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Where to find the best food in Madurai—from sweet jigarthanda to India’s most delicious dosas

As one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities, Madurai has a truly fascinating history and is home to one of the most beautiful temples in India. But the bustling town is also home to some of the best food I’ve ever tried with an abundance of simple restaurants overflowing with regional delights and an array of interesting street food. As well as discovering fun things to do in Madurai, I spent three days strolling the city hunting out delicious dishes, from dosas to halwa and an incredibly addictive drink. This tightly curated list details where to find the best food in Madurai, especially if you’re limited on time and can only sample a few dishes.

Montage showing A selection of some of the best food in Madurai. Clockwise from top: one of Madurai's many banana shops, halwa from Prema Vilas, and South Indian coffee at Merina Restaurant)
A selection of some of the best food in Madurai (clockwise from top: one of Madurai's many banana shops, halwa from Sree Prema Vilas, and South Indian coffee at Merina Restaurant)

Where to find the best food and drinks in Madurai

1. Sree Prema Vilas Tirunelveli Lala Sweet Shop

Close to the city’s train station, this unassuming sweet shop is a truly unmissable stop in Madurai due to just one item; halwa.

wrapped up halwa and branded carrier bag from Sri Prema Vilas. The shop's halwa is some of the best food in Madurai
Sree Prema Vilas's halwa

Made using a secret recipe and cooked in water from the Tambiraparani River, Sree Prema Vilas's special halwa is unique and utterly delicious, especially when eaten warm. 

Opening hours: 4am to 12am daily
Address: 84 Town Hall Road, Madurai

2. Sree Sabarees

I loved eating at Sree Sabarees, and seeing how the place was packed out every single day it seemed I wasn’t the only one. The simplistic cafe serves vegetarian food on bright green banana leaves and everything is delicious. I tried the affordable set lunch and returned the next day because the food was so good. Seating is communal and once I placed my order, a huge banana leaf was swiftly set down in front of me with a poppadum balanced on top. Next came a spoonful of rice followed by ladlefuls of three varieties of vegetable curry, along with dahl, homemade chutney, and raita. Each curry is remarkable, an explosion of subtle spices and warming flavors. Don’t miss it. 

Opening hours: 6am to 11.30pm daily
Address: Town Hall Road, Madurai

3. Merina Restaurant

After a wholesome stay practising yoga at Soul and Surf and a few weeks traveling through Kerala, eating dosas became part of my daily routine and I’d have one most days for breakfast. But it wasn’t until I arrived in Madurai that I had one of the most delicious at Merina Restaurant, right next to the hotel I was staying in. As part of my stay, I’d get breakfast served in the restaurant every morning, where I would indulge in a delicious masala dosa filled with warm spiced cubes of potato, with homemade chutney and fragrant dhal. The simple dish arrived on a plastic tray, alongside steaming South Indian coffee.

Silver cup of South Indian coffee inside a silver saucer on top of a yellow plate at Merina Restaurant. The eatery serves some of the best food in Madurai, India
Frothy South Indian coffee at Merina Restaurant

It was a no-frills affair but a heavenly way to start the day. Merina Restaurant is an all-veg eatery and they also serve varied thali, fragrant vada, and the fluffiest idli. Prices are extremely reasonable too. 

Opening hours: 6am to 11pm daily
Address: West Marret Street, Madurai

4. Famous Jigarthanda

The city of Madurai is also famed for a drink called jigarthanda, a popular summer drink made of sweetened reduced milk, pearls of jelly, syrup, and homemade ice cream. It’s deliciously cooling and costs less than a dollar (around 60p). There’s just one place to get the real deal in Madurai and that’s Famous Jigarthanda. Some of Dubai’s best South Indian restaurants do a variation of the jigarthanda but they don’t come close to the original Madurai version—it’s totally addictive!
Opening hours: 10am-10pm daily
Address: 218A Theni Main Road, 13 Meenakshi Nagar & 175 West Masi Street Corner

5. Banana and fruit stands

The fruit offerings in Madurai are staggering with more varieties of banana than I’d ever seen elsewhere. I enjoyed trying a different variation each day, buying one or two bananas from one of the many shops around town or the fruit and vegetable market just a short rickshaw ride away.

Banana shop in Madurai with man sat in the doorway surrounded by many branches of bananas, from green and yellow to red variations. These shops provide soon of the best food in Madurai, India
One of Madurai's banana shops

The mangos are also amazingly sweet in this part of India so if you see a mango stall on the side of the road don’t hesitate to indulge. 

Opening hours: 6am to 11pm daily
Address: all over the city

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