101 Lexington Ave
(between 27th and 28th streets)
New York, NY
In the Belly: spicy chickpeas roll, spinach roll, paneer tikka roll, papdi chaat, pani puri, pav bhaji
Rating: go if you’re desperate.
I am never allowed to eat chaat from the street when visiting Bombay because it’s totally unhygienic, especially in the rainy season. But it’s also incredibly good, so I eat it anyway, sneaking out with my cousins to bite into pav bhaji on humid Chowpatty Beach. Of course, later I lie, saying yes, I’m so hungry for dinner, I haven’t eaten anything since lunch, and then stuff myself all over again – but then again, that’s how to eat in Bombay.
This past Sunday, we had chaat cravings. First we went to Dimple, a chaat shop on 30th, between 5th and 6th. My friend DV and I were particularly eager for chaat: he wanted pani puri and I wanted ragda pattis. Dimple’s menu had both. But it was closed and while we were walking down Lex, unsuccessfully trying to convince the rest of our friends that we really needed to go to Jackson Heights for proper chaat, and that it was the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon, I spotted a sign that said
pav bhaji: $5.95.
So we clamored in the shop and interrogated the man behind the counter: Do you have pani puri? yes. Raga Pattis? no. Pav Bhaji? yes. We ended up ordering a bunch of food and then went down the dingy stairs to wait.
We waited forever. We explored the back of the shop (dingier, very dirty bathroom, man sleeping somewhere). DV’s cousin Arjun, who is from Delhi, noted that we had found a real hole-in-the-wall. He said, “Thanks guys. I feel like I’m back home now.”
After about 30 minutes, our food showed up. The papdi chaat was quite good, but the dahi was very cold. Oddly cold.
We got spinach, chickpea, paneer, and some meat kati rolls. The spinach one was terrible, and the chickpea one was just okay, but the chickpeas were dry. The paneer was the best of the lot, but I much prefer Roomali’s rolls. Katie Roll’s kati rolls are wrapped in a very thin, very oily roti- not the thick textured goodness of Roomali. Also, Roomali’s seating area is cleaner.
We then ate the pav bhaji which was garlicky and fresh.We collectively approved. However, the pani puri was a disappointment. After waiting for the potatoes to boil (literally: they told us when we ordered that they had to boil the potatoes for the pani puri so that dish would take longer than the others) I think everyone was pretty unimpressed: the pani had no taste and the puris were stale.
Katie Roll is a place to go if you need a fix- whether it be decent pav bhaji or bad pani puri- but next time I’m craving chaat, I’m heading to Queens.
pav bhaji: $5.95; chickpea roll & potato roll: $4; paneer tikka roll: $4.25; pani puri and papdi chaat: $3.95