Kid Hit Menu Items: I hope to have better luck next time we go to Udupi Palace getting the kids to venture beyond excellent and filling mango milkshakes ($3.25) and plain rice. There’s always raita, and they did try a couple bites of the specialty mixed veggie uthapam. The signature rice and lentil flour pancake comes studded with tomatoes, red onion, shredded carrots, peas and a bit of cilantro, and its mildness leaves little to be concerned about. (A small cup of intense Rasam soup on the side, however, does pack a bit of heat.) The texture is light but overall filling enough to be more than one meal on a plate; I packed up half of ours to-go. Overall there’s plenty to try out at Udupi Palace that makes it perfectly suited to push comfort zones a bit, should you need to.
Adult Perks: The all-vegetarian menu includes a list of curries, small plate appetizers, about a dozen dosa options, uthapam with various toppings and fillings, at least ten rice dishes, and other South Indian specialties. My friend Pascal, a neighborhood expert who brought us to Udupi Palace since it ranks among his favorites in Little India, was thrilled with the spicy chili pakora, which I politely declined. (The mango milkshake would have quelled a major spice attack, but I’d rather drench those problems in beer. Alas, this was a teetotaler family lunch.) I actually preferred Pascal’s uthapam covered with a mushy but not too heavy blanket of mildly spiced potatoes vs. my relatively less flavorful mixed veggie one.
Pros: This is one of the friendliest, most kid-welcoming restaurants that I’ve ever been to in the L.A. area. The boys were even proffered a choice of sweet from a large, brimming candy jar. Udupi Palace is a terrific place to fill up on veg-loaded food relatively inexpensively, since menu prices top out at $11.45 for the combo with idli (rice and lentil patties), medhu vada (fried lentil flour), with dosa or uthapam. The South Indian thali plate costs $10.95 and includes about ten components. That will easily feed one, if not possibly two or three, people.
Cons: Not for those who fear anyplace where intense spice thrives.
Changing Station: No
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Street parking and lot in the rear, as well as in adjacent strip/mini-malls.
Other Tidbits: While Rajdhani a block up Pioneer Boulevard is perhaps a more elegant and expansive culinary experience, I didn’t want to risk it with the kids, because based on past experience the Gujarati food there had proven way too spicy for them. (Although following this kind of weak logic, we may as well go where we really want to go if they’re going to stick to a picky, limited range anyway!) Udupi Palace is an ideal place to explore South Indian foods, and next visit we’ll have to save room for some badam halwa (ground almonds cooked with milk, butter and saffron) and payasam (vermicelli cooked in honey, milk saffron and cardamom) at dessert. Then take a family stroll to look at the shops, bakeries and other restaurants along Pioneer Boulevard and start metabolizing some of those intense lentil, chickpea and other various flour-based South Indian dishes. Or if you can stand to think any more about food, peek into the Indian buffet joints that might appeal for future meals, since kids (and adults, too) always love the instant gratification of buffets.
18635 Pioneer Blvd., Artesia
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 11:30 .am. – 9:45 p.m.