What I Ate: When you're a vegetarian, you look for any place where you can eat more than one or two items on the menu.
Often I turn to Indian, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants — cuisines that center on vegetables, rice and sauces. So when I learned about Udipi Cafe, an all-vegetarian Indian restaurant, I sought it out.
Though the restaurant offers a full dinner menu, I opted for their lunch buffet, figuring I could sample a variety of their dishes while saving some money.
I chose a number of curries, including the chickpea-centric chana masala, cabbage poriyal and a "chef's special" curry with a heaping helping of coconut rice. Provided as a complimentary side dish was dosai, a crepe-like item filled with potatoes and onions.
What it cost: The lunch buffet cost me only $9.60, not including tip. Many of the items can also be ordered for dinner. A variety of dosai ranging from around $6-$9 are available, while a (presumably larger) chana masala meal goes for $9.45.
What I thought: Udipi Cafe is located in a N Dale Mabry strip mall next to Tampa Pitcher Show and Prime Time Sports Grill, which may not scream international flavor. But it is also near Benjarong Thai, which has long been one of my parents' favorite places to eat. And shortly after I sat down, a woman leaving declared it her favorite restaurant in Tampa.
If I can't quite back that pronouncement, I'm still happy to have found another solid Indian restaurant in the area. It's also a good addition to lists of local lunch specials, offering plentiful portions for under $10.
The cabbage poriyal was a winner, providing a striking, tangy taste. So was the chana masala, though it would be hard to mess up such an Indian staple. In fact, the chef's special probably stood out the least of the curries that I tried.
Tampa Bay vegetarians should check out Udipi Cafe. And even if you're a meat-eater more likely to tear into some butter chicken, chances are you'll find something to like here as well.
Jimmy Geurts, Times staff writer