Toddy shops are the quintessential presence in the villages of Kerala. Till a few years back, toddy shops were only for those wishing to taste toddy or other alcoholic beverages. But today, most toddy shops have metamorphosed into eateries where you can taste authentic Kerala food with a spicy touch. Gone are the days when toddy shops were male bastions. People now visit toddy shops with their families and friends. Hard-core foodies, even those from outside the state, are often on a quest to find the most popular toddy shops in Kerala. Let us see what caused this turnaround, and also have a look at the best toddy shops in Kerala. It includes some of my personal favorites too!
What Is Toddy?
Toddy is a mildly alcoholic beverage extracted from the blossom of coconut and palm trees. In Kerala, we call it ‘Kallu.’ Toddy shops are ‘Kallu shappu’ for us in Malayalam. In my childhood days, I used to look at the toddy tappers who easily scrambled up the tall trees with a sense of awe. There are professional toddy tappers in Kerala even today. Toddy is an essential drink for most village folks. A glass of ‘Kallu’ in the evening is a perfect end to their day’s hard work. Traditionally, toddy shops were tiny shanties with thatched roofs. People went there to gulp their daily dose of toddy, along with some side dishes. How did these unassuming shacks become a part of Kerala’s mainstream eateries? The answer lies in the taste of food.
Toddy shops in Kerala serve traditional and authentic Kerala food, albeit non-vegetarian and seafood delicacies. Cassava and fish curries are the best bet in any toddy shop menu. The best toddy shops in Kerala are famous not for their toddy, but for their food! They serve recipes like duck curry, chicken curry, and even the traditional Puttu and Appam. Toddy shop food is a knockout hit with foodies. Sensing the demand for spicy and authentic Kerala food, toddy shop owners modified their ambiance. Many of them have separate family rooms where you get only the ‘shappu food,’ but no toddy. Of course, toddy is part of their menu. But the family area is free from booze lovers! This is how the toddy shops donned the attire of family-friendly eateries. Now let us have a look at the most popular toddy shops in Kerala.
Mullapanthal Toddy Shop
Mullapanthal is one of the most famous toddy shops in Kerala. It is located in Tripunithura near Kochi. Mullapanthal is a toddy shop popularized by social media. The name ‘Mullapanthal’ can be translated as ‘shade of jasmine vines.’ True to the name, there is a jasmine vine at the shop. The thick canopy of jasmine vine greets us at the entrance to the shop. This is a toddy shop with decades of history. It is their food which is slightly more famous than their toddy. This was the first toddy shop where I did a vlog! I had a peek into their kitchen as well. Fish, crab, pork, duck, you name it, they have it. There are more female staff in their kitchen. I talked to one of their employees. According to her, duck curry is their tastiest dish.
Although the lady suggested duck curry, I was in a mood to taste pork. I had pork curry with mashed cassava. By the way, mashed cassava is the most common toddy shop food. Pork curry was not overly spicy, and the taste was excellent. You can find many families enjoying food at this toddy shop. It is very crowded most of the time. Dining area is congested as well. Mullapanthal does not have a separate dining space for families, as we see in many other toddy shops. Food is good, the shop has a convenient location, and there is a bit of parking space in front of the shop. Although this is one of the most popular toddy shops in Kerala, I do not consider Mullapanthal as one of my personal favorites.
Kadamakkudy Toddy Shop
Would you like to taste toddy and spicy food in an awesome location? This is what Kadamakudy Toddy Shop offers you. Two ferry crossings, and a short walk is what I needed to reach this place. The toddy shop is located at Kadamakudy, which is at a distance of 10 kilometres from Edappilly, Kochi. Kadamakkudy is a cluster of islands located in the suburbs of Kochi. Fish farms and paddy fields are the predominant sights in this region. Kadamakkudy is an attraction for tourists who wish to view the unspoiled beauty of nature. The fact that it is close to a bustling city makes it even more alluring. Narrow roads with paddy fields and fish farms on both sides look magnificent.
Location Is The King
The biggest attraction of Kadamakkudy toddy shop is its ambiance. It is surrounded by water bodies and fish farms on all sides. If you go by your own vehicle, you will need two ferry crossings to reach Kadamakkudy. There is another route by road, but a ferry is the fastest way to reach here. There is no space to park vehicles near the shop. Park it at a distance, and take a short walk. This is the only way to reach Kadamakkudy Toddy Shop. Nevertheless, the food here is tasty. I went there with a friend, and we shared several dishes amongst us. Spicy fish curry cooked with Malabar tamarind was my favorite. In their kitchen, you find many varieties of fish curries, crab, rabbit meat, duck curry, beef and toddy of course. You get the typical ‘shappu food’ of Kerala at this toddy shop.
It is a good place to spend a day with friends, but only to an extent. Let me caution you, it is not very pleasant during hot days. The shop has roof and wall partitions made with aluminum sheets, and there is no ceiling fan! Think of spending a hot day in a place devoid of fans or proper ventilation. This is one aspect about Kadamakkudy about which I would definitely suggest an improvement. The best time to visit the place will be after 4 PM, when the scorching heat is dying down. Do not depend only on Google maps while going there, as you may lose your way. It is best to go the traditional way. Ask people for directions to the shop. It is quite famous in the locality, so anyone will guide you.
Rajapuram Toddy Shop
Rajapuram is a toddy shop set in the picturesque settings of backwaters. It is located at Kavalam in Alappuzha district. As you may know, Alappuzha has the nick-name ‘Venice of the East’ due to its vast network of canals and backwaters. Kavalam is a tranquil suburb of Alappuzha town. Paddy fields and backwaters are the ubiquitous presence of the locality. Rajapuram is one of the most popular toddy shops in Kerala, not only for food, but also for their toddy. The shop is set on a tiny strip of land surrounded by backwaters. The speciality of this toddy shop is that you can reach here only by boats or Shikaras. Pedestrians and two wheelers may be able to access the place through narrow paths, but not four wheelers.
Good Food, Good Toddy
Surrounded by stunning scenery, this toddy shop serves good quality food and toddy. Menu at Rajapuram Toddy Shop is the usual hot and spicy food that we find in most toddy shops. They serve varieties of boiled tubers such as cassava, taro, and yam along with fresh or fermented toddy. As for non-vegetarian delights, you get duck curry, fish curries in many varieties, baked or roasted prawns, crab dishes, and much more. Food items are not inexpensive, but the quality of food justifies the price that they charge. People flock to the shop on weekends to taste good food and toddy in the lovely ambiance. This is a good place to hang out with friends, but I won’t recommend this toddy shop for family outings.
I visited this toddy shop with Mark Wiens, the famous food vlogger who needs no introduction. He loved the toddy and spicy dishes. I remember how he spelled out the names of Kerala dishes in the perfect manner, and ate like a pro, using his fingers! This is the toddy shop from where I tasted spicy Chili Toddy for the first time in my life. Freshly tapped toddy mixed with crushed ginger and chilies tasted awesome. Boiled purple yam with crushed bird’s eye chili was simply heavenly. I loved the food and the setting at the shop. Rajapuram has plenty of fan followings in the digital world as well.
Garudakari Toddy Shop
Garudakari is next in our list of the most popular toddy shops in Kerala. This toddy shop is located at Kuttanad, in Alappuzha district. Do you know what is special about Kuttanad? This is one of the few places where farms are below sea level. Kuttanad is famous for its low-lying paddy fields. It is here that we find Garudakari Toddy Shop nestled amidst the vast expanse of paddy cultivations. The shop is famous all over social media for its spicy food and lovely location.
What’s Special About Garudakari?
This is one of the toddy shops where they have separate dining facilities for families. There are small makeshift cabins which ensure privacy to the guests. Families can enjoy their food without any disturbance from the toddy-loving crowd. You can consider this almost like a restaurant, but with modest arrangements. Although the area is surrounded by beautiful scenery on all sides, the family cabins are completely enclosed, and offer no views while relishing food. There is sufficient parking space at the toddy shop. Road leading to the shop is narrow, and is not in a very good condition. The place is hygienic, and is totally worth a visit for family outings. Food is expensive, so be prepared for a heavy bill if you plan a visit.
Kuzha is one of the special dishes that we can taste from Garudagiri Toddy Shop. It is a mixture of boiled and mashed tubers such as purple yam, cassava, taro and elephant yams. They add varieties of boiled pulses as well to this mixture. You will get the spicy gravy of fish curry along with Kuzha. It was my first experience with this unique dish, and I loved the tubers-pulses mixture. In Garudakari, they serve Kerala meals too. My friend, Unni, who was with me during the ‘Shappu’ visit tried their meals which had fish curry, chicken, and a host of other dishes. They cook fish curry in the traditional Kottayam-Alappuzha style, using Malabar tamarind. Red hot fish curry is just what we need for a tasty meal, with or without toddy.
Nettoor Toddy Shop
Nettoor is a toddy shop located in the suburbs of Ernakulam, and this may be one of the reasons why it became one of the most popular toddy shops in Kerala. This toddy shop is in Nettoor, Marad, which is at a distance of 8 kilometres from Ernakulam city. This is a place where the city dwellers get the taste of authentic Kerala food and toddy in a pleasant ambiance. Nettoor Shop has a fabulous setting close to a backwater. Like all other toddy shops, the shop looks modest. You can taste spicy Kerala food while enjoying the water views. The shop owners have placed outdoor tables and chairs for this purpose. Evenings will be the best time to visit the shop, as you can enjoy the breeze and sunset views along with good food.
This is a family-friendly toddy shop with washroom provisions as well. It is better to have your own vehicle when going there. As you may expect in all toddy shops in Kerala, food is spicy. But spiciness is what makes ‘Shappu food in Kerala’ special! The shop does not charge exorbitant prices for their food. Along with the usual seafood dishes, they serve pork, beef, and duck meat as well. The shop will be crowded during weekends, so make sure to reach well on time. This is a toddy shop where I haven’t gone yet. So I cannot personally vouch for the cleanliness and other aspects. Nettoor Toddy Shop is one among the famous toddy shops in Kerala, so the day will come soon when I taste their spicy food.
New York City Toddy Shop
This is yet another toddy shop from the green paddy-laden Kuttanad. The name sounds too fascinating for a toddy shop, right? Though the name is fancy and modern, the location of the toddy shop is quite rustic. It is nestled among the paddy fields of Chambakulam, in Kuttanad. The shop has several small cottages or tents, and each of them has a name. Do you know what they are? Well, there is Washington D.C, California, Florida, Las Vegas and a few more American names.
What’s In A Name?
I visited the toddy shop, and asked the owner about the logic behind the American names. His answer came as a surprise to me. There is a junction close to the toddy shop which is known as American Junction. There was an American boat jetty, and an American toddy shop in the same area. Keeping up with this tradition, the owner decided to go with the name New York City for his toddy shop. Good logic, right? Cottages at New York City Toddy Shop look colourful in striped cloth partitions. You will get wonderful views of the paddy fields from inside the cottages.
There is a small tank outside where they keep live fish. We can order our pick, and they will cook it as per our demands. The New York City toddy shop is open from morning to night, and they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is more like a restaurant that serves spicy Kerala food, along with toddy for those who wish. There is a sign displayed here which says that singing inside the shop is prohibited as per Government’s order. This is a family-friendly shop, no doubt. I tasted breakfast items such as Appam and Puttu from there. Duck curry and fried fish which I tasted as side dishes with these were delicious. This is one of my personal favorites among the toddy shops in Kerala.
Mapranam Toddy Shop
All the toddy shops that we saw till now were from the suburbs of Ernakulam or Alappuzha. The next toddy shop in our list is from Thrissur district. Mapranam Toddy Shop is one of the most popular toddy shops in Kerala, and is located at Irinjalakuda in Thrissur district. This is a toddy shop that does not have an awesome location to speak of. It is located beside the Thrissur-Irinjalakuda Road. The toddy shop looks very commonplace from outside. It is the variety and taste of food that attracts people to this unassuming toddy shop.
As you enter the shop, you will see the curries spread over the table, and you can choose what you wish to order. Unlike in other places, they do not take orders from customers. The system here is to choose from what is spread out over the table! Mutton, chicken, beef, rabbit meat, clams, and many more items are part of their menu. The list is quite long!
Although Mapranam Toddy Shop is not suited for families with respect to its ambiance, many families do visit the shop. There are half-partitions inside the shop for the convenience of families, but they do not seem to serve the purpose. This is a popular toddy shop in the locality, and for this reason, it is very crowded during the peak hours. There are parking facilities outside the toddy shop. It is easily accessible from the main road. This is a toddy shop that I have not visited, but wish to visit someday.
Kilikkoodu Toddy Shop and Family Restaurant
Among the most popular toddy shops in Kerala, KIlikkoodu is one that categorizes itself as a toddy shop cum family restaurant. It is located at Kumarakom, which is at a distance of 16 kilometres from Kottayam town. Kumarakom is a popular tourist attraction in Kerala. It is a tiny village located along the shores of Vembanad Lake, and is abundant in backwaters and canals. Kumarakom has a bird sanctuary which is home to several species of birds. Kilikkoodu Toddy Shop is a place in Kumarakom where you can relish on authentic Kerala cuisine, especially the spicy ‘Shappu food of Kerala.’ It is not just a toddy shop. As the name suggests, the owners have designed the place in such a manner that even families can visit comfortably.
The word ‘Kilikkoodu’ means a bird’s nest in Malayalam. The toddy shop is true to its name. It is small and cozy, just like a bird’s nest. There are several makeshift cottages here, which are built over stilts in a canal. Cabins or cottages guarantee privacy and comfort. They have the regular toddy shop menu such as duck Mappas, crabs, prawns, Karimeen Pollichathu (grilled pearl spot) and a lot more. I visited the shop a couple of years back with my childhood friends. We relished every food item, and had a wonderful time. The shop is crowded and noisy during weekends. There is a limited parking space near the shop.
Karimpumkala The Family Restaurant
Just like Kilikkoodu, Karimpumkala is a toddy that projects itself as a family restaurant. In fact, they do not use the words toddy shop in their name. This restaurant cum toddy shop is located close to Kottayam town. If you see from outside, it is just another ordinary restaurant. But in this restaurant, we get toddy along with traditional Kerala cuisine. Kottayam style fish curry cooked with Malabar tamarind is the masterpiece of this restaurant. Karimeen Pollichathu and Karimeen fries are also highly popular with the customers. Karimpumkala is located along the sides of a busy road. There is nothing spectacular about its location.
If you wish to taste the spicy shappu food of Kerala, but are not comfortable with the ambiance at local toddy shops, Karimpumkala is a good option that you can try out. This is a restaurant that provides toddy shop food, and toddy of course. There are no parking facilities at the restaurant. During weekends, the place can get very crowded as well. This is one more place that I haven’t visited, and hope to visit soon.
Thrippekkulam Toddy Shop
The last one in our list of most popular toddy shops in Kerala is another one of my personal favorites. Thrippekkulam Toddy Shop is located at Thrippekkulam, which is at a distance of 34 kilometres from Thrissur town. This is a small toddy shop that serves delicious Kerala cuisine. The shop is located conveniently close to the main road. There is a small brook running behind the shop, and a jasmine vine in front of it. The jasmine vine provides ample shade and comfort to guests. With all the greenery surrounding the toddy shop, we feel close to nature. Besides the jasmine vine, there are a few fruit bearing trees as well. Thrippekkulam Toddy Shop has a spacious dining area.
This shop started functioning almost 45 years back. It was just a toddy shop in those days. Later, they renovated the place and started serving Shappu food as well. Since then, there has been no looking back. Menu at Thrippekkulam Shop consists of the usual fare such as crabs, prawns, fish curries etc. We also get Kerala snacks like Pazham Pori, Pathiri, and Appam.
My visit to the place was a couple of years back. My kids were with me. Here I tried a new combination of Pazham Pori with duck curry, and loved it. Spicy curries were a little overwhelming for my little ones, but they also loved the food. The shop has recently undergone some renovations. Now they have air conditioned and non-air conditioned dining areas. Interiors are neat and clean. This is a place where you can visit with family. There is also a small parking area in front of the shop.
This was the list of the most popular toddy shops in Kerala, to the best of my knowledge. If you have any suggestions, please do leave a comment.
Must read: Best Seafood Restaurants in Kochi