Roti, a South Asian bread made from unleavened stone-ground whole meal flour, still falls under unfamiliar territory for most New Yorkers. The flat bread is a common accompaniment to curries and vegetable dishes and is most commonly consumed in South Asia and the West Indies or Southern Caribbean. It is also commonly served as a roti roll or wrap with various meat and vegetable fillings. While it has always been popular among South Asian and West Indian communities in New York it only broke through the mainstream food craze after the arrival of the Kati Roll Company in 2002.
Kati Roll opened its first store in Greenwich Village but now also has a Midtown location where on a regular weekday you’ll find countless Midtown office lunchers lining up for the freshly prepared Kati Roll. Here the rolls are made using either the roti or the paratha variation, a thin, somewhat flaky flat bread, and filled with a variety of ingredients marinated in Indian spices. The beef tikka roll, beef cubes marinated in spices and yogurt, and the unda aloo roll, spicy potatoes and eggs, are both very popular. Prices range from $3.50-$6.75 a piece or $6-$12.50 for two rolls.
Go further uptown near Columbia University and you have Bombay Frankie’s. In the daytime customers are students and hospital staff looking for cheap good food and at night it’s the go to spot for those in need of a post drinking fix. Established in 2005 the roti rolls here use a Lebanese type of pita bread, slightly thicker and heartier than the bread at Kati’s. Fillings vary from okra to marinated lamb and spiced potatoes or eggs and the aloo masala and the lamb boti are very good. Prices range from $3-$7 a piece or $5-$12 for two rolls. At first glance it would seem that the price is similar but Frankie’s rolls are heavier and much more filling that unless you’re starving then a single roll will suffice, whereas one roll at Kati’s will leave you still hungry. So keep that in mind and be careful with the spices as some of them might be a little too spicy for the inexperienced. Otherwise, whether you are looking for a cheap lunch, a quick snack, or looking to satisfy some late night cravings, why not try the Indian street food called roti. At the very least you’ll widen your culinary horizons and quite possibly you’ll like it enough to crave it from time to time.
Kati Roll Company
99 MacDougal Street
(b/t Bleecker St. & W. 3rd St.)
49 West 39th Street
(b/t 5th & 6th Avenues)
Roti Roll Bombay Frankie
994 Amsterdam Avenue
(b/t 108th & 109th St.)