On A Roll, On MacDougal Street

Old and tattered Bollywood posters are a part of the décor of the Kati Roll Company.
Old and tattered Bollywood posters are a part of the décor of the Kati Roll Company.

MacDougal Street is a famous, narrow, one-way street in Greenwich Village that emits the air of a bustling Oriental bazaar. Flanked by a honeycomb of bars, pubs, clubs, crêperies, trattorias, and tattoo parlors, some, a short flight of stairs above street level; some, below.

No. 99 is the home of the Kati Roll Company, an elevator-size eatery that forms the façade of a brown building. Inside, a red-brick wall is plastered with faded posters of old Bollywood films. On the menu are kati rolls, popular in India as street food as the crêpe is in France or the bratwurst is in Germany.

Thelewala has a row of glass jars, filled with lentils.
Thelewala has a row of glass jars, filled with lentils.

On the other side of the lane, at No. 112, is its competitor. Thelewala is an even tinier shop, with a nearly identical, but bigger menu. Even its foil-coated takeaway pouches are alike. Their nearness to each other reminded me of the proximity of a pair of fictive business rivals: Sheldon J. Plankton’s’ Chum Bucket and Eugene Krabs’ Krusty Krab, separated by a mere 99 feet.

I sampled the fare at both these joints, one after the other, in the course of a single evening. That gave me the perfect opportunity to compare the two. The kebabs served by the Kati Roll Company are better seasoned and better grilled. A drizzle of cilantro chutney—an ingredient Thelewala doesn’t add—helps keeps them from drying out.

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