Saravana Bhavan doesn’t look like a house of secrets. Its dining room at the corner of Lexington Avenue and 26th Street is clean and bright and often attracts a line out front. It doesn’t advertise because it doesn’t need to; the fact that it’s one of the world’s largest chains of vegetarian restaurants — 33 in India, another 47 in a dozen other countries — is considered too obvious to its core clientele of Indian expatriates and tourists to be worth trumpeting. In a city overwhelmed with underwhelming north Indian food, Saravana Bhavan is the standard-bearer of the delicacies of the south, but it makes no effort to educate the uninitiated. If you don’t know what a dosa is or how to eat it, you’re on your own.
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