Today, a Columbia classic: Roti Roll, otherwise known as “that Indian burrito place on Amsterdam.”
Of all the places we’ve looked at so far, Roti Roll comes closest to being a true, cheap alternative to dinner in the dining hall. Only a five minute walk from campus, the whole-in-the-wall restaurant sits at the intersection of 109th and Amsterdam.
Their speciality is the eponymous Roti Roll, a type of Indian (or, as my Indian friend insists, Indian-American) street food that I touched on briefly last time. These are, in the words of my Indian friend, “random Indian foods mixed up and wrapped in warm roti,” a traditional and still popular form of round, unleavened bread.
Roti Roll offers 12 varieties of these rolls, 8 of which are vegetarian (and thus, to my protein-biased mind, not really options). My late-night standard is the Chicken Malai roll, “chicken marinated in cream and spices,” mixed up with vegetables and wrapped up, to which I add an extra egg for an extra dollar. It’s the most popular and probably the most conservative choice on the menu. Moist chicken, hot and fresh, a pleasant mix of textures and flavors, some of which I’m not familiar with and can’t describe nor remember very well. This is mostly because last night, I added extra spinach for $1.50 extra, which I would not do again. I was expecting fresh spinach, but I got a ground up paste. I would’ve been fine with this (the flavor was quite nice), but there was just too much of it. The spinach overpowered the other flavors and pushed the texture of the interior too much in the liquidy direction.
Otherwise, though, the food is awesome, and really cheap! My Chicken Malai roll was only $5.50; if I had bought two, they would’ve been $5.00 each. If you’re willing to go for an inferior roll in the interest of getting even more food for your money, I recommend getting two Masala Unda (Spiced Egg Omelette) Frankies for $6.00 (or, if you’ve got my appetite, 4 for $12.00). There’s no chicken, but two rolls for the price of one is hard to argue with.
The quality of these rolls is somewhat inconsistent; I’ve gone in the middle of the day and been served hard, not-quite-stale but far from fresh roti (the flat bread on the outside.) I don’t know why this would be; I’m not even sure if the roll are home-made. But still, rolls I’ve had late at night are consistently fresher and softer. The best rolls I’ve had have been after 1 AM. Maybe food just tastes better late at night. Even so, if you’re planning on going, go at night.
Roti Roll is perfect for those nights when you want something substantial and you’d rather smell like Indian spice than JJ’s grease, (or you don’t have the option to smell like JJ’s grease because it’s the weekend.) Thursday through Saturday, they’re open until 4:00 am, Tuesday and Wednesday they’re upon until 3:00 am, Sunday and Monday they’re open until 2:00 am. Late on the weekends, if you’re lucky, you might even get treated to some karaoke by the bar next door, through the wall. Last night we heard Ryan giving some Tay Sway his all; thank you Ryan.