Flatiron Lunch: Kebab Factory is Now Kathi Rolls by Kebab Factory

Now that Downtown has its very own section of the site, what are we going to post on Fridays at 10am? Answer… how about a new column devoted to those lunches just south of the ML boundaries. Every week we’ll post about a lunch in Murray Hill south, Gramercy, Flatiron, and everything in between… or as we’ll call it from now on: Flatiron Lunch.

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One of the benefits of the Flatiron Lunch beat for me is going to be finally having a good excuse to explore Curry Hill. I confess, in five and a half years of working in Midtown South, I’ve rarely partaken in all the Indian delights to be found just a few blocks to the southeast. So, with few preconceptions and no recommendations, I took a walk down Lexington to see what I could find.

I took to the Midtown Lunch basics and sought out the smallest most unassuming hole in the wall I could find. That was Kathi Rolls, a tiny spot that apparently used to be called Kebab Factory- but changed names at the beginning of the year. It’s an offshoot of Bhatti across the street and is unrelated to the Kati Roll shops of the orange signage in Midtown and the Village or the Biryani Cart, which makes what are still my favorite kati rolls.

To call Khathi Rolls a restaurant seems to miss the point. It’s more of an indoor street cart with seating. As soon as you walk in the door, the veneer of quaint tea shop disappears almost immediately. The striped awning, cute sign and single table sitting in the window belie the heart of Kathi Roll, which is all street meat.

Walking up to the counter, all the illusions of brick and mortar fall away. There isn’t a cash register or a staff of people to order from or even a menu up on the wall. Ordering options are listed on the postcards piled up on the counter. Behind the counter is a narrow space that serves as the kitchen, cashier and serving space that’s certainly no bigger than a street cart. It’s awesome.

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The whole point of the shop is to serve any number of variations on one thing, the Kathi Roll. There are rolls filled with lamb, vegetarian options or four types of chicken. I ate mine downstairs in dark corner of a space that looks like it’s had a previous life as a bar. The plasma screen on the far wall and the seating all scream for a beer and a small crowd, but neither is anywhere to be found. It’s all a bit odd, but again, it’s the street meat that’s important.

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The first thing to know about ordering here is that the wraps are bigger than you may expect. I ordered presuming that the kathi rolls would be similarly sized to the ones I’ve had elsewhere. The prices, $5 per roll seemed excessive at first, but seeing a lunch deal of two rolls and a soda for $9.95, I figured two was the way to go. That was a delicious, if filling mistake. I had the Bihari Kabab, stuffed with spicy chicken and a Seekh Kabab, with lamb inside.

The chunks of lamb were strongly spiced with flavors of cardamom in particular standing out. The chicken had a creeping spice, but never built up too much.The one major difference in the meat that I notice is that, given the extra space, the chunks of lamb and chicken are more substantial. That means a bite of lamb or chicken really feels like you’re biting into something.

If there was any disappointment here, it was with the bread that encased the wraps. Firmer than the Biryani Cart’s soft doughy texture, and thicker than Kati Roll’s, it’s got a lot more body to it making each roll more filling. That said, the thickness doesn’t give as much moisture as the others and so can be a bit dry.

Despite the bread being hit or miss, I’ll definitely return to try out some of the other combinations and fillings available. There’s plenty more to explore in Curry Hill, I’ll be back every few weeks to post about a new place. Leave suggestions on where I should go next in the comments.

The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • It’s a street cart transported indoors.
  • The kathi rolls are bigger and have larger chunks of meat inside.

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

  • The dining space downstairs is a bit dark and grungy.
  • The bread is a little on the dry side.

Kathi Rolls by Kebab Factory, 101 Lexington Ave (btw. 27+28th) 212-683-4229

13 Comments

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    what area is curry hill exactly? i have heard the name before on this site but i have no idea like what stretch of manhattan around lex and 27th that is?

  • aside from the stated priorities of the website i am inclined to comment on curry hill – while not an expert on indian food, i have curry hill pretty well canvased. bahti on the nw corner of 27th & lex is my favorite of the dine-in set. IT IS BYOB and there is a liquour store right across the avenue. also the bodega on the se corner of same intersection sells indian beers. dhaba just up lex on the west side is also very good – particulary the british style curry section of the menu. also for dine-in, clearly chinese mirch is tasty in its own right. for quick or take out food besides kathi roll (which i really like), lahori kebab is awesome, and for the brave give haandi a go.

  • So was it real lamb or gyro?

  • @Mamacita: Looked and tasted like absolutely real, well seasoned lamb.

    @Spydr: Curry Hill is the strip of Lex in the mid to high 20′s. The larger area is Murray Hill, but right over there you’ve got all that Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani shops, so somewhere along the way the pun came along. I’ve also seen a few mentions of it as Little India, but that doesn’t seem nearly as imaginative to me, so I don’t typically call it that.

    @skipper, thanks for the tips!

    • User has not uploaded an avatar

      I’ve heard that block in the east village (6th St between 1st and 2nd Ave) with Brick Lane and all those others is called Little India

  • this spot actually used to be called “Katie Roll” I believe, and is the first place I ever had a kati roll! Unfortunately it changed ownership and became the Kebab Factory and they started charging more, stopped letting me make up veggie combo rolls that I wanted, and then changed the paratha bread and with that final blow, I stopped going.

    • Katie Roll… because Katie was jacking 450 pounds and had to bathe with a rag on a stick

      They buried her in a piano case … thus the name change

  • $5 per roll better spout awesome and delicious kati rolls. Nice looking indian burritos.

  • Wayne, rag on a stick is copyright of the Rudy Foundation.

  • i agree the bread is pretty bad. good fillings though.

  • let’s play how many ways can we spell kati without getting sued. ka tee. kah ti. khatee. cathy?

    also… “To call Khathi Rolls a restaurant seems…” There’s an extra H in there. I’m sure of it. :)

    +1 for real lamb. not sure i’d ever get a lunch special because it does seem like a lot of food.

  • I was wondering when ML would stumble upon this place. I think they’re pretty good (and much closer to me than Kati Roll), although they’ve always been out of lamb every time I go there. I really dig the chickpea roll though.

  • This place is terrible. the wrapper is tough and way too big, so its rolled over like 2-3 times which doesn’t help. Just roll around the corner to Roomali, much better.

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