The “Biriyani Cart” on 46th gives Kati Roll a Run for Their Money…

Next Thursday (6/7), Midtown Lunch turns 1 year old- and I can honestly say no restaurant, no article, no food or news has has been bigger on this site than Kati Roll.  I wrote about the “Indian Burritos” the first month of the blog, and that page has been read more times than any other piece on this site. 

In a lot of ways Kati Roll sums up the Midtown Lunch experience.  It’s interesting, delicious (obviously), not too expensive, and most importantly it’s only two blocks away from my work, next to one of the more popular places in Midtown (Margon), and yet most of the people I worked with, had never heard of it.  Kati Roll was and still is a testament to the laziness of most Midtown Lunch’ers.  Every day, on the way to boring soups and sandwiches Midtown workers walk blindly past some of the best food in Midtown, without even noticing.

Well- it took a year, but finally Kati Roll has got some competition.  And it comes in the form of a cart!  For a long time this cart toiled annonymously in Midtown, serving up the typical lamb or chicken and rice- just like countless other carts not really worth mentioning.  I first noticed it a little while back, when they hung a hand-made sign on the front that said “Chicken Biriyani Special”.  I made a mental note, but never found time to go back.

Apparently, it has gotten popular- because now the Chicken Biriyani sign is professionally printed, and takes up most of the front of the cart.  In the past few weeks I had started to get emails telling me how good the Wednesday & Friday Chicken Biriyani (or Biryani if you prefer)special is- so this past Friday I headed over to check it out.  Imagine my surprise and delight, when I discovered the even newer sign selling “Chapati Rolls”, clearly a Kati Roll knock off, just a few hundred yards away from the crowd of people waiting for their Kati Rolls to be ready.

Pics of the new Kati Rolls on the block, and a +/- after the jump…


Clearly Chapati Rolls sold off of a cart are not going to be as good as Kati Rolls, which are served on freshly fried pieces of paratha bread- but this cart knows how to overcome that.  They only charge $4 for two Chapati Rolls… almost half the price of their more famous competitor. 

They don’t have the lamb or unda (egg) choices, like Kati Roll, only chicken- but they offer four different kinds versions of the chicken roll.  The Pune (a normal chicken version with grilled onions- probably most similar to Kati Roll’s Chicken Tikka Roll, just not spicy), the King Koti Roll (a spicy version of the Pune, given a name that makes sure that you know that they know that you know who they’re trying to copy), the Chennai Roll (Lemongrass chicken with a sweet chili sauce), and the Buradi Roll (which comes with Shiracha, and I’m guessing is the most spicy).

If you are picky about your chicken, than this cart will probably not be replacing Kati Roll for you anytime soon.  The chicken is typical street meat chicken- thigh meat that is tender but fatty… and clearly the reason they can make it so cheap.  The chapati, a thin Indian bread, while obviously not fried fresh to order (like Kati Roll), is still chewy and delicious, warm and oil soaked from being re-heated on the fryer before serving.

For $4 you can get any two rolls on the menu (mix and match as you please), so I went with the King Koti and the Chennai.  The King Koti was actually pretty spicy, cut a little bit by the cool lettuce they put in the roll.  It’s not as spicy as the Kati Roll version, and doesn’t have a ton of red onions, a complaint I have often heard about Kati Rolls.  It was good, but nothing to write home about.

The real stand out was the Chennai Roll (lemongrass chicken topped with sweet chili sauce).  I don’t know if I could taste the difference between “lemongrass” chicken and the “tikka spiced grilled chicken” from the King Koti Roll, but the sweet chili sauce set this one apart, giving it a sweetness (and kick) similar to the tamarind sauce you get at Indian restaurants.  It was really delicious, and nothing like anything on the Kati Roll menu.

The rolls are not as high a quality as a Kati Roll, but for $4 I’m willing to overlook a lot.  Plus they allow you to mix and match, unlike Kati Roll which only gives you a price break if you order two of the same roll.  There is also the alternating special, Chicken Tikka on Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays, Chicken Biriyani on Wednesdays & Fridays.  I really enjoyed the Biriyani, but I think I’ll save that one for another day.

The Chicken Biriyani Cart will not be putting Kati Roll out of business any time soon- but if you’re looking for something super cheap, and don’t feel like waiting the 25 minutes for your Chicken Tikka Rolls to be ready- salvation is less than a block away.

THE + (What someone who likes this place would say)

  • “Kati Rolls” without of the long wait of Kati Roll
  • Super cheap.  $4 for two rolls is a price that can’t be beat.
  • The Chennai is like nothing you can get at Kati Roll, and if you like sweet with your spicy, it’s the perfect blend.
  • Did I mention how cheap it is?
  • I love eating at carts!
  • Not as many onions as Kati Roll…

THE – (What someone who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • The quality is not as good as Kati Roll
  • The chicken is low-grade thigh meat
  • Some of the choices are really spicy
  • I hate eating at carts… they’re dirty
  • You cannot order just one roll.  They force you to order two for $4.00.
  • The bread is thinner, and the rolls have less filling than a Kati Roll- so two may not fill some people.  (A friend and I shared two rolls, and an order of the Chicken Biriyani and were pretty satisfied)

The “Chicken Biriyani” Cart on 46th St. (btw. 6+7th)


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