Flatiron Lunch: Desi Galli for Indian Street Food Amid All the Buffets

Every Friday we go south of the ML boundaries in search of a delicious lunch. Sometimes it’s Murray Hill south or the Flatiron District, sometimes Gramercy and everything in between – but we just like to call it Flatiron Lunch.

A few weeks ago, I noted that Desi Galli opened in Curry Hill. I recently saw a line out the door, something I don’t remember ever seeing with the previous tenant, which warranted moving Desi Galli up on the to-try list. On my original walk-by, a super friendly female employee informed me that the logo is meant to look like Ganesha’s trunk. It might not be something you notice, but a nice little factoid to tell your coworkers.

The layout of the space hasn’t changed from their life as Kathi Rolls by Kebab Factory, but they have spruced up the decor and added several black glass shiny chandeliers. When I went, there was no one in front of me, but they were busy dealing with a few delivery orders. While I was waiting, a few people came in to place orders and a few more came in over the phone. Considering my meal took about 10 minutes during a non-peak lunch time, I would recommend calling in your order for pick up or delivery. If you are planning to stay, they have a basement area that probably seats 20 so you can wait it out down there.

The menu (also online here) has a pretty large range including six appetizers/sides they call “small chops” all for $3.29. They have seven signature rolls for $4.99 for vegetarian and $5.99 for non-veg. They also give you the option of making your own roll if you have something special in mind.

The first “small chop” I tried was the samosa chaat. I know I have previously mentioned my love for the Indus Express samosa chaat, so I have been searching for an equally awesome version in the Flatiron District. Desi Galli’s included two potato and pea samosas broken in half over a bed of chickpeas, chopped red onion and red peppers. I also noticed some coriander (aka cilantro) seeds, which are tasty bites when you get one. The whole dish was covered with a nice layer of coriander chutney, tamarind sauce, and fine crispy noodles. It was very tasty with a combo of spicy and sweet, hot and cold. I had to force myself to put it down to try the other items I ordered.

The second appetizer item I tried was the vada pav or as the menu described it, potato fritter slider. Sounds pretty good, right? As I watched them prepare it, they first put the bun on the flat top to toast, which is a good sign to me. It got even more promising when they started flattening the bun on the griddle to get a better sear on it, and they even toasted the outside of the bun. The bun was basically a normal whole wheat slider bun, but I saw the packaging and it was an Indian brand. They then put the potato fritter on the flat top and flattened it for a larger surface area. It wasn’t freshly fried, but seemed to be prepared in advance. They compiled the whole dish with a little sauce. While the taste was fine, I couldnt help compare it to the samosa chaat for the same price. Not only did the chaat have better flavors, it blew the vada pav away in value.

I was very impressed watching my seekh kebab roll prep happen. The first thing they did was crack an egg on the griddle. And when the whole roll came together with the lamb kebab cut down the middle, some red onion and coriander chutney, the freshly fried egg made all the difference. This is particularly interesting, since the menu doesn’t actually mention egg on the seekh kebab. As you can probably see from the photo, the roll came with a side of coriander chutney and a small salad. The salad was no more than a few piece of iceberg lettuce, a few chickpeas, and some red onions, but still a welcome surprise. And I found the coriander chutney tasted great with all of the rolls.

For the galli omelette roll I ordered, I wasn’t as closely paying attention, but I think they also cracked and scrambled the eggs adding onions, peppers, tomatoes and green chilies (according to the menu,but I didn’t taste the heat of green chilies). All these items were cooked together in a huge round patty on the griddle.

In fact, I was so impressed how the omelette was sized almost perfectly to take up the full surface area of the paratha. So impressed that I had to take a photo as evidence. I thought that even with their special house Galli spices (some red powder they sprinkle on right before rolling it all up), this roll didn’t have a lot of flavor. I found myself using all of the chutney for this roll to add flavor.

Of course, I couldn’t stop at just two rolls. So I also ordered the chicken tikka roll. To make this roll, they first put a small handful of red onions on the flat-top to cook down and then chopped up two smallish sized chicken breasts. Like the omelette roll, I thought this roll was a little on the bland side, but was certainly made better by the coriander chutney.

But wait, there’s more. I also thought it was only fair to try a vegan roll, so I also got the chana (chickpea) roll. This roll also started with some freshly cooked red onions, which was added to one overflowing handful of chickpeas and sauce. The sauce that was included with the chickpeas made this one of the most flavorful rolls.

If you are looking to make your own roll at Desi Galli, I am not sure I can help you on which bread to use between the parantha, whole wheat parantha, and the roomali roti. While there were small differences, once you put as much coriander chutney on as I did, it didn’t really matter. Perhaps one of the readers can educate us all on the finer points of parantha vs. roomali roti. While I think Desi Galli is an upgrade from the last Indian roll restaurant in this space, if your office is closer to Kati Roll Company on 39th between 5th and 6th Avenues, I think theirs retains the crown as the king of kati rolls.

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

  • I appreciate that I can mix and match to make my own kati roll.
  • I am down for a place where I can get a kati roll and samosa chaat and still be in ML budget.
  • Some of the rolls are outstanding, and I am looking forward to finding more on the menu.

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

  • Why can’t The Kati Roll Company open a branch here?
  • I am not impressed by the lack of value on the vada pav.
  • I want all of the signature rolls to be great, I mean they are the signature rolls.

Desi Galli, 101 Lexington Avenue (btw 27 and 28), (212) 683-2282

1 Comment

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    I just tried this based on your article, but my experience sadly did not match up. My chicken tikka roll was a bit cold, lacking flavor, and he threw cold onions on at the end instead of sizzling them like in your experience. I also got a Palah Katte Ki which I envisioned warm, but was super cold with waaaay too much of the 3 sauces on it making it a gloopy mess.

    I think the cook was new and inexperienced and nobody was watching him cook – leaving it to chance and complaints after the fact.

    Oh well.

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