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Restaurants & Bars

North Texas’ Kati Rolls Are Ready for Their Moment

We visited several spots in Dallas and its suburbs that feature the kati roll (or kathi roll)—and even one that turns this fast Indian street snack into a taco.
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The Kati Roll Company, a fresh arrival in Downtown Dallas. photograph courtesy The Kati Roll Company / illustration by Anita Moti

Kati rolls are a delicious on-the-go meal in convenient wrap form. The universal appeal of its oval shape makes a kati roll a likely candidate for crossover success in the United States: all you need to know is it’s a tasty food rolled up in dough.

But part of the joy of any good food is its backstory. Kati rolls were born in Kolkata (Ed. note: India in 2001 changed the spelling from Calcutta to match the Bengali pronunciation) from a desire for more good fast food options. The idea was to grill a skewer of meat, wrap that kebab in a flatbread (typically paratha), and pull the skewer out, making for a meal that can be served almost as fast as you can grab the meat off the grill. Nowadays, like anything in the wrap/sandwich school of cooking, a variety of meats and vegetarian offerings find their way into the middle of the roll.

“I ate it almost every day, not every day, but four times a week when I was growing up,” says Kolkata native Payal Saha. “I always take [a kati roll] on a plane ride. And I always carry an extra one for the person sitting next to me.” That extra roll doubles as marketing now: Saha is the founder of The Kati Roll Company, a New York-based chain that recently opened its first Texas location in downtown Dallas.

By the way, the “a” in kati roll is pronounced like in “avocado,” not like the name Katie. It can also be spelled “kathi,” pronounced the same way.

The Dallas area has had good kati rolls for a while now. I first started eating them at the locally-owned chain Desi District, with locations in Irving and across the northern suburbs. When I worked in Irving and forgot to pack a lunch, I’d visit Desi District and order a kati roll filled with spiced, marinated cubes of paneer and a tangle of slaw. Rakhi’s Kitchen in Carrollton also specializes in kati rolls and other Kolkata foods, and national chain Curry Up Now carries them in The Colony (I haven’t tried these two yet).

If you’re thinking a kati roll sounds like a long, skinny burrito or an oversized taco, another Dallasite had that idea first. Resident Taqueria often serves a brilliant vegetarian “kathi roll” taco. The cooks marinate and grill paneer, then serve it on a tortilla with peppers and an Asian-Mexican cilantro-tomatillo chutney that helps bridge the gap between the continents. (When I interviewed chef-owner Andrew Savoie about his kathi roll taco for the Dallas Observer in 2021, he excitedly said that “definitely” any food can be made into a taco.)

Newcomer The Kati Roll Company is banking on the universal appeal of its namesake dish. The kitchen opened at the start of April right in the heart of downtown Dallas, on Elm Street, across from the Thompson and two blocks from the giant eyeball. If the kati roll has been a longtime favorite of Indian Americans and an occasional fusion special at spots like Resident, this downtown spot proves that the dish is ready to take center stage.

“I thought it was a good product to bring to New York given how fast-paced New York is,” Saha says. “They have 20 minutes to eat lunch and they need food to go. It’s very portable and very convenient.” The same thing is true of downtown Dallas as office workers return to the towers around her new spot. Because kati rolls are so simple, they’re also easy to prepare the traditional way, and Saha’s team doesn’t Americanize the flavors. “The only thing that we ask is, do you want green chiles or not? Otherwise, we haven’t made it less spicy or any of that. It is as it is eaten back home.”

She says that at the original New York locations of the chain, the customer base was originally about 80 percent Indian American—but that’s dropped to about half as other locals learn to love the kati roll.

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A mural celebrating the 1977 Bollywood movie Dream Girl, at The Kati Roll Company in downtown Dallas. Brian Reinhart

I stopped by The Kati Roll Company for a grab-and-go lunch recently and was charmed by the restaurant’s small space. Its dining room is decked out in classic Bollywood movie advertisements. Behind the counter cash register, you can watch cooks grilling sandwich fillings on skewers. Next time, I’ll grab one of the pre-bottled mango lassis to go with my lunch.

My chosen kati roll was the shami kebab, a mix of ground lamb and lentils. It doesn’t come with (or need) much more: just a few raw red onions and a green chutney. For $1.50, I added a thin omelet, which is laid onto the paratha before the kebab lands on top. Despite the roll’s minimalism, the flavors were vibrant and gently spicy. That meat-lentil combo makes the roll tremendously filling. It’s also convenient to take to-go, tucked into a cute lined bag that keeps the roll warm as you walk. Like Saha packing her airplane snacks, I brought my kati roll onto a DART train. (I ate it at home. Don’t eat on the train, folks.)

If you’re hustling through downtown Dallas at lunchtime, let The Kati Roll Company pack up its punchy flavors in a takeout sleeve. If you’re out in the suburbs, Desi District’s rolls are just as hearty and the dine-in version comes with a mixed-bean salad. Once you’re converted to kati rolls, look out for the paneer taco at Resident Taqueria. Whichever restaurant you visit, it’s time for this delightful, vegetarian-friendly fast food item to have its big North Texas moment.

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.
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