Most of the shops on Commercial street are atleast as old as I am, and many older than my grandmother. Which, I have been instructed by her to inform you, isn't that old, ok? But if you'd like to give the shopping a miss and concentrate like I do on the food, a good place to start is the slightly overpriced, but lovely Woody's.
Stop sniggering, I think the owners of Woody's wanted to do a hep take on Woodlands, a bigger restaurant chain, when they opened this joint. Do try their dee-licious kotte-kadabus from coastal Karnataka: fragrant rice idlies steamed in cylindrical baskets(called kottes) woven from thaaLe-yele leaves. Slurp. Don't hesitate to try all the other yummy stuff on their menu. As long as you can get over the staff who will ignore you even if you commit hara-kiri at the counter, and the mechanical lady who'll say "Towkenn Fifffty Ffffour" in an ominous voice every 5 minutes or so.
A couple of buildings to the left, is the famous Bhagatram Sweets. Legend has it that the stoves of Bhagatram have never stopped burning since the shop opened in 1948. I can say without hesitation, that they make the world's best Sindhi gulab jamoons. Also do try their gorgeous jalebis, their lovely dumroat (baked yellow pumpkin halwa) and their chandrakala (a gulab jamoon stuffed in a badshah dipped in kesar-flavoured syrup. Sob!). Their carrot halwa and their famous 4pm samosas are superlatively delicious too. They moved from their dungeon like shop (lovingly named the Tunnel of Love) into a rather ordinary place next door a couple of years ago. The charming couple (Mr and Mrs Bhagatram Jr.?) that manage the shop speak a singsong mish-mash of Tamil,Kannada, English and Sindhi to their staff and customers, that many people stop by just to listen to.
Diagonally across the street is Anand sweets, equally well known and just as delicious. Their chaat section has some rather unusual numbers that I'm a little hesitant to try. While they have an array of mouthwatering North Indian sweets, do try their badam milk - absolutely hits the spot after a hot and hassled shopping spree. If you're tired of sweet things to eat, step to the back lane of commercial street where you can eat some really yummy streetside dosa and those odd looking triangular samosas.
Midway down Commercial street is the lovely Shiv Sagar. This is a standard Udupi joint with a humungous vegetarian menu, often bordering on the bizarre. Their Mexican selection has enchiladas (more like enchina maarayas* actually) topped with kissan sauce, and their pizzas have about a km. of grated amul cheese on their heads. Eh, whom are we kidding, they're delicious. Eat your heart out, Naples. But if you're not in the mood for experimentation, their North Indian and Indian-chinese selection will definitely appeal to your palate. Not to mention their array of excellent idlis, dosas and other scrumptious South Indian specialities. Top it all off with a Gud-Bud (Udupi special sundae with a story), Merry Window Special, or one of the millions of other lovely sundaes on the menu. Sorry, but you definitely need to visit Shiv Sagar about 15 times before you can decide whether you like it or not.
At the end of commercial street (on Kamaraj Rd actually), is a little ice cream shop tucked away in the basement of a run down complex. If you havent eaten tamarind or jamoon ice cream before, you must go there. Seriously though, Natural Ice Creams has some delicious all-natural seasonal flavours that will suprise you. My favourites are tender coconut and sugarcane-ginger. Do cut them some slack though. They're usually poorly stocked and the staff is sometimes frosty, but they'll warm up to you once you make a few appreciative noises and solicious enquiries about the ice cream.
Around the corner from Naturals, on Dispensary road, is the yummy Lalita's paratha point. Really good parathas of every shape and flavour and some surprisingly good biriyani. Do try when you're starving and want a great, satisfying punjabi meal. A little further up the road from Lallo's is Tiwari bros, a Calcutta based sweet shop with standard issue marwari sweets and some nice samosa-kachori sort of situations to go with them. They don't use onions or garlic, so this is a good place for fussy foodies or couples who, um, intend to have a long romantic evening in close proximity.
And now that you've eaten, it's time to check out commercial street's shopping wonders (preferably in a car at 40kmph). Check out the famous ladies' lane and the chappal gully where you can easily waste away and die unnoticed waiting for your female companions to finish. Go to the Green Shop, Brown Shop, Royal Mens Wear, Jean Junction or Your Shop(pe) for clothes, suitcases and sundries. Take a dekko at Eastern Stores, Bangalore's biggest woollens shop until the eighties. The owner of Eastern Stores will weasel his way into your heart (and wallet) by saying endearing things like "This is your shop ma, your shop. Take it and go ma, yours only". Also check out the series of ladies' tailors (all named Mr Rao) on Dispensary rd., and C Krishniah Chetty and sons, an expensive but exquisite jewellery store in an antique building in the middle of the street. Do walk around and check out the scores of other venerable old shopping institutions on the street when you have the time.
Frankly though, two venerable institutions down and I'm ready to tank up on some yummy Bhagatram gulab-jamoons again.
*Enchina maaraya = "Whaaaat I say?" in Tulu