Sparky’s Diner: A taste of the US in Chennai!

If you’re really hungry, and you want to do something different, check out Sparky’s Diner on Spurtank Road opposite the World University Service (WUS) building. The name proudly exhorts you to ‘Never trust a skinny chef!’, and true to their word, the portion sizes are huge, the food tasty and rich, and the experience that of a typical Diner in the US, with a lot of Americana on the walls to good effect.

Run by Tom Petit (not skinny as you can see!), who walks around chatting with diners and making them feel very much at home, Sparky’s offers a variety of food from the melting pot that is the US: There’s, of course, American food, Cajun (Southern cuisine), Mexican, Italian, and Hawaiian, across starters, soups, entrees, a kid’s menu side dishes and desserts, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian.

Starters includes dishes like BBQ Chicken Wings (Chicken wings smothered with the famous Texas ‘Hold ’em’ sauce), Breaded Chicken Strips (Strips of chicken breast breaded and served with your choice of dipping sauce, Breaded Zucchini (Golden brown breaded zucchini delicately fried and served with dipping sauce of your choice), South of the border Nachos (Corn tortilla chips topped with beans, cheese and your choice of toppings served with salsa) and Poutine (French fries smothered in Mozarella cheese and white gravy- a Canadian favourite).
At Sparky’s, even the salads can be a meal in themselves: In addition to the green House Salad that is served on its own and with a number of other dishes, you have meal sized salads that consist of greens, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and cheese topped with Breaded Chicken Strips; Tangy BBQ Chicken strips; Grilled Teriyaki or Tacos. There’s even a Taco Salad of layers of lettuce, cheese, tomato, beans, and a topping of your choiuce served on a bed of tortilla chips.
Soups run from Vegetable Noodle Soup, Chicken Noodle Soup, Mexican Tortilla Soup to French Onion Soup. The Mexican selection for the main course includes the Combo Burrito (A flour tortilla rolled with beans, cheese and your choice of fillings served with Spanish rice. Toppings usually run from chicken or ground beef, shredded beef or vegetables); Chimichanga (A deep fried burrito served with beans, cheese and your choice of filling served with Spanish rice).
The Cajun food, served with Cajun rice includes dishes like Tallahassee available in both veg and chicken versions; (A spicy dish (of veg or chicken) cooked with red and yellow bell peppers, onion, chillies and vinegar; Beef Gumbo (A classic spicy Bayou stew with onions, chillies, bell pepper, okra, mushrooms and tomatoes) and Jamaican Jerk Chicken (Grilled chicken breast that’s a little bit spicy and a little bit tangy).

The Italian choice is a bit more extensive with Mamma Rita’s Lasagna (veg or chicken) with layers of pasta, ricotta and Mozzarella cheese; Cream Basil Penne Pesto (veg or chicken) that consists of fresh basil, walnut, sun dried tomato pesto tossed with fresh cream; Eggplant or chicken Parmesan (topped with tangy marinara, Mozarella cheese, served on a bed of garlic spaghetti); Eggplant or chicken Marsala ( Breaded eggplant or chicken served with a delicate marsala wine mushroom sauce served on a bed of garlic spaghetti and the all time favourite Spaghetti and Meat Balls (A generous portion of spaghetti smothered in a rich red sauce served with meatballs).

The American food includes familiar favourites such as Country Fried Chicken as well as other less familiar offerings such as Arizona Chilli and Rice (Kidnet beans slow simmered with herbs and chillies on a bed of rice with your choice of toppings: veg, chicken or beef); Texas “Hold ’em” BBQ Chicken (Grilled chicken served with French fries and BBQ sauce) and Country Fried Steak (Cutlets of beef steak coated and fried to golden brown, covered with white country gravy and served on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes and home vegetables).
The Hawaiian dishes are served with rice and include Chicken Katsu (Breaded chicken served with a spicy horse radish (wasabi) and tomato dip- a Japanese/American favourite); Hula Style Teriyaki in beef or chicken (Grilled with a Teriyaki soy pineapple demi-glaze); Korean BBQ (Chicken or beef glazed with a spicy soy based demi-glaze). Side dishes to go with the menu include garlic mashed potatoes, French fries, onion rings, rice and mixed vegetables. There’s also an extensive sandwich menu that includes classic and combo sandwiches, submarines, hot dogs and ham burgers.

Desserts include fudge & brownies, apple pie and ice cream and the like. In addition to the food, which is strikingly different in large measure, to what we are familiar with, the ambience and service make this a really welcome experience. The walls are festooned with American memorablia: car number plates from different states, old art deco posters for locales like Miami Beach and Hawaii; post cards, posters of different states, pennants of baseball teams, Black Beard’s statue with the skull & cross bones; cowboys and Indians and more. The service is excellent, the food tasty and ample and the atmosphere relaxed and informal. Its very much a family place, children are welcome, and it can get quite noisy, but that only adds to the overall atmosphere with Tom benevolently presiding over everything.

It was filled with young groups, couples, large numbers of expats and their families, visitors to Chennai-all making for a very cosmopolitan mix. My wife had the Tallahassee (delicious) and I the Korean BBQ salad, also very good. We had the soup of the day which had artichokes and cheese and was very good. All washed down with bottom glasses of iced tea and lemon mixed. We were too full for dessert though I’m told the fudge and brownies are great, as is the apple pie and ice cream. The meal cost us Rs 250 per person and was well worth it. My ratings: Ambience 8, service 9, food 9, prices 8. So if you want to do something different for a change, head down to the Sparky’s Diner. You’re sure to have a good time! Oh, by the way, they also have a Friday Night Buffet from 7 to 10 PM for Rs 250.

This is a long post, but the food was so different I thought it worth describing what the dishes were!

2 Comments so far

  1. AB (unregistered) on November 27th, 2006 @ 1:21 am

    Very interesting to see so many internatinal cuisine restaurants coming to chennai. Now, Chennaiites are going to say “well…how abt american for lunch, italian for dinner”. Thats intriguing in a way!

  2. Sujith (unregistered) on December 5th, 2006 @ 10:58 pm

    have seen that place so many times. never could check it out. the menu looks attractive enough and the the place looks like one with an attitude.

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