Eatable Things: Roti Roll

roti roll

Part one of Indian Food Month here at цarьchitect covers the frankie, probably the best post-bacchanalian food, and also the most delicious vegetarian fast food. In college, I was lucky enough to live not far from a little joint called Roti Roll. From the tiny storefront, they served up massive indian dishes wrapped in a slightly-fried whole wheat Indian bread called roti. Unlike naan, roti is unleavened, which makes it much cheaper, but also a little less fluffy. Because it’s flat, it makes an ideal edible food container. Though, unlike tortilla, roti is pretty thick, so you still have a really satisfying squish when you bite into it.

Now, because the college I attended has a remarkably incompetent administration, I had the brief opportunity to go up and grab one the other day. I came in from the cold and got my prize: the Unda Aloo Masala frankie (pictured above). Inside its shell, you’ve got a mass of almost-melted potatoes and peas with a little egg for moisture. It brings soft satisfaction to every part of your gullet. The Aloo Gobi Muttar variant has a moister mix of peas and cauliflower that’s more refined, even if it’s not pure carbolipid ecstasy. The Aloo Masala and Masala Unda are minimalist for the dieting/poor drunkard. And if you insist on carnivorating your Indian food, the Chicken Malai frankie and Chicken Lollipop (not a wrap) are good choices.

If you’re in New York, hop on up the B/D up to 110th street. Especially if it’s cold, and you’re a little sloppy, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything better. There are other Indian places in New York that serve fast Indian food including frankies, primarily serving the taxi-driver set, and 53rd&6th Chicken and Rice is a legend unto itself, but I’m feeling nostalgic today.

I think what I’m saying here is that DC needs to get a frankie joint. This is a multi-kulti extravaganza of a city – it should taste like one. It’s practically destiny. Despite Dave Stroup’s White-Guilt-fueled “it must be racist” silliness about the Fojol Bros.’ getups, If they, or any other food entity set up a frankie cart in DC, I’d make the pilgrimage. Weekly.

Eatable Things: Italian Pizza Kitchen

Pizza is a staple of American cuisine. Good pizza, however, is hard to find outside of a few metropolises where Italian immigrants settled. Chicago, New Haven, and, of course, New York lead the pack. For more designer pies, the urban boho can easily acquire a california-style pizza in any place touched by Whole Foods. For a simple, cheese-sauce-bread combination handmade from fresh, straightforward ingredients, getting a pizza that’s delicious is rare.

margherita from the italian pizza kitchen
Who knew DeKooning could be so delicious!?

Eatable things: Fojol Bros. of Merlindia

At Dupont and New Hampshire Ave.

The Fojol Brothers of Merlindia, a quartet of locally grown twentysomethings with a secret indian chef, are out to revolutionize the street food scene in DC. Along with Ali Baba’s, and the upcoming Sweetflow truck, they’re up against DC’s longstanding tradition of awful, awful street vendors. As one (I think it was Ababa-Du) told me, “All you get in DC is hot dogs and soda … yeah and awful pretzels.” Awful pretzels indeed, and without dijon. Running only on Fridays and Saturdays, all of the members do this in addition to regular jobs and apparently are willing to sacrifice their weekends to bring their traveling culinary carnival to DC.  

Their total aesthetic is a retro fusion of Indian with hip green techno, employing fake mustaches and turbans while they cruise around in a 1960s bread truck. Their trays are made out of sugar cane fibers, their sporks from corn resin, and they compost just about everything else. All of this half-ironic campiness and doo-goodery could be a pretty lame excuse for attention, were it not executed with such batty genius – and more importantly, if their food wasn’t so good. 

It can’t be stressed enough that the food is delicious, basic Indian food. Fretting about authenticity of cuisine is always a bit misplaced, but with complex food from a made-up place, you should just shut up and eat. I had the chicken masala, a pumpkin side, and some sweet sticks. The chicken was a moderately spicy dish that satisfies like any indian food with sauce, while the pumpkin was soft and delicious, with a heavy dose of cardamom that balanced the sweetness of the fruit itself.  The sweet sticks were not so much sweet as they were flavored with cumin and maybe allspice, which made them pretty good for cleaning out the lingering masala spices. 

As I sat there eating, I watched the stream of buttoned-down passers-by giving long, curious looks and other people lingering and plenty eating. It’s never going to be like New York, with its hour-long waits at 53rd & 6th chicken and rice, the ultimate drunk food that is Roti Roll, or the Vendy awards, but this little performance-food experiment is definitely a good thing, and hopefully a sign of things to come

Follow them on twitter and get to eating.