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Feb 4, 2010 08:59 PM

Viks ... now at their new location

After a quick visit to GO, I headed to VIks for a quick snack only to find they had vacated the old space. Their new location is a couple of blocks further south on Fourth Street at Channing Way, specifically the northwest corner. The market entrance is on Fourth Street but you can walk right through the market area to access the restaurant. The restaurant doors themselves are on Channing.

Their new space is cheery, clean, well-lit. The eating areas are spacious, new chairs and stainless steel (?) tables. Beside the order counter is a long wooden table with a couple of benches for communal eating.

Vik's Chaat House
2390 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710

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  1. finally, the move happened!
    thanks for the news.

    1. The new space is nice. Very bright and spacious, as noted. I was by for lunch today, and it seems that they've expanded the weekday specials menu so that it includes a few more of the offerings that used to be only available on weekends--the masala dosa (which is now available every day), etc. Looks like the choices will vary from day to day.

      I went by for lunch and had the Rogan Josh special ($6.25), which I mistakenly assumed would be lamb (which is the only version I've had before) but turned out to be chicken. No worries, as it was quite good--tender and flavorful. Came with pulao, chapati, rajma, raita, papad, and pickle. That's just from copying it off the menu; in any case, there was some bread (the chapati), some rice, some kind of red bean curry (the "rajma," I assume), the papad (just one), the raita, and that pickled stuff. Everything came in separate little compartments on a compostable tray, and they still have the same sporks (so handy for Indian food!) from before.

      I don't know if I've ever been instructed properly on how you're supposed to eat all this, but even if I'm doing it wrong, I find the whole process (a dip in here, a scoop from there, mix a little bit of this together with that) quite enjoyable. It makes for a nice and varied lunch.

      Place was packed.

      I also strolled quickly through the market side. I never really went into the market area at the old location, but at a glance the new setup looks nicer and more well-organized than, say, the market next door to Indus Village--though that's not to say that they necessarily have a better selection.

      9 Replies
      1. re: abstractpoet

        I was there today too. This new space has been so long coming I was beginning to wonder if it would ever open. With the long build up, I was expecting more of a change. Instead it is very much like before, just nicer. No messing around with the winning formula here.

        It is still the same neighborhood, still a converted warehouse space, still big and cavernous. But everything is newer, cleaner, brighter, nicer and more functionally laid out -- both in the dining room and in the open work spaces. Even the compostable plates and sporks are the same but slightly nicer. The stainless steel tables are striking, the lighting nicer and softer, and the cloth/textured wall panels really look good and seem to help the acoustics.

        The menu is 'expanded' in the sense that the A, B, C specials now go up through G. But the new options are not actually new. Maybe the lamb biryani was new, but the dosa, samosas, and other items were always there on the chaat menu. I'm guessing the change will help induce people to order a wider variety. It certainly induced more ordering confusion -- there was a crowd of indecisive folk studying the menu board and some new, laminated menus. Pretty sure prices are unchanged. Most importantly, the cholle batura are just as massive and steamy and wonderful as they were before.

        1. re: BernalKC

          I had lunch there yesterday and was amazed by the bright, cheery space, which is just so much cleaner and more inviting than the previous location. I've been going to Vik's for 25 years, since the days when they first began offering chaat out of the back corner of the tiny original store on weekends, and it has never failed to amaze and delight me, though the clutter and inevitably greasy tables were something I had to ignore.

          Re the weekday offerings, they began offering masala dosa and udupan on weekdays as well as weekends before the move, so that's not unique to the new location.

          Lately I've been obsessing on masala dosa and just can't get enough. Their version, it seems to me, is better than Udupi Palace's, though perhaps it's just the coconut chutney that's better. Vik's also serves what is hands down the best mango lassi I have ever tasted, and I've ordered it in plenty of places.

          1. re: TopoTail

            I you are willing to purse your Dosa obsession you should start heading down to South Bay, neither Vik's or the Berkeley branch of Udupi Palace is very good. The later sometimes being awful! The Udupi on Valencia St. in the Mission is much better.
            Woodlands in Newark is pretty good and is the closest to Berkely/Oakland.

            1. re: chefj

              Any other masala dosa recommendations in the South Bay or SF?

              1. re: whatwhat

                Saravanaa Bhavan, Sunnyvale
                Savera South India Restaurant
                The other Udapis are fine as well just not the Berkley location.

                1. re: chefj

                  chefj,I guess I must be easy to please but I have not found anything wrong with Berkeley Udapi. My last visit our neighbors were an Indian family whose son got the monster dosa and tackled it with relish. Well maybe chutney but he seemed to enjoy it as we did ours.

                  1. re: wolfe

                    I stopped going about a year ago after having had some really awful dosas and chutneys there, not consistently but too often for sure. They May have straightened out their problems now. I did email their main office and have mentioned the poor quality at some of their other locations. As for the Berkely branch I often found the masala(spiced potatoes) filling Is so full of oil that it seeps out on to the plate and is lacking any salt. The Sambar tends to be pretty good but usually under seasoned. The coconut chutney has been ice cold a number of times( not made that day), musty/ moldy ginger flavor and flavorless.
                    I really think that compared to more southerly locations it is pretty bad.

                    1. re: chefj

                      Just in case you missed the reference, "chefj"'s opinion above ...

                      "I stopped going about a year ago ..." etc.

                      is about Udupi Palace in Berkeley, NOT Vik's. Could be confusing, considering the title of the original posting.

                2. re: whatwhat

                  Dosa Place in Santa Clara, on El Camino Real. Annapurna in Palo Alto, also El Camino Real. Tirupathi Bhimas, Milpitas

        2. Went to the new location for Viks Chaat & Market. Many people know about the move already because the lines can be long. I've been to the old location a long time ago and liked it then, now that they moved it's just meh.

          I went about 5pm on Sat 2/6/10 and the line was about 20 people deep.

          They have 2 cashiers so it does move pretty quick.

          I got:

          Masala dosa $6.50 - seemed smaller than in the past. Not very crispy or tasty. Potatoes were not very soft, some had huge chunks that weren't tender enough.

          Mango lassi $1.50 - small cup that's premade.

          Friend got lamb samosa 2pcs for $4.75 - he liked them, came w/ side of mint chutney it looks like. I didn't try them.

          Plenty of stainless steel tables, some chairs, & many hard benches. They have compost, trash, recycle bins.

          Several bathrooms in the center back.

          $8 + .78c tax = $8.78 total. I think it's CASH ONLY, didn't check.

          Market is connected to the cafe so you can shop before or after your meal.

          My pics:

          2 Replies
          1. re: hhc

            Vik's does take credit cards, actually.

            1. re: hhc

              The lamb samosas, when not too liquidy, are probably the best things at Vik's, imho.

            2. Link:

              Vik's Chaat House
              2390 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710

              1. Wondering if a frequent guest could give a quick how-to. We went last week and it was packed. Entered on Channing into a room with marked stations on the left with various kinds of chaat. Sweets case was to the right adjoining the register. Packed line that seemed not to be a line as much as a gaggle. Menus were printed and laminated but no prices and not all corresponded to items on the chalked boards above the register. We're almost never deterred by chaos, etc. but were tired and could not figure it out.

                My thought after leaving was that we needed to get close enough to read the boards, learn what things were by referring to the priceless menu, and figure out the line. The stations must not be for diners but for service . . .Am I close? Ready to try again on a day when I am less blotto, etc.


                5 Replies
                1. re: dcfb

                  Have not gone in to eat so I don't have any advice on how the ordering works or if it has changed. But when it comes comes to food stick with the chaat. It is what they do best. Their other foods are ok but not great.

                  1. re: dcfb

                    I agree with chefj that the chaat menu is more interesting. But if you don't know your dosas from your puris from your uttapams, start with the A, B, C lunch specials. They offer more of them now, but the ABCs are veggie, chicken, and fish curry plates with dal, rice, raita, etc. I think they are a fine way to start. Take one of the laminated menus with you to your table so you can identify the more interesting chaat items you see around you and order them the next time you go.

                    1. re: BernalKC

                      Thanks! Wife and I went for the first time last weekend, and although everything seamed a bit daunting at first we really enjoyed ourselves. I can't wait to go back.

                    2. re: dcfb

                      I noticed Viks just updated their website recently so you might have a look - one of the things they added with the new location are these homey descriptions (maybe written by the owner?) and on the site there are pictures, so you can read and browse at leisure beforehand.

                      The stations are for pickup - when they call your name as your order(s) come up, go to the station with the type of food you ordered, where there will be a plate waiting. If you are not sure which is yours, the man in the middle with a microphone will direct you.

                      As far as the prices go, figure anything on the chaat menu is going to run you $5-6, and the specials $7-8. If you have a few people, try ordering a special plus a couple chaat. When you order the chaat, try to diversify - for example order one dahi anything (dahi papdi chaat, dahi pakori, dahi batata puri/pani puri), you will find the flavor bases are quite similar (and all worth a go, it's hard to make a mistake). For me their dahi batata puri are crave-inducing.

                      A few of the things people commonly ask about at Viks are the "giant puffy bread" - that is the cholle bhature, giant lightly fried, airy bread served with chickpea stew and cilantro chutney, pickles and onions. Also the "giant rolled crepe" - those are the dosa - the weekday dosa is a tasty vegetarian spiced potato stuffing, with coconut chutney and sambar (veg stew). Either of these can easily be a meal for two.

                      As far as the specials, the fish curry is my one favorite, appropriately spicy; the lamb and the eggplant are ok; I generally never have chicken here.

                      It can get very crowded at peak hours (weekdays at noon, and often on weekends), but you can get lucky and beat the rush if you go a bit early or a bit late for weekday lunch (before 12, or almost 2). But even with the big line, there are so many cooks in the kitchen, you won't have to wait too long. In fact, waiting for your food can be a fun opportunity to watch the food being made and make some mental notes for your next trip.


                      In sum, I think Viks is a pretty good place to be initiated into the world of chaat - nice selection, good prices that allow you to sample multiple things, and friendly staff too - if you get stuck on your order at the front of the line, don't be afraid to ask for help. And enjoy.

                      1. re: pockyjunkie

                        Pockyjunkie - Thank you so much for this post. I feel ready to go back now! Understanding their setup helps so much.