There’s a lotta decent/cheap places to eat around Colombo. You can also get good street food outside any proleteriat booze joint. These are a few places I know, which is by no means comprehensive. One of my favorites is the New Yarl (Jaffna Kade) in Wellawatte. Just take a right at the Station Road junction, Wellawatte. They have nice crab, cuttlefish, mutton, etc served on a banana leaf for like Rs. 200. They’re renovating now. Hope they don’t make the place look like a bathroom, the typical result of renovation. Here’s what I know about that and a few others.
I’ve always called New Yarl ‘Jaffna Kade’. It’s kinda Jaffna/Tamil food, as far as I know. They lay out a banana leaf and serve rice, various vegetables (dhall, eggplant) and your choice of meat curries. Either the devilled or curried cuttlefish is good. People swear by the crab but eating crab stresses me out. They also have a decent mutton, albeit spicy. The place is great, albeit current closed for renovations.
If you walk from the New Yarl towards Colombo you’ll come to Amrita’s on the landside of Galle Road. It’s vegetarian fare, and quite nice. Tamil and North Indian food, so decent chappatis, dhose, aloo (potato), what with the usual accompaniments. Served on metal plates, pretty clean and bright place. They have a fresh fruit juice guy up front, the mango juice is quite nice, with a bit of ice cream even.
That Slave Island Place
I dunno what it’s called or if it even has a name, but there’s this place in Slave Island right before the rail tracks which serves some pretty decent banana leaf and metal bucket fare. I’m trying to remember how to find it as I haven’t been for years, I think you take the left into Slave Island (coming up from Galle Road), Malay Street maybe it. It’s not marked and it’s before the road kinda ends, across the street from a grocery. These are pretty crap directions. The food is pretty good for lunch.
Malay Joint – Pittu and Baabath
Off Malay Street, up a little road to the right there’s a small kade. The Sunday Times had more detailed information. It’s run by a lovely Malay gentlemen and the standard seems to be bone marrow soup, pittu and baabath (tripe) curry. I had all of the above and it’s quite nice. The pittu is a bit wider grained than I’m used to, I like both kinds. Over that you pour some bone marrow soup, beef I think, mix it with a bit of reddish tripe and there you go. Tripe is, like, cow stomach, quite nice I think.
This is not a food place but a bar, pictured above. It’s on Castle Street, first left after the rail tracks heading into Slave Island (from Galle Road). It’s a cheap bar, beer, arrack, whatever. Great building but not especially kept up or anything. It’s clean, just is what it is. Why I mention it here is that every working class bar has a cart outside selling delicious bites. Whole fried fish, patties, roast garlic, etc. At other places (in Rajagiriya specifically) they have fresh wades, fried chicken and more. All salty and really good, and really cheap.
I should note that most of these places are primarily male clientele. The food places are fine for women to go, but it would be a bit odd at a bar like Castle Street. Not that women aren’t allowed, they kinda just don’t. In all of these places you can get satisfied food wise for less than Rs. 200 (or $2). Booze may cost more, but besides beer, not so much. This is the vernacular street food as far as I know it. I like.