“Kati Rolls” from North Texas are ready for their moment

Kati rolls are a delicious meal on the go in a practical 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 that it's a tasty dough-rolled food.

But part of the joy of any good food is its backstory. Kati Rolls was born in Calcutta (Ed. Note: India changed the spelling of Calcutta to suit Bengali pronunciation in 2001 out of a desire for more good fast food options. The idea was to grill a skewer of meat, wrap the kebab in a flatbread (usually paratha), and pull out the skewer to create a meal that could be served almost as quickly as you could take the meat off the grill. These days, like everything in wrap/sandwich cooking school, various meats and vegetarian options find their way into the center of the bun.

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

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

There have been good Kati rolls in the Dallas area for a while. I first started eating them at the local chain Desi District, which has locations in Irving and the northern suburbs. When I was working in Irving and forgot to pack a lunch, I visited the Desi district and ordered a kati roll stuffed with seasoned, marinated paneer cubes and a tangle of coleslaw. Rakhi's Kitchen in Carrollton also specializes in kati rolls and other Calcutta fare, and national chain Curry Up Now carries them in The Colony (I haven't tried those two yet).

If you think a kati roll sounds like a long, thin burrito or an oversized taco, another Dallasite came up with that idea first. The resident taqueria often serves an excellent vegetarian “Kathi Roll” taco. The chefs marinate and grill paneer, then serve it on a tortilla with peppers and an Asian-Mexican cilantro-tomatillo chutney that helps bridge the divide between continents. (When I interviewed chef and owner Andrew Savoie about his Kathi Roll Taco for the Dallas Observer In 2021, he enthusiastically said that “definitely” any food can be made into a taco.)

Newcomer The Kati Roll Company relies on the universal appeal of its dish of the same name. The kitchen opened in early April right in the heart of Dallas, on Elm Street, across from Thompson and two blocks from the giant Eyeball. If the Kati-Rolle has long been a favorite of Indian-Americans and an occasional fusion special at places like Resident, this downtown spot proves the dish is ready to take center stage.

“I thought it would be a good product to bring to New York, considering how fast-paced New York is,” says Saha. “They have 20 minutes to eat lunch and they need takeout. It's very portable and very practical.” The same goes for downtown Dallas as office workers return to the towers surrounding their new location. Because kati rolls are so simple, they're also easy to make the traditional way, and Saha's team doesn't Americanize the flavors. “The only question we ask is: Do you want green chillies or not? Other than that, we didn't make it less spicy or anything like that. It’s the way you eat it at home.”

She says that at the chain's original New York locations, the customer base was originally about 80 percent Indian-American — but that percentage has dropped to about half as other locals learn to love the Kati Roll.

A mural celebrating the 1977 Bollywood film dream womanat The Kati Roll Company in downtown Dallas. Brian Reinhart

I recently stopped by The Kati Roll Company for a take-out lunch and was charmed by the restaurant's small space. The dining room is decorated with classic Bollywood film advertisements. Behind the counter you can watch chefs spit-grilling sandwich fillings. Next time I'll have one of the bottled mango lassis with my lunch.

My chosen Kati roll was the Shami kebab, a mixture of minced lamb and lentils. There isn't (or need for) much else: just a few raw red onions and a green chutney. For $1.50 I added a thin omelet to place on top of the paratha before the kebab lands on top. Despite the minimalism of the bun, the flavors were vibrant and slightly spicy. This meat and lentil combination makes the roll incredibly filling. You can also easily take it with you by storing it in a nice lined bag that keeps the roll warm while you walk. Just as Saha packed her airplane snacks, I brought my Kati roll onto a DART train. (I ate it at home. Don't eat on the train, people.)

If you're rushing through downtown Dallas at lunchtime, let The Kati Roll Company pack their bold flavors into a takeout wrapper. If you're in the suburbs, Desi District's rolls are just as hearty and the dine-in version is served with a mixed bean salad. Once you're sold on kati rolls, look out for the paneer taco at Resident Taqueria. Whichever restaurant you visit, it's time for this delicious, vegetarian-friendly fast food item to have its big North Texas moment.


Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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

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