love coming here with his roommates on a weekly basis. And neither him or I knew it was such a famous place until we checked Yelp and saw it had a ton of reviews (nearing 600) and 4.5 stars out of 5!
Vik’s started as a wholesaler of ingredients for Indian food, but then they started a little cafe on the side to make their savory creations. Over time people started coming here and realizing just how superior the food is. We make the drive from San Jose to Berkeley without a second thought when we’re craving Vik’s and/or chaat. It’s just that good!
The cafe is a pretty large sized affair now, and it’s always constantly packed. The registers are always opening and closing, people are always looking at the large chalkboard discussing their choices, and the lines are long. People have to fight for tables, but the good thing about snack food is that once someone is done you can swoop in and sit down.
There are so many people and the cafe is so bustling that there’s a man who stands with a microphone and yells your name when your food is ready. The food doesn’t come out at once, it’s a game of musical chairs. You hear ‘NAME!’, you gather yourself to go up to the counter through the crowds, grab your bhatura cholle, hustle back to your seat, take one bite, then hear ‘NAME!’ and you have to get back up. Makes life exciting I guess =)
There is a pretty extensive menu of yummies to choose from. My personal favorites are the aloo tikki cholle, the bhatura cholle, pani puri, the lamb roti (ok, this isn’t REALLY chaat), and the masala dosa (again, not really chaat either). I’ve tried a few other things that I didn’t like quite so much – the bhel puri, which is not as crispy as the one at Chaat Paradise, and the biryani rice.
Behold the pani puri, bhel puri, and aloo tikki. The pani puri here is decent, with the crispy shells and a mixture of chopped and seasoned potato and onion to place inside. You dunk it all in the mint water, of course. While the flavor is good, this pani puri is not quite as flavorful as the one at Chaat Paradise – you have less variety of fillings, and the mint water is not as tangy. The bhel puri is pretty flat here. It’s refreshing, but not crispy. It’s also not as zesty as I’d like.
I love the aloo tikki here – mealy and mashed potatoes covered in a wonderfully flavored cholle. The garbanzo beans, mint chutney, and diced onions go so well with the hot potatoes. Mm.
This place has the best bhatura cholle I’ve ever had – giant hot puff that’s greasy and chewy and yet crispy and it sops up the cholle like bread and butter. Wow.
Vik’s is a nostalgic and greasy favorite of mine, but I have to say that for my sanity and waistline, Chaat Paradise is equally good. The food is just as delicious (and in some cases more so), and it’s not drowning in oil. And it’s closer to home. And I can eat it anytime!
By the way, I’ve just had Indian food for four days in a row.
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