Avva’s Café in Himachal Pradesh’s Bir Billing was started in 2018 by Suraj Dikonda (30) and his father Anil Dikonda (63) with his mother Sunanda’s lip-smacking food.

It all started when Suraj, an advertising professional from Delhi, visited Bir Billing as a tourist and found the place to be rather fascinating.

He came up with the idea of starting a café serving South Indian food and decided to convince his parents to make the move here from Maharashtra.

“My father has an entrepreneurial spirit. Having tried his hands at various small businesses, he was enjoying his semi-retired life in Pune when I started coaxing them to move,” he says.

The thought of the bitter cold in the mountains held the couple back. But when Anil and Sunanda came to Bir for the first time, they were blown away by the sheer beauty of the place.

But even while the family knew the food they wanted to serve, they recount buying ingredients from local stores was a communication challenge, because most ingredients had local names.

Everything that is served at Avva’s café is made by Sunanda, which includes all the chutneys and podis (powders) as well.

Speaking about some of the popular dishes served here, Suraj says, “The Avva’s special dosa with three different pastes spread in thin layers within it, is a big hit along with the filter coffee.”

At the café, one can get different types of dosas, appam, dahi vadai, podi idli, puliyogare (tamarind rice), and filter coffee.

Meanwhile, Sunanda says, “I never thought of it as cooking for a commercial establishment. It was always a feeling of cooking at home.”

Looking back, Suraj says of his parents, “I am amazed at how well they adapted to everything in Himachal. They have been incredible.”

Anil meanwhile thrives on the conversations that he has with the customers. “From meeting monks to striking up conversations with solo travellers, each conversation has left me enriched.”