Last Friday we had a chance to check out the offerings at one of the new restaurants at Square 54 — Roti. Pita Pit and Perfect Pita better watch out, there’s a new Mediterranean place in town, and it’s really, really, good. During lunch on their opening day, they had a line that stretched out onto the sidewalk. What would possess so many people to stand in that kind of heat? Roti is just that good.
Here’s the skinny: the food is kind of amazing for the relatively low price point, the chocolate chip cookies are baller, Roti’s got great hours (including weekends!), and they give back to the community too. There’s more deets inside, so keep reading.
Let’s start with the food. Kat had a falafel pita, and I went with one of their signature pita sandwiches — the Sultan! The base for any good pita sandwich is the bread, and Roti’s nailed it. When you’re ordering, you can’t miss the rotating meat in the back (schwarma, if you will) but if you look you’ll also see a small oven with dough going in one side and perfectly chewy, warm pita bread coming out the other. Apart from great flavor and consistency, the fresh bread holds together all your fixings really well. I always hate when you take a big bite and the stuffings start oozing and bursting out onto your hands — this doesn’t happen with Roti. Turns out that “roti” is actually french slang for the meat, and greeks began to refer to the bread itself as Roti in the days of old (or so we’re told.)
As for the actual fillings — well, the meat seems to be way better quality than what you’d expect at this price point. Juicy and flavorful, you can taste just the right amount of char in each bite. As for the falafel, it’s a good bit different from what you might be used to. All the food here is heavily meditteranean inspired, and falafel isn’t super crunchy. Instead, you get a pretty smooth and almost creamy experience. The flavor is relatively subtle, so it got a bit lost in the pita. The falafel really does better when you try it on it’s own. If you’ve tried falafel before but didn’t like it, you should at least give Roti’s a try — it’s definitely a horse of a different color.
After that, you can load up your sandwich with whatever you’d like. The olives, hummus, and feta are my favorites — but the cabbage gives a great tangy crunchy too. You’ve got three choices when it comes to a sauce, a standard tzatziki style sauce, red pepper aioli, and a spicy Zhug sauce. I went with the Zhug because I love spice. It wasn’t overpowering like hot sauces can sometimes be — instead, it balanced the heat with its own flavor and lit up my mouth with a bright pop just after swallowing each bite. If you’re averse to strong heat, go with one of the other two sauces.
Make sure to try the chocolate chip cookies. They’re fantastic. As for the baklava, my favorite kind is drenched in honey and full of pistachios. From what I could tell, Roti’s baklava was walnut based and wasn’t too sticky. Not necessarily a bad thing, just not my favorite.
Roti plans to start selling beer at their location soon, too. Good news for GW students: not only is Roti in a great location, it will take Gworld and be open late into the evening (either 9pm or 10pm), and will be open on weekends. That means that students will be able to get a generous and tasty meal at convenient times for less than $10 — cheaper than a lot of similar style competitors.
The staff seemed to have things down pretty well for being open for such a short amount of time, but we expect that over the next month they’ll really improve their speed.
While we were there, we got a chance to speak with one of the owners. With a neighbor like Sweetgreen–well known for their food sourcing, environmental conscience, and community involvement–we wanted to know what Roti does for the community. He let us know that Roti has partnered with DC charities in the past, and is currently planning an event in the fall for DC Central Kitchen.
This is the 4th Roti in DC, with 3 more under construction now, so the awesomeness is spreading throughout DC (look for them at 16th and K, 13th and F, and Rosslyn)