Normally, we avoid chain restaurants. But we make an exception for this South Indian vegetarian franchise, which started on the subcontinent. Its idlis
(steamed dumplings), vadas
(lentil doughnuts), dosas
(semolina or rice-and-lentil-flour crepes), and rice dishes are as good as the ones you'll find at Vik's or Udupi Palace, but you can usually get a seat, the waiters have learned how to smile, and the fact that the owners actually decorated the restaurant will make you want to linger at the table when the gorging is done. You can almost see through their arm-length paper-thin dosas to the potato-lentil-masala underneath, and the curd rice and puliyogare
(rice, lentils, and peanuts) are nowhere near bland. Woodlands recently revamped the menu so that you get to pick between prix-fixe meals -- an appetizer-dosa-drink combo for under $8, or purse-sized puris with two vegetables for even less. And the no-holds-barred appetizer-dosa-rice-drink combination, at $12, feeds two (don't let them tell you otherwise).
Breads of India
2448 Sacramento St., Berkeley, 510-848-7684